Tag Archives: Culture

What does your lunch break say about your culture?

 

Here’s a breakdown of the typical lunch in a few of the places I have lived:

Rural France:  Two leisurely hours of eating, talking and drinking.

A Filipino Fishing Village:   An hour of eating and socializing followed by another hour of a siesta nap, stretched out on bamboo platforms.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: A civilized break of an hour or so (enough to get to a decent restaurant)… rural areas and smaller towns shut down for lunch and take longer.

England and the United States:  A stale sandwich at your desk.

Sweden:  A buddy of mine Facebooked me with a link to the latest trend in Swedish urban culture:  Clubbing for lunch.   Here’s how it works (I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed):

1)  People literally leave work for an hour and dance.

2)  The location looks like a club, complete with appropriate lighting (or lack thereof) and DJs spinning.

3)  No alcohol or drugs

4) There is food and drink (which most people grab on the way out)

5)  Clubbing for lunch has gotten so popular as a de-stressor that employers are starting to buy tickets and offer them to employees as perks.

Hierarchy?

As much as it is very tempting to be a cultural fundamentalist and insist that one system is better than the other, I am personally convinced that doing so is stupid.  First of all, you close yourself off to different ways of being human that could actually improve your life.  Second, you look like a bigot.  If I could have a dollar or euro for every time I have heard some Americans criticize Europeans for being lazy and unproductive and some Europeans criticize Americans for being workaholic fatties, I would be a modestly rich person taking multi-hour lunch breaks.  You never look like a good person when you blow off steam like this, just irate and inflexible.

Cultural Buffet

One of the fundamental ideas behind savvy, global do-gooding is to treat global cultures as a huge buffet… you as the cultural savant get to pick and choose of the best out there.  Do this with your lunch breaks.  Sure, it often makes sense to prioritize productivity and a strong work ethic.  But all work and no play makes you a very pathetic person.  So mix it up.  With more than just your lunch habits.

There is so much variety out there and the beauty of travel and the internet is that you have access to different views and cultural practices on a level that has previously been impossible.  Be a culturemutt.  Enjoy and practice the best of what you come across.

Life is beautiful and exposure to world cultures will make you a better, fuller person.  Get out there, explore and experiment.

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Bjorn Karlman

“You’re Fat.” How Honest is too Honest?

 

There’s a fine line between being honest and being rude.  The post title is a classic example.  If someone asks you if they look fat, should you tell the truth?    As this is CultureMutt you are right to expect a “cultural” spin on this.  The fact of the matter is that honesty expresses itself differently in different parts of the world.

The Geography of Honesty

I’ve lived in fairly blunt countries (Sweden, the United States, Argentina) and more tactful countries (Britain, Hong Kong and the Philippines).  Honesty is expressed differently in each of these countries.  You can obviously be honest in any of these countries but each culture has rules about just how much honesty you should offer up to people and how to do so.

Honest Lying

Growing up in Asia I was taught early on that saving face was very important.  You always wanted to allow people to save face and you yourself put a huge priority on saving face in delicate situations.  So while bluntness may have been called for in a Western setting, Asian etiquette required a more indirect approach.  For example, if you are visiting an Asian home and they ask you how you like their food, I would definitely err on the side on being overly positive.

Do not criticize it and do not even opt for calling the food “interesting”.  You are not being dishonest by saying that it tastes “good”.  If you do not like the food, nobody is interested in your honest opinion.  Keep it to yourself, smile and say the food tastes great.  This is common courtesy.

How ya doin?

Some may consider this lying.  It is not.  In American society we are forever asking others how they are doing.  It is a greeting.  Nobody really believes that you are “doing great” every time you say you are.  But you still say it, don’t you?  Well, it is the same in indirect cultures when it comes to expressing your opinion about something delicate.  Unless you absolutely have to confront or be direct, avoid it.  Beat around the bush.  It is the right thing to do.  You will get results much quicker this way than if you insist on blazing a trail of bullish, Western directness.

Nordic Bluntness

In Sweden and other more blunt cultures, on the other hand, the kind of indirect approach that is correct in an Asian setting is almost considered to be dishonest.  People want more of a straight-up approach.  If you say you like something to be polite while secretly you hate it, people will consider you dishonest or weak for feigning appreciation.  I have personally been called out on a number of occasions because I default to Asian indirectness in certain situations where Westerner norms crave candor.

