Where Culture meets Tall Trees

October 22, 2020 | 0 comments

Here is a quick fact about trees: no matter how tall or short a tree might be, it needs a way to get water to every single cell in that plant. 

Think of the highest Redwood or Douglas Fir that you can imagine. How does water get to the needles at the very highest points of that tree? The water comes from the roots. Somehow it has to “climb” from the roots through the trunk and into the branches and leaves.

It turns out that water moves up those 300-plus feet (in a Redwood, anyway) by passing from one cell to another through what is called the plant’s vascular system. One cell to another from root to trunk to branches to leaves. Each cell is in contact with only a few others, but the cells are all networked to create a system that defies gravity!

Cultures meet Tall Trees when we understand the value and importance of that “from one cell to another” network. 

How do news and opinions and care and correction move through a culture? Usually they travel from one person to another. Even when there is a mass media, people often don’t have a firm opinion on the day’s news until they have checked with their network – their friends, family members, colleagues at work. 

For many parts of life, there is no mass media. There is just the network. What do you think of the new restaurant? How is the newest movie? How are your people handing the pandemic? The latest political news? The national economic news and the local factory opening or closing? We talk in our network about these things.

Cultures share their values, beliefs, and truth statements through the network. One person at a time interacts with one or a few other people. News flows. Opinions grow. New products and companies and services are recommended or avoided, often based on what one person heard from another, who got it from another.

Don’t doubt the power of that “one person to another” network!  Just like water rising hundreds of feet, it is also the power that moves opinions and ideas through a group of people. 

Here are a couple of very practical applications on this part of the culture tree for the Global Trellis community:

1 – Learn the network patterns of your new culture and join in them!  

Who talks to whom? About what topics? In what environments? You can learn how different conversations spread. Is it through the marketplace? The family? The office or workplace? When we learn the natural routes for messages, we are better able to enter the network ourselves.

The network in your homeland has one set of norms. The network in the new culture is different. It will seem strange and uncomfortable to you. Perhaps your network allows free conversation between men and women, but now you live where the social network limits that conversation. You have to adapt to the rules of your new network! 

Perhaps your homeland network discourages discussion about finances and money, but your new network actively inquires about how much items cost and how much salary is paid to different people. Learn and join in the ways that people in the new culture share information from one person to another. 

2 – New network patterns might be a blessing in your homeland, too!

As I write this blog, I am facing personal challenges in caring for some aging family members. During those challenges, I have come to realize I need two things: a support team, and the willingness and ability to ask for help. 

My homeland (the United States) does not usually value networks that offer support and help. Our individualism and independent spirit make us slow to ask for help, and we really prefer to solve our problems ourselves. We don’t want a team for personal care. We don’t want to ask for help for much of anything!  Interactions within our networks are about news and opinions. When it comes to needing help or support, our normal response is, “I’ll do this myself, thank you!”

Years of life and work with Latin American cultures has taught me other patterns. The family helps one another. It is normal to have multiple generations in a home, helping each other to face financial, health, and parenting problems. Asking for help is not uncommon; it does not show a lack of self-confidence or lack of ability. It shows a wise interaction with the network!

So to the Latin American brothers and sisters who taught me how to ask for help and work in community – thank you. My life is richer because you are part of my network! And for those who are now learning to live far away from your homeland, may you also grow and be enriched by adapting to network patterns that are very different from your homeland!

And by the way, yes, I am actively building a team (a network!) to help with my challenges. I have learned to ask for help, and my interpersonal network is the perfect place to find it!


“The One Another Challenge helped me be more intentional in how I live and serve.” You could say the same! Join for free today.

Photo by Marcus Byrne on Unsplash

Mark Hedinger

Mark Hedinger

Practical Visionary. Director of CultureBound. Husband. Life-long learner.

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