By Talisa Sarah Likanonsakul, Junior Program Officer
The Executive Director Porntip Kanjananiyot conducted a session on cross-culture understanding and ASEAN, emphasizing on how International Relations officers could be more ready entering the ASEAN Community, not just going beyond facts and figures about the Region.
To introduce cross-culture understanding, Ms.Porntip offered several exercises, e.g. asking the participants to come up with their very first thought about each given word to demonstrate stereotypes; giving a set of various situations for them to think of different contexts, whether they were personal, cultural, or universal,discussing cultural differences in terms of ranks and authority from an email message, etc. The Iceberg Analogy was also presented to explain a structure of the human mind, consisting of values and thought patterns, beliefs, and behavior. It signifies that what we have seen may not be the only aspect we should look into when trying to understand people of different cultural backgrounds.
In addition, she stressed the concept of our own identities—no matter where we are, our core values and identities are still rooted in ourselves. An analogy of salad dish, which refers to our identities, shows that each ingredient in the salad bowl will never change even though they are mixed with others. It shows that we should maximize our understanding of diversity to live fruitfully and harmoniously together.
Another fun part was when Ms. Porntip asked the participants to pick some countries from the given list they would like to visit the most, ranking from no.1 to 3. Then she narrowed down to only nine Southeast Asian countries. She concluded that each person picked a country, based on their personal preference and experience, yet, all have to increase their awareness that they need to give more attention to ASEAN countries as the Region covers 10 countries.
Ms. Porntip suggested that international relations officers should learn the core values of each culture in order to interact with the people of the particular culture more effectively. Moreover, she further explained that before we can ‘think ASEAN,’ we should assess our own selves, our identity, our culture, then maintain the good characteristics such as being considerate and humble and improve others such as punctuality. In the third exercise, the audience was well engaged in the activities proved by their constant eye contacts and responses. They kept eye contacts with the lecturer for the entire session.
The fifth training for International Relations Officers was held at Mahidol University International College on Wednesday September 18, 2013. This annual activity sees the Executive Director as one of its regular speakers.