Category Archives: Cultural Quick Tips

Cultural Quick Tip: Check Your Assumptions Before Judging

The Argentine tango is a dance of passion and elegance. When novice dancers start to learn the tango, they often focus on their feet. Although the footwork of the tango is fast and flashy, there is much more to the tango than just the footwork. Dance partners communicate with each other in a subtle way through the connecting points of the hips as well as the dance frame formed by the arms, where the duo adjusts their pressure and balance. While many people judge a dancer by the way they move their feet, there is much more that goes into being a dancer than just footwork. When judging the ‘dance’ of another person, especially across differences such as culture, be careful about making judgments based on what you think is important. Focusing on their ‘feet’ while communicating may mean you are missing the most important part of the dance.

Action Step:
Stop and ask yourself what other factors you need to take into account before taking an action based upon an assumption.

Cultural Quick Tip: Adapt to Encourage Growth

Humpback whales sing songs that can be up to 20 minutes long. While humans have not yet decoded what they are communicating with these songs, scientists have learned that the songs travel around the world from whale to whale. While the songs are distinctly recognizable, each whale adds its own interpretation to the song, essentially doing a cover version of the humpback Top 40 hits. Whales possess the ability to adapt what they hear and then make it their own. Adaptive communication is a skill that is also critical to organizational growth. Keeping something the same just “because this is the way we have always done it” hinders an organization from innovating and progressing. Adaptation taps into employee skill sets and allows people to utilize their diversity to improve upon old ‘songs’, making a new version that supports growth.

Action Step:
Replace the phrase, “that’s not the way we do it” with “lets explore that idea” so that you can benefit from another point of view.

Cultural Quick Tip: Propose Collaboration with Skill

Cultures around the world have unique traditions for making marriage proposals. In Fiji, the suitor presents the bride’s parents with a Tabua, a ceremonial whale tooth, while in Austria, it is considered good luck if pigeons or wolves are spotted on the way to the proposal. Whatever the cultural traditions, marriage proposals worldwide set the stage for the creation of a life-long contract of mutual respect and understanding. Similar to a marriage proposal, a proposal to collaborate should also begin with understanding and respect. Courting a partner from a different country or cultural background may require research on their cultural views on business relationships, developing trust, negotiation, and communication styles. Being aware of cultural differences will increase your chances getting the “yes” answer you are seeking.

Action Step:
When proposing collaboration, spend time researching the cultural background of your desired partner.

Cultural Quick Tip: Cross-Pollinate to Spark Innovation

Flowers are part of a  delicate and intricately balanced ecosystem and they rely upon symbiotic relationships with pollinator animals to survive and evolve. Only a small amount of pollination occurs through self-pollination. Most flowers rely on animals, such as hummingbirds, bees, and bats, to communicate between the flowers, facilitate growth, share genetics and create new variations. These pollinators have the essential role of helping different plants, plant strains, and even plant species to interact successfully. Similarly, within companies and teams, employees have the important role of sharing ideas between groups, departments and teams. This ‘cross-pollination’ of ideas helps to unlock the inherent creativity and innovation that lies within a company, but may need a spark from another source to bring it to life.

Action Step:
Help spark the cross-pollination of ideas in your company by inviting a colleague from a different department to lunch.

Generational Quick Tip: Work Environment

Each generation brings a unique cultural background to the workplace that impacts the type of work environment they prefer. These preferences may be impacted by their views on authority, informality/formality, leadership, etc. The Baby-Boomers desire a “flat” organizational hierarchy where a democratic approach to feedback and opportunity is desired, which is different from their Traditionalist predecessors, who preferred hierarchical organizations and chain-of-command. Baby-Boomers also want to create a warm and friendly atmosphere, though do not confuse the  Boomers friendliness with informality, as they stick to more traditional views on formality in communication and dress. Both Gen X and Gen Y agree that the workplace should be a positive, fun, and informal environment. Gen X greatly values efficient and fast-paced environments, where there is easy access to information and ability to work independently. Gen Y enjoys diverse and highly creative work environments that provide many opportunities for collaboration and advancement through training and learning.

Action Step:
Ask a colleague what aspect of their current work environment is most important to them in regard to getting their work done quickly and efficiently.

