With the increasing interest in Asia and globalisation of the world economy, cracking the cultural code has become important.
Beyond handing namecards with both hands and bowing, what are some of the differences in East and West. Both Hofstede and Trompenaars are very insightful in outlining some challenges to watch out for.
I came across a very practical book on cracking the cultural code. However it involves observation. India is different from China from South Korea from Indonesia from Malaysia.
Where are some of your challenges?
1. Making small talk with colleagues
2. Asking a favour from a colleague
3. Promoting myself at networking events
4. Receiving compliment from colleagues
5. Telling a joke at lunch
6. Giving feedback to my boss
7. Giving a formal presentation at a meeting
8. Pitching my idea to investors
9. Interviewing for a job
In the section on “You can be a Cultural Detective”, Prof Molinsky suggests to use a series of diagnostic questions, using the 6 dimensions of the cultural code he coined.
1. Brevity and en pointe:
Do people tend to be succinct in what they say and get right to the point – often with as few words as possible?
Or do they use words more general, or ambiguous poetic language, hinting at what they mean without being too direct? Senior Chinese government officials tend to favour reference to Tang poems for instance.
There are regional differences in that regard.
When something positive has happened, do people express emotions openly through facial expressions, body language and tone of voice eg Mediterranean cultures. Or do they tend to hide or suppress the outward expression of positive emotions despite their feelings, example British stiff up lip.
Do people dress conservatively, make official appointments to speak with each other and use titles such as “Doctor” or “CEO” . Or do they dress casually, drop by casually for a chat or first name basis. Do not be deceived by outward appearances though. Sometimes people may want to be addressed by first name but they are very formal.
Do people express views strongly and forcefully. Is conflict encouraged? Do people express different view points in meetings? Or do they express opinions in a cautious manner and public display of conflict or disagreement is frowned?
Here, there is a difference in hierarchy. Those at the top tend to be more forceful.
5. Self promotion
Do people tend to highlight or draw attention to their personal accomplishments or tend to minimise, underplay their achievements?
6. Personal disclosure
Do people keep conversations strictly about business or do they discuss details of their personal lives with colleagues at work? In Asian cultures, people do discuss details of family life.
How much to ask depends on the seniority. Do not be surprised if an older colleague were to ask how much you earn, and your age. Such invasion of privacy may be uncomfortable for an American, who although comfortable with small talk will consider such topics taboo. A German boss on the other extreme will unlikely ask questions about your family as this would be considered too personal.
“Global Dexterity , how to adapt your behaviour across cultures without losing yourself in the process” by Andy Molinsky
395.52 MOL (NLB)
SMU Associate Professor Tan Hwee Hoon is investigating on how trust is influenced by culture. In a cross-culture longitudinal study, the research team is examining dimensions of trust depending on 1. Ability 2. Benevolence 3. Integrity.
In American culture, trust is highest when the imdividual is deemed to have high ability. Whereas in Asian culture, benevolence or whether a person has consistently shown that he/she watches your back is more important.
Stay tuned as she prepares to publish her report.
Hilarious look at cultural differences between East and West