In Europe, the dinstinctions are virtually undeniable: northern Europeans have a vastly different approach to life from southern Europeans. We could continue to cite examples from around the world. Distinctions can also be drawn between urban and rural or agrarian societies. This has a myriad of ramifications -- what is considered polite and customary in one culture may be considered entirely inappropriate in another.
Awareness of fundamental truths like this can often make all the difference in intercultural relationships, whether in business or friendships. Lanier recounts a conversation on an airplane, where a Lebanese woman lamented that if she had only understood this concept earlier in the eight years she had lived in the US, she would surely have more friends by now:
'I've been lonely since moving here, and now I know why. When people in the office would ask me if I wanted to go to lunch, I would say no to be polite, fully expecting them to ask me again. When they didn't and left without me, I thought they didn't really want me along and had asked only out of politeness. In my culture, it would have been too forward to say yes the first time.'