« Previous | Main | Next »

Who are you? What's your view?

Post categories:

Sean | 12:20 UK time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Hello again blogosphere! And blog friends! It's Sean here and this week and next I'll be blogging here in the Staff blog. How many 'blogs' is that?!! Well, I'll try to do a couple of entries each week - but maybe if you send me some really interesting comments I'll have to do more! ;-)

So what to talk about? What to say? Right now I'm staring at a blank screen, wondering who is out there... Who will read this? Who will reply? Well, I'm hoping some of my old friends who replied to my Teacher blog a while ago will pop up... and I hope some new friends too! From all over the world! That's the beauty of BBC Learning English - we can all come together from all over the world and exchange views....

But what's your view? What's your perspective? Where do you stand? Who are you?!

You see your view, your perspective, where you stand... often determines not only what you see but very often what you understand... even how you react! Have a look at this picture. Can you guess what it is? Or do you need to change your perspective? Your point of view? Your standpoint?

A close-up of a blue and white beach hut with a union jack in the window

Can you guess what this is? Or do you need to change your perspective? Your point of view? Your standpoint?

Did you get it? Did you see?

If not - stand back and take another look!

Beech huts in Southwold England

Can you see what it is now? It's a beach hut. Easy to see when you change your perspective!

Easy now, right? A beach hut! So you see perspective is everything!

When I was thinking about this I remembered a great TV ad from years ago the Guardian Newspaper. It's very clever. It not only communicates the point that your viewpoint or point of view is determined by where you stand - your standpoint if you like! - but also plays very cleverly on 'cultural' assumptions or points of view about who someone is because of the way they look or dress... or indeed behave! You can see the ad on Youtube if you like -

It's only when you get the whole picture that you can fully understand what's going on. But it's not just about your point of view. It's about who you are! And who you are often determines your point of view! Or perhaps your point of view determines who you are! If you just watched the ad, be honest - what assumptions did you make about the 'skinhead', the 'housewife' and the 'businessman'?

I'm talking now about culture.

Culture is an amazing thing. I'm not talking about the arts (the high culture of opera or 'low culture' of soap operas and so on) but about our values, attitudes and behaviour. That's the meaning of culture in the wider sense - and, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, our identity - and very often our perspective on things and people, is shaped by our cultural identity - by the culture in which we have lived. Culture - whether national culture or even organisational culture - shapes our values, which inform our attitudes, which in turn affect our behaviour. Powerful stuff!

So who am I?

And how has my culture shaped me? Well, I'm Sean! I was born in Uganda but grew up in Yorkshire. My parents are English but my name is Irish because my ancestors came from Ireland. I have lived in London since I was eighteen years old. But I have also lived in Switzerland, France, Chile and worked in Egypt, China and many European countries. So maybe lots of 'cultural influences'. I also work for the BBC World Service where there are many different nationalities and people with lots of different cultural values. I like diversity! In fact I even like a dance group called Diversity from 'different walks of life'! You can learn more about Diversity here.

So what does this mean about my values? Well, I'm British and a Yorkshireman. So maybe that tells you something about me and my values. Of course, the danger is that we slip into stereotypes! I'm British or English so I must be ... cold? Formal? I'm a Yorkshireman so I must be frank, plain speaking? To some extent of course, some of this may be true. I'd say I value the English sense of fair play... and I like the dry English sense of humour... and I value plain speaking.

I also value honesty, fairness and hope I recognise that not everyone is the same and that that is a good thing! Of course not everyone will agree with me! I remember another great ad that, to me, captures the British sense of humour, the values of diversity and different styles. If you want to see it I think you'll find it surprising - whether you like it or not may be determined by your culture! You can see it here.

So who are you? How much are you shaped by your culture? A colleague of mine, Marc Beeby, made a fascinating series a while ago all about culture and cultural identity called Who on Earth Are We? You can listen and download the radio programmes and scripts here.

Happy listening! Happy reading! And hope you learn something new about inter-cultural communication! If you do, or if you have any comments on my blog... please tell me.

Who are you?
What's your view?
What are your values?
How much are you shaped by your culture?

I've explained some of the words in bold below.

See you soon!

What's your view?
What do you think? How do you feel?

What's your perspective?
How do you look at this? What do you think? What do you see?

Where do you stand?
What's your position? What do you think?

the point
the key information; the reason

your view point or point of view
what you think

cultural assumptions
what you think or feel as determined by your culture

usually a man with a shaved head who sometimes dresses in a particular way - jeans, boots - and perhaps belongs to a gang... but not always!

beliefs, what you think is right

what you think, your view on something or someone

how you act

cultural influences
things that have affected you because of your culture

difference; understanding and appreciating differences

a simplified mental picture of an individual or group of people who share a certain characteristic; often negative or prejudiced

to the point; honest; upfront

plain speakingtell it how it is; direct

fair play
fairness; equality

dry sense of humour
finding something funny in a quiet, clever, unassuming way

inter-cultural communication
communication across cultures, cultural differences; understanding different, diverse cultures


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello Sean! Your blog is so interesting and complete that I can´t think of posting something that could attract your attention. But, I´d like to say that from my viewpoint, values and the consequent attitudes and behaviour I firmly appreciate diversity and try to avoid all kind of stereotypes. I value up-front, plain speaking attitudes and dislike prejudments and prejudice. The photos are a good support for the topic. Thanks a lot and the best for you. Beatriz - Argentina.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sean, it was a pleasure to read your blog, a nice one!

