Book Review: “From Foreign to Familiar” by Sarah A. Lanier (2000)

“I have learned that identifying cultures in these two categories, hot and cold climates, has provided simple handles with which to grasp basic cultural similarities” (17-18)

This tiny manual deals exclusively with the shock we all will inevitably face when traveling to a new culture or, perhaps, when hosting in our own comfortable setting individuals who come from a culture entirely different from our own. The author recounts stories from her own extensive travels and experiences living abroad, giving her an heir of expertise on this topic which has, with the shrinking of the world and all, received more than its fair share of attention. Lanier attacks this issue from a special angle, though, which has allowed her book to sort of shine out midst the dross of cultural writing. As quoted above, her focus is not at all the specifics of cultural differences, but rather the generalized polarization of both the “hot” and the “cold climate cultures.” Using the two opposing cultural starting points, Lanier is then able to delve a little deeper into broad issues like time, privacy, and personal identity in order to explain why cold-culture people think so differently than hot-culture people. In generalizing major issues this way, Lanier is able to give her readers a framework through which they could then visualize the root causes not only for their target’s behavior, but also their own thinking processes and even prejudices.

Though Sarah Lanier’s background is undeniably Christian, she writes with the whole world in mind, making her book one that any class on cultural sensitivity might utilize. More specifically, this is a book I would recommend for anyone planning to travel to a new culture for the first time. It’s a short book and one that could easily be finished on a plane ride, but the clues shared within will be invaluable as you make your way to new horizons. Give it a shot.

©2013 E.T.

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