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 !


Friday, May 30, 2014

Don't they know it's Friday?

Finally I am back ! Meanwhile, I have moved to Dubai from Copenhagen with a new job. I have started to work with different countries like India, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bangladesh in this job. Totally new geography and totally new cultures for me. I am very excited !

At my first day in new office in Dubai, I have found this book on my desk. ‘Don’t they know it's Friday?’
Yes, Fridays are off in UAE and some other Arabic countries, because it is a holy day based on Islam religion. Weekend is Friday-Saturday. It takes some time to adapt your mind and body, but nothing changes.. You continue to love Fridays J
I really liked this book, there are good practical tips on how to deal with the Gulf Arabs in business. It addresses in particular the cross-cultural aspects of life affecting westerners and other nationalities in business with nationals in or from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman.
When I searched on internet about book and author who is Jeremy Williams Obe, I found that his company, Handshaikh Ltd, conducts seminars, briefing programmes and negotiation training for organisations with Gulf business connections. (www.handshaikh.com

In this web site, you can see some useful information and a cross cultural test to measure your knowledge and experience about Gulf Arabic culture especially in business life. I immediately did the test after my first 1 month cultural experience in Dubai, I got 50 score out of 100. Good progress for me, but I still need to observe and interact a lot ! It is indeed a rich culture with religion, behaviours, dresses, way of doing business,  language, climate (For me there are 2 types of weather here : hot and very hot)…
If you are interested in this culture or moving to this area to live or work, I strongly recommend you to read this book and then try cross cultural test.
Enjoy life..

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Useful Tips for Cultural Business Etiquette


When you start to do business with different countries, you can easily notice that some countries have unique business etiquette. Typical example that I remember immediately is formal and highly ceremonious exchange of business cards in Japanese culture. When receiving a card, a Japanese person takes it with both hands, reads it over carefully with keeping eye contact with you. The business card exchange is a way of expressing the importance one places on an encounter. There are many different examples like this in cultural behaviours in doing business internationally. Globalization may decrease differences in business etiquette of cultures, but it may not eliminate totally. I believe lack of familiarity with a country's cultural business etiquette remains an important issue. So I would like to share quick useful tips for some countries with you.
France :
1-  In France it is vital to ensure that you make appointments for both business and social occasions. It is not acceptable in France to ‘drop in’ on someone unannounced and such conduct will be taken as an act of rudeness, whatever the occasion. But this can be different in South France and North France. South France is more casual on punctuality.
2- Fashion and appearance are much more important in France than in most other countries in the world. The concept of ‘Casual Friday’ is not widely known in the French workplace. So don’t automatically turn up to work in your nice weekend sweater and sneakers.
3- The French business lunch is an experience in itself. Be ready for a style of dining that is formal and long. A very important rule in French dining etiquette is to keep your hands resting on the table, never on your lap.
1-   Avoid saying 'no' directly. Instead, indicate disagreement or reluctance by inhaling air through closed teeth, tipping your head backwards and/or saying 'maybe.'
2-  A 'yes' answer is often an acknowledgement of something being discussed or conveyed, and does not necessarily mean agreement.
3-   Don't write anything with red ink as it's considered bad luck.
4-   Collectivity and teamwork are valued in Korean business transactions.
1-  Bowing which is a standard Japanese greeting is common when businesspeople meet each other. When bowing you should always bow deepest to the most senior man. Japanese business culture values its elders for the wisdom and experience they provide to the company.
2-  You should stand at your seat and wait for the top level person to tell you to be seated. Then, when the meeting is finished, wait until he has stood up before standing up yourself.
3-   Keep your hands out of your pockets while speaking to someone.
4-  Avoid pointing at people with a finger to make a point. Pointing, whether with fingers or chopsticks, is considered especially rude in Japan.
1-  First names should normally be used, but titles are important. When meeting and greeting expect a firm handshake, often for a long time, combined with strong eye contact.
2-  There is a relationship based business. The individual they deal with is more important than the company.
3-   Communication is often informal and does not rely on strict rules of protocol. Anyone who feels they have something to say will generally add their opinion.
4-   Good conversation topics include football, family, children and music. Bad conversation topics include politics, poverty, religion and the rainforest.
1-   When you present your own card or receive someone else's, hold the card with both hands. Grabbing a card with one hand and putting in a pocket without examining it will give the impression that you are not taking the meeting seriously.
2-   The seating is typically arranged by rank. The host should escort the senior-most guest to his or her seat as well as any VIP guests.
3-   During any conversation, the Chinese will often nod their heads or make affirmative utterances. These are signals that they are listening to what is being said and understand what is being said. These are not agreements to what is being said.
Russia :
1-   Always be punctual when doing business in Russia. However do not take offense if your Russian counterpart is not.
2-   Russians will greet strangers with a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake (when men shake hands with women, the handshake is less firm) while maintaining direct eye contact. Until invited to do so, don’t use first names, as it is important to respect authority and formality.
3-  There is an old Russian proverb: “They meet you depending on how you’re dressed and they say good-bye depending on how wise you seem.” Russian people generally pay a lot of attention to their clothing.
These are some of typical behaviours based on observations and experiences, but I think we should not generalize them too much for countries, sometimes we see big differences in cultural norms within different profiles in countries like South-North or new-old generations.  I will continue to add tips for other countries in my further posts.
Resources :

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cultural Neuroscience : How Culture impacts Brain

It is obvious that our cultural background affects our taste, perceptions, values, beliefs and behaviors. All of these reflections are linked to our brain activities, they shape how our brain works every day. I decided to search this more and learned that there is a scientific term on this matter which is “Cultural neuroscience”. Cultural neuroscience is looking at the relations existing between cultural dimensions and the brain’s activity. Many research shows that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks.

