Archive for October, 2007

FEAST: found in translation

Sun streams through the café window as Mrs Szeto pours tea for three. A beautiful autumn afternoon adds to a feeling of optimism as we talk about new connections between Chinese and Scottish cultures and the meaning of the word FEAST.

We are meeting in the Modern Art Gallery café because this is her favourite place to eat in Edinburgh – fresh salads with raw vegetables are an intriguing taste for the owner of a Chinese take away restaurant – and the symbol of food is important.

For Fooklan Szeto believes that subtle changes in food and fashions of east and west show that we are moving, however slowly, to a world of converging cultures where people will live in greater understanding. “Hong Kong is the best example of how Chinese and western influences already combine,” she says, “In Scotland, Chinese food adopts a style to suit western tastes and western cooking now uses spices like ginger and Chinese mushrooms.”

Fooklan and Kimho met through music – Fooklan sings in the Edinburgh Cantonese Opera – and since then she has become an enthusiastic supporter of his innovative efforts to promote intercultural understanding through live performances and workshops. Tea ceremonies (at our Out of the Blue filming session and Castle Street as well as Kimho’s other public performances for iMAP) invariably happen as if by magic thanks to Mrs Szeto’s quiet organisation.

A fusion of influences

But art is her greatest interest and her knowledge of Chinese folk art also influences the stage setting of Kimho’s performances. This cultural blend comes naturally to Fooklan who arrived in Edinburgh 30 years ago already open to new ideas from the West. During the 1960s she was an avid reader of the radical Chinese Students Weekly, full of music, film, literature and politics from the West. Students were part of a passionate campaign for democracy and the movement for change led to the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) established in 1974 to clean up corruption in the Hong Kong government.

By that time Fooklan and her husband were beginning to raise a family in Scotland. Laughing, she apologises for occasional difficulties with the English language. She says the language barrier is still the biggest problem for first generation Chinese in Edinburgh. “But not for the second generation. My sons are both totally fused with the culture here.” Ironically they also have an appreciation of traditional Chinese culture lost to mainland China during the cultural revolution.

In this context, the meaning of FEAST gains special significance. There is no such word in Chinese. The calligraphy of the banner Fooklan provided for the FEAST combines four characters: living, colour, vibrant, aroma.

“When you combine these four it means something like ‘things coming together’”, says Kimho, “in other words life is more enjoyable and meaningful with this combination. That is the closest we come to FEAST”

feastbanner

FEAST: living, colour, vibrant and aroma in Castle Street on August 30

Our thanks to Mrs Szeto, of the Wok Inn, Newhaven Road for support and delicious tea!

1 comment October 8th, 2007 Fay

Interculturalism begins at home

“When we think about globalisation and intercultural relations we tend to think of doing business across the world but companies are just as likely to find that interculturalism is happening here within their own organisation.” Peter Casebow, Chief Executive, *goodpractice.net

We’re sitting in Peter Casebow’s smart new office in Dundee Streetpcasebow talking about the changing world of business. The view from his boardroom window shows just how quickly Scotland’s capital is growing with the latest development along the Union Canal.
In seven years since Peter moved from the Royal Bank of Scotland he has seen Edinburgh’s boom reflected in a rapidly expanding service sector. *goodpractice.net is a good example with 170 clients across 26 countries and a recent expansion in Canada.

Clients logging on to GP’s online training resources tend to be managers and leaders looking for answers, help and support with their management and leadership challenges. “We are here to help people perform better.”

Increasingly, Peter says, managers must be able to understand social attitudes of a more culturally diverse workforce who are likely to come from across Europe as well as the Far East. “Basically it is always about people. Whatever business you are in, your ability to grow and develop in the outside world depends on how well people are able to function within your organisation.”

Body language and other essentials

Good briefing is essential to understanding subtle differences in intercultural communication. And differences are not always so subtle.

“I recently heard a brilliant example from a British Army officer stationed in Afghanistan who has learned that Afghan people display trust by taking you by the hand and holding your hand as you walk and talk. That is so totally alien to our culture, especially the macho culture of a soldier, but it is vital to understand the importance of such gestures in building trust and empathy.”

*goodpractice.net literature is full of intriguing intercultural insight. But ultimately there is no substitute for meeting and mingling with people to overcome stereotypes and prejudices. As former head of communications strategy for RBS, Peter Casebow quickly learned to assess the culture of a local branch by the human welcome he received in the front office. “What kind of greeting did I get? Did people look up and smile?”

He believes people make the same judgement about cities. “In a sense the culture of a city shows in the kind of energy you find in public spaces. If the city centre is full of life and diversity that must help to create a sense of community and better understanding because it is a place where people are happy to meet and mingle.”

Thanks to *goodpractice.net for sponsoring equipment and materials. In fact their allweather cover was so effective the sun shone on Castle Street for the FEAST performance!

October 2nd, 2007 Fay


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