About culture difference and intercultural cooperation
I didn't know any foreigners personally before high school. I thought all the people were the same, if you knew their words and grammar, you naturally understood them.
In university I took a lot of class about culture, communication, training etc., and got some foreign friends. I felt the theory I read in books like cultural standard, stereotype, cultural dimension, culture shock were proved again and again in life. There were really differences in almost every aspect between "us" and "them".
After graduation I had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. I also traveled to many foreign countries for business or for holiday. Gradually I feel: Cultural differences do exist widely, and not only between natives and foreigners, but also among people from different regions of the same country. But these differences are often superficial. The deep needs of the two sides are still consistent.
If we are entangled in the differences, we will magnify our subjective emotions, get the feeling I'm right, he/she is unreasonable, and deviate from the main line of wanting to cooperate. If we pay more attention to people, be willing to learn and accept the differences and understand their deep needs, we can effectively communicate and cooperate, and enrich our own understanding about the world.
An example: A key equipment was running out of spare parts. Communication with the foreign supplier didn’t go well. If something happened, the whole workshop would be shut down. The foreign leader A asked the engineer B to go over. B was terrified and prepared all the email exchange with the supplier to prove it wasn’t his fault. A didn’t question if B was lazy, just asked about the status and advice, contacted the supplier's leader personally. Three weeks later the parts arrived. B didn’t go to A earlier, because in the beginning the problem was small, he didn’t dare to bother the boss. Later the problem became big, he was afraid of being blamed. He planned to solve it quietly, but with no result. A believed there was no bother, the boss was a resource for employees to solve problems. He also had his boss, if his boss asked, he didn’t solve the problem or even know about it, he would also be blamed.
In the culture of B, the power distance is big. The boss is a mysterious existence and beyond his reach. In the culture of A, the power distance is small. The boss is just a little bigger than the employees. This difference results in no report in the beginning and the tension of B in this meeting. But they had the same goal: get the spare parts asap to avoid stopping the line.
This post was written by Qi Feng (GM)