Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Right Thinking

Thoughts follow culturally defined paths, it seems. Not uniformly in every individual, but more or less in line across a given cultural group.

Did you know that the way you think about something may never cross the mind of someone from another culture?

Us and Them

"I was once in charge of an English language summer course in North Wales for adult students from three countries - Italy, Japan, and Finland. Intensive instruction was relieved by entertainment in the evenings and by day excursions to places of scenic or historical interest. We had scheduled a trip up Mount Snowdon on a particular Wednesday, but on the Tuesday evening it rained heavily. Around 10 o’clock that night, during the after-dinner dancing, a dozen or so Finns approached me and suggested that we cancel the excursion, as it would be no fun climbing the muddy slopes of Snowdon in heavy rain. I, of course, agreed and announced the cancellation.  Immediately I was surrounded by protesting Italians disputing the decision. Why cancel the trip - they had been looking forward to it (escape from lessons), they had paid for it in their all-inclusive fee, a little rain would not hurt anyone and what was the matter with the Finns anyway - weren't they supposed to be tough people? A little embarrassed, I consulted the Japanese contingent. They were very, very nice. If the Italians wanted to go, they would go, too. If, on the other hand, we cancelled the trip they would be quite happy to stay in and take more lessons. The Italians jeered at the Finns, the Finns mumbled and scowled, and eventually, in order not to lose face, agreed they would go. The excursion was declared on. It rained torrentially all night and also while I took a quick breakfast. The bus was scheduled to leave at half past eight, and at twenty-five past, taking my umbrella in the downpour, I ran to the vehicle. Inside were 18 scowling Finns, 12 smiling Japanese, and no Italians. We left on time and had a terrible day. The rain never let up, we lunched in cloud at the summit, and returned covered in mud at 5 o'clock, in time to see the Italians taking tea and chocolate biscuits. They had sensibly stayed in bed. When the Finns asked them why, they said because it was raining..."
~ Richard Lewis, from the preface to When Cultures Collide, 3rd Edition

On the cultural profiles ... FYI

Linear-active individuals are private, unemotional, and task-oriented. They mind their own business and plan everything ahead. They are slaves to their schedules and only like to do one thing at a time. The persons in this group might seem somewhat constrained, as they follow plans and procedures methodically, rarely interrupt, and use limited body language.   ... They confront with logic, reluctantly accept favors, and dislike losing face.
The Germans and the Swiss are known for being the epitomes of this culture. Scandinavians, Americans, Austrians, Britons, Canadians and New Zealanders are also part of this group.

Multi-active persons, on the other hand, are the opposite of those in the first category. They are gregarious, emotional, and people-oriented, besides being inquisitive and virtually unpredictable when it comes to timetables. Individuals in this category do several things at once, often change plans, and generally don’t mind pulling strings and seeking favors in order to get what they need. Multi-active people make use of unrestricted body language, and frequently interrupt others, which is usually frowned upon by the other groups. They confront with emotions and always have a ready excuse to explain their mistakes.
Latin Americans, Arabs, Africans, Indians, Middle Easterners, Southern Europeans, and Mediterranean peoples are the most representative embodiments of this type of culture.

Reactive individuals are the third pole of the triad, and they combine characteristics of both groups in response to the environment. They are quiet and yet caring, respectful, people-oriented, and, possibly as a result, very good listeners. Their respectful attitude seems to extend itself throughout their personas, as they use very subtle body language, avoid confrontation, and never interrupt others. Reactive people analyse the general principles of a situation and react according to said context (which includes their partners’ timetables). They are enigmatic and calm, and give great value to face (their own or other people’s). 
The Japanese and the Chinese are, perhaps, the best examples of this type of behavior; Turks and Finns are also in this category.

~ by Feli

... and each is persuaded their perspective is the correct one.  Of course.  What might we learn from this?