    I am Leila from Northern Finland, a working woman, independent female, maybe a feminist, wife, mother, a daughter and a sister just to mention a few roles I have.

    My views are many, diversity I love in life, I do not fit any mold, that does make a life a bit difficult at my age… being almost 61.

    Values are easy to say, to live by them is more difficult, but I can say from experience that more years one has lived, easier it is to stand by them.

    My background has also shaped me, I was born in a small village in Northern Finland, I have lived over 10 years in Norway, New Zealand and London, now I live quite close to my childhood home.

    Thank you for your mind provoking blog.

    Leila from Oulu

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Sean,
    What a challenge, what a lot of questions, what a lot of food for thought... How can we just briefly comment on a post like the above?

    Let's see: I'm Central European, Austrian to be exact - sorry, no exotic, colourful tinge to this site. I was born in Austria, no foreign roots, not even any noteworthy foreign job experience - and yet, I see myself much more as a citizen of our planet, if I may say so, than a member of a particular nation. I am highly suspicious of patriotism, which to my mind is a bit too closely related to nationalism and I have no patience with the latter at all. I cannot help thinking I could easily have been born into any poor family in any less well-to-do corner of this world. It is none of my doing that I live in a prosperous country. And I have little understanding for policies trying to keep refugees away from the rich countries of this planet. Intolerance and unfairness are some of the things I'd really like to fight - if I were a fighter. I'm just noticing - I may not look it, but deep down I'm a revolutionary. Funny idea, really, because on the surface I am a gentle mother of two teenage daughters...
    Being a regular visitor to this site and enjoying its internationality, it goes almost without saying that "diversity" is a highly cherished concept in my register of values, too. That dance group is amazing, by the way!
    Oh, I knew this was going to be long. I'll stop here. It's just piecemeal though. There's so much that could be elaborated on.
    Thanks anyway for making us try to find out about ourselves...
    Elisabeth (happening to come from Austria)

  • Comment number 4.

    Very good! What is interesting is that sometimes we don't have conscience of how culture affects our behaviour...

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Sean and everyone
    I tried to answer Sean's questions which are to me a good exercise to raise selfawareness.
    Well who you are?
    I'm Abeer a human - Humans are noted for their desire to understand and influence their environment and emotions have a significant influence on them, or can even be said to controlhuman behavior-
    So I’m a learning human .I dream to influence my environment.I work hard to develop myself .I’m an emotional human that loves, cares, laughs and feels angry and sad.
    I express myself and share my feelings as much as I share my thoughts .
    The bunch of things that I never compromise are “ Honesty , Fairness , Justice and trust “
    What’s your view?
    Well it depends where I’m standing.. I’m very close now so I’m just seeing the big image.. I’m moving backwards.. Ah! Now I can see the little details!
    In the details lies the differences which enrich the image and enrich our lives.
    Now I’ll leave you with those nice quotes and sayings
    "We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic.
    Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings,
    different hopes, different dreams."
    Jimmy Carter

    Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.
    Malcolm Stevenson Forbes

    Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another's uniqueness.
    Ola Joseph
    I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.
    Mohandas K. Gandhi
    "Variety is the spice of life."

  • Comment number 6.

    Very good your blog. It makes one think. I liked the The Gardian video. And there are many expressions also to learn. Thanks.
    Beatriz, Montevideo

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Sean
    What did happen after having the photo in the boat? Did you sink to the water or did you rise up?

    Have a good and prave day


  • Comment number 8.

    After reading this,I gain that all things can be accepted,depening on how many do we know or view.If we can possess a chance to view more about the world,we can treat all the things normally.So,I am also trying to gain more via taking part in lots of social work or special experience,I hope that I can know more about the world issue which I did not realise before and can share with other ppl like you!

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear All
    Thanks for your kind comments and questions! I shall try and get another blog entry up here soon... in the meantime, here are some answers to your questions and some more comments! -
    @Taru - I didn't sink! Or fall in the water! I just lay there relaxing for a while on the Nile in a faluca, a kind of sail boat. It was lovely.
    @Benson - I agree! If you can see others' points of view, you can accept their positions! I like the sound of your social work - good luck!
    @Beatriz - glad you like the blog. And yes the Guardian ad is very thought-provoking (there's another word for you - it means it makes you think.)
    @Abeer - I like your quotes! Thanks very much.
    @Nancy - yes sometimes we are not aware of our own culture... until it clashes with someone else's!
    @Elisabeth - I like your comment. Thanks very much. You sound like a woman after my own heart... so glad you enjoyed Diversity... yes an amazing group.
    @Leila - thanks for your comment... you talk about countries I have yet to visit so look forward to broadening my cultural horizons there some day.

    Take care! And look at things differently today - you'll be surprised and learn something new!

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Sean, first of all, it is a pleasure to read and to participate in your blog. I'm Brazilian and I live in Rio. Your subject is very interesting: our point of view of other person, especially when he/she is foreigner. Well, I think that everyone is an interesting person, with his own problems, culture, solutions, habits. Some years ago, in my first trips abroad, when I was in a city, when I met people I always compared them with my country. But, soon, I realized that the important thing to do is learning with and enjoying the new situations and give me a chance to know the new. Slipping into stereotypes is a wrong way to face the life and even to lose the opportunite to know a great person.

    Have a nice day. Bye! Rosa



Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.