Wednesday, August 20, 2008

About the scent of the koalas

Marie, the caretaker explained where the scent of koala came from.

If you ask me what the most important thing is in communicating cross-culturally, I would say to pay attention to the cues of non-verbal messages. You see, here Marie was probably becoming a bit annoyed by having to teach people how to hold the koala (esp. with ignorant foreign tourists) as it could be repetitive and boring. I can imagine how difficult it can be to deal with a line of tourists who come here just to hold the animal for once and have their pictures taken.

So I decided to approach her during the break and asked if she would be willing to explain where the scent of the koala came from to my students in Taiwan. Immediately she showed me this beautiful smile and agreed to do that with my camera.

People like to be respected and it is universal. Even in a situation where we don't speak the language of a person we run into, ackowledging the person's existence with a genuine smile and eye contact can be helpful. The power of empathy breaks cultural boundaries.


  1. I think smiles and laughter are the universal language. It's so tremendously heart warming under any circumstances when someone smiles at you or shares a laugh with you any time, any where. I'm sure the Koala caretaker was more than happy to oblige your request just because of your big broad smile!

  2. I totally agree with you, MIT, and thanks for the good words about me. You, too, have beautiful smiles. I was just happy to help kill the boredom of this girl and made her feel valued.

  3. She must have felt like a celebrity with all the people around her taking pictures and videos :)

    Koalas are damn cute though.