Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Featured Explorer Seminar: The Ugly American

The following is a live blog of an Explorer Seminar aboard the ship, which took place yesterday evening. The seminar is apart of a series, and take place before each port. This forum was moderated by a student, Erin Cheatun. She is a senior from Western Washington University who majors in Biological anthropology.

8:00 pm: Cheatun is explaining what the the ugly American is to people who have never attended the seminar. It is a stereotype that many people from other countries have about Americans not being culturally aware, loud and demanding.

8:06 pm: She explains that some people are so embarrassed that they distance themselves when traveling abroad to avoid negative assumptions. She gave an example of friends who say they’re Canadian when traveling abroad.

8:13 LLC Danielle Jenkins is commenting on why people might act like “ugly” Americans when traveling abroad. She said it may have something to do with the fact that generally Americans don’t travel internationally as often as citizens of other countries. She said that lack of experience, and never having been outside of their own borders makes them more susceptible to being insensitive. She said she has seen it a lot during her travels, and is now very cautious of who she travels with.

8:20 One student is giving an example of “ugliness” that she witnessed. A student interrupted a Muslim taking part in the evening prayers in Morocco during Ramadan. She says she thinks another factor is self-centeredness.
8:33 Another factor that feeds the stereotype is unintentional offense. In certain countries there are cultural norms and customs that people may not be aware of, and offend out of that ignorance.

8:39 pm: Cheatun is now talking strategy. One way to remind yourself to avoid “ugliness” is called the String theory. Tying a simple string around your wrist serves as a reminder to wearer to be culturally aware, and lets others know that it’s okay to remind them of their commitment if they forget. Cheatun brought string for the seminar participants.

8:42 pm: Verbal Judo is a series of techniques to avoid confrontation. Controlling your responses and remaining calm when others would expect anger, throws them off and causes them to lose steam. There is never an appropriate time and return an verbal attack. Remain calm and confident with body language. Be professional and courteous; this will provoke a respectful response. Your goal is to terminate the escalation of confrontation, particularly from verbal to physical. Can be used when interacting with people in different countries as well as other students on the voyage.

8:48 pm: Jenkins is discussing the importance of being mindful of respecting others. She says that a lot of the time it goes beyond respect for cultural differences to just plain common courtesy.

8:51 pm: Cheatun says that the “ugly Americans” are always the minority of tourists, the perception doesn’t always match reality. Realizing this will empower others to stand up in the face of “ugliness” to prevent its occurrence.

8:58 pm: Cheatun is wrapping up the seminar, thanking the participants for coming and talking, and inviting them to join the next one.

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