Technology breaks down many of the barriers of distance when connecting and communicating with others across the hemispheres and oceans. However, when face to face connections are experienced, the challenge of distance becomes apparent, especially when living in a rural area – distant from the capital city and airport and an awareness of differences in culture.
Travelogue – the tyranny of physical distance
30 minute drive to the train station
- 3 1/2 hour train ride to Melbourne
- 20 min sky bus ride to Tullamarine Airport
- 90 minute connecting flight to Sydney
- 12-13 hour international flight to Dallas
- 1 hour flight to San Antonio
This travel path will get me to the wonderful international conference of #ISTE13. Is it worth it when I can just communicate and collaborate online with none of this effort? YES! It is most certainly worth it and I am excited about further networking, learning and sharing on a gigantic scale.
I loved this tweet that I received from a wonderful colleague:-
Although we are very similar in culture to the USA and most of our television shows are US produced there were some differences that I noted last year at #iste12 and perhaps gave me a slight shock!
- Straight off the plane to LA, I had to pay for a bus ticket from a ‘manned’ ticket booth where credit cards only were accepted – no cash and it only cost a couple of dolloars! (That was almost unbelievable to me as, in Australia, cash is king!)
- the first real cultural shock was breakfast. I am so used to toast, butter and jam or honey first thing in the morning. On noting that were was no bread to toast on my first breakfast in San Diego, I asked for some. 15 minutes of searching produced 2 slices of bread but no butter! I swallowed it politely and decided to ask what the norm was. Hence followed a love affair with bagels in all types of forms, ingredients and toppings!
- the sheer size of the conference – it is just HUGE! (Remember I teach in a small rural school of 220 students and socialize with 22 staff on a daily basis)
- the order of dining. When my plate of salad arrived, I waited for the main to be served with it. However, as that did not seem to be coming and as I was so hungry, I ate it. As soon as the salad had been devoured
- accents can present another problem. I tried at all times to speak clearly and slowly and was – in the main – understood. However, ordering food at restaurants and take away outlets often presented a challenge! Once I was even interpreted by Australian colleague who was beside me! The other time was when I distinctly asked for room 1E of one of the volunteers as I could not find it despite several attempts at going up and down the corridor I was in. I was running late for a session that I really wanted to attend. However the directions sent me sent me to another distant corridor where I found 1A (not 1E). In frustration I gave up. Did it matter? Not in the least as I decided to go back to the safe haven of the Bloggers Cafe. On my way there I was pounced on by a “pirate” who invited me to play with her in the Videoconferencing playground! A very fun activity and great learning experience which also gave me a real insight into what iste playgrounds are about.
- safety – remember that Americans drive on wrong side of road – especially when crossing road
- vocabulary may differ. I put rubbish into the trash can now. The lift is an elevator etc.
- tipping – this is not common in Australia and can cause some angst. (suggestions of 10-20%)
The people and attendees were amazingly kind and welcoming so any shocks were soon overcome and lots of fun and learning were had. Wonder what’s in store this year?
Some tips for survival
- maintain your sense of humour
- savour every moment – the good, the bad and the challenging
- be aware that some things will be different
- make sure you explore the conference centre before iste starts and get some bearing for its layout
- Find the bloggers or social butterfly lounge as these are a wonderful home base!
- use your voice to start up a conversation with someone new
- speak clearly and slowly if from another land!
- observe what others around you are doing
- be flexible
- if all else fails, burst into tears as some sympathetic fellow will come to your aid!
What differences have you found? Did you feel any culture shock at all?