Cultural Quick Tip: Tell Stories to Build Strong Communities

Across the globe, cave drawings thousands of years old have preserved the remnants of ancient civilizations. While the drawings may be scattered over great distances and originate from different cultures, they all have one aspect in common: they tell stories.  The drawings recount stories about successes, hunts, trials and daily life. Storytelling is at the heart of what makes us human and is a universal tool used by groups of people to explain who they are and the experiences that shaped their history. While we might not use cave drawings anymore, we still use storytelling to capture collective histories and lessons learned. On our work teams, we use stories of past successes and failures to improve our current and future work plans and also to strengthen our sense of community. As work teams become more diverse, the team’s stories will evolve to include new perspectives.

Action Step:
Share team and company stories with new employees to help them get adjusted more quickly and to feel like a welcome addition to the group.

Cultural Quick Tip: Assess Your Communication Style

The alphorn is a musical instrument that originated in the Alps and was used as a European communication system. It was developed in response to the natural geographic barriers that inhibited communication between the small villages scattered throughout the Alpine valleys and hillsides. Hundreds of years ago when it was created, the alphorn was a cutting edge innovation that fostered greater communication across longer distances. While outdated today, the Swiss still learn and play the alphorn for music and as a form of maintaining their cultural traditions. Just as technologies for communicating across distance have evolved, so have communication techniques between people. When communicating with others, particularly people from other countries, it is important to recognize when your communication style has become outdated and when it is time to upgrade to a new technique.

Action Step:
Assess which communication method would be the most effective for your intended audience before communicating.

Cultural Quick Tip: Understand Your Expertise

The average margin of victory in a Formula One race is 10 seconds, thus victory is dependent on every second spent on the track. During a pit stop when all four tires are changed, the pit crew must exercise over 50 maneuvers  in an average of 7 seconds. Many Formula One races are won or lost by the pit crew’s speed, skill, and execution. Successful collboration on the track or in an office requires a team with diverse roles and skills working in concert. Diverse teams with members from different backgrounds will offer an even greater variety of expertise and personalities. While it may take an increased amount of respect and awareness to work in concert, the team has a greater potential for victory.

Action Step:
Understand the expertise you bring to the team and commit to performing your role with confidence and skill.

Cultural Quick Tip: Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication

When new parents first bring home their baby, they are faced with many new communication challenges as they try to understand and meet the needs of their newborn. Without verbal communication parents must rely upon observable types of communication in the form of facial expressions, cries and body movements. Parents have a vested interest in learning to decode their child’s nonverbal communication, as it will help them to raise a healthy and happy baby. While your colleagues in the workplace communicate both verbally and non-verbally, understanding how to interpret their nonverbal communication can be a great advantage. Keep in mind that the meaning behind body language and facial expressions may vary from culture to culture, so it is always good to check for understanding.

Action Step:
Research communication etiquette from other cultures to aid your understanding when communicating with people from outside your country or culture.

Cultural Quick Tip: Use a Mediator to Help Stalemates

A referee’s job requires them to be an impartial expert on the game, clear headed and capable of fairly applying the rules. During games, it would be impossible for coaches, players, and fans to make unbiased calls without a referee. Similarly, in high-pressure work environments, differences between colleagues may lead to disputes that make it impossible for them to see past their biases, resulting in a conflict or stalemate. In these instances, asking for the assistance of a ‘referee’ or a neutral, third party colleague, may provide the necessary insight to tease out the cause of the miscommunication, which could be rooted in cultural, generational or personality style differences.

Action Step:
Reach out to an impartial referee to help resolve communication conflicts in a productive way when an impasse occurs.

Cultural Quick Tip: Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication

When new parents first bring home their baby, they are faced with many new communication challenges as they try to understand and meet the needs of their newborn. Without verbal communication parents must rely upon observable types of communication in the form of facial expressions, cries and body movements. Parents have a vested interest in learning to decode their child’s nonverbal communication, as it will help them to raise a healthy and happy baby. While your colleagues in the workplace communicate both verbally and non-verbally, understanding how to interpret their nonverbal communication can be a great advantage. Keep in mind that the meaning behind body language and facial expressions may vary from culture to culture, so it is always good to check for understanding.

Action Step:
Research communication etiquette from other cultures to aid your understanding when communicating with people from outside your country or culture.

August 21: Ninoy Aquino Day – Philippines

August 21: Ninoy Aquino Day – Philippines

Ninoy Aquino Day is a special non-working day in the Philippines to commemorate the assassination of politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. on August 21, 1983. The assassination of Benigno Aquino sparked a series of political rallies in the Philippines, which grew into the “People Power Revolution”. This series of rallies and revolution eventually led to the collapse of the Marcos’ backed Philippines government in 1986.

