Review & notes for The Great Courses- Customs of the World by David Livermore

Sub-heading: – Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are
Narrated by: David Livermore
Series: The Great Courses: Better Living
Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
Release date: 08-13-13

I’m not joking, this lecture series goes into more detail than one of my degrees (Asian Studies).

I’ve learnt more during this book than I think during that particular degree.

…That of course may be due to the problems of youth and not really paying attention when I should have been, etc.

And then again I’ve taken many notes during this book, just because so many things are incredibly interesting… and provided you’re aware of them, will be useful for you – provided that you are like me, enjoy travelling and mixing with people from difference cultures + perhaps have to work with people from a different culture / background.

What the book is about

The course is an exploration of 10 cultural value dimensions:

1. Identity—Individualist versus Collectivist
2. Authority—Low versus High Power Distance
3. Risk—Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance
4. Achievement—Cooperative versus Competitive
5. Time—Punctuality versus Relationships
6. Communication—Direct versus Indirect
7. Lifestyle—Being versus Doing
8. Rules—Particularist versus Universalist
9. Expressiveness—Neutral versus Affective
10. Social Norms—Tight versus Loose

Followed by applying them to 10 global culture clusters:

1. Anglo Cultures
2. Nordic European Cultures
3. Germanic Cultures
4. Eastern European/Central Asian Cultures
5. Latin European Cultures
6. Latin American Cultures
7. Confucian Asian Cultures
8. South Asian Cultures
9. Sub-Saharan African Cultures
10. Arab Cultures

At the end of each chapters there’s a fairly broad list of do’s & don’ts for each cultural cluster.

Things to do during & after the book

During- take lots of notes. I did, & you can read them below …if you wish, but in reality they’re more of a reference for me.

The audio book actually comes with a detailed pdf document explaining many of the things in the book for your reference.  However if you’re like me, then you’ve got the audio book precisely because you didn’t want to sit down and read something… so maybe you’re not going to look at that.

Afterwards – Taking the lessons from this book, and applying it to the cultures you know, close friends cultures & backgrounds, or places you’ve travelled to, would be a worthwhile idea.

In fact, this is exactly what I intend to do in a different article, but of course it will take a bit of time.

I think in doing so, you can better understand yourself, how you fit into the country you live/ environment around you, and how much friction there may or may not be with friends from overseas or people you work with, and then of course how to make that fit better and accommodate more viewpoints by understanding them into your own perspectives.


Honestly, I would say that this book should be recommended reading / listening material for all school children.  Everyone should have some kind of understanding of how other cultures behave and why they behave like that based on their background.  The earlier you can get this knowledge the better for you it will be.

It will help if you’re in a cross-cultural relationships, or ever plan to be; if you plan to go travelling to other countries (which almost everyone does); if you work across different countries with your work; or even if you just enjoy watching/ reading/ listening to tv series, books etc and find the foreign countries’ perspective strange.

I have found already that it helps greatly, and that it would have helped me in the past if only I knew this information beforehand.

And… like I said, there’s literally more information in this lecture series than a proper bachelor’s degree on 1 specific culture, or at least there’s more useful learning to be done.

Everyone should read this book.  It’s just that it takes time.  Space it out, take notes, apply it to your life & it will be valuable to have the knowledge contained within under your belt.

Notes taken during the book

“Culture is like an iceberg. Many things visible on the surface, but much more below the surface.”

Some cultures like Ghana don’t like to talk about what they do in their free time. If you’re hiring a person who has a culture like that…. Lead with how other employees spend their free time, and how it benefits the company or the working space.

Chapter 2

Developing cultural intelligence

In IT, high IQ mostly translates to high programming skills.

  1. Cultural intelligence Quotient – 4 ways people are found to be Culturally Intelligent.
  2. High cq drive. Motivated and interested to learn about different cultures
  3. High cq knowledge. Basic understanding of some of the most important cultural similarities and differences.
  4. High cq strategy. Take their cq knowledge and use it to create strategy or action plans for various culturally different situations.
  5. High cq action. Can move beyond their original plan and adapt on the fly


  1. CQ Drive. Naturally curious about the world
    Try new things.

IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY. For many cultural training courses…Many people aren’t being told WHY they have to do the course, they Just assume it’s because the company wants to remain compliant.

Reason why is very important for teaching.

Who is your “other”? Someone a bit opposite to you. Spend time with them. Compare your different perspectives.

  1. CQ Knowledge. Some knowledge of history and current events about the place, art literature, music. Value orientations.

Maybe different family structures.

  1. Cq strategy.

“I wonder why that is?”

  1. Cq action. Making people feel comfortable. In whatever situation.
    Changing your behaviour.
    Or at least adjusting your behaviour to be respectful.

