I’ve recently had the privilege of travelling around Viet nam, Cambodia and Laos for 3 weeks. Noticing, exploring and trying to understand the culture reminded me of the family therapist John Burnham’s   mnemonic  – the Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS, where each letter stands for aspects of difference in individuals, for example; Gender, Race and Religion. The mnemonic encourages the therapist to be both  mindful and  active  with these facets in practice.

Visiting countries and exploring a culture so different to ours made me reflect on these differences, for example, Employment. The main sources of employment where I was visiting are tourism and farming. The predominant religion or belief system is Buddhism. I wondered how we communicate with each other despite these differences? It brought to mind a memory from a previous trip to India which I’d like to share.

I was sitting on a park bench in a botanical garden with my phone and one headphone in listening to music. A young man in his mid 20’s sat next to me and did the same.We sat together looking across the gardens, each in our own worlds until he caught my eye and passed me the other one of his headphones; he wanted me to listen to ‘his’ music. I listened and then did the same. We sat together, not speaking, but nonetheless communicating and connecting via music. Periodically we would make eye contact and change the music, I guess looking for a response in the other regarding a preference for taste. This image has stayed with me – there we were, very different in Gender, Race, Age, Culture, probably Class, Employment and Education, as well as language, to name a few and yet, we were communicating in a meaningful way.

It left me thinking about which aspects of communication are universal and transcend all difference.. I concluded in this example it  might only be the smile. Other gestures,  for example, shaking a person’s hand, or eye contact, can mean different things in differing cultures.

Overall, it struck me that regardless of differences, as human beings we all seek to connect with each other  in some form and it would appear that there  is always a means of doing this…

Beth, January 2017