Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hot Climate - Cold Climate

In her book, Foreign to Familiar, my former colleague Sarah Lanier explains the concept of hot-climate and cold-climate cultures. Generally speaking (there are always exceptions), those who are from hot-climate countries are more relationally oriented, whereas cold-climate cultures are more task-oriented. If you're not familiar with this concept, it may initially come across as such a generalization that it's untenable; but the more you think about it, the more it seems to make sense -- even within the United States. People from the South are generally more relationship oriented, whereas Northerners are most often characterized as business-like.

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.'

Monday, June 8, 2009

The New Sun King

The French press has crowned 2009 French Open winner Roger Federer le Roi Soleil -- the Sun King -- following his easy defeat of Swede Robin Soderling and his garnering of his 14th career Grand Slam title, tying American Pete Sampras' record.

To those who remember a little French history, this is a clear reference to King Louis XIV, dubbed le Roi Soleil because of his grandiose lifestyle and long reign -- 72 years, to be exact -- the longest of any monarch in history. It was he who built the opulent palace at Versailles, in the southwestern suburbs of Paris. His power in Europe was undisputed for many years.

Once Federer wins his 15th Grand Slam tournament (later this month at Wimbledon?), the French will have to think of another analogy, as there's nothing particularly noteworthy about Louis XV. But for now, the classy Swiss, being called an "absolute monarch", is wearing the title well -- and deservedly.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Personal Space?

If you value your personal space, you best not be a commuter in Japan. This video was shot a few years ago, and I understand things are not quite so extreme now, but even so....