My bad

Forgetting where you are can be a problem.  It typically takes me a week or two (and a few embarrassing mistakes) for me to readjust to where I am.  What I have found to be effective in situations where I mess up is a quick apology and an honest explanation that I am still adjusting to the different culture.  People tend to be pretty understanding and will often go out of their way to explain some basic dos and don’ts while you find your footing…

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Bjorn Karlman

Are Some Cultures “Smarter” Than Others?

 

Google any variation of the following question and you get a storm of different reactions:  “Are some cultures smarter than others?”   It is obviously an extremely touch area.  Unless you are talking to some kind of supremacist you are unlikely to hear anyone give you a hierarchy of cultures with respect to average intelligence.  At least not explicitly.

Snowballs

What I have heard quite a lot of, all over the world, is social commentary either praising industrious immigrants and other high-achieving populations or critiquing other groups that seem to be mired in crime and paralyzed in terms of even the most basic social mobility.

From time to time I hear people criticize poor populations in a “they-should-just-pull-themselves-up-by-the-bootstraps” kind of way.  It starts to sound prejudiced pretty quickly.  The criticism starts as a gripe about welfare abusers and quickly escalates to “Why can’t members of x population just go to school and get a job like everyone else?  Oh, I forgot, they can’t even speak English…”  The conversation gets worse quickly and nobody is the better for it.

A Small Town Thing?

Some people think that this sort of prejudice only surfaces in communities that are culturally homogenous and are “scared” of diversity.  In my experience this is not the case.  You hear the same sort of thing in big cities where you are forever rubbing shoulders with people not like you.  Sometimes urban settings are even worse.

Hard Facts and Stereotypes

If you are talking about raw academics there are some hard stats to fend with if you want to swear off culture as a factor influencing academic achievement.  Take this one:  Four percent of the US population is Asian-American but they make up 20% of the Ivy League.

The more you dig around the more you find all manner of scientific attempts to look at the role of culture and race in academic achievement.  You get lists of scientific studies looking at average cranial size, IQ points and other shaky attempts at quantifying intelligence and correlating it to groups of people.  Then you get others that claim that conventional standardized testing and IQ points are measures of intelligence that are faulty at best and are designed to favor certain subcultures.

Why Ask the Question?

Should the question of whether a smartness hierarchy exists in cultures be asked in the first place?  The slippery slope into thinly-veiled eugenics seems inevitable when you start trying to linking culture to genetics.  And we’ve seen where that sort of nonsense leads.

It is not defeatist to simply say that trying to order cultures in terms of demonstrated intelligence is a ridiculous exercise. Not only are attempts at this kind of ordering controversial and flawed, they are also pointless, narrow and doomed to failure.

 

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Bjorn Karlman

Haggle Like a Pro – The Fine Art of Cheapness

typical asian market

It happens all the time.  The minute I approach a vendor at a marketplace in Mexico, Cuba, Thailand, wherever – the price shoots up drastically.  It is as though as a foreigner I either have to to endure being ripped off or prove my mettle as a haggler.  If you have shopped anywhere other than home in a setting where price setting is flexible, you know what I am talking about.  The hiked-up prices can either be seen as an insult or as a challenge.  Choose the latter and try the following steps to walk off with great deals:

1.  Refuse whatever the first price offer is, even if it sounds like a bargain by your home standards.  This is the beginning of the dance and even the vendor himself will be disappointed if you bow out and pay full price.

2.  Say that you can buy the same thing anywhere else for far cheaper and suggest a price that is 30% of the original price (It helps to read your guide book and find out the going rate for things; make sure your offer is a little below the going rate).

3.  Smile and laugh at the vendor as he starts to make you sound special.  (This happens in different ways depending on where you are.  In the Philippines you will be referred to as “my pren [friend]”.)  In most places you will be told what price the vendor is willing to offer “just for you”.  The price will only have gone down slightly at this point.

4.  By now the vendor will know that you are on to his tricks.  This is your time to shine.  Try: “I am not a rich American, that price is crazy.  Give it to me for (40% of original asking price).  I’ll send all the dumb tourists your way.” If you can muster it and if local culture is reasonably tactile, make some kind of physical contact at this point – shake his hand, put your arm around his shoulder, give him a fist bump… this will reinforce what you are saying.

