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Culture Crossing’s Weekly Feature Interview Back

Katie Carpenter is an award-winning producer, director, and programming executive. This week Katie shares her experiences making a film in Sri Lanka.

Name: Katie Carpenter
Nationality: American
Profession: TV Production
Passion(s): Wildlife, Music, Travel

Name a country where you’ve experienced cultural differences: Sri Lanka

Describe one of those experiences: I recall trying very hard to be diplomatic when securing our filming permits, and understanding that other countries work at different rpm's, but I did feel frustration when waiting long periods of time under continuously whirring fans in the heat while functionless bureaucrats lazily moved my forms this way and that for no apparent purpose. We were sent down the hall to another office to get a stamp, returned back to the first office to learn that we had gotten the wrong stamp, offered apologies for this mistake which seemed not to be important and was in any case now our fault since the entire exchange was happening in another language, and not one we could easily learn ( subtle gestures and eyebrow movements being the most important part of the vocabulary). Now, in hindsight, I know they are lovely people who see us Americans as always being too rushed, and can't understand why we wouldn't want to spend an afternoon in their comfortable offices drinking tea under the fans. I just received a friendly email from our fixer in Colombo, two years later, and I now consider her a valued friend. But it does take time and patience.

What did you learn about your own culture from that experience? As I said, I know that we Americans come off as seeming rushed and hurried, missing out on the subtle details and cues that can help a relationship succeed. And I do hate that about my own culture, that we are trained from an early age to make every moment a goal-oriented moment, to achieve success in all things with a minimum of time and effort where possible. I am glad that Sri Lankans and others have taught me to slow down every now and then, even though it doesn't last long!

If you were going to adopt a custom, gesture, or trait from another culture,
what would it be?
The sideways nodding or tilting back and forth of the head, from India and Sri Lanka, accompanied by the friendly term "Ti-Kay". Or the Aussies with "No worries, mate."

Where would you like your next culture crossing adventure to take you? Bali!

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