Friday, 23 February 2018

Understanding Cultural Fluency

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture on Cultural Fluency, by University of Toronto's award winning faculty member and Assistant Professor, Nouman Ashraf.

Ashraf teaches in a variety of areas within the Rotman School of Management, with a specialized focus on organizational design and leadership strategies in the areas of diversity and inclusion.  As such, his lecture focused on the ways in which we as individuals can learn to become more open and accepting to those who are different from us - something that most of us strive to do, but sometimes fall short.

Ashraf opened the evening with an exercise that tested our comfort zones.  He asked everyone in the audience to draw the person they were sitting beside.  As individuals began drawing their partner, who was likely a stranger to them, you heard giggling all around the room.  After the exercise was completed, Ashraf pointed out just how uncomfortable everyone was during the little experiment, and explained that he was allowing us to step outside our comfort zones.  After all, "there isn't much growth in our comfort zones, because you're not challenging yourself."

He then proceeded to ask us what we do when we meet someone who clashes with our personality.  Many quickly replied that they avoid that individual.  Ashraf suggested otherwise: "Many times, we find ourselves retreating because we don't know how to act around certain people who are different.  When someone rubs you the wrong way, or is different from you, you should try and get to know them better." He further explained that, when we resist truly getting to know others, we only further enforce the ideas, or stereotypes, that we have of them in our minds.

Ashraf outlined the three things that need to be in place for Cultural Fluency to function proerly:
1.  we need to recognize that we our identities are a construction of numerous ideas, experiences and perspectives.
2. We evolve, due to point #1
3. We have to power which of point #1 (the experiences, ideas, and perspectives) create our identities.

Ashraf went on to explain another three important points to help with cultural fluency:
"Innovation begins when we own our experiences and our narratives, also known as our Ideation...New ideas rarely come from people isolating themselves from others."

As such, including, or integrating, oneself, is an important aspect of attaining cultural fluency. However, as Ashraf stated, "Inclusion is a choice."  If you're curious about something, you need to decide to put yourself out there and learn more about it. 

After pointing out all of the above thought provoking points, Ashraf then focused on Cultural Fluency Strategy. While he mentioned a multitude of ideas, some of the main takeaways I noted were: 

~ it is important to remember that all of our experiences are framed by our previous cultural knowledge.  Thus, when trying to be culturally fluent, one must suspend those "cultural frames" to truly be empathetic to another culture.  Basically, to truly put yourself in another shoes, you need to remove all the biases and stereotypes you hold of that culture.

~ "One must engage the other person in their fullest sense."  Try to understand what the other person truly needs, not, just what is best for you.

What is under the reality of exclusion?  The need to be understood.  

Ashraf's lecture sheds light on a topic which is especially important in today's global communities, where we are all called to work and live equally. It's important to remember to respect and celebrate each others differences and be open to learning some new perspectives!    

Friday, 16 February 2018


This weekend is Family Day Weekend here in Toronto, and there is much to see and do in the city! 

For those of you looking for a little cultural flair, specifically Italian culture, check out my top five picks below!

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1. Giro d'Italia ~  Indulge in savory and sweet dishes customized from various regions of Italy!  This event, which runs from February 15th-25th, features 16 restaurants in the city, with each featuring food from a specific region of Italy. This tasty and educational experience has been organized by The Consorzio di Ristoranti Italiani, a group of Italian restaurant owners and chefs whose aim is "to celebrate regional Italian cuisine through authentic food and experiences." 

2. ART EXHIBITION: Bruno Billio ~ The Istituto Italiano di Cultura (Italian Institute of Culture) will be featuring an exhibit of Italian-Canadian artist, Bruno Billio.  Billio works include installation art, sculpture and design. While he currently works and lives in Toronto, he has exhibited internationally in Milan, London, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. This event is free admission and runs from 6:30pm-8:30pm at the Insitute until February 19th.

3. "Mamma: In the Meantime" ~ This photographic tale by, Tony Luciani, describes his journey with his 94-year-old mother, as she battles Dementia.  Luciani's work navigates this tough topic in a gentle manner, and ultimately offers the hopeful message, that life does not end with the diagnosis of this illness. This event, organized by Villa Charities, can be found at Columbus Centre and runs from February 15th - April 2nd. 
4. Eaton Gallery of Rome - Be transported back in time when visiting this exhibit which features over 500 Roman artifacts that highlight Roman daily life in the time period of 900 BC to AD 476.  This gallery is currently on exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.

5. Italiano Vero - La Famiglia Party ~ For the younger crowd, who is looking for a party with an Italian vibe, check out Italiano Vero's "La Famiglia" club event this weekend.  The party features current music mixed in with traditional Italian folklore sounds, as well as some great Italian eats such as, Nutella bombe!  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Special Giveaway!

Hello Viva la Dolce readers! 

As a way to thank you for your awesome support, I have teamed up with a great group of bloggers to offer you a great giveaway! The prize? An iPhone 8 (64GB)!!!

The phone will be open to any carrier for setup and you can choose which colour you prefer! Contest runs until March 13th, midnight. 

To be entered, simply click on the button below and follow the instructions.

