Thursday, November 21, 2019

What you say may NOT be what others understand

Words are the same words... But what we understand from the same words might be different in each culture. Sometimes misunderstandings hurt our feelings, sometimes we find them funny! 

I saw this chart on one of the LinkedIn posts today. It made me laugh. Yes, there is a bit stereotype issue here. However, isn't it really interesting to see the gap between what we mean and what others understand?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Don't ask me where I'm from, ask where I'm a local

I loved what Taiye Selasi shares with us. "Don't ask me where I'm from, ask where I'm a local', who states 'I'm not a national at all. How could I come from a nation? How can a human being come from a concept?' Instead she asks where are you a local? She proposes 'a three-step test, three "R's": rituals, relationships, restrictions, that would tell us so much more about who and how similar we are.'

Hey, where are you a local?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book recommendation : The Culture Map

Yesterday I completed reading of an interesting book which is called ‘The Culture Map’, written by Erin Meyer. She is a Professor at INSEAD Business School. This book is an easy guide to understand different cultures especially in business life. Specific differences are mentioned in how people from different cultures communicate and consider ideas at work.

It gives a lot of good insights with examples from the social life as well. I think these real life examples from Erin’s personal life and her clients made this book more attractive and easier to understand. I appreciate the openness in examples about culture clashes from different views. 

There are many interesting points in the book. I want to share these 2 areas with you ; Trusting scale and 8 dimensions of cultures.

Let's look at them quickly here :

  •  You can see the Trusting scale below. In China, Saudi Arabia or Brazil, for example, trust is established from personal relationships built over time between people. As Meyer describes it: “I’ve seen who you are at a deep level, I’ve shared personal time with you, I know others well who trust you, I trust you.” On the other extreme are the US, Denmark and the Netherlands where trust is established from working together on business activities. “You do good work consistently, you are reliable, I enjoy working with you, I trust you."

  • She also mentioned that a culture can be defined along 8 dimensions based on her extensive research:
- Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
Americans are the most explicit or low-context culture there is (low-context meaning their conversation assumes relatively little intuitive understanding).Japan and other East Asian countries represent the other extreme.

- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
Israelis, Russians, and Dutch are among the most direct when it comes to negative feedback. Japanese, Indonesian are among the most indirect.

- Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
French and Italians, tend toward deductive arguments, focusing on theories and complex concepts before presenting a fact, statement, or opinion. Canada, US tend toward inductive arguments, starting with focusing first on practical application before moving to theory.

- Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden are the most egalitarian; Japan, Korea and Nigeria are the most hierarchical.

- Deciding: consensual vs. top down
While Japan has a very hierarchical leadership system, it has a very consensual decision-making system, India, Russia and China has more top down approach in deciding.

- Trusting: task vs. relationship
People do not worry so much to trust each other in US, Denmark, Netherlands, German because they trust their legal system. In others, including many emerging markets like Saudi Arabia, India, China, people relationships are much more important.

- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
Indonesia, Japan and Thailand are some of countries among the ones which avoid confrontation. On the other hand, Israel, France and Germany are confrontational cultures.

- Scheduling: structured vs. flexible
Germans and Swiss have linear time, meaning that they are very precise in terms of scheduling; Western Europeans and Latin Americans tend to be more flexible; Africa, the Middle East, and India are extremely flexible.

After reading this book I understood better the background of cultural differences and clashes that I personally experienced in my business and social life. I highly recommend this book for every person to read.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Cross-Cultural Management - Short Videos

Here you can watch my favorite short videos about how to manage and adapt to cultural differences in the business environment. 

Getting to Yes Across Cultures (Harvard Business Review)What to know before your next negotiation

How Cultural Differences Affect BusinessErin Meyer, author of The Culture Map, explains how cultural differences affect the way
doing business.

Reaching Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself

Andy Molinsky, author of Global Dexterity, explains why it's important to customize 

your behavior in a new cultural setting.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Interesting facts about Middle East & South Asia countries

The United Arab Emirates is home to about 150 nationalities; as a result, diversity is both the workplace and the community is the norm. There is a healthy balance between Western influence and Eastern tradition.

