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Finding your “Know-How” Cultural Guide

Dory Estrada, a Master Facilitator and host family member of The Bridging Principles™ team discusses how the Guide Principles has been essential in finding her way through difficult circumstances while living within another culture.


Hi blog readers! I am back again with a second post regarding some recent reflections I’ve had about The Bridging Principles™ and how they have had a significant impact in my day-to-day life as a foreigner living in Europe. Today, I’d like to speak specifically to the Guide Principle.

Guides are a vital part of navigating life and can take the form of specific people or things that help us achieve our Intent (a second Bridging Principle, to be discussed in a later post). Guides are all around us, and I am sure that on your way home or at work today there will be many subtle guides that steer you through your daily activities and help you accomplish your tasks (think of something as simple as Google, or more complex, like a fellow co-worker who you consider a mentor).

However, though guides surround us every day, a good Guide can be difficult to find. This can be made all the more difficult if you are trying to find one outside of your comfort zone… let’s say, in an entirely different culture. With this added dynamic, you are searching for a Guide who can help you understand “Know-How Culture” (that is, how to accomplish something) versus the generic “Know-What Culture” (ie, what something is). Know-What Culture can easily be described—it’s something visible and obvious. But Know-How Culture can be something difficult to describe to cultural newcomers and is often something subconscious that is more deeply ingrained into a specific culture. The problem is that as Leah Taylor Best, our CEO says, “the majority of culture is know-how, it cannot be easily described and shared. It often requires a person physically practicing the behavior to learn the know-how of a cultural practice.”

Such is the case with my own experience here in Austria and Germany. One example of this occurred when I was faced with the task of apartment-hunting in the city of Stuttgart. When I first arrived as a student to Germany, I found myself in a terrible housing situation that caused me to need to move after only 1 month. “How hard can it be to find a new place?” I thought. Little did I know how different the rental system would be in Germany, or how difficult it would be to find a place. I desperately needed a Guide. I then turned to housing websites, newspaper ads, and personal contacts for help, but it was nearly a month (and 2 weeks of sleeping on a friend’s couch) before I was able to find an apartment.

Though I had rented places before in the US and knew how to search, I didn’t have a Guide to show me how this Know-How Culture in Germany was different from my own Know-How Culture back home. What I needed to know included the fact that 1) October is an impossible month to search due to an influx of students in the city, 2) Affordable housing for students is in very short supply and 3) Most housing was found through personal connections only.

This story does have a happy ending—with some better personal Guides and a lot of luck, I was able to find a place. However, the lesson I took away from this experience was to not assume your “know-how” culture will apply to different cultures, and to always rely on a trustworthy guide to help you find your way.

About the Author: Dory Estrada is a Master Facilitator for The Bridging Principles™ and currently works as a freelance proposal writer in Austria. She holds a MSc. in Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design, and is passionate about environment, local economic development, and sustainability-focused work. She enjoys travel, outdoor activities, and all kinds of food from different cultures.

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