I just read an article about the treats of different cultures. Funnily enough this comes as Adam commented on one of my blog posts from an English / French perspective and I’m – a native German – living in New Zealand. The big thing about this article was the following table (taken from Richard D. Lewis’ book “When Cultures Collide”)
|Talks half the time||Talks most of the time||Listens most of the time|
|Gets data from stats, research||Solicits information first-hand from people||Uses both data and people sources|
|Plans ahead step by step||Plans grand outline only||Looks at general principles|
|Polite but direct||Emotional||Polite and indirect|
|Partly conceals feelings||Displays feelings||Conceals feelings|
|Confronts with logic||Confronts emotionally||Never confronts|
|Dislikes losing face||Has good excuses||Must not lose face|
|Compartmentalizes projects||Lets one project influence another||Sees the whole picture|
|Rarely interrupts||Often interrupts||Doesn’t interrupt|
|Sticks to the facts||Juggles the facts||Statements are promises|
|Truth before diplomacy||Flexible truth||Diplomacy over truth|
|Limited body language||Unlimited body language||Subtle body language|
|Respects officialdom||Pulls strings||Networks|
|Separates the social & professional||Interweaves the social & professional||Connects the social & professional|
|Does one thing at a time||Multi tasks||Reacts to partner’s action|
|Punctuality very important||Punctuality not important||Punctuality important|
Richard applies this “thinking” to nations and makes a compelling case for it. For example, he associates Germans strongly with the Linear-Active traits, Brasilians with the Multi-Active and Japanese with the Reactive traits. New Zealand is not on the list and my feeling is we are somewhere between the Linear-Active and Reactive scale.
While I think there are a lot of stereotypes when applying this to a culture as a whole, it is also a very valid indicator how a person will react and deal with any given situation. In other words it is dangerous to assume a person will react in a certain way because he or she is from a given cultural background. However when working with people from different cultures – and like many Kiwis I’m in this situation – it helps to understand why people react differently.
A number of times I wrote about communication and the challenges of getting it right. Such background information is essential when you expect something to happen in certain way. For example, I have a young Chinese man working in our team. He is allowed the same freedom as everybody else to keep abreast with technology. However, it was at the beginning necessary to make this explicitly clear to him or he wouldn’t do this by himself.
For my own background, Richard says about Germans:
With Germans, the problem is different again. On intercultural issues they are in advance of the other members of the Big Five, but they are so honest, frank and, consequently, tactless that they lack the delicacy to fully understand those who do not meet strict German (ethical and organizational) standards. But at least they try.
By reading my posts you can make up your mind. At least I tried 🙂
That book is on my reading list!