1. 1Culture Sleuth
  2. 2Welcome
  3. 3Getting Ready
  4. 4Making It Happen
  5. 5Questions
  6. 6Spinning Family Gold

Hooray and a Round of Applause for New Culture Sleuths

Welcome. You are already a bit of a Culture Sleuth. I’ll bet that, when you walk into a new friend’s home, you instantly notice a different feeling – a different ‘vibe’. That difference you feel is your first experience of that family’s culture. Maybe the house is more formal than yours. Or you might see piles of books or dog toys everywhere. Any evidence that there might be sports fans in the house? You get the picture. All evidence of a family’s culture. A little like visiting a different country. There are as many cultures as there are families.

But where do those cultures come from?

Here’s where your aunts, uncles, grandparents – those people in and out of your early life – come into the game. They are your Home Team. They gave you your cultural starter kit. It happens so naturally in families that it most often goes unnoticed. By the time you started school you had a sense of how the world worked. Of the people you should respect or treat with caution. The overheard stories told at your kitchen table helped you appreciate what behaviors might get you in trouble. The music your family played and the food they loved defined your sense of home. By watching the grown-ups in your family, you developed your understanding of how to show respect and care. You learned how to connect with others.

That ‘stuff’ – the habits and beliefs – in your starter kit stay with you for a very long time. You may change a few things, but those original ways will always feel like home. One day, when you are 25, you will excitedly blurt out ‘fiddlesticks’ or ‘sacre bleu‘: – a phrase you had never used before. And then you will remember, it was your old Uncle Leopold’s favorite phrase. Starter kits are filled with things like that. Things that show up later in your life.

But where did the Home Team get their starter kits?

Once upon a time the players in your Home Team were kids too. And, you guessed it, their starting preferences and beliefs came from the players in their early lives. They learned to laugh at what their family laughed at. If they were hugged a lot – they probably hugged you – a lot.

Habits and beliefs and cultures are handed down across generations – sometimes a thread at a time. With a little sleuthing you might find that your grandmother learned to love camping from her parents. And your parents picked up that thread from her and gave it to you. You might discover that your favorite apple fritter recipe came from Germany with your grandfather’s family. Sometimes you might find a little hardship or sadness in there too. Your aunt might have been teased about her weight when she was a little girl and that is why she is extra careful with her kids – no sugar allowed! It might be why her kids notice people’s weight – tease people about their weight a lot. Sometimes the threads are complicated.

Good sleuthing brings understanding. And reasons to celebrate. And you will be in the driver’s seat, opening windows onto the past and into your family’s unique culture.

So, you might ask, why do we need to set up interviews to talk with people about their early lives when we see them almost every day?

Well – it’s how teams work. Conversations are about the day, about news, about who needs to be where tomorrow – at what time. Our busy-ness can get in the way of simply paying attention to what makes each of us special. We try to feel a little less guilty by declaring special days to pay attention – like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays. Dinner out. Etc. But, come on, Sleuths! We can do better than that, don’t you think?

Every family needs a hero. Someone who can stop time and adjust the lenses.

You will be that person. And you will have all the help you need.

What does a Culture Sleuth do?

Ask and listen. That’s pretty much the whole story. You will work with a partner, pick out a few questions that most interest you, then send invitations to family members – appointments to talk. Appointments to discuss and share. Your partner will be capturing the conversations for you so you can really listen – and maybe share a story or two of your own.

The payoff? Worth more than gold.

Oh, there will be so many ways you can turn your Sleuthing results into something very special for your family. Picture a playlist of everyone’s favorite teen song. Or a rogue’s gallery – school pics from everyone – on a single poster – as a holiday gift. Or maybe a monthly newsletter – with you as the editor – asking for and collecting fun info from the whole family. Or – a ‘come-teach-us all-the dances-you-did-in-high school party.’ The sky’s the limit.

You – the Culture Sleuth – and family archivist – and hero.

Culture Sleuth Workbook
Culture Sleuth Workbook
Everything Sleuths will need right at their fingertips. Packed with learning that makes cultural concepts and processes inviting and enjoyable - all delivered with a light touch. Get the workbook, or pick up the expanded Ace edition.