Improving your Cultural Intelligence Quotient (CQ) strengthens your ability to adapt anywhere.

Chapter 3.

Identity. Individualist vs collectivist

Most MBA courses teach individuality and managing individualistic groups.

But 70% of the world is collective or having a collective mentality.

Coming in and expecting people to work on their own will not be a successful leadership approach for many places in the world. Ie. China.

Lecture 5 risk.

Goes on about China being risk adverse, and about contracts and the uncertainty of the future.

Chapter 6.

Competitive cultures and cooperative cultures.

Japan, Germany, USA= competitive. It’s about making money being better than others, not how well you play with others . More likely to move labour overseas due to cheapness there…Because that’s how they keep ahead of the rest.

Even religions are about winning and getting more converts.

Me. Monotheists kind of religions. Catholic politics is about berating the opposition. Any way to have that advantage

Cooperative = Norway Sweden, emphasis on working together, investing in human rights positive projects etc.
USA , and Japan very competitive.
Even though they’re very polite, they are still competitive. Tough negotiators.

USA for example, god bless America, why not bless other countries?  America is number 1. Me. Why are people so anal about being number 1?

Most African countries are cooperative.

If you want to work with the cooperative cultures, assert the importance for relationship, talk about the benefits to society and people as a whole.

Focus communication on building rapport with people to develop cohesiveness..
Competitive cultures – need to convince them of the results and achievement.

Most motivated through upward mobility. That they can be the best at what they’re wanting to do.
Earn their trust by talking about the competitive advantages they’re going to gain.

Highest priority
Manage the processes. Talk about goals
Good plans, systems and incentives are the glue that gets things done.

People want to be assured that you’re helping them (individual) or company move forward. Stay ahead of the curve.

Or the progress moving toward a goal.

Look at the news, and see what in different countries is toted as a success story, and what is not. In America it’s most likely to be profits.

Chapter 7.

Time orientation – Punctuality vs relationships.

Ever wondered why people are late and don’t seem to care about it, or see it as acceptable?

Event time (more flexible) vs clock time

Some people see the time points as a mark of respect. If they are late they lose opportunities and defined time points.

Inconsistent time lateness.

Different cultures function on different timetables.

For some cultures an event starts whenever everyone that needs to be there arrives. It’s not about some arbitrary time that was created previously before anyone knew what kind of weather, circumstances , traffic unexpected events may be going on that day.

There’s a flexible understanding that life’s circumstances can’t be predicted with any certain accuracy.

Many western countries go by clock time, everyone’s watch is set to the same time. That’s the time you meet ‘on the dot’. There are very few excuses that are reasonable, if you get stuck in traffic that’s your fault, you should have left earlier.

Event time, Latin America, lots of Asia, Africa. + me

Start and end times are approximate guidelines.

Individualists believe you should treat everyone equally.

Collectivists believe they should limit their time to their “in”  group. Family, trusted friends etc.

There’s some people you’d never keep waiting. If they were to drop by, it wouldn’t matter that you have a business lunch to be on time for, the ‘in group’ would take priority. Me. (Provided it was weighed up properly.)

**Big realisation ***

Me. Maybe this phenomenon explains why many Asian cultures say they’re more family orientated. It’s not necessarily because they actually take better care of them, or maybe pass on the right skills/ knowledge, but it’s because they take priority in terms of time given to people.
That really makes a lot of sense from many things that I’ve seen in China. Because I could really argue that they don’t seem to take care of the family very well. I’ve seen multiple grandmas riding through red lights with their grandkid on the back, incredibly dangerous… And risking their grand-children’s lives, however the importance is that they’ve made the time to pick up the child from school. The fact that they don’t understand the logic of how traffic lights works is another thing entirely.

Time is money. After the industrial revolution, shift workers and clocks, everything was set to the clock. So you waste time, you waste money.

Many things in these industrialised countries (mainly individualistic, Western countries first at least) the culture changed to reflect this.

Best way to deal with this difference in time is to understand it. Understand how the other side operates.

The event culture/event time people need to be aware as well that if they forgo punctuality in a clock time meeting they may be jeopardising the relationship and even the business contract, because it would be nice if they bend to you or you both understand each other….But these are ingrained cultural ways of doing things…People in general can’t change them easily. Plus, most people won’t understand the other side…So best that you try to change for them.

Me. Especially if you are the service provider side. If they are your clients you should do everything to bend your culture to them.

Mono-chronic clock cultures – Checking things off lists etc.

Mono. Focus on 1 task at a time.
High value in focusing on one thing at a time and giving ones best efforts , intense focus in that one item. And carry it through to completion.

Keeps tasks separate from each other. When you’re at work, it’s working time. Home time is home life.
Considered to be rude if a friend is constantly receiving calls from someone else. Should be in the moment.
We as individuals can and should plan our time . Call if you’re running late.

