Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

The cultural and linguistic diversity among the 21 official Spanish-speaking countries is great. Each country has their own unique cultures, accents, and expressions. Learning the different meanings of words and “¿Cómo se dice . . .? / How do you say . . .?” in different regions gives insight into the culture.

Matador Network is a great resource for international cultures and travel and I loved this post on Mexican Expressions. Learning the slang expressions when I lived in Mexico changed my language from textbook to native-like. These types of expressions exist in each country – with huge variations from one region to the next.

There is a also a huge variation in accents throughout the Spanish-speaking world.  It is similar to how different English speakers sound to each other. When someone from Scotland hears the accent from Texas or when someone from Boston speaks to a Jamaican, they might feel like they are listening to a foreign language! The same is true in Spanish. This video made me literally LOL with the examples of how different countries’ accents sound to native Spanish speakers.

If you are interested in a workshop or training series about the diverse cultures of the Spanish-speaking world or if your company needs a consultant with expertise in a specific region of Latin America, contact us here to set-up an appointment.

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Why was I so affected by Sandra Bland’s arrest and death?

(Editor’s note: I originally wrote this in July. I was leery about posting a controversial piece. I decided it’s too important.)

I don’t know why the video footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest has me so shaken-up?

I can relate to the stress and annoyance Sandra felt that day. I hear it in her voice. She was smart and articulate. She was an “Angry Black Woman”. She was exasperated and tired.  She was “Driving While Black”.

If she had been a White woman, if that had been me? Would I have been treated the same way? Would I have been pulled over? Would I have been spoken to in the same way? Would I have been arrested? Would I have died?

I am a smart, outspoken, sassy and sarcastic (White) woman. It gets me in trouble sometimes. It’s never gotten me arrested. It’s never gotten me killed.

CNN debates and experts disagree why she was arrested.

Of course, I will (maybe?)

It has been my experience that Latin Americans are very generous with their time and energy. They have really good intentions and will almost always say “Yes” or “Claro que sí” to most requests.

Their follow-through, however, is complex. (See my previous blog: “Love the one you’re with ;-)” ) Previous commitments will not trump current activities.

Yes, almost always means “maybe, if nothing else comes along”. So take their “Claro que sí” with a grain of salt (and maybe a shot of tequila?)

Traveling in Latin America

You’ll find dozens of articles and tips about traveling abroad. Some are applicable to our business travel as well as for pleasure. While most tips will focus on Europe, the cultures of Latin America have a deep European influence and can be a source of valuable tips when traveling for work.

nice-shoes-1418878-639x843Here are a few tips from Puente Cultural Integration for business travel in Latin America:

  1. Dress the part
    • Err on the side of formality
    • Even (or especially) for social events – Latin Americans will dress up
    • No tennis shoes unless it’s an athletic event
    • You can always take off the sport coat & tie if you are overdressed
    • If everyone else is in business dress & you show up in khakis / polo – what role do you play?
  2. Eat the local cuisine with your hosts
    • Nothing can kill a deal faster than your desire to eat at McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s
    • Insist that they take you to a local restaurant & let them order for you
    • One person (usually the highest exec) always picks up the check (do not offer to split the bill)
    • If you are buying the meal say “Les invito” (I’m inviting you all) & you must ASK the waiter for the bill “La cuenta, por favor” – they will never just bring it.
    • Enjoy your meal – it is not uncommon for a “business” lunch / dinner to last 2-3 hours.
    • Say “Provecho” (Bon Apetit)  before eating & “¡Salud!”  (Cheers!) before drinking
  3. Business is done after hours
    • Relationships matter – ask about their family
    • Real conversations matter – find out what they love to do
    • Business deals will be sealed the next day, don’t insist on keeping the business talk going out of the office
    • Use the out-of-office “social” time to build the relationship & the business will get handled more effectively
  4. Be really careful with taxis
    • Only use radio taxis or a business/hotel car service
    • Ask the hotel concierge
    • Never hail a cab off the street

      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel
      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel

More useful tips can be found from on msn.com “How to NOT be an Ugly American Abroad”.