5.  Tactics will now change.  The vendor, if he has not yet caved, will tell you that he would be robbing himself to give the item for your suggested price.  He will also begin referring to his latest offer as the “final price”.

6.  Play by his rules.  Counter by saying that your latest offer is your final price and deliberately let your eyes wander to other vendors with similar products at the market or make reference to another stand you’ve seen with far better prices.

7.  The vendor may give in at this point.  If he doesn’t, you have a choice: If the price he is offering is acceptable per the going rate, buy the item. But if he stands his ground and the price is still too high, smile, shake your head and say, “Sorry, too much for me,” and confidently walk off.  I can’t overstate the need for confidence as you do this.

8. Chances are you will be called back as soon as he thinks you are serious about walking out on the deal.  Generally, some kind of deal is better than no deal, especially when a tourist has dollars.  If the vendor can give you a bargain, he will at this point.

If these steps do not work and you are not called back, there are generally other vendors selling the same thing close-by.  Persistence will get you a deal.  Better yet, send a local friend on her own to buy the item.  She’ll get a fair price.

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Bjorn Karlman

Grin and Bare It… Topless Culture Change

Topless - summer beach conceptIt was hands-down one of the funniest things I had ever seen on a beach.  I was with a friend in Nice, on the French Riviera, surrounded by locals and tourists in various stages of undress.  Not far from me were a couple of topless girls and local etiquette stipulated that everyone had to act like everything was normal.  And, for a French beach in the summer, everything basically was.  Well, at least it was until a group of American teenagers, in predictable khaki shorts and baseball caps, came over and struck up conversation with the topless ones.

The guys’ intent was clear: they wanted a picture with the women.  Amused at the ballsy request, the women obliged the horn dogs and posed with their newfound American friends.  The guys were delighted but conversation quickly dried up because of the language barrier and they took off.  The best part was when one of the guys hollered, “Y’all keep it up now!” over his shoulder.  Beautiful.

The young guys’ break with etiquette was amusing.  If they had been locals or at least somewhat accustomed to Mediterranean protocol, they would have been considerably less eager with their photo requests.  Everyone came out of this one well – the nervous kids, the nonchalant boob models and the amused onlookers.  Observing the whole incident made me think about the huge role of cultural rules in the day-to-day – right down to beach attire and how to acknowledge topless strangers.  It also made me think of what allows us to bend the rules of culture (in this case, approaching topless women) and test the boundaries society decides are appropriate.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” identifies the drivers of societal change as Connectors (social magnets that are master networkers and love nothing more than working a crowd), Mavens (information specialists, people that have the information society needs) and Salesmen (Charismatic, persuasive people that can get people to agree with them).  When all three kinds of personalities come together and benefit from a strong message and favorable circumstances, you get enough traction to affect major societal shifts.

Watching the kids I saw each of the personality-based change agents.  There was the Connector – the kid in the group that probably was the reason they were all on the beach, skipping the assigned lecture on Franco-Spanish relations. Then there was the Maven – the pervy nerd who’d worked out what stretch of beach would yield the best topless odds. And finally, there was the Salesman who talked both his friends and the busty French into posing for the camera.

So there you have it:  a little example of how cultural change, however insignificant, can be achieved. Whenever cultural rules feel rigid and overbearing, remember that with some clever planning, some key leadership and a little luck, rules can bend and boundaries can shift.  And there’s nothing that some teenage spunk and some multicultural levity can’t fix.

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Bjorn Karlman

Rudest Cities on the Planet

Angry driver with dollar bills.
Rude in any language: Moneygrubbing taxi drivers

Get any two world travelers bored enough and they’ll start trading war stories about the rudest cities they’ve ever visited.  This, of course, is a classic exercise in one-upmanship. The first guy will make his obligatory point about the obnoxious Parisian shop keeper he met: “he spoke English perfectly but wouldn’t help me.”

The fellow traveler will counter with some horror story about being cut off right by the turnstiles for the Hong Kong MTR  (Mass Transit Railway), getting elbowed while boarding her train and then pickpocketed – all on a simple two-stop trip to Kowloon Station to catch her airport connection: “They even stole my ticket!!”  The back and forth can continue for huge stretches of time.

