Prince Edward Island Reverse Culture Shock

The reverse culture shock W-curve was developed by John and Jeanne Gullahorn. Upon arrival in the “home” culture, the returnee experiences a “honeymoon” period where all that is grand about home seems to shine through. Visits with old friends and family are refreshing, and you may notice some exciting changes. The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, though, as cultural differences and the stresses of reentry continue to mount. For people not expecting reentry stress, the challenges can be even more severe, plunging repatriates into the pit of reverse culture shock. As returnees cope with the cultural differences of their home culture and manage the logistical tasks, they climb up the slope of re-adaptation and again regain their psychological stability. As with initial culture shock, the duration of this phenomenon varies from person to person, but the phenomenon itself is prevalent among returning members of the foreign affairs community.

When working in China I’ve often looked forward to the time when I would leave, now that I back in Prince Edward Island I’ve been missing some of the differences that set the places apart.

I’ve been doing more than my far share of moaning, complaining and generally far too critical of all things local of late. Which is to say for the first time I am experiencing reverse culture shock. Over the past 18+ years the majority of my experience on *the Island* has been on holiday, always immersed in the honeymoon period, but now that I have returned to live the experience is naturally entirely different. Here are some of the differences I am adjusting to after almost 19 years in China and Taiwan:

  • No one seems to reply to email – of all the email I have sent to local businesses and government none have replied. I’ve often thought that email was broken, and I guess this proves it, as despite advising you to get in touch via email, the most I have gotten is an unrelated automated reply.
  • The weather makes training difficult. This is my first Canadian winter experience since I left. It’s cold. I opted for a membership at a local gym vs. the hefty investment in winter running gear required to survive running in -10 temperatures.
  • Sugar sugar sugar. I tend to make most meals myself and rely on whole unprocessed foods but in the few times I’ve tried a few treats I’ve almost gagged on the amount of sugar — even spicy Chinese style food hurts my teeth.
  • Mobile phone plans tend to emphasize voice and text messaging – I haven’t used either regularly in years. In fact the phone app isn’t even on my home screen. It’s a data device for me and most people I know; communication is via WeChat, iMessage, FaceTime and others. The plans themselves are easily twice as expensive as what I pay in Taiwan and China. Data speeds are ok.
  • At many places cash is still most convenient. In China I grew accustomed to never needing to take cash with me – everything was paid with my mobile. Even little fruit stalls in a market allows for payment via WeChat wallet. Here in PEI my pockets are flooded with change, it’s a never ending stream of metal, and this annoying nuisance even has resulted in huge innovative machines at the grocery store where it will sort and give you real money in exchange for a fee. Splitting a bill here also requires far more work than simply sending money via mobile.
  • Online shopping seems far less prevalent here. In China I would order everything via mobile and despite living in a rather remote location it would be arrive quickly; it was almost a nightly habit. In Taiwan, items would arrive within 24hrs. The few items I felt like ordering here all required 2 weeks to just prepare the order, then another length of time to arrive at my door. I understand that this is a big country but surely orders could arrive within a week. I ordered a razor 3 weeks ago and it’s still stuck in some clearing centre somewhere. Online grocery shopping doesn’t seem to exist.
  • Jobs. I always knew the job market was … difficult on PEI, otherwise so many wouldn’t leave, but I hadn’t really thought just how challenging an environment it is for design all over Canada. The economy here really is different and it takes a great deal of time to really understand the fact that there aren’t a seemingly unlimited number of companies “making things”.
  • Big box stores abound. I suppose that there are similar problems in Taiwan, but you soon get tired of dropping in to each and every big box store just to grab an item or two (and you can’t buy online). I really don’t see the attraction of all the big box stores, but I guess this just requires better planning skills. Taiwan’s convenience stores really are the best.

These are just little things – there are many habits that need to be changed and it’s just a matter of time. There are a whole host of other deeper cultural differences which I face, or observe, which will may never be adjusted to, but like arriving to a foreign country, I’m sure I will eventually accept or move on.

5 Talks on Empathy

Empathy, the essential element of good design.

To understand someone’s worldview that is foreign to yours is the hard work of being human. We need space to critically think and also have the support of people who possess a compassionate understanding so that our assessments aren’t entirely self-serving.

…five talks … that teach the beauty of empathy in multiple contexts: leadership, product design, social change, technology, and for the people you work with (including yourself).

5 Talks on Empathy That Will Change How You Connect and Create

It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and midnight sweat reduced to lucid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole.
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis: A Novel (Scribner, 2003).



