US, Australia and UK
Loyal to self and immediate family
Expect to take care of oneself
Asia, Middle East
Loyal to wider group
Closely bonded social network, members look after each other
Low Power distance
UK, Australia, US
Subordinates expect to be involved in decision-making
Flat and decentralised structure
High Power distance
Asia, Middle East
Subordinates expect to be told what to do
Ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat
Top-down, centralised decision-making
Low uncertainty avoidance
Anglo, Nordic
Dislike rules, written/ unwritten
Less formal and standardisation
Flexible, ready to accept changes  
High uncertainty avoidance
Germany, Japan
Prefer security, order, control
Prefer rules, written or unwritten
More formal and standardisation
Reluctance to accept change
Japan, Germany
culture values assertiveness, competition, and materialism
apologies are a sign of guilt, weakness and lack of confidence.
India, Indonesia
Value spirituality, relationships and show concern for others
Apologies used to promote social bonding and show empathy, e.g. Indonesia.
Long-term Orientation
China, HK, Japan
Focus on the future
Delay short-term enjoyment for future generations
Save for the future
Tradition adapts to circumstance
Short-term Orientation
Anglo countries
Focus on present and past
Spend and instant gratification.
Traditions are sacred
East Asia, Muslim
Perception of fate, pessimism
Freedom of speech is not seen as important
Leisure time is not so important  
Latin America
Enjoy life, fun, optimism
Perception of personal life control
Leisure time is important
Work-life balance
Value freedom of speech  

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analysed a large database of employee value scores collected within IBM between 1967 and 1973. Known as the Dimensions Approach, he is frequently cited in universities teaching global businesses management. 

Hofstede’s country comparison tool provides useful insights for executives going overseas for the first time, not to assume that their culture is similar to the host country they are operating in. Try this tool:

Differences matter, and the world is not as flat as you think. 

Another researcher I find insightful is Trompenaars, whose study identified seven dimensions. Five focus on relationships between people, two dimensions concern time management and a culture’s relationship with nature.

For instance, in Achievement cultures, –status is awarded based upon accomplishments. Title is given when relevant to the task. Respect for superior in the hierarchy is based on how effectively his or her job is performed. A young IT executive can be rewarded handsomely based on his skills valued by the market.  

Whereas in Ascription cultures, status is ascribed based upon social position, age. A company where most senior managers are male, middle-age, and qualified by their backgrounds. One is born or married into Royalty, and not through accomplishments.

How much do you observe that your company’s culture is influenced by the national culture of its members? How do members view what is acceptable behavior? Do employees/ managers from diverse cultures have the same perception of corporate values such as loyalty, trust, teamwork, results or even approach to conflict?

A friend recently posted on Facebook a home video taken of a young boy (possibly Russian?) who received a smart phone as a present from his parents. The sheer delight of his face and tears of joy and astonishment were worth a million bucks.

Are we becoming a global village where kids all over the world want the same thing?

Is the world becoming flat as Thomas Friedman observed in his book “The world is Flat“.  Or does national culture still hold sway? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

As the world becomes a global village, developments in international communication have given us all more exposure to the differences in attitudes and behaviours of other cultures. Due to the development of the global market there is an increase in international trade and workers are much more likely to work in different countries.


Painting of an Indian traditional wedding, Singapore Botanic Gardens.

National culture can affect: the organisation of the business, types of products, ways of promoting products, ways of doing business, the business mission, motivations to work and management style.

Culture may influence what a business is expected to do, particularly in relations to its social responsibilities. Some cultures e.g. individualist may expect businesses to focus on making profits, whereas others may expect businesses to provide employment for family members (e.g.India) or to improve the community (Germany and France) for the good of all.

How much of your behavior is influenced by your culture? Your views of what is beauty, what is good, what is right or wrong behavior?

摸着石头过河 (Mōzhe shítouguò hé)

Cross the river by feeling the stones

Are you feeling anxious doing something new?

When I first learnt to ride a bicycle in my forties, I bought one whose height allowed my feet to be planted on the floor. My fear  was to prevent that I will not actually fall. Balance.

In attempting something new, taking small steps is more assuring for some, than falling head on. And that’s ok.

Without an instruction manual, the assurance of safety

If I stumble into the river and its too deep, I can always grope my way back. Throw one in the deep to sink or swim does not work for all.

Start today

Feel the rocks as you cross the river.

