“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better more peaceful world through intercultural understand and respect…..learning to communicate a variety of ways in more than one language is fundamental to the development of intercultural understanding……” What is an IB education? (2013)

I place these two quotes as a backdrop for reflection on the topic of CQ (Cultural Intelligence) and humor.

Humor does not always travel easily between cultures or across borders. Add the potential pitfalls of social media to this mix and it’s almost a perfect storm situation when one tries to be funny about another culture in a tweet.

A few weeks ago Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner mimicked the Chinese accent in a tweet, replacing r’s with l’s, after she had met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to raise investment in the recession-hit South American economy.

“Did they only come for lice and petloleum?” Fernandez wrote in Spanish on her Twitter account to 3.52 million followers, in reference to 1,000 businesspeople who attended a conference where she spoke. A minute later, she wrote “sorry, the levels of ridiculousness and absurdity are so high they can only be digested with humor.”

It’s embarrassing when international leaders display a low CQ as Kirchner does here so should we propose an introduction to the IBO for the President?

And might we also reflect that any attempts at a joke about cultural differences, and especially those made on social media, are comparative to walking on quicksand?

Understanding humor in another culture is a high level skill that derives from all four of the capabilities inherent in CQ.

But where does Kirchner’s faux pas indicate her most serious cultural challenge?

And how does reflection in CAS address this challenge?