Cultural diversity – beyond borders
Anyone traveling to Asia to do business there is well advised to get acquainted with cultural specifics and to prepare, including reflecting one’s own positions and attitudes.
Intercultural trainings thus are a good option, providing information on expectations, attitudes, typical patterns of behaviour, codes and protocols. But as always, real life proves to be far more complicated.
You may find yourself sitting with an international group, Asians and Europeans. And listening to a young Asian team member, who, asked about his exposure to cultural conflict, smartly and calmly gives the following analysis: no problems with colleagues from other countries – but a generation conflict putting a strain on co-operation with his superior – Asian, too, generating friction. The boss in question is present in the group, as well as the rest of the team. They nod in agreement, the boss just looking a bit perplexed.
An instructive experience, and the moment to understand that textbook knowledge will be of limited help under such circumstances, Firstly: not the slightest hint of allegedly typical Asian reserve and reluctance to address problems in front of others, of avoiding conflict and of overarching respect for elders and superiors. And secondly the insight that in more traditional societies, such cultural diversity refering to age, gender or provenience from urban areas or the countryside may have a more dramatic impact than we are used to in the West. Positively in the sense of change and dynamics, but of course as well as a burden, with frictions, resistance to change and conflict. And those not because of the Western foreigner intruding, but within their own group.
Anyone traveling to Asia to deal with customers or work with teams should keep in mind this dynamics and diversity. Typical cultural knowledge can just provide a framework. Cultural know-how and sensibility means to understand the dynamics which can emerge from this background, to analyse attitudes and positions of interlocutors and team members and to explore one’s own role in this context to achieve good results.<<<<