— Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. —
13th century poet Rumi
Working cross-culturally goes beyond speaking more than one language. Culture is a complex multi-dimensional construct that heavily influences individuals in every moment of their lives, affecting their decision making as well their interpretation of circumstances. Age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race and socioeconomic status are just some of the factors that fall under the umbrella of “culture”. OltreConfini (literally “BeyondBorders”) is not only a space that transcends the barriers between body and mind. It also transcends ethnic, religious, national, and gender borders. In doing so, we pay the utmost attention to our patients’ cultural context and the part that it plays in their lives.
In order to be a culturally competent, a clinician must first and foremost be humble and open to not-knowing. The construct of “culture” encompasses aspects of biology, history, anthropology, politics, psychology, language, and more yet. A culturally aware clinician is open to listening and interested in patients’ cultural story. Every individual is unique and no two people who share a similar background should ever be assumed to be the same. At OltreConfini we want to learn from our patients about their culture, as we guide them in the discovery of themselves as cultural being. Most often people are not even aware of the extent to which their culture contributes to their sense of identity, as well as to their emotional struggles.
A foreign woman living in her husband’s country, surrounded by his family and customs may not be conscious of the extent to which this is affecting her relationship and in turn her wellbeing. An adult “third culture kid” (an adult raised in a culture other than that of either of his parents) may not realize that his difficulty attaching to friends and partners stems directly from his ingrained sense of being a permanent outsider. A study-abroad student may be stunned in discovering that true culture shock comes along after just a short while in a foreign country, facing an alien academic system and a new set of social norms. Speaking more than one language and having earned experience working with people from seven continents, at OltreConfini we are especially sensitive to matters of culture at large and welcome patients from all walks of life.