I wanted to get past the hearsay and the anecdotes so I was intrigued when I came across a Reader’s Digest (Canada) article titled “How Polite Are We?”. Reader’s Digest tested people’s politeness by sending undercover reporters, 50% men, 50% women into 36 cities for the following three tests:

“• We walked into public buildings 20 times behind people to see if they would hold the door open for us.

• We bought small items from 20 stores and recorded whether the sales assistants said thank you.

• We dropped a folder full of papers in 20 busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.”

A full scientific test was not attempted by the study but it was the largest of its kind ever attempted. Every positive outcome was awarded a point and negative outcomes got no points.  A city could score a maximum of 60 points.  Here were the five lowest scoring cities:

[TABLE=2]

Reporters had stories to illustrate rudeness in the low-scoring cities.  In Mumbai:  “When our female reporter bought a pair of plastic hair clips at a convenience store, sales assistant Shivlal Kumavat turned his back on her as soon as she had paid. Asked why, the 31-year-old was unapologetic. ‘Madam, I am not an educated guy. I hand goods over to the customers, and that’s it.’ ”

“When an affluent-looking lady in her 40s failed to hold a door in Moscow’s Prospekt Vernadskogo, she chided us: ‘I’m not a doorman. It’s not my job to hold doors. If someone gets hurt, they should be quicker on their feet.’ ”

There were, of course, other stories, but even more interesting were the top scorers:

[TABLE=3]

Looking suspect yet?  I would suggest that the rationale behind this survey is the same that leads to tourists thinking that a city is rude and obnoxious:  a foreign set of cultural expectations are applied to the local scene to determine politeness.  Case in point: the door-holding test is unreliable as there are parts of the world, particularly parts of Asia, where holding the door for others is not necessarily considered a sign of politeness.  It is no surprise then, that Western cities like New York and Toronto scored highly and cities like Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur fared far worse.

Want to have positive experience in a new city?  Do your homework and know what to expect. Just because your own cultural niceties are not commonplace doesn’t mean that people are intentionally being rude to you.  So take courage, hop on the subway and throw some elbows.

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Bjorn Karlman

Straight Talk: Sin or Virtue?

Lips zipper 2I had been away from Asia for several years when I returned on a business trip in 2004. By my second or third meeting in Bangkok, it was clear that “getting down to business”, “straight talk” and a Western “no-nonsense” approach to negotiations were not going to fly. Meetings started with a shockingly robust round of pleasantries by American business standards. In fact, it seemed that the actual “business” portion of the meeting was limited to very brief statements, sandwiched between a prolonged inquiry into how my colleague and I were enjoying Thailand at the start of the meeting, and another succession of questions and suggestions at the end as we covered how best to entertain ourselves in Thailand for the rest of the trip. My host did a superb job of making sure everyone felt at ease and there was a sense of harmony to the meeting that I had rarely witnessed in the Western “cut-to-the-chase” business etiquette that I was used to.

I can’t say that I have a definite preference when it comes to approaches to business etiquette. I can definitely appreciate the Eastern prioritization of group harmony over directness. I really enjoyed my time in Bangkok and from a business point of view, the deals we were able to negotiate by playing by the local rules proved to be very lucrative successes. On the flip side, straight talk can be enlightening because it minimizes the guessing game. I was raised by Scandinavian parents that encouraged clarity in communication to the point of bluntness. They felt that this kind of communication was honest and correct. I have countless examples of how openness and directness, however uncomfortable they may be in the short term, end up saving a lot of time and heartache in the long run. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, on his website The Welch Way, claims that candor is a principle of business communication that is necessary and helpful in any work context, anywhere – a veritable one-size fits all.

This is where I beg to differ. Millions of dollars are lost every day on business deals gone south because we as humans seem only to think about communication in terms of what is culturally accepted in our societies. We know, in theory, that people communicate differently in different parts of the world, but habits are hard to break. It seems that subconsciously, we expect others to see relationships and communication the way we do.

As a result, cultures that believe group harmony to be paramount may come across as evasive and even dishonest in cultures such as those of North America and Western Europe, where directness and clarity are the guiding force. On the other hand, Western candor often comes across as bullish and rude in many Asian countries and can be alienating to the point where deals collapse. AsianAmerica.net, an online service to promote cultural, educational and economic ties between Asia and North America, puts it like this: “It is estimated that more than half of all international joint ventures fail within two or three years. The reason most often given is cultural myopia and lack of cultural competency – not the lack of technical or professional expertise.”

