Moving has been a theme throughout Dr. Cowlishaw’s life. As he recalls it, he first lived in England. After living in England for the first 26 years of his life, he then moved to Kuwait, then to Cairo, Egypt. After living in Cairo for some time, he moved to the United States at the age of 38 after getting a job offer as the head of school at a school near Charleston, SC, and ended up moving to Charlotte, NC, where he is today.
Having lived in so many places, Dr. Cowlishaw will be the first to tell you how different and diverse cultures can be. One obvious cultural difference many countries have that he mentioned was the difference in language, but he also brought up how different countries have different social norms and rules of what is expected of you. You especially see differences like this in a place like Kuwait, which is very small, and Cairo, a city of nearly 20 million. He even noted the differences between such close places as Charlotte and Northern Charleston, calling Charlotte “a much more eclectic, global, international city” than Charleston.
Learning and understanding each of these cultures completely is a difficult task for anyone, but Dr. Cowlishaw says that he’s lucky in that he’s been able to be flexible enough to adjust to new cultures, even though it took some practice. He recalls his first move to Kuwait, remembering how hard of a time he had adjusting as a 26 year old living in a new country, thinking he didn’t do enough to prepare.
There are many things Dr. Cowlishaw says he wishes he had done before his first move. Some of the things he would have liked to do; learn some of the language first (which he didn’t do), learn about some of the cultural norms around diet and life, and some of the country's political history.
After learning from his mistakes the first time around, Dr. Cowlishaw did many of these things on his second move to Egypt, and he says it helped him a great deal.
He believes his biggest transition was his first move to the USA, as he points out that he went from living in a massive, vibrant, historically significant city, to a small town in the country just north of Charleston.
The biggest cultural barrier Dr. Cowlishaw believes he’s had to overcome is “the fact that [he] just knew nothing about the social references people [his] age had around [them].” Some examples of this he tells of come from his move to the US, and not knowing what T.V. shows to watch here, or not understanding “American Football” or Basketball.