More task driven. Particular task at the time is the focus. Chromatic

Poly chronic time cultures – All over the place impossible to pin down.

Personal and work lives are more intertwined. Fulfilling multiple responsibilities at the same time.
Seems distracted from the other side.

Multi-tasking isn’t driven by efficiency , it’s by responding to things as they come along and weighing them up depending on roles and relationships.

Things will get done…But they will happen in due course.

Me. This is incredibly interesting. It applies to me very well. (The poly-chronic)

Native Americans and Australian aboriginals very poly-chronic. Tribal meetings are about talking things over & dealing with it there and at the time.

No need to rush to conclusion , will go on to whenever the issue has been dealt with. Doing so is considered rude and bad luck.

Poly chronic is often found in non-profit organisations, rather than private businesses. They tend to deal with issues as they arise.

Less attention to task completion. In many cases this might be because their results are harder to measure.

Also like Brazil, Saudi Arabia , India.

Long term cultures – Singapore, China.

Short term time orientation – USA

Look for results in the first 3 to 18 months. Want immediate results.

Philippines, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia even.

Long term most associated with Confucian cultures – Japan Korea China, and probably any civilisation that has been influenced by them like Singapore.

Perseverance. High savings culture. Big national reserves. Most likely.

Constant tearing down of old buildings to make way for the new. Thinking about long term effects of what their people will need.

How to deal with it… Need to be non-confrontational.

Chapter 8

Communication- direct vs indirect

Indirect – Should pay attention to what is NOT said, as much as what IS said.
Not denying things. Not confirming things.

Indirect – To maintain social harmony.

Low context culture – you choose a meeting place based on convenience.
High context culture – the setting is also meant to say something.

Price of food, views, location in general if you manage to inconvenience the other side perhaps?
How the meeting is arranged in the first place. How do you invite them.
Body language, how people are dressed. Facial expressions.

Low context is looking just for verbal cue- What they say only.

If speaking or presenting, different settings should be used. Backgrounds even to convey a difference for the different audiences.

If you are in a high context environment, people should pay attention to your cues not just what you say…And see what that might mean.

In a low context, if there’s a misunderstanding it just needs to be restated.
High context, it’s the listeners responsibility.

Me. Maybe this is why Chinese find conference calls so difficult. Because those contextual clues are thrown out the window. Or at least many of them .

Some cultures are very low context. Dutch culture very low context as well.

Clear signed, very easy… Blunt direct.

High context… “Drive for a little, pass a banana farm, see a sign that has stickers on it… Then it’s on the right.” As if you live there kind of thing.

Me. Chinese street signs say North & South etc …Which is helpful if you live there…But not if you’re travelling and don’t know where North & South is.

Confucius levels come into play.
High context.
Peers will be very indirect. But boss to employee will be very direct.
Employee to boss will have to be very indirect.

High level senior bosses. Indirectly through their deputies.  Or if they’re close…Can be direct as they choose to be.

Sounds passive aggressive. But it’s not.

In business meetings or whatever Westerners (low context) will look at the main objective or main person in the room.
Whereas high context will take in everything, the wall paper, the pictures, the other people etc…How their body language is.

How the environment can change neurological wiring in the brain. Contextual or individualistic.
Although it’s not fixed permanently.
Means that we can learn to adapt.
Open ended questions are perhaps recommended to talk to indirect cultures.

Double voiced discourse. Awareness of themselves and others.  “As you know…”
Builds rapport.  Contextual culture.

Contextual thinking, shows that you already know what the other is going to ask..Or what they’re thinking.

“I (now you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this…”. Rhetorical questions… You’re probably thinking. Showing that you’ve considered the other persons thinking.

If you use this strategically you can get high context and low context people to come together with more cultural intelligence and work through things easier.

MeI think I actually do that naturally.  Or rather might have got used to it in China. “Why do I raise these questions?  Because the answer is this, and that’s what I want all of us to be thinking about in this project….”  Rhetorical question + self-answer, very Chinese way.

Overuse can undermine your point. Might come off as insecure.
Technique is less aggressive and confrontational. Need to do it, if someone has scepticism.

If you’re dealing with low context cultures, be clear. “Here’s what I need” and don’t add any unnecessary details and contextual information.

Apologies are usually used for mistakes.

You only apologise when you’ve done something wrong.

Me. That’s probably why people from France & USA constantly ask, “Why do you always apologise all the time” “stop saying sorry all the time”  Whereas in English culture, that is just a normal phrase for a small trivial thing, not to admit wrong-doing in anything.

High context…Use language like “perhaps we could think about” ; “I wonder if…” ; “I’ll get back to you on that.”

