Solving A Case

Case #1: A Cross Cultural Experience

My father was a diplomat and I grew up in many different countries.Even though I am 30 yrs old, I guess I’m still called a TCK (third culture kid).Now I live in Switzerland and work for UNICEF as a communication officer.I was offered the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan for a field visit in relation to my work. It was my first time going to the field as a professional.

While I had lived in some dangerous countries, I had never been in a war country, Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous places, and has been in a state of emergency for over the past twenty years. The country’s infrastructure and systems have been largely destroyed. An estimated 70% of the population live in poverty and substandard conditions. Over 100,000 people – most of them children and women – remain displaced by conflict and drought. The security situation in the country is deteriorating; and more areas have fallen into active military operation zones, which hamper humanitarian operations and access to affected populations. However, I was still extremely excited for this opportunity.

My mission was suppose to last two months, and I was joining the UNICEF Afghanistan office, one of our biggest operations with approximately two hundred staff scattered in several sub- offices all over the country. I was based in Kabul city and had few trips in the country to visit some of our projects. Since I work in the communication section of our Geneva office, and my job in Afghanistan was to produce some human interest stories that would be featured on our website and annual report.

The first thing that struck my attention when we landed in Kabul and drove through the city to get to the guest house was the absence of women. At the airport, there were only male workers; in the streets you could see very few women walking wearing burkas.

Within an hour of our landing, we were briefed on the security situation and on the local customs.

Afghan men are very protective and jealous of their women (mothers, wife, sisters, etc…).In the majority of families, men make decisions in regards to everything for their women. If she is allowed to go to school, when she should get married and with whom, if she can work, if she can go outside without being accompanied, basically everything is controlled by men. A very very small percentage of the population acts differently, but since people tend to care about what the others think, it makes it difficult to freely act against the majority. It was hard for them to understand how a young woman like me was sent to work in Afghanistan.

Our office was in a very big compound with few other UN agencies. We had several Afghan men and women working but not interacting unless it was for professional reasons. Being used to working with both sexes, I had no problem interacting with men and women. For the Afghan men, it was ok to speak freely with any foreigner women. When I talked with the women, they explained that they could not have lunch or interact with their male colleagues as they needed to avoid any problems and bad reputation. I was friendly with all my colleagues as I would I have done it in any other circumstances, until I understood that by doing so I was starting to feel disrespected from male Afghan colleagues.

Here’s what happened:In the briefing I had on my first day, I was told that Afghans were forbidden to go in any international restaurants because alcohol was sold there. The international community who live there are asked not to help in finding or buying alcohol for Afghans since it is strictly forbidden for them to drink alcohol even though most of the men find ways of drinking. If an international worker is found guilty of buying alcohol for an Afghan, he risks losing his job and being expelled from the country. I was always nice and friendly to my male Afghan colleagues, but I think they started to think that I was a frivolous and easy girl. A colleague explained that a man and a women are only allowed to be close to each other if married and could not only be friends. Drivers and other young Afghan colleagues started to ask me to buy alcohol for them, or asked me to invite them to my hotel, and that is when I realised that we could not just be friends.

One day, I had a driver who was older than I was, maybe as old as my dad.He was taking me back to my hotel and I asked him to stop by the liquor store (located in the office compound).I was invited at a farewell party and was asked to bring some wine. When we arrived there, the driver asked me if I could buy some beer and vodka for him even though he knew I was not allowed to do so. I was extremely uncomfortable and had to think of a nice way to say no. First I told him, “You know I can’t. I am not allowed to do that and I risk my job”. He said “Nobody will know. I won’t say anything I promise”. I then told him that in my country, men don’t ask women to buy alcohol for them because it is very disrespectful. Yes I lied, but after that he never asked me anything again.I also wanted to somehow show him that where I come from or lived men also had respect for women. I still don’t know if he understood that or if he was shocked that a woman could say no to him.

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Copy the questions below into a word doc, answer and submit.

Do not include the case, just copy the questions below.

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Case #1 (Questions are worth 10 points each for a total of 40 points).

  • What are TCK’s?
    • According to all the people in the video, identify 7 cross cultural skills that they have learned.
    • Identify three different types of occupations the parents of these students might have. (not in the video, you need to research this)
  • Intercultural communication difficulties often start with differing perceptions of the same event.The TCK had a particularly difficult conversation with her driver.Use the DIE model (Chapter 3) and analyse the conversation from the TCK view and the driver view
    • The viewpoint of the TCK
      • D
      • I
      • E
    • The viewpoint of the Driver
      • D
      • I
      • E
  • Considering the Afghanistan case above identify and describe which parts of the Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck Value Orientation model (Chapter 4) seem to apply?
  • The TCK has another 6 weeks in the country.What specific questions on the Global Affairs Canada website would have been useful for her to know about?
    • The website is on eLearn
    • You can cut/paste the appropriate questions – do not choose all of them
    • Remember to focus on her professional job – ie do not choose the question about Recommended Books, Films, Foods

Watch this video: Third Culture Kids – Growing Up Global

you can watch the whole video, however to answer the questions below, you need to watch until 12:14.

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