I explained what Asia was, or rather where Asia was yesterday.

“Asia is everything east of Istanbul.”

It’s a generalization, but a historic one & an accurate one when you are dealing with options that are continental & not ethnic. This didn’t work. It appeared I was the only one that knew where Istanbul was on the map.

“You know, Constantinople?”

That didn’t work either.

“The Bosphorus Strait?” I was starting to lose confidence.

“Where’s Pakistan?” They asked. At this point in time, they sort of circled me.

“Sort of Northwest of India.” I received blank looks. “Sort of in the Himalayas?” More blank looks. “South of Russia?” I was the one asking questions this time.

“Would it be in Asia?”


“This lady says she’s not Asian.”

“Is the Middle East an option?”


“Than she’s Asian.”

Pakistan has been in the news fairly regularly for some time now. You should know where Pakistan is. Osama bin Laden lived there. He died there. That made the news. Americans should be able to find that on the map. Afghanistan as well. Iraq, Iran, India. I can see Tibet & Burma being hard, but not those countries. Not the countries that you hear about every day.

A memory came back to me, the memory of when I said, “They speak Portuguese in Brazil,” when they were trying to order up a Spanish translator for a Brazilian family.

It dawned on me that I am surrounded by people that can’t find Vietnam on a map. My dad used to joke about fighting a war in a country that most American’s can’t find on a map, in this case it is still true.

I told Ben a while ago that Belfast was in Northern Ireland, not Scotland. Then I explained that they are entirely different parts of two entirely different islands. By the way, England is not connected to Europe, which is a sliver connected to Asia & you’ve been to Germany, dude, this you should know. You possibly flew over it.

I think I’m starting to see a problem with America & its world view, as in America can’t seem to find the world on a map. I expect this in California, which as a state that collectively forgets there is anything east of the Rocky Mountains, but this is Chicagoland, not LA.

Ben couldn’t find Italy either. It looks like a boot. It literally looks like a boot. That should be a gimme, the mother of all gimmes. It is the Florida of the Mediterranean.

We have a training here to help people learn how to understand the differences between cultures & handle those differences with respect.

How can you handle a different culture with respect if you can’t find it on the map & if you don’t know what language it speaks? If I were an immigrant, I’d at least want to deal with someone that could find the United States on a map. Not specifically Chicago, but I’d be a lot more comfortable if they at least knew where my country was & maybe what coast New York was on.

To me that is sort of an essential thing. Oh, the lady is from Brazil, she must speak Portuguese. I should try to find a translator that speaks her language. You know, because not all of South America speaks Spanish. Bringing a Spanish translator might be a little insulting to her, at least it will make her lose a fair amount of confidence in what we offer.

This lady is an Indian, there are two principal religions in India, she is either a Hindu or a Muslim, I know enough about the taboos in both cultures to understand that I, as a man, shouldn’t be talking to her about an STD. Having a man talk to her about that will be embarrassing to her & violate some of her core religious & cultural beliefs. I should go find a woman.

Conversely, this man is a Persian, he’s not going to take a woman seriously. You should find a man.

That sort of thing is important for any course in cultural fluency. Now you don’t need to know about Darius, you don’t need to know about the map the Pope drew that assured that Brazil spoke Portuguese. You don’t need to know that India slammed into Asia creating the Himalayas, those aren’t crucially important for cultural sensitivity.

Knowing what language they speak, that’s important. Having at least a rough idea of where they are from on the map is important. Knowing a little about the religion & the taboos & traditions, that is really big. You should know not to call a Scot British, that won’t win you any points.

The attitude seems to be one of, you don’t need to know, just accept & look like a disrespectful fool when you call a Spanish interpreter for a Brazilian. Because, you know, not knowing what language a client speaks, that’s totally culturally sensitive.


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