基於Todd Lubart的研究。

Design Creates Meaning (中文版)

摘自Richard Saul Wurman所著的《信息焦慮症2》





From “The case for designing offices more like bars“:

Face-to-face interactions increase empathy, which is a cornerstone of trusting relationships. “Patterns of face-to-face engagement and exploration within corporations were often the largest factors in both productivity and creative output,” says Sandy Pentland of MIT’s Media Lab in his book Social Physics. Neuroscience also backs up these ideas. In her book Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glasser states that when you are connecting face-to-face, “Mirror neurons are firing off, forming a bridge of insight and empathy with others.” Glasser explains that these “exchanges within our trust networks make us feel more positive, open, and closer to others…Strong bonds of trust serve up a cocktail of the brain’s feel-good natural chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.”
Therefore, to make workers happier in both social and professional structures at work, we need to understand how to manufacture more eye-to-eye happenstances.

Click bait article title aside, nothing beats face-to-face interactions, especially in multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams. Our dependence on chat software for communication is not a strength nor an advantage, it’s a weakness.

Get Out Of Your World Of Expertise

The most inspirational people, not just inspirational, but the best people period, that I have had to good fortune to work with or know have all been experts in more than one discipline. An engineer who was an expert in classical music, a designer who could play the violin, a doctor who could play the drums; all were multi-dimension and great at what they did. These kind of people are a joy to be around too.

Throughout school, I was laser-focused on learning everything I could about design. When I came to IDEO, this passion for design was no longer something that made me unique. It’s what you know beyond design that allows you to come up with a solution that your peers haven’t considered. Good design skills are most powerful when they are applied with another discipline or two, or three. I found the designers I most admired were experts in some other area—neuroscience, climbing, magic, baking.
From 3 Ways to Fight Impostor Syndrome





Translated from :

Differences between Information Architecture and Information Design

Between the two names we have different concerns. Information architecture (IA) is primarily about cognition, how people process information and construe relationships between different pieces of information. Information design is primarily about perception, how people translate what they see and hear into knowledge.

Both require different skills. Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, but I sense that a majority of them display an orientation toward language. Information designers, on the other hand, tend to be oriented toward the visual arts. As a result, the majority of information designers come from exactly one discipline: graphic design.

Information architecture belongs to the realm of the abstract, concerning itself more with the structures in the mind than the structures on the page or screen. Information design, however, couldn’t be more concrete, with considerations such as color and shape fundamental to the information designer’s process.

Which I picked up many years ago from Jesse James Garrett.

Culture Influences the Amount of Creativity

Work related to creativity has centered on individualism–collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance (Hofstede, 2001; Rank, Pace, & Frese, 2004). Individualism–collectivism characterizes the strength and cohesion of bonds between people, with people looking after themselves in individualist societies and looking after the larger societal unit to which they belong in collectivist societies. Power distance refers to the extent to which power and authority are expected and accepted to be distributed unequally in a society. Uncertainty avoidance concerns the extent to which people feel uncomfortable or threat- ened by unknown, uncertain situations.

In general, collectivism, high levels of uncertainty avoidance and high power dis- tance (hierarchical structure) are negatively related to national levels of inventiveness (Hofstede, 2001). Shane (1992, 1993) exam- ined national rates of innovation in 33 countries, based on per-capita number of patents, and found an advantage for soci- eties with low uncertainty acceptance, low power distance, and high individualism. An acceptance of uncertainty (low uncer- tainty avoidance) may foster tolerance for risk and change. Individualism is associ- ated with autonomy, independence (defin- ing one’s self as unique from the group), and freedom. Ng (2003) provides empiri- cal evidence for a model in which cultural individualism–collectivism influences self- construal as independent or interdependent on others, and this self-concept in turn influ- ences creativity and conformity tendencies. Lack of power, characteristic of nonhier- archical societies, fosters enhanced interac- tions and communication between people at different status levels, such as superiors and subordinates. Finally, hierarchical soci- eties do not tend to embrace change because of the potential redistribution of power that might go against vested interests.

Thus, the classic argument is that cultures showing the creativity-compatible profile on certain dimensions (individualism, etc.) will favor the development and expression of creativity. People from these cultures should show higher performance on laboratory creativity tasks, more creative productions (e.g., more patents for inventions), and greater levels of creativity (e.g., Nobel Prize winners). It is worth noting, however, the simple effects of cultural dimensions. Phases of creative and innovative processes may relate differentially to these cultural dimensions. For example, low power distance, individualism, and low uncertainty avoidance may foster creativity, but hinder idea implementation. Hofstede (2001) sug- gested collecting ideas in certain cultural contexts (e.g., weak uncertainty avoidance, with tolerance for deviant ideas and unpredictable situations) and refining them in oth- ers (strong uncertainty avoidance, senses of detail and precision). In a similar vein, Rank et al. (2004) noted that Schwartz’s value dimension of conservatism versus intellectual autonomy is relevant to creativity. Valuing intellectual autonomy is positive for generating ideas but may hinder implemen- tation and acceptance of creative ideas.
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Creativity – Todd Lubart