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Editor’s Corner: The one where the editor writes a long column with a long title
Andrea Gutierrez new

Editor’s Note: I apologize for the ridiculously long Friends-inspired title; this week’s edition of ‘Editor’s Corner’ will be unbearably long, because my fellow columnist Dick Yarbrough is ill--according to an email blast from a certain Mr. Damon Poirier, whom I have never met, now that I mention him--and so therefore Mr. Yarbrough won’t feature in June 20th’s paper. It’s a shame because I always look forward to reading his work; unlike my silly self, Mr. Yarbrough writes very coherently and with verve. But for now, you’re all stuck with me and my extended ramblings until further notice. I hope he feels better soon!

Culture Shocks

One of the more significant lifestyle changes I’ve made recently is listening to audiobooks, and let me tell you; the folks who say that audiobooks “don’t count” as reading books are absolutely full of baloney, in my humble estimation. (I feel so childish writing these minced oaths, but I once got an email from a reader protesting about my occasional use of foul language--I think I used H-E-Double Hockey Stick a while back or something-and so now I try my best to be more mindful of my vocabulary. I wonder how my more irreverent predecessor J. Whitten would have responded...probably with a litany of ol’ timey expletives like ****, ****, and *******, among others. You know, the big, big words that George Carlin warned us all about, the ones you used to only hear on TV after watershed, if at all).

Audiobooks are just another fun way to read books, and are great for those who prefer listening as a way to process new information. I’ve always defined myself as a auditory learner, anyhow, and have previously thrived in most college classes where I get to listen to the professor talk and explain stuff in a lecture-style environment instead of just being told to read assigned chapters in a textbook or, worse, respond to three of my classmates’ discussion posts on a glorified chatboard called eLC (eLearning Commons) and ask them questions about the aforementioned assigned chapters in a textbook (thanks, Philosophy 2030).

Anyways, I recently discovered that a wealth of audiobooks are available for free with Spotify Premium, and so I began listening to tons of audiobooks. I finished one recently called “The Culture Map: Breaking Through Invisible Boundaries” by author Erin Meyer. In short, the book is about how different people from different countries interact in the workforce, and how managers should accommodate and work with various cultural differences.

I enjoyed listening to this book because a lot of what I learned was really relevant to me, even though I work in a local newsroom in small-town America and not a multinational business corporation. In my (admittedly short) life, I’ve met so many people who all have wildly different ways of communicating, and I do believe that each person’s upbringing and cultural background plays a role in those differences.

When I was in college, I took a graduate-level Portuguese class where most of my classmates were from Brazil, and I had to learn not to perceive their lateness as a sign of grad school senioritis (although that assumption began to fit during finals week). In truth, Brazilians– like many Latin Americans– see time as a more flexible phenomena, in contrast to the oft-cited Western adage of “to be early is to be on time”, highly popular with Americans, Brits, and Germans. However, I’ll add that my parents--despite being jokey Colombians--are notable exceptions to this rule, mainly because my mom is supremely anxious and my dad is just annoying. (I’m just kidding, folks--he was in the U.S. Army for 8 years, the punctuality there must have rubbed off on him.) As a result, I too am my parents’ daughter, inheriting both my mom’s anxious overthinking and my dad’s love of uniforms (Catholic school wasn’t completely terrible; I do miss not having to think about what to wear in the mornings...)

There was one chapter in the book that talked about how different cultures give negative feedback that I thought was interesting. Americans are known across the globe for being direct and straightforward, but when it comes to dishing out (constructive) criticism in the workplace, we tend to lag behind those like the French and Russians, for example.

Meyer brings up an example of a Frenchwoman working in the U.S. who thought she was doing an amazing job at work because her American boss would wrap up every criticism of her work with at least two or three good comments.

Meyer then talked about how, when she lived in France, she put her son in the local schools there and the French teachers would rarely praise kids on their homework assignments (this was grade school) and would only put “TB” ( tres bien, or really good) once in a blue moon, basically. In contrast, Americans praise kids for everything, and even when students are struggling in a school subject, we tend to care a lot about not discouraging them when we try to point out the problems. This leads us into a very rah-rah U.S. corporate workplace culture that many Europeans and Asians find hard to understand.

The British have similar problems, with their indirectness, where superiors will couch criticisms as mere “suggestions” and then apparently get mad when you ignore said suggestions, like one German guy in the book who was stupidly reprimanded by his English boss for “insubordination” because he didn’t listen to the “recommendations” that were actually directions that his boss made during a one-on-one meeting!

Of course, not everyone from every country is the exact same; as I alluded to before, our life experiences also play a huge role in how we communicate and interact with others from different countries. And the more you listen--to both audiobooks and people--the more you learn! (This book has also taught me that I need to move to the Netherlands ASAP; folks over there are very direct and no-nonsense, and also love bikes, soccer, and sweet cookie wafers.)

Poem of the Week, from

Between Midnight and Eternity, by Kettly Mars The rain has shelved its watering can A sweet dew rises from the earth Everything is calm now The bed beneath the mosquito netting awaits Your eyelids grow heavy You cannot wait to slip into the void But the poem suddenly clings to you As though your desires mean nothing It clings to you, overpowering you The poem slides under your skin Hides itself in your bloodstream You must conceive it, there and now You must carry it in your womb You must give it life So your night can finally begin Midnight splits the darkness in two The day changes its course But the poem clings to you Poem translated from French. Kettly Mars is a Haitian poet, short story writer, and novelist. She lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Another Poem of the Week, from Poetry Foundation Fishing for Shad, by Kate Rushin

For Jack Howard

I don’t know where I belong but I know I don’t belong here.

I don’t know much but I know what is right. I don’t have much but I have myself.

I’m not a man yet but I’m not a child.

I don’t want much but I want more than this.

I don’t belong to Mather, I belong to God.

My mother told me never to forget.

I don’t have money but I have good sense.

The Mathers think they can buy me and pass me along like a bushel of oysters, or a clock.

They want to dry me out and grind me up, scatter me across their fields like good-for-nothingelse shad.

They hate this boney fish.

They think it stinks. They salt it up in barrels, ship it to the West Indies, feed it to people they brand slaves. I say there are no slaves in this house.

I’m going to catch shad with my friend Joe. He taught me how to plank it.

I’m slipping out tonight.

Going to see my mother.

She knows what to do with shad and shad roe.

Some people don’t know good eating when they see it. There are good folks here— family and friends gather around this table.

Kate Rushin is the distinguished visiting poet in residence in the department of English at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.

Andrea Gutierrez is the editor of the Bryan County News.

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