Best of luck to all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 12 February 2018


Continuing on with the Valentine's Day theme for this month, this Music Monday VLD is featuring Adriano Celentano's classic love song entitled, "L'emozione Non Ha Voce" ("Emotion Has No Voice"). 

This song was released in 1999, on the album, "Io Non So Parlar D'Amore" ("I Don't Know How to Speak of Love").  The success of this song helped the album stay within the top 50 on Hit Parade Italiana for 101 consecutive weeks!  This comes as no surprise, as Celentano delivers an emotionally raw ballad which speaks about the power of love between two individuals who may not always have the perfect relationship, but are meant to be nonetheless.  It's a very relatable song, which is probably why it strikes as a favourite for many.

Check it out below!

Translation by and Viva la Dolce

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A Love Letter to Italy

When I saw the topic for this month's Dolce Vita Bloggers Monthly Link-Up, I was excited to write about a topic so dear to my heart.  Read below, my love letter to my "Valentine," Italy:

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Dear Italy,

Where do I begin... I was first introduced to you when I was four years old.  You impressed me with your beautiful language, lush scenery, fresh mountain air, amazing food, fun festas and so much more.  It wasn't long before we became good friends, and I was excited to be able to visit you time and time again over the years.

With each visit I grew more fond of you. You opened up and showed me new and exciting things about you that kept me coming back for more. New landscapes, new traditions, new ways of truly enjoying life.  Soon I longed for the times when I would see you again, as the time spent apart felt like agony.

While I was away all I would do is compare others to you, but no one else could steal my heart quite like you, not even my own native land.

As I began my life as a young adult, I decided it was time to get serious and take our relationship to the next level.  As I started to plan my move over to your quarters, I was quickly cautioned.  People told me I had simply fallen under your spell and they warned me of your faults. They insisted that Italy wasn't just all about "la dolce vita."  It pained me to hear but I knew deep down they were right.  I had seen the faults they were talking about - the lack of work, the disorganization, the political troubles - but I had ignored it all.  Instead, I chose to concentrate on the special things that only you could offer the way you do - the appreciation of art, the zest for life, the passion for love, and of course, the mastering of "il dolce far niente."

Yet, I never did make that move.  My dear Italy, you were simply the one that got away.  And so now, I content myself with our happy memories from the past, and relive that happiness by continuing to admire you from afar.  You've touched my heart like no one else, and each time we meet again, we exchange a sweet smile that only we understand.  Until next time amore...

Monday, 5 February 2018


Seeing as it is the month of love, each Monday Viva la Dolce will be featuring a romantic Italian song.

To kick off the month, VLD is featuring the classic love song by Eros Ramazzotti, entitled, "Più Bella Cosa."  In this song, Ramazzotti is singing about his relationship with the woman he is devoted to, and how wonderful life is with her.  The chorus states the line, "più bella cosa non c'è, più bella cosa di te" which translates to, "there is nothing more beautiful, more than you."  

While this is an incredibly sweet sentiment, I especially love the last line of the song (that is also stated throughout the ballad), which is  "Grazie di esistere" ("thank you for existing").  How romantic! 

Check out the video below...

Translation from with some revisions by Viva la Dolce

Friday, 2 February 2018

DOLCE TO-DO! ~ February list

It's February...the month of love!

This month is all about celebrating love and kindness towards yourself, and most especially towards those around you.  VLD has got you covered on ideas for self-care, as well as, ways to sweeten the lives of others.

Check out the "Dolce To-Do List" below and make the most of your February!

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1. Valentine's Cards - Take some time this month to write some sweet notes to those you care about. 

2. Bake! - Put on a cute apron and get movin' and grovin' in the kitchen!  Valentine's Day is usually celebrated with sweet treats, so look up some yummy recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth and try them out. If you have little ones in your life, this can be a great activity to do together to help celebrate the occasion.

3. Turn Up the Volume! - Create a romantic playlist and listen on repeat all month long...

4. Treat Yourself - Whether it's a service or an item that you've been longing for, treat yourself to it this month!  Who says you need a Valentine to buy you something special?  Show some self-love, and spoil yourself!

5. Treat Someone Else - Living in a consumerist culture, it's easy to run out and buy the latest gadget for your Valentine, however this year why not try and make something from the heart?   If you're not feeling crafty, perhaps you can think of a fun experience that you and your special someone can share together. The important thing is, show that you're listening to your partner, and surprise them with something you know they will truly enjoy!

6. Movie Time - Get into the holiday spirit, and watch a romantic movie with your special someone, or a fun film with friends!

7. Bubble Bath - Practice some self-care and relax in a luxurious bubble bath.  Grab a glass of champagne, add some candles and you will feel like you're at the spa!

8. Pay-it-forward - Try and do something nice for a stranger each day of this love-filled month.  Whether it's holding the door open for someone, asking someone how they are, paying for their coffee in the drive-thru, or even just sending them a smile, these little acts go a long way.  Hopefully your kindness will inspire others to do the same!

9. Be Bold - Try out a beautiful new shade of red lipstick!  If red really isn't your thing, than try a bold new pink or fushia!  

10. Get Outdoors - Try and enjoy as many outdoor winter sports as you can this month.  With spring soon approaching, the snow will be gone before you know it!  You can kill two birds with one stone, and enjoy a winter activity as part of your Valentine's Day festivities!


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