There is evidence that the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures versus individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavior. About this, one interesting research finding reported in the Azar concerned the perception among Japanese and United States subjects.

“This research may someday shed light on why some cultures appear more skilled at certain real-life cognitive problems than others, but right now researchers are looking at very simple tasks. For example, behavioral work by University of Michigan psychologist Shinobu Kitayama, PhD, and his colleagues showed that people from Japan are far better at judging the length of a line relative to the size of a box in which it’s drawn, while Americans are far better at judging the absolute length of the same line. They attribute this difference to findings from other studies showing that Americans pay more attention to details and Asians pay more attention to context.

Last year, Stanford University postdoc Trey Hedden, PhD, and his colleagues used fMRI to re-examine these findings. Like Kitayama, they used the framed-line task: Participants see a square with a line drawn partway down the middle. They then see a larger box and either have to draw a line the same absolute length as the first line or a line the same relative length compared with the bigger size of the new box.

 Again, Americans did better on the absolute test and Japanese did better on the relative test, but this time the researchers could see what was happening in their brains. It turns out that both Americans and Japanese use the same brain areas for both tests, but when they’re doing the test that is more difficult for them, they also engage an area of the brain associated with increased attention.

“This finding shows that the brain compensates for tasks that we’re not typically exposed to through our culture by turning on an attention circuit to help us,” says Kitayama. In contrast, tasks that are commonplace become automatic and don’t require extra concentration.”

It is fascinating to see these results. Cultural neuroscience is not a new area. But I believe this area is quite rich for further research.
If you would like to reach more research on this topic, I recommend you to visit this blog related with Neuroanthropology, the link is here : http://blogs.plos.org/

Your brain is your greatest resource—use it by design to help you achieve health, happiness, and success! (Arlene R. Taylor PhD)

Resources and Useful Links :



Friday, January 24, 2014

Are you the Loudest Duck?

The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work," by Laura Liswood

I really enjoyed reading this book to get a clear view on meaning of “diversity” with good examples.  When talk about diversity at workplace we think many elements like national origin, gender, culture, religion, language, marital status, age etc. Sometimes this seems a complex issue to manage. Laura mentions that variety of elements as Noah’s Ark.  As you know, most of companies are trying to attract and hire “enough” different groups on the boat. So I really liked this similitude as Noah’s Ark from this perspective.

Ok, you have finally achieved your diversity targets and getting different people in your company as you planned. Congratulations! But how do you manage this diversity now? Can you create a fair level playing field for this diverse workforce?  I think this is a much bigger challenge than achieving targets on paper.

 Laura says that “My book explains why companies have to be far more thoughtful about their diverse workforce and how they are perceived in order to create a level playing field for all. It is not the diversity that is the challenge; it is how we handle the diversity that speeds some people's careers up and slows others down. And usually it can be seen in the phenomenon of like being comfortable and looking favorably on others who are like them

In this book, Laura also advises us to tell our Grandma to go home. Because Grandma teaches many beliefs and do/don’ts to us in our early ages and we cannot get rid of these subconscious or conscious things easily. So Grandma’s doctrines are coming to workplace with us every day. For example; Grandma teaches the Chinese to be modest. They are taught from early on that "the Loudest Duck gets shot." But in a diverse American company, the American male manager hears the wheel and not the duck. Because Grandma teaches American men that he should trumpet his successes at work. In this environment, there should be mechanism to listen dominant and non-dominant groups and get best of this diversity in a proper way.

Especially in these days which there are more and more diverse workplaces in the world, I believe all leaders and employees should read this book to get some inspiration how to contribute and lead diversity management in their teams and companies.

Thanks to Laura for this useful book !


Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Favorite Cross-Culture Links

Happy New Year everyone !

I hope you have had a great start to new year, with this first post of the year I would like to share my favorite links from 2013. You can find very good articles about cross cultural differences, communication tips, expatriation experiences etc. from these links. 
I hope they will help to your discovery journey to new cultures.

Enjoy !

1.  Internations unites expats and their families in over 390 cities. In their website you will find many useful information about moving abroad, culture shock, experiences of expat families and other useful stuff.

     2. I like expat’s advices parts in this blog, there are very useful articles and advices for people who are interested in different cultures. Even if you are not an expat, I am sure you will enjoy reading them.

3. 3. I discovered this website from one of my Linkedin groups regarding cross-culture communication. Actually this is a consulting company’s website, but they post very interesting articles regularly about how to build skills to increase credibility across cultures, conduct business in different cultures etc. If you would like to review and build your skills, you should visit this link.

4.    4. Culturosity.. I liked this word! It means a desire to learn about and engage with other cultures. In this website, you will find many interesting statistics, short articles and ideas about different cultures and how to engage with them. I think this website is a very useful culture library.

5.     5. World Values Survey is a great database where you can find very interesting survey results based on sociocultural, political, economical comparisons of many different countries. Especially I recommend you to review cultural map of the world from this web site.