Did you find these tips useful? contact us here.

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

Love the one you’re with . . . ;-)

You will see a common theme when doing business in Latin America: Relationships!

To be successful in the Latin American market, you must be present – both physically and emotionally – to maintain your clients’ trust and loyalty.

Do not assume previous positive business dealings will ensure a long-term relationship in business. If something newer, flashier, bigger or better comes across their desk – they may jump at the opportunity if you are not close by to remind them of your value. They will “love the one they’re with” and you will be out the door like yesterday’s news.

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Steven Wosina Photography

So my best advice, as we bridge the gap with Puente Cultural Integration, is to forge and maintain your business relationships. Get to know your cohorts in Latin America well. Understand their needs. Ask questions about their lives and their families. Be present. Be available. Be there for them and you will be the one they’re with!

Global Commerce: It’s tricky business!

When conducting business or hosting social events with people from various cultures it is important to learn the “do’s & don’ts”.  Each culture is unique; what is required in one setting may be offensive in another. This is a quick at-a-glance infographic reference to nine different countries created by a company named Zendesk that we found at Entrepreneur.com. 

35 Tips How Not to Offend International Business Partners From entrepreneur.com

Looking for more information about going global? Contact us for a consultation today!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

Spanish? Hispanic? Latino? Ay, Dios Mío!

When working with people from a Spanish-speaking background it is important to understand that they are a diverse people.

It can be offensive to assume someone’s ethnicity. Asking someone if they are “Spanish” or if they speak “Mexican” is more common than you imagine and extremely insensitive.

  • Spanish = nationality referring only to people who are from Spain, in Europe; it is also the language spoken by millions of people in the US and Latin America.
  • Mexican = nationality referring ONLY to people who were born in the country of Mexico (south of our border). It is not a language, just like American is not a language.
  • Latino / Latina = people who have Latin American roots (includes Brazil, where they speak Portuguese, not Spanish).
  • Hispanic = people who have a Spanish-speaking heritage.
  • Mexican-American = typically 2nd or 3rd generation of Mexican descent (see above); may be racially &/or culturally Mexican, but may or may not speak Spanish fluently. Although the Mexican / Mexican-American populations are larger than other Hispanic populations, it is not okay to assume someone is “Mexican” because they are brown or speak Spanish.

If you are genuinely curious, an appropriate question might be, “What is your ethnic background?” This allows for the person to self-identify and will give you an idea if they are open to talking about their heritage.

Never ask, “What are you?” The best answer for that is, “Human!”

The Spanish vs. Hispanic vs. Latino question is really a personal preference. This four-minute video from Kat Lazo (who self-identifies as Indigenous-Latina) really breaks it down and also shows us that it is truly up to the individual to decide which label they prefer.

There are 21 countries that list Spanish as their official language. Each country has a distinct nationality. Every region has a unique cultural identity and their ethnic make-up is diverse. Some Latinos, especially those from the Caribbean, may be seen as Black or African-American even though they may not identify with that culture. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and many people from Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Perú have a mixed racial heritage of Spanish + Indigenous + African roots. Black Latinos will identify with their home culture, but depending on their experiences in the African-American community, may be able to bounce between both groups in the US.

There are also millions of Hispanic-Americans who may be second or third generation from any of those cultures or whose families are originally from the southwest. Do not assume that someone with the last name Rodriguez or Garcia speaks Spanish.

There are huge differences between working in a Latin American country vs. working in the US with people who are of Hispanic heritage. Is your business in need of an expert on all things Hispanic, Spanish or Latino? Contact us here!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

What’s your passion?

Last October, I sat in my principal’s office feeling that there was something bigger waiting for me. “I love teaching Spanish, but I feel like I have met every goal, every milestone. What can I do to keep this up for another 15 years?” I asked. Her powerful response, “What are you passionate about? Find your passion.”

