Some Idiosyncrasies of Different Cultures

NB need to be careful of stereotyping

. Australia's cultural orientation tends toward informality, spontaneity, equality and not taking yourself too seriously. We tend to speak our minds frankly. This can cause conflict with Asians who are more cautious about sharing their opinions. Furthermore, Westerners tend to believe that they can control their own destiny. This can cause problems with Muslims who value fate and humility more.

. Some Asians prefer face-to-face, one-on-one feedback with their managers rather than being vocal in meetings; while Australians are typically more direct and vocal in meetings; for Pacific Islanders remaining silent and letting others talk illustrates respect for elders. Europeans prefer to hear bad news first, furthermore, in Europe a "no" can mean "maybe" or "perhaps". In Argentina it is best not to criticize a person's work directly - a more indirect approach is appropriate. Some cultures, like the Chinese, prefer to develop good relationships as a basis for trust and confidence before doing business.

. In general, the European and Asian cultures treat failure as severely tarnishing reputations and causing significant embarrassment. These cultures are ill-equipped to handle chance, uncertainty and random events. Consequently, people from these backgrounds try to develop strategies, such as risk management, to control the situation, and instead of handling the uncertainty, etc they actually increase the chance of a major blow-up. In contrast, in America, people are encouraged to take risks, with failure and volatility being acceptable parts of the process. This helps explain America's disproportionate share of innovations.

. Language is an important part of cultures. For example

"...the Korean language has no fewer than six different levels of conversational address, depending on the relationship between the addressee and the addresser: formal deference, informal deference, blunt, familiar, intimate, and plain..."

Malcolm Gladwell, 2008

. English speakers have a 50% chance of remembering the following sequence perfectly (4, 8, 5, 3, 9, 7, 6). On the other hand, if you are Chinese you will almost certainly get the sequence right. The reason for this is that the digits are stored in a memory loop that operates for about 2 seconds, ie we most easily memorize whatever we say or read within a 2 second span. The Chinese language allows the above sequence to fit in the 2 second span; English does not.

" languages as diverse as Welsh, Arabic, Chinese, English and Hebrew, there is a reproducible correlation between the time required to announce numbers in a given language and the memory span of its speakers. In this domain, the prize for efficacy goes to Cantonese dialect of Chinese, whose brevity residents of Hong Kong a rotating memory span of about 10 digits..."

Stanislas Dehaene's as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell, 2008

. There is a big difference in now the number naming systems in Western and Asian languages are constructed. The Asians have a logical counting system where 11 is 10-one; 12 is 10-two; 24 is 2 tens - 4 and so on. As a result Asian children learn to count much faster than Anglo-Saxons; it has been suggested that American children are around 12 months behind their Asian counterparts in most fundamental of math skills.

It has been claimed (Narelle Hooper, 2008b) that Australians work well in the UK, USA, Ireland, Japan, Korea and China but not in Europe

. In India the concept of time is circular, as opposed to it being linear in Western thinking. Indians talk of birth, re-birth and things are cyclical; expectations are that things could come back to haunt you. There is some thought that one of the reasons Indians are good at IT is its similarities with Hindu ritual, ie both use coded language. Furthermore, Indians use more improvisation rather than the scientific western management approach of deliberation.

. Generally urban Asians pay more attention to the context of a visual scene and to relationships between foreground objects and background. In contrast, urban Americans tend to pay more attention to the foreground rather than the backgrounds, leaving perceptions of context much weaker.


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