Ninoy Aquino – Young Politician

Benigno Aquino was an ambitious and democratically inclined politician who served as Mayor, Governor, and Senator within the Philippines. Ninoy Aquino opposed the suppressive government led by President Ferdinand Marcos. Through the formation of the Lakas Ng Bayan, otherwise known as the LABAN party, Aquino actively criticized the way President Marcos ruled the country. After President Marcos established Martial Law in 1972, Aquino was imprisoned for seven years and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Ninoy Aquino – Imprisonment and Failing Health

While imprisoned Aquino suffered a heart attack, after which he was allowed to travel to the US for medical treatment. After three years in the US, during which time he continued to speak out against Marcos’ leadership, Aquino returned to the Philippines to challenge President Marcos in the 1984 election. Aquino was shot to death when he arrived at Manila International Airport as he disembarked.

Ninoy Aquino Day

People in the Philippines observe Ninoy Aquino Day on the anniversary of Benigno Aquino’s assassination date every year. Since Ninoy Aquino Day is a special non-working day, many Filipinos use the day to gather with family. Some people commemorate the day solemnly by recalling and honoring what people have done to establish democracy in the Philippines.

International Business Etiquette Tips – Qatar

Culture Coach International is doing a new blog series, where each weekly segment will have a list of the of 5 essential “International Business Etiquette Tips” to working with a specific country.

If you enjoy the series, Sign-up for our Monthly Newsletter to receive monthly cultural quick tips, international holidays, and proverbs from around the world.

International Business Etiquette – Qatar

  1. When Muslims greet each other, instead of saying, “good morning” or “hello” they often say “Assalamu Alaikum,” which means, “May peace be upon you and may God’s blessings be with you.” It is good to learn these greetings in Arabic as a sign of respect and effort on your part to learn a phrase of their language.
  2. Most Qataris do not eat any meat that has not been prepared to “halaal” (lawful) standards. Pork products are illegal in Qatar and many Qataris think of pigs as unclean animals, so it is very important to avoid pork products.
  3. Qataris often value close contact and less personal space, so do not back up or shy away; physical contact among males is common; if a Qatari man tries to take your hand while walking, do not quickly pull it away because this is a great sign of friendship.
  4. Be aware that in Qatar the Hijrah (Arabic) date is used as well as the Gregorian date; the workweek typically runs from Saturday to Thursday, 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Friday is a Muslim holy day; during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha (the two most important Islamic holidays) no business will be conducted.
  5. Qataris may leave for 15-20 minutes throughout the day to conduct prayers; when hosting, appointments and meetings should be set between particular prayer times if possible; make sure there is a space reserved where they may go to pray undisturbed.

If you enjoy the series, Sign-up for our Monthly Newsletter to receive monthly cultural quick tips, international holidays, and proverbs from around the world.

Latest Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter is Out Now – December 2012

Culture Coach International just finished releasing the Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter for December 2012. The theme of the month is Combining Old and New, which takes a metaphorical look at how diversity initiatives require both new and old resources in order to be effective.

This month’s holiday features Junkanoo in the Bahamas: This post Christmas Day celebration is believed to date back to the 17th century and is filled with colors, costumes and street carnivals.

We also included the international secular and religious holidays for the month of December, alongside some interesting proverbs and idioms from Hawaii, Russia and Korea.

For a complete look at the newsletter, click here. If you are interesting in signing up to receive the monthly tip in your inbox each month, sign up here.

Latest Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter is Out Now – November 2012

The skyline of Boston has many skyscrapers. Like skyscrapers, diversity initiatives require “blue prints,” or plans and benchmarks, to be implemented successfully. (Photo by Culture Coach CEO Kari Heistad)

Culture Coach International just finished releasing the Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter for November 2012. The theme of the month will be Creating a Blueprint, which takes a metaphorical look at how diversity initiatives require well-laid plans to be successful.

This month’s holiday features Guy Fawkes Day in the UK: a celebration of the failed Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605; it is celebrated with a large fireworks show.

We also included the international secular and religious holidays for the month of November, alongside some interesting proverbs and idioms from Tajikistan, Nigeria, and the Czech Republic.

For a complete look at the newsletter, click here. If you are interesting in signing up to receive the monthly tip in your inbox each month, sign up here.