One of the interesting things about diversity is the diverse interpretations of the word.
Different cultures give different meanings. As an expat, I was always attracted to cultural diversity; meeting people from all over the world means diversity in languages, religions, manners, rules, and more.
It is like an extreme version of the Japanese movie Rashomon; the film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident.
Or in our international reality, a room full of people who live the same moment and see it completely differently. The outcome is richness; it can be messy and full of misunderstandings, but never boring.
Over the years, diversity was acknowledged and in many cases pushed in various industries.
Global mobility was very much influenced by that. But interesting enough, in order to communicate our diverse background and knowledge, we need a common ground, a common language. In the expat world, it is English.
I remember one of my first professional meetings: I was invited to participate in an international group of what looked to me like VIPs, big executives in their formal suits.
I was paralyzed, couldn't say a word.
Silently I was reacting to all I saw and heard, I had a lot to say, but didn't dare to speak up.
When I finally did, I was lucky to be included and welcomed. People were curious about my accent, my somehow different perspective, and my story.
The expat community is rich and diverse, but in many ways, we are lucky to hear and know the ones who dare to cross the barriers of language and culture -- they are hard ones to cross.
You have to be willing to take a risk, constantly feel embarrassed, frustrated, tired, but at the same time when you cross the barrier there is a new world there: Stories that were out of reach in your language, people that are very different and inspiring, and occasionally you'll find people that will be inspired by you and your different story.
I am writing this as a personal invitation to any expat who is hesitant to try and cross that barrier; please join us at the 2018 FIGT Conference in the Netherlands.
FIGT is a magical forum that encourages and embraces diversity of all kinds.
I can tell you in the words of our talented, funny FIGT17NL Master of Ceremonies, Rachel Yates, at this conference, being monolingual is almost the exception.
So let’s celebrate our diversity by being there and connecting.
Dare to express yourself!
We know how it feels.
Contributed by Daniela Tomer, #FIGT18NL Program Chair. Read more about Daniela here.