Back from Chile and straight back to the reality of my daily life. Here I am again, in Austria, the Chilean-German, full of impressions that need to be processed.
Chile is my country of birth. I spent almost 16 years of my life there. Decisive years, in my opinion. After a good 50 years in Germany and Austria, I hardly had a chance to speak Spanish. I was very surprised how well I could still do it. After two days it went smoothly, because I was told that I had no accent and made no mistakes. That makes me very happy. But what satisfies me most is the warm welcome I have received.
We have trained new trainers: nine women, Chilean women just as I remembered them.
Chilean women are self-confident and have a lot of self-esteem. Of course, they have a high proportion of dependent behavior, because women in the southern hemisphere have grown up that way due to their culture. They are very powerful and tend to hold back when it comes to their own interests and personal development. They are not comfortable or lazy, but very hardworking and reliable. What surprised me, however, was their openness and willingness to reflect, which undoubtedly carries a high level of education. They do not consume thoughtless knowledge, but put it into practice themselves.
Their warmth and cordiality are overwhelming. As soon as they have welcomed you into their heart, they embrace you tightly. It feels good, honest and right. However, they keep a healthy distance from you, which makes them even more interesting. In retrospect, not much has changed in the last 50 years from what I remembered about these attitudes of women. That’s how I grew up. It shaped me and, unfortunately, often got me into trouble in Europe. I don’t mean to devalue Europe and other cultures in any way, I just want to point out that here we often label other cultures as inferior and uneducated. The reality is not what we define it as here. In general, I find South American women to be happier and more content than European and North American women. They are more appreciative, more open to other opinions and show more interest in moving things forward. They ask how it could work and do not hesitate, especially saying it won’t work that way. They are more determined and self-confident – yes – and they clearly have fewer resources and options than we do here.
Now you might infer from my lines that I am devaluing Americans and Europeans – certainly not! We live differently, we develop and live differently. Our social norms are different. The environment influences our development and behavior a lot. We socialize differently because our system demands it of us.
This is just an appeal on my part to take off our blinders and open our eyes, especially our hearts, to other cultures. They constantly learn from us and look up to us. How is it that the trainers from Ecuador and Chile have said they are immensely grateful and honored that we traveled all this way to involve them in our project? I have never experienced that anywhere else. On the contrary, we were often seen as stuck-up foreigners who had no idea about the customs of the local people. Our training program was sometimes called ridiculous, as it does not correspond to the educational level of PHDs. Language was and is often criticized; English-speaking countries are very critical of their language and hardly speak foreign languages themselves. So a foreigner who is trilingual, has decades of professional experience as a manager, has several degrees in different countries, has attended many continuing and advanced training courses, has held many consulting positions, and is engaged in teaching in three languages, is not good enough.
I have thought about this a lot, really a lot. My meeting with the South American women was an eye-opener. Of course, I am flattered when my compatriots give me arguments to justify my disappointment with other cultures. But that won’t solve the problem. My job as education director of 261 Fearless Inc. is to find ways and means to get as many women as possible interested in our program. I work hard and tirelessly at it. Maybe someday I will get closer to my goal. But please don’t be angry if I sometimes get desperate with some of you.