Basically, this is still a how-to book—how to get along with others who are culturally different. As before, it is not targeted just to those who travel or conduct international business. Cultural information has many applications: To help interact more effectively with new populations from East Africa, the San Diego Police Department has created a videotape for officers about the customs and folkways of these recent residents; the U.S. Marine Corps offers cultural information to its occupational forces in Iraq, counseling them on do’s and don’ts for their own safety and to increase rapport with the locals. Moreover, Lt. Col. Michael T. Mahoney, the U.S. Army commanding officer of Forward Operating Base Thunder in Iraq, has worked hard to absorb Iraqi customs and etiquette. His motivation? To win the peace.
So, my goal is still to demystify the behaviors of people of different cultural backgrounds. Holocausts and ethnic cleansings are monstrous results of people who refuse to accept those unlike themselves in religious practice, language, or color. Instead, I’d like to increase appreciation for all peoples and emphasize that showing respect for differences usually creates respect in return.
Mainly, however, the information is relevant to ordinary Americans, for we all deal daily with those who are culturally different: in the workplace, the neighborhood, and perhaps even our own families. Since one in nine U.S. residents was born in another country, and the total foreign-born population now exceeds 33 million with an estimated 1.3 million immigrants arriving annually, we regularly encounter people who are culturally different more frequently than in the past. In 2004, more than 70 percent of the residents of Elmhurst, Queens, New York, were foreign born. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050 the Hispanic and Asian American populations will triple.