The population of Bangladesh is 149 million. Bangladesh achieved a Happy Planet Index Score of 56.3 and ranks #11 of 184 countries analyzed - See more at:
Oman is one of the oldest human-inhabited places on Earth. Humans have lived in what is now known as Oman for at least 106,000 years and the city of Dereaze is at least 9,000 years old.
Qatar is the biggest exporter of natural gas in the world, has the fastest growing economy in the world and has the highest per capita income than any country in the world.

India is the world's second-largest English speaking country. India is second only to the USA when it comes to speaking English with around 125 million people speaking the language, which is only 10% of the India population.

Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of tea in the world.

In Saudi Arabia, the average age is 18 years old. 75% of its population is younger than 35 years old.

Most Ancient Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs (rulers of Ancient Egypt) and their families. To date, over 130 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

US and THEM?

Our perception of reality may be assisted if we can wear someone else’s shoes for a moment. But firstly we should take off our shoes – our prejudices- to be able to wear other’s shoes. Then we can see how he or she views issues in a way very different from how we see it. These issues can be in social as well as business life, I would like to share here some examples of different views in different cultures:
Silence : Silence can be interpreted in different ways.  A silent reaction to a business deal would seem negative to German, American, French or Arab executives. However, East Asians and Finns find nothing wrong with silence as response.  An old Chinese proverb says “Those who do not speak; those who speak do not know”.
Trust : There are several surveys show that usually Danes, Finns and fellow Nordics have high trust level, with Germans and Japanese close behind. Britons are in the medium category. Low trust cultural groups are countries like China, Mexico, France and the Latin and Arab countries. People in these countries trust completely only who they know best. I am sure many of us are working with/in virtual teams in business environment. Do you feel  creating trustworthy relationships is a challenge in virtual teams?  Sometimes I do feel it. Integrity and competence are less visible, proficiency can be hard to verify at distance. Generally for Hispanics, Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, the lack of face to face interaction is far more serious matter. But no worries.. there are many good tips how to improve your teamwork or management skills in virtual teams regardless of your culture! Let’s discover them in one of the next posts J
Decision making : Americans love making decisions because they usually lead to action and they are action oriented. The Japanese hate making individual decisions and prefer consensus by group or team. In one of the meeting with a Japanese executive in a Japanese company which I worked in,  we were expecting him to give final decision on a project. He said his decision is ‘not to decide on this yet’. It was quite strange for me when I heard first time. But then we understood that he wanted us to complete full “Nemawashi” first, then he will decide based on feedback from other people. (Nemawashi (根回し) in Japanese means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, and so forth. – Wikipedia)
Although I do not like stereotyping, I believe we can not exist without stereotyping. Because it gives us points of reference in determining our behavior when we meet with people from different cultures. To increase our intercultural abilities, we should learn to manage those stereotypes, that is to maximize and appreciate the positive values.
Enjoy exploring more on diversity !

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cultural "New Year" Celebrations

Tomorrow is the last day of 2014. Everybody says goodbye to 2014 and welcomes 2015 through different celebrations. At the last minutes of the year, some of them are eating special meals, some are cleaning all house to get rid of "dirty" old year or some are whistling. For sure, every one of us wishes same things to have a happy and healthy new year. Let’s have a look on how different cultures celebrate coming New Year.


In the first day of New Year, people eat lentil soup or rice with lentil. On 31 Dec, small canoes which have flowers and candles inside are left on the ocean from Ipanema beach. Another tradition coming from 1992 is letting thousands of balloons out to sky.


Based on an old tradition, people dress bearskin and dance at streets. This helps to remove devil around.

South Africa

If you would like to walk on the streets on New Year’s Day, please watch out! Throwing an old good like a plate out from window of house to street is a tradition on New Year’s Day. So you remove old things and welcome new ones.


At midnight of 31 Dec, it is a tradition coming from Vikings to make a ‘fire’ dance. This brings luck.



In front of each houses, people burn puppets which are made from wood and paper and represent bad souls. With this, they believe they start to a fresh year without any harm or danger.


They hang onions at their doors on New Year Eve. This is a sign of renaissance. At the morning of 1st Jan, parents hit those onions to head of their kids to wake them up.

They believe eating dried beans before midnight on New Year Eve brings luck in coming year. Some of them walks with a luggage in front of their houses at that evening, because they believe this will help them to travel a lot in the New Year.


On the New Year Eve, they melt lead and pour it into cold water. They try to read future from small frozen pieces of lead.
Happy Celebrations and Great 2015 to every one !