"Hi, my name is Miriam Grobman. I'm a Russian-Israeli-American, in this order." This is how I introduce myself to others. I have been doing it this way to save time but it never works. An American-born person always says something like: "Awww, you have an accent. Where are you from?" (often while slowing down his or her speech). A Brazilian always wants to know where I was born. An Israeli can't understand how come I can speak Hebrew without an accent despite not being born there and a Russian person often doubts my intelligence for not being familiar with the country's main cultural heroes. Anyways, back to our subject. I was born in Russia to non-practicing Jewish parents. I grew up in Israel and moved again with my family, this time to Texas, as a teenager. I went to college and grad school and spent most of my career in the United States. Those three cultures have been incorporated into my worldview as a result.
If things weren't complicated enough, eight years ago I was offered and accepted a job at the headquarters of a Brazilian mining company in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, I learned Portuguese, married a Brazilian man, left that company and started my own business. I now divide my time between Austin and Rio, running my business from both places.
In case you haven't noticed, I am still trying to save time and summarize my life story for my readers... There must be a joke somewhere that starts with: "A Russian-Israeli American walks into a bar in Brazil.." --- Being a product of various cultures and experiences makes introductions more complicated, but also has its advantages. Talking about my "diverse background" helps break the ice: I often bring a map to my talks to illustrate my life's trajectory, capture my audiences' attention and spark their curiosity. Moreover, being a mixture of multiple cultures taught me to look for similarities instead of focusing on differences when I meet new people. As a result, I'm apt at creating deeper relationships with individuals from different cultural and professional spheres. I've been fortunate to make new friendships and gain interesting insights from these interactions (aside from gaining places to stay for free around the world!). Finally, living across different realities made me incorporate the good things and challenge those that didn't make sense in those cultures. For example, I think it's absurd when people assume that engineering is a masculine profession. In Russia, there's a high prevalence of women engineers and women in STEM fields overall. I appreciate Americans' work ethics and striving for excellence but can't fathom their obsession with working (almost) without taking vacations so that one day they could retire and then travel. I admire Brazilians' creativity and quick problem-solving ability but I am always surprised at their capacity to accept and not challenge useless bureaucracy.
"Hi, my name is Miriam Grobman. I'm a Russian-Israeli-American, in this order." What about you, how do you introduce yourself? - This text was adapted into English from its original version in my column in the Brazilian business journal Época Negócios.