Mitchell, K. E., Levin, S., & Krumboltz, J. D. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunitiesJournal of counseling & Development77(2), 115-124. [accessed 4th Januray 2016]

Pryor, R. G. L., & Bright, J. E. H. (2003). The chaos theory to careers. Australian Journal of Career Development, 12(3), 12–20. [accessed 4th January 2016]


Apple dessert with cream coated with chocalate served on crushed chocolate with dried apple shavings. Photo by SN.



Excellent, seafood freshly flown in from Japan atest to the chef’s connections with suppliers.


Seafood served on a boat with dried ice effect.

What it takes to create a sensory experience. At 980RMB a head, majority of the 46 diners are millennials = power of a growing consumer class in Shanghai.


6 projectors on a semi-circle theatre seating 46 diners.


A Kabuki theatrical experience with waitresses in cat like masks and kimono.



Screen filled with environmental messages, and stories about the ingredients you are partaking. A multi-sensory experience, people coming together to celebrate wedding anniversaries. A Japanese expat spending the last night of his Shanghai posting alone at the restaurant – friendships.

A thoughtful gesture at the end when the chef bid each of us goodbye with a warm heat pack for your fingers 暖宝宝。

Address: China, Shanghai Shi, Changning Qu, Panyu Rd, 381号Rm 105-107, Bldg 6 (交通大学 metro station)

Alibaba Hema Supermarket eating live seafood cooked on the spot

Starbucks Reserve


Getting your portraits done in Lego blocks for 999RMB only. ONLY?


In Shanghai, brands are fighting online consumption by creating experiences for their customers.

Whether it is your own portraits done in Lego bricks, or creating your unique Nike designer shoes, to creating mini stadiums to cheer your favourite team in the Adidas concept stores. Everything is created for instammgramable moments.


How has 2018 been?

As I sit at Shanghai Pudong Airport waiting to catch a midnight flight back to Singapore, I reflect on this photo I took of “New World” 新世界 outside the People’s Square metro I take everyday.

Its a strange new world of ups and downs. My friend posted a philosophical photo of a bird sitting in a dirty corner of pooh but sheltered from strong winds.

From an eventful Trump-Kim Summit to the US-China Trade War and nearer to home, our rough relations with our neighbours to the Tsunami.

There are many other things to be grateful for.

1. Loved ones
2. Clean hot water ( I recall bathing in cold water in winter in Beijing in 1985.)
3. Relatively peaceful world
4. Friends and great colleagues
5. Stretching myself in new ventures

What about you? How has 2018 been for you?


Here, I am nursing a 46RMB = US$7 latte at Starbucks Reserve in Shanghai. I’ve been visiting China since 1985, and seen its changes over the years.

At the Reserve, an entire 2nd floor is devoted to tea. Afterall China is the birthplace of tea.


Starbucks which is 100% wholly owned by the American company in Shanghai, is packed everyday. Our Chinese friend drinks a Starbucks cappuccino everyday, a grande cost 32RMB.

The Reserve is AI enabled, and with an app powered by Alibaba, you can follow the origin and roasting process of coffee beans.

Today, to succeed in luxury China, programming and experiential economy coupled with instagrammable moments is necessary to succeed in China. Millennials collect photographs as mementos.

A look around the space, customers are mainly locals and Asian tourists. Perhaps it being Christmas and western expats are home for the season, the place hums along nicely. China is increasingly relying on its local tourists to make up consumption.

Ozawa: Self assertion is perfectly normal in Europe. Its the only way to survive. In Japan though, people think and think about things until they finally take action – or take no action at all. … I am not sure which mentality is better.

Murakami: Its true in just about any field in Japan. Maybe even in writer’s circles. People cant do anything until they’ve gauged the opinions of the other people present. They look around, they absorb the atmosphere and only then do they raise their hands and say something unobjectionable. That way there’s no progress where it matters, and the status quo is set in stone. #High Context#

Absolutely on Music, conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

知彼知己, 胜乃不殆,知天知地, 胜乃不穷。
Zhibizhiji, shengnaibidai, zhitianzhidi, shengnaibuqiong

Know the other side, know yourself and your victory will not be threatened.
Know the weather, know the terrain and your victories will be limitless.

A general who is reckless, can be killed.
Cowardly and desperate to live, can be captured.
Easily angered, can be provoked
Sensitive to honour, can be insulted
Overly compassionate to his citizens, can be disturbed and harassed.

Sun Zi Bing Fa: Strategic Applications to Business and Marketing Practices by Wee Chow-Hou

The best and only book on Sun Tzu you need to read. Prof Wee even included the original Chinese text and its hanyu pinyin pronunciation. It also is contextualised to modern business strategies. Not surprisingly it is published by Pearson, as a possible textbook for students of international business.