Dancing between cultures: how Étienne Côté-Paluck went from foreign press to Port-au-Prince local
"Blanc, blanc! [White, white!]," Haitian kids yell in the street every time they see Étienne Côté-Paluck walking down the streets of Port-au-Prince. They hand him water in plastic bags, hands outstretched for compensation. Étienne smiles knowingly and then he does the unexpected: he starts speaking in Creole. At this moment, all bets are off. The children can't believe a white man in Haiti is speaking their language.
Born and raised in Montreal, Étienne moved to Port-au-Prince the day after the earthquake in 2010 to work as a journalist, reporting on the devastating natural disaster for the Canadian media. He continues to report on Haiti for the foreign press, while acting as a liaison between foreign NGOs, media and the Haitian people. But in his free time, he focuses on his passion for music, DJing for location radio stations as DJ ECP.
"Professionally it is very interesting for me to stay here," says Étienne. "There are not many people doing intercultural stuff between the people here and the foreigners that come through. I always say that am not a specialist in Haiti but I am an intercultural expert."
And as he pursues his own work in Haiti, Étienne is well positioned to understand the perspective of both locals and visitors. On one hand, Haitians often feel the need to keep networking opportunities limited to locals — they have seen so many foreigners come to work for brief stints in the country post-earthquake and then leave. But he also understands the perspective of foreign workers who are trying to improve the situation in Haiti.
Most of Étienne's intercultural expertise translates through writing and reporting as a journalist, but on the off chance you catch him walking in the streets, you will find him dancing to the latest Haitian hit.
You can meet Etienne Côté-Paluck on Friday Nov. 27 8:30/9NT on Interrupt This Program: Port-au-Prince