This weekend, Team France had the opportunity to travel to Great Britain to interface with the British unit of our client company. After our work was completed on Friday, we spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sounds and sights of London.
Whenever I travel to a new location, there is a tendency to slip into tourist-type attractions. However, I find myself wanting to resist these places. While popular for one reason or another, I feel that only seeing these sites does not enable me to gain an authentic experience of the city. I don’t feel that I am integrating into the culture; I am only an observer of the culture.
In one sense then, London, a city filled with tourist attractions, is a city putting on a performance. A performance of characters, scenes, acts, etc. that are designed to appeal to the masses and draw them. (I am not giving a value judgment of this fact; I am merely just starting an observation). To some extent, I hope that my London travels were able to get a little beyond this performance, “break the fourth wall,” and find authentic English culture.
This begs the question of authenticity. What is truly authentic? Is the performance, the façade, the inauthentic side? I would postulate that it might not be. Initially, the performance may not be an authentic expression. It takes work to put on a costume, to memorize your lines, etc. These behaviors are not natural expressions of yourself. However, if these behaviors are repeated enough to the point of habituation, then it is entirely plausible that the performance becomes the authentic reality of the innate personality and character of a person.
Referring back to London (or any one city with tourist attractions), perhaps the city’s authentic nature can and does include all the tourist attractions that I naturally resist.
However, this question of authenticity is not restricted to international cities. Rather this question really cuts at the core of human behavior. There are many situations in which we as humans are putting on a performance in order to appeal to many people. In our attempts to receive acceptance and approbation, we modify our attitudes, values, and behaviors. A great example of this would be socialization. As a young child, we learn different social behaviors that are expected and accepted in our culture.
Another area that we put on performances is the MBA program. In one sense, we are trying to learn knowledge and techniques in order for us to be successful (attractive) to companies. The amount of practice that we put into interviews (which are truly performances) exemplifies this concept.
While initially we may have to put on the performance, I believe that the goal of the MBA program is that certain techniques, skills, and behaviors will be so inculcated into our psyches that eventually, they become who we are authentically are. And this performance-based learning style is not a bad thing. Our faculty and staff have experienced the world and know what will make us the most successful (i.e. what performance will create the best mass appeal).
As a parting thought, it is important every once in a while to have some introspection. International travel is a fantastic opportunity since it pushes us into unfamiliar areas that test and push us. So, I invite everyone on the GAP program and all the other readers to think about authenticity and the performances that we put on. And finally, make sure that the performances you put on are the ones that you eventually want to become the authentic you.
– Oracle Andy
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,”
– William Shakespeare