I can’t believe I missed this cultural nugget

Nowhere can I find a write-up on this blog about a friend who exhibits cultural dexterity (a term I got from Sheryll Cashin, author of Loving). At the last ACTFL conference we both attended we were talking and I mentioned how delightful it was to watch her interacting with acquaintances she ran into in the exhibit hall. What did I mean? You don’t know? I was bewildered. How could she not know?
So I depicted to her her amazing cultural dexterity. First, her cultural background: an African-American father in the military, stationed in Panama, and married to a Japanese woman.
So, picture this as this very nice woman, a professor in a major university, strolls through the exhibit and runs into the many people she knows. Professor Higginbotham greets her and she addressed him in academic English very graciously with a proper handshake and a wave as they part.
Then a gaggle (always in groups) of Japanese ladies comes through and she greets them with a contraction of her body as if she is wearing a kimono, her hand often comes to cover her mouth, and she bows to all and speaks in flowing Japanese.
As the gaggle moves on with cries of sayonara-type expressions and more bows, a Hispanic woman in flowery skirt and frilly top throws her arms out to her and with cries on both sides of “Chica!” they kiss on the cheeks a number of times and talk academic gossip in Spanish.
And then joining them comes an African-American woman and you get, “Girl….. can you believe…..?” and so on in Black dialect.
All of this is accompanied by posture and gestures appropriate to each culture. Just an amazing performance and, apparently, quite unconscious.

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