There is no magical third way to completely avoid this clash of communication styles that leads to business disasters. Do your homework before you take off on international business trips or before you start negotiations with anyone from a different culture. What will their expectations be in terms of etiquette and what can you expect from them as far as their communication style?

Asian.American.net says “Customizing the learning experience is the most effective way to address specific issues and objectives and maximize the impact cultural competency can have on the company’s bottom line. In today’s global marketplace, being culturally savvy is no longer just “nice to have” but a key ingredient in building and maintaining a competitive global advantage.”

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Bjorn Karlman

Same-sex Smooching

FriendsThe “beso”.  It was one of the hardest things to get used to when I moved to Buenos Aires. Hetero men and women would greet others of the same sex with a kiss on the cheek.  My Argentine friends found it hilarious that on top of my gaffes in learning Spanish (I once asked for the local “place of pleasure” instead of asking for apartment storage space), I almost cringed whenever it was time to greet guys.  It was reminiscent of my freshman days in college when I had to force my reserved Scandinavian self to greet American classmates with hugs and loud, enthusiastic banter.  But the “beso” was even more of an invasion of space.  Luckily I’d had practice with the French “bisou” (kisses on both cheeks for the opposite sex) while studying in France so I had the mechanics down.  But the fact that men were involved was unsettling.


It should be said that the mere fact that straight men kissed each other in Argentina did not at all mean that they were effeminate in other ways. In fact, Argentine culture in general seemed to encourage alpha male behavior, complete with near-belligerent cursing and heckling in the stands at soccer games.  The “beso” was simply an accepted way to greet people, whatever their sex might be.

Of course, same-sex kissing is not at all limited to Argentina, a lot of cultures find the practice perfectly normal. South Eastern Europe and some countries of South Western Europe, Latin America and the Middle East find it completely acceptable.  In the Middle East (with the exception of some moderate Islamic countries) it is more acceptable for men to kiss each other on the cheek than for men to kiss women on the cheek in public.  (A topic for a different post would be Arab male-on-male hand holding that had George W. Bush feeling a little uncomfortable when Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was visiting the US).

How do you adjust to something like same-sex kissing if you are from a different culture?  Dive in.  It’s just like language learning – you learn best by immersion.  In my case, I had to force myself the first few times.  Then the beso got easier.  It never felt completely natural but it certainly did not bother me after a few weeks of greetings.

The challenge can be to avoid Borat-scale awkwardness by remembering where you are. When I met my former Spanish tutor from Buenos Aires on a trip to Paris in May, the beso was gone, replaced by a hug.  That same greeting between old friends, if it had taken place in Northern Europe, could well have been a simple, if somewhat prolonged, handshake.  The problems creep in when you plant a manly kiss on Bubba at the Indy 500.  That could warrant a royal kicking of an entirely different set of cheeks.

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Bjorn Karlman

Global Blue Balls, Mapping Sexual Frustration

Switch OFF

It’s official: the most sexually frustrated people on earth are the Japanese.  In a global survey on sexual well-being by condom maker, Durex, only 15% of the Japanese reported feeling sexually satisfied in life. Nigeria led the way for highest sex life satisfaction with 67% of respondents reporting positively and Mexico came second with 63%.


A little bit of healthy skepticism about these results would not be out of place. Chinadaily.com.cn, takes on the Durex research in an article titled “LET’S (NOT) TALK ABOUT SEX, BABY.”  In the article a Chinese sexologist disputes Durex findings in China saying that they mainly surveyed people in economically developed, coastal areas that could afford internet access.  He argues that because of this, Durex’s survey is not representational of the overall Chinese population. Despite this caveat however, the article seems to think there is truth to the survey: “..the Chinese have sex much more often than the global average but are still too shy to talk about it with their partners… That may explain why only about 24 percent said they often experience orgasm, half the global level.”


Is this Chinese reserve reflected by other Asian countries?  In a study headed by University of Chicago academic, Edward O. Laumann, the idea of sexual dissatisfaction in Asia is reinforced, again with Japanese sexual dissatisfaction leading the pack.


An NPR article commenting on Laumann’s findings summarized them by stating that “couples in Western countries are the most sexually satisfied, while countries in the East appear to be less satisfied.”  Also: “Asian countries all reported low levels of sexual satisfaction and moderate to low levels of satisfaction with their relationships and the importance of sex.”


