The week seems to be all about meetings : preparing for them, having them, acting on them and knowing how to behave when they happen. Spent some of the weekend working on the page ‘Common Courtesies’ on international-eyes.org: still a work in progress but an ambitious one for something so basic. This week I’ll be meeting a class of students for the first time and new colleagues at the university, so it seems a theme is born.
The aim of the new web page, once published, is to offer key expressions to enable you to show ‘common courtesy’ to those you need from other countries. So for now I’m including a range of languages across the European continent including: the Romance languages of Italian, Spanish, French and Romanian; the Germanic languages of Norwegian and German that fall in the same family as English; Greek; and the Slavic languages of Russian and Polish. Ambitious, yes.
The phrases are linked to greetings and goodbyes, expressions relating to the experience of hospitality, and ways to ask and show gratitude with politeness. At a time when everyone sends in such a rush, taking the time to show courtesy to friends and strangers alike is under-rated. It’s the least we can do when meeting someone from another country and culture.
Monday brought just one of these intercultural meetings out of the blue too. A colleague who runs speaking groups to help with English practice asked if I could help on a regular basis, so I jumped at the chance to help out. This mix of structured and unstructured learning is a chance to truly interact on a wide variety of topics. It’s a learning experience for me as well as the students, and not just culturally. The range of topics can be challenging, adding new shades and perspectives on life and experience.
It’s often said that you make your own luck, and one way is to be genuine and professional to those you meet along the way in your career. Given time and a little patience this can repay itself several times over – not with everyone you encounter, but with those that respect you in return.
This week’s opportunities, along with many others over the course of my career, are the fruits of just such an approach to life and work. Chance meetings, random conversations, common courtesy and mutual respect have often-enough opened doors to something new – like being asked this week to be a coach and mentor to professionals from a range of different backgrounds, through the university I left only 18 months ago.
Small steps can indeed be the start of greater, more fulfilling journeys in the long run – journeys, even adventures, in a future you never envisaged. Isn’t that what life’s about?
Meeting-tech has definitely come to the fore over the past year or two and, ironically, although I resisted online teaching when at the university it’s now very much the day job. Zoom, Preply, Skype all hold less mystery than they used to. I’m even prepared to be amazed by Amazy if it comes to it. This week’s first class back with uni students for some time has reassured me that I can cope with yet another platform. Managed Microsoft Teams, broken the back of breakout rooms and we’re off!
… and when a meeting or a class is cancelled at the last minute, why not take the chance to get out in the fresh air for a little exercise? There are plenty of welcoming spaces to find here in the Cotswolds even if it takes a little walk to get there.