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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, dancing and good movies.  

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I'm the only person responsible for its content and the views and opinions expressed here are solely mines.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

While facing diversity, are you ready to be an anthropologist on your own Mars?

If you are just like me, you have a giant book wish list: books you would love to get as a present, books you would love to find at a flea market for only a couple of bucks, books you would love to read sooner or later before you die, books you would love to have for your library and so on.

One item of my book wish list is An Anthropologist on Mars (1995) by Oliver Sacks.
I badly want to read the book and I know that I am going to do it, sooner or later, before I die.

[An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks,
edition with an interesting Purple cover]

Even if I know that Sacks´ books are about neurological disorders and diseases, I always thought that the title would be perfect for a science fiction novel as well. Or... for an actual anthropological essay about Mars and its inhabitants.

While moving to Berlin and becoming an expat, I thought a lot about the title of the book and about my very own experience as an expat and in the worst days, while experiencing cultural shock and acute pain because of it, I just told myself again and again that I was something like a beginner anthropologist on my own Mars, in charge of studying and observing different ways of life.

I only had to observe, to learn, to stay open, to suspend my judgement. I only had to breath and to survive.
It helped me a lot, at the time.

[If you don't like Oliver Sacks...
think about Devil Girl from Mars (1954) by David MacDonald]

While living in a new country, in a new culture, in a new working environment, be a little like an anthropologist on your own Mars...
Pay attention to what people around you do, how they behave, what they say, what they not say, how they react to other people and to different situations, how they solve their own problems. 

Follow their example whenever you can and whenever it is a good fit for you. If what people do is not a good fit for you, ask yourself why and stick to your "answer", if you feel like it is a good strategy for you.
In that case, you will learn a lot about not only people around you, but also about yourself.

But don't assume that you already have all the answers.
Pretend to be an anthropologist that studies strange circumstances, willing to discover why people do exactly what they do and not something else. 

While doing like this, it is easier not to take everything personally, not to be hurt, not to stay "blocked" in your previous beliefs only because they are yours. 
You will be more open, more free, more prone to question things and ways of thinking. You will be able to learn. To see situations with new eyes. To adapt and change, if necessary. To fight for your ideas, if necessary.
And this is an inestimable attitude, while living abroad and being confronted every day with diversity in each and every form. 

Are you ready to be an anthropologist on your own Mars?
If not, why?

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Tags: An An Anthropologist on Mars, Facing Diversity, Expat strategies, Cultural shock