By seanharris on Nov 13, 2007
I have recently returned from a trip to Bangkok. Despite the rather painful journey, over 12 hours each way both ways as an overnight flight (in economy) and loosing a weekend on each end of a week, I always enjoy the time that I spend there. Why? Well apart from the fantastic food (I love Thai food) and the weather (there is nothing better than leaving a cold damp London to arrive in temperatures that seem to warm you to the very core) it is because of the people. The Thai people seem to always be so polite, so friendly, so cheerful, colourful and always have a positive outlook on life. This is further enhanced by the fact that the development team that I work with in Bangkok have an average age of 27 and so seem to have limitless enthusiasm and energy with a "anything is possible" attitude. It takes me back to the early part of my career when I worked at INMOS, a development team with an average age of 27 who were going to take on Silicon Valley from Bristol in the UK and win!
This got me thinking about a course that did a few years ago entitled "Managing Across Cultures". As with many of these soft skills courses we given a number of tools to help our understanding and in common with many of these tools they need to be used with caution and in the right context (and not at the exclusion of other techniques including common sense - be warned) however one of the tools on this course can provide some interesting insights and some fun. The particular tool in question was to help answer the question - "How does an individual from another cultural background view me and the culture from which I come from?". You start by listing the way you view their culture and national traits. This needs to be expressed in a positive way - eg. The Italians are very relaxed about time keeping rather than Italians are bad time keepers. Having written your list of cultural and national traits as seen from your viewpoint you now take all the statements and reverse them to give a description of how their culture views yours, again try to keep away from negative statements - eg. From an Italian perspective precise time keeping is important to the English.
So how do the Thai's view me - Oh No - I am rude, unhelpful, miserable, grey with a pessimistic view on the world. I do hope this tool is broken!!! ;-)