Beware of apparent similarity

With so many people speaking English, wearing jeans, writing brief emails and texting, it may appear that there is a growing similarity among the professional global “caste” of knowledge workers.

While no one has quite declared the death of cultural differences,  there is a growing tendency for folks to cling to the similarity generated by the above mentioned commonalities.

A lot of these aforementioned “similarities” are nothing but “apparent similarity”, and thus the challenge is greater because the differences are more elusive.

  • The shared  used of English does not wipe out that Americans love their plans, Germans love their details and Israelis love to improvise.
  • The shared use of English does not eliminate the fact that the British are punctual and the Mexicans are not.
  • The shared use of English does not eliminate the fact that some folks strive for win win and others strive to win.

An American or Canadian going to Korea or Japan for business will seek out relevant cultural information. Less so if they are travelling to the UK, Germany or Israel.

An Israeli going to India or Taiwan will seek out cultural guidance, but may  not do so when going to the States. And the truth is that the Taiwanese and Indians are much more similar to the Israelis that the Americans. Like the Israelis, the Indians prefer improvisation, have a beat the system “work around” readily available, and move fast and clean up later.

So beware: what looks similar may be different; and just because people look and sound different may not mean all that much.

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2 thoughts on “Beware of apparent similarity

  1. I’ve said for many years that as work becomes virtual & no longer location dependent, we will see new global formality & politeness mores develop. In a world in which we are no longer conducting business face-to-face, offending a business contact can simply result in that person disconnecting & refusing to reconnect again.

    While we’re not quite yet at that level of technology, I suspect that once we do achieve it, we will see behaviors develop that in many ways mirror the stereotype of Japanese politeness mores.

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