We'll be going for dinner in less than an hour, and I needed some time on my own. Coordinating a group this size isn't easy, it took us a while to allocate admin rights for the conference blog, get the WLAN running alright, agree on meeting times and so forth. Punctuality was an issue, but I have to say that Arabs who were fifteen minutes late tops by far outperformed all stereotypes I had heard of.
Cliches played a bigger role later, when we were supposed to discuss keywords like "time", "taboos", and "reading" in intercultural groups of two Germans and six Arabs each. I am not sure whether it was the process of translation that fuelled misunderstandings, or whether it was just that we had to discuss the "taboo" topic first, but somehow I felt that the atmosphere suddenly became charged: @OsamaRomoh tweeted German bloggers believe there are no taboos in Germany #YMS2010 and Now @EmanHashim is talking about Arabs' excuses of wasting time and Germans laughed at "traffic excuse" #YMS2010 - I can't quite agree. Of course there are taboos in Germany (Criticism of Israeli politics is a problem, sex in public, etc.), and I'm not sure generalizing to "German bloggers" from one participant's statement is fair. I can't remember laughing at the time excuse, either, but if I did, it might have been because since yesterday evening, I have a vivid idea about Cairo traffic.
In intercultural dialogue, humor always is an issue, misapprehensions come so easy. Me, for example, I'm not sure exactly what the following tweet meant that prompted laughter among the Arab bloggers: The road to Berlin. Can someone explain, please?
All in all a very interesting first day, though, and I'm looking forward to continuing our conference tomorrow!