Looking from far away onto a pile of earth you get an idea for example about the size and shape, only when looking closely, you might see it is a termite mount!
The same principle applies for this method of cultural understanding and it guarantees a high success rate!
Zooming in and out on culture? How does that work? Why should I do that?
Let me answer the questions bluntly: Wondering whether to zoom in and out on culture, that is not even a question but a necessity. Want to do it yourself, then follow the instructions below. Wondering about the big why, well, it is an essential element to gain cultural understanding and enhance readiness for encountering diversity.
For understanding how zooming in and out works, follow the steps one by one:
1. Click on this link and tell me what you see.
2. What are we looking at? That’s right, you are seeing Helsinki Cathedral, Helsingin Tuomiokirkko, from a bird’s eye view.
3. Now, click on the picture on the upper left hand side on the site and click trough the pictures. What do you see?
4. The different picture show different angles and perspectives of the same object.
Translating this into cultural understanding: There is only that much you can see when looking at cultures and individuals of different countries from a distance. It helps to get an orientation and basic knowledge, but only when zooming in you grasp the complexity, see different perspectives and the individual.
Constantly zooming in and out is essential for the understanding of the foreign individual you are meeting.
Rule of Thumb:
Zoom out as far as necessary (as there is a slim line between orientation and stereotyping); Zoom in as much as possible!
“ An integrated method of continuous zooming in and out … is helpful; in order to do justice to culture as a structure, and as a process.” Both perspectives have validity, yet only through the interaction of zooming out and in can culture be grasped and that it is structural yet a process at the same time.