Girona Spain

I have spent the last six months doing just that. I did the scariest thing any teacher could do.  I walked away after 21 years. I am a teacher. I am a Spanish teacher. I love everything about the culture & Spanish language (yep, especially the irregular verb conjugations!) It is such a part of my identity. I am a teacher of life and I am following my passions. Puente Cultural Integration was created to channel my passions and my energies.

I am connecting my passions and my strengths. Could your organization benefit from my skill set?

My strengths are:

  • organizing people
  • communicating
  • problem-solving
  • teaching cultures & language
  • all things Latin American
  • dynamic cross-cultural training

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My passions are:

  • the people & cultures of Latin America
  • helping disadvantaged youth (both in the US & globally)
  • travel
  • education
Barcelona - Sea
Trip to Barcelona, Spain 2014

I will be realistic about my path and I need to do more in this world.  My business cannot be about me.  There is something more out there.  Watch out world!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

I need to help . . .

I feel a calling.  Again.

Last month, I spent five days helping to run a camp in the Dominican Republic. I need to do more.  Now I know. I need to go back. These kids, this community, they touched me.

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First Day of Camp – Basketball as a Mission, Dominican Republic 2015

When I was in high school, I knew I needed to go to Mexico – to live, to learn, to meet these people I had studied. It wasn’t a whim. I knew I had to become bilingual – I didn’t want to just learn textbook Spanish – I wanted to understand everything about the culture too.  Street Spanish. Everyday Spanish.

In college, after spending six months living with a family in Morelia, Michoacán and traveling throughout Central Mexico, I dreamed of going into the Peace Corps or becoming a missionary in Latin America. My professors talked of living among the Mayan Indians in Mérida and of studying civilizations across the globe. “I’m going to do that too,” I thought.

But, life happens. The last 21 years happened.

  • Finish college at 21.
  • Get the phone call NHS needs a Spanish teacher
  • Fight it! “I’m not ready to be an adult yet!”
  • I am hired.
  • Grad School in Mexico = Grad School Debt
  • Marry the Mexican man of my dreams
  • Kids (2 beautiful bilingual boys)
  • Decide after 21 yrs to leave teaching
  • Travel to the DR as a volunteer

Now what?

My heart needs to help. I dreamed of teaching in the inner-city.  I dreamed of building schools in rural Latin America. I want to help build lives, give love, provide skills.

DR15_BAAM Group
Last Day of Camp – Basketball as a Mission, Dominican Republic 2015

Can I afford to follow my heart? Can I afford to ignore this ache again? I think I know the answer. Can’t wait to see what powerful things are going to happen!

If you are interested in reaching disadvantaged kids in Latin American or would like to find out more regarding Basketball as a Mission. Contact us here or go to http://www.basketballasamission.org. 

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

How can I bridge the gap between cultures?

The challenge in doing cross-cultural and diversity training is that there are no absolutes. We can make generalizations and observations about cultures – stereotypes exist for a reason – but, they are not valid for every individual of that culture. Inevitably, if you make a statement about a specific group of people, it can offend or contradict someone else’s truth.  So while we will attempt to bridge a gap through cultural understanding in general terms, you must remember each person is an individual.

So the number one rule in understanding diversity: RELATIONSHIPS!

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Steve Wosina Photography, Greater Detroit Area

Forge relationships.  Learn how to ask culturally-sensitive questions and respect how each person self-identifies.  Learning general cultural norms is hugely beneficial, but without personal connections you will never truly understand how to apply what you know.

To be successful in this diverse world, you must read each person and adapt your own perceptions based on conscious observation. Cultural training will allow you to filter that which comes from the larger culture and it will allow you to decide which characteristics are found in that individual while building a relationship.

Personal identity is powerful and getting to know the person with whom you are working – whether it be a client/strategic partner or an employee/team-member – will improve your corporate culture and will, in turn, boost effective communication and profitability.

If you’re looking to understand how to better build cross-cultural relationships for your business or brand, contact us for a consultation.

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