How do you take your water?
This is the question that I didn't ask my uncle's Ghanian colleague while he was visiting my family's home in Cape Town.
When I offered to get a glass of water for our guest, it was the middle of a hot South African summer, and it was our habit both in the US and in SA to chill our drinks in order to cool down from the heat.
Assuming our guest did the same, I brought back a cup of ice water, at which point he immediately asked for one at just room temperature. As a 13 year-old, I was surprised by what was to me an unusual request as I returned to the kitchen with the ice water.
🍵 Fast forward to decades later living in a Chinese culture - when arriving at a friend's house or client's office, the question is usually if I like my water warm or hot (my answer is usually hot, even in the summer!) and restaurants automatically serve warm water or hot tea.
Why? According to Chinese medicine, warm water is more beneficial for health than cold water. Balance is key, and hot or warm water is considered essential to balance cold and humidity; in addition, it is believed to promote blood circulation and toxin release.
By contrast, cold water actually increases chances of heat stroke as your body needs to work harder in order to warm up your stomach and fight against the cold. It is also said to increase cramps as well as premature aging of the skin.
I'm definitely hooked on warm/hot water now, and when back in the West, have the same response as our Ghanian visitor did: warm water please!
💡You don't actually have to look far to develop your Cultural Intelligence - it's often right there in the details of everyday life!
Applying these 3 habits will get you far:
1. Cultivate a sky-like mind (expansive)
2. Take an observant, empathetic approach to meeting new people and situations
3. Ask open-ended questions
With these habits in place, you'll naturally be exercising and developing both your Cultural and Emotional Intelligence.