Three months prior to landing on a far-away foreign soil, I was talked into revisiting Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, a framework for cross-cultural communication developed by Geert Hofstede.
Being a pragmatic person, I’ve long cold-stored learning from University days. Not out of disrespecting theories founded by masterly professor, more because I failed in connecting theories learned with reality in the early years. It makes sense considering there was no internship opportunity at the age when I was exposed to this theory. The impact of globalisation and cross-cultural learning exchanges over the years have in fact led me to the appreciation of cultural dimensions theory.
At times, there are just no other ways in better explaining why people behave the way they do in a society.
Coming from Asia where collectivism matters, I was utterly shocked by the limited number of meetings in the West. Moreover, meetings are kept short, straight-to-point involving specific stakeholders, and less emotional. Colleagues are casual, transparent, and trusting. Individualistic in nature, many respect privacy, and having some space is necessary. Hence, lunch is usually a good me-time to unwind. Truth to be told, I am pleased with the amount of time saved for other projects today than sitting in long stretched meetings in the past. Punctuality, a cultural value mostly appreciated by Northern Asian region, is also highly valued by the Northern European region, Scandinavian countries to be specific. Having said that, whereas I have seen people clocked in and out of office punctually in Sweden, Japanese for instance, feel stressful to leave work premises earlier than anyone else – Similar to a certain degree with some differences.
In Asia, lunch is a popular topic among colleagues and worthy to discuss about, an agenda in getting people together. People collectively discuss about where to go, what to eat, and with whom. In fact, lunch booking on a work calendar is necessary at times. Comparatively, Asians are less transparent and can be rather emotional. Less trusting in nature coming from emerging countries where lack of regulatory enforcement available in protecting people. Lunch break can be seen as interval to discuss hidden feelings and job dissatisfaction with trusted peers. High maintenance for managers to keep employees happy for sure, but essential in getting into employees’ head. Sometimes, yes can mean no. More all why long meetings exist, just to get everyone agrees and commits on the same page!
“When in Rome, live as the Romans do; when elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere.” – Saint Ambrose
How interesting to see the best and worst of both worlds.
Adapting different ways to doing things, these experiences test my agility and made me see the world in different lenses that I would not have seen otherwise. Having a meaningful profession is key. The cultural diversity aspect is what I find most fascinating, enjoy exploring, and the one that adds spice to everything I do.
Signing off, observation is an essence to learning. What is your observation? Tell me.
Photo by Headway