Sound like Western libido imperialism?  Maybe I’m just being defensive because I grew up in Asia but I really feel uncomfortable with these findings.  What do you conclude from them?  It’s easy to pontificate on possible reasons for low Asian libido.  Some would go the route of Chinadaily.com.cn and say that cultural reserve in communication is responsible.  Cultural taboos about discussing sex and individual needs and preferences may be blamed.  Others may claim that the sex score cards are lowered by lopsided gender relations in these countries, that male dominance negatively affects sexual satisfaction.


It looks like nothing conclusive can be said right now.  Laumann’s original article states “Given the substantial, and observed differences in sexual attitudes, practices, and sexual well-being between “East” and “West”, we suggest that future research could fruitfully investigate cultural and structural causes of this variation.” Until then, an extended Nigerian trip and a stint in Mexico may be advisable.


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BJORN KARLMAN


Punctual, Lifeless Bores: The problem with time-centered cultures

punctual Jack is a dull boy
punctual Jack is a dull boy

I grew up entirely confused about the concept of time and punctuality.  I was raised by Swedish parents in the Cavite province of the Philippines.  On the one hand, I had an exceedingly punctual Northern-European father who was not a fan of bathroom breaks on trips and always wanted to arrive early to anything scheduled.  On the other, Filipino custom dictated that it was almost rude and certainly awkward if you arrived to social engagements when they were officially scheduled to begin.  It was explained to me that if an event starts a certain hour, you are still on time if you come at any point during the course of the hour.  Arrive at 6:48 PM for an event that started at 6:00 PM?  Well done. The Germans arrived at 6:00 PM and got to sit in uncomfortable silence while their local hosts finished food prep and scratched their heads in bewilderment at the newbies that obviously had not been issued the memo.

As I grew older, I became more and more interested in the difference between time-centered cultures (cultures that value punctuality above all else) and event-centered cultures where the timing of an event is less important than the quality of the experience.  Obviously no culture fits either mold perfectly but there are certainly noticeable trends.

A May 5, 2008 article in Thailand’s The Nation starts higher level when comparing cultures: “There is an explicit difference between the task-oriented business culture and the people-oriented one, which affects the way business is conducted. The former prioritises clarity in communication and equates directness with sincerity. The latter regards harmony within the group and interpersonal relations as the top priority.

Time and scheduling are also viewed differently. In the rigid-time culture, punctuality is critical. That is, business schedules and meeting agendas are always fixed as people are time-conscious and schedule-obsessed. In the flexible-time culture, strict punctuality and rigid scheduling get less emphasis.”

As much as I like my trains to leave on time and as much as I appreciate punctual, North American ends to business meetings, I’ve got to say that when it comes to what I ultimately value most in life, I am more drawn to event-centered or, as, The Nation puts it, “people-oriented” culture.  Punctuality is poor consolation if you live in a society where you are not encouraged to savor time spent with others.

Obviously, it is possible to take time out to “have a life” in time-centered cultures and one should not automatically expect meetings to start late in cultures that are more typically people-centered.  In fact, business strategist Godfrey Parkin claims that, “In a business meeting context, the sensitivity to punctuality is always less cultural than contextual. And within that context you cannot make sweeping statements about national cultural attitudes to time because corporate culture plays a major role in guiding those attitudes.”  He gives examples of being the last person to turn up for meetings he himself was running at companies in Brazil and Mexico while giving up on the punctuality of half the group at events in the US and UK.

Despite the exceptions and the nuances though, I AM going to commit the unpardonable cross-cultural sin and generalize:  Time-centered cultures slowly sap the life out of you.  On a person-to-person level, there will always be examples of people that are punctual and yet are fun to have at a party.  But when time keeping and punctuality become the guiding forces of a culture, I say you cease to really enjoy life. The siesta-taking, party-going, San-Miguel-beer-loving Filipinos in the fishing village I spent a few months working in several years ago, were far more engaging and happy than a lot of the time-obsessed bores I have come across in the world’s affluent urban centers.  I would say that as far as happiness is concerned, cultures cannot be seen as equal.  For your own, personal well-being, it pays to be aware of what your culture prioritizes and then compensate appropriately so you achieve some balance.  With that, I’ll wrap this post so I can make it to my book circle on time…

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Bjorn Karlman