Apologies are expected any time harmony is disrupted.

Me. Maybe the Chinese language is low context, but the culture is high context.

Chapter 9

Lifestyle –  being vs doing

Being = more concerned on quality of life, living in the moment.

Doing is busy and active. Looks to make the most out of every opportunity.

Mexican, Spanish very being. USA, UK is very doing.

Nordic cultures are very being. High priority on spending time in nature. Doesn’t mean they’re lazy, just that that’s what they want to choose to spend their time on. It doesn’t mean that they’re not efficient. But the goal of being more efficient is to have more free time to spend time with family friends and in nature.

Whereas China, or American , Japanese, Singaporean…Views these people as laid back. Because they don’t see the same priorities.

A Scandinavian person will see those cultures though as thinking… ‘It’s too bad they don’t have the competency or skill level to get what they need to get done in 35 hours per week like we do, instead they’re taking 60 hours a week, they must be really inefficient’

Me. Much like how Australia sees China I think.

Nordic has 5 weeks leave for all employees.

Me. Isn’t this more to do with a socialist mindset, or did the ‘being mentality’ begat the socialist mindset?

Me. Says China is high in being….But I think that has changed.

Japan is high on doing.

Being – Work probably plays a limited role in defining his life. Works in order to live.

Doing – work probably plays a pivotal role in people’s lives. Lives to work. Asks the question “what do you do for a living?” Judges people on that. Psych incredibly organised around their work.

Performance and results.

As doing is a preoccupation, is a passion, therefore even if people have made much money through a business venture they will continue do more work, start a new venture.

Global work culture is doing.

When people ask ‘what do you do?’ – its a chance for them to categorize you, but also for you to prove significance in your answer.
People aspire to be more respected.

Me.  Says a success story of being culture is Norway and Saudi Arabia. However these countries both have oil…And while he acknowledges it, he seems to put it behind the success of their being culture than that.

Education being and doing.

Finland hours per year = 600
Japan = 1000 hours
Kids achieve the same amount. Both have figured ways to be successful.

Me. Doesn’t it just mean the Japanese kids are either less intelligent, or less efficient in their studies…Or teachers are not as good?

Korean 600 higher academic grades than USA.
USA 1100
Poly chronic are often being cultures.

Being cultures often spend time with colleagues outside of work.  Doing cultures , it’s often clear cut. Work, then friends.

Industrialised are more doing.
Agricultural are more doing.

Me. Chinese big tier cities are definitely more doing mindset now, they don’t stop for small talk.

Small towns = more being. Busy cities = more doing
Dark cold places = more being.
Adjust for the seasons. Just like the Eskimos did. And they’re much happier.

Cultures that have siestas have being cultures & adapt more to the natural environment. (hot climate during the day -have a nap)

Doing doesn’t adapt as much. Likely to spend less time outside.

More people are moving towards the doing side. Even in traditionally being cultures within global companies.

There are slowness movements in the USA who resist the doing nature.

Mexican fisherman story- Mexican is being, New Yorker business man is doing.

If you’re from a doing culture (USA, UK, big cities) and you want to do business or form a relationship with a being individual you have to talk to who they are outside of work. Know that they may not necessarily want to build a business if all it means is more work. But…If you can appeal to how it will help his family, enjoying life side of it…Then that may be worthwhile.

To improve his quality of life.

Norwegians are the exception, in that they are being but also direct.

Indirect high context is more likely to have a being mindset.

If you’re from being, and you want to interact with a doing culture … Then comment on their performance, give them respect for how good a job they’re doing. It’s motivating for them. Provided regular feedback. Be direct and clear. Low context.

Japan is the exception, they are doing but indirect.

You can see this in newspaper articles etc.

Chapter 10

Rules – particularism vs universalism

Example of if your friend drove a car and hit a pedestrian whilst going 75 in a 60 zone. Would you testify against them?

Knowing that there would be harsh consequences for your friend. Yes or no? Or would you claim ignorance?

Swiss = least likely to lie for their friend. 98%
USA= 95% agree with the Swiss.
UK, Germany. = Testifying honestly.
Spain & France 70% would refuse to lie. 30% would lie for their friend.
India, China =50% wouldn’t lie.
Korea Venezuela = 40% wouldn’t lie.

How you weight your obligation to follow rules and laws as compared to the obligation of friends.

Universalism. = Everyone follows the same rules, no one is an exception.
Particularism = there are particular examples where you adhere to the loyalty of your friends or family rather than the laws. They trump the rules in place.

Says rules are arbitrary, but loyalty and friendship is not.

A commitment to relationship is what should guide decisions.

USA is predominately rule based on universalism.
Hispanics or African Americans are more particularism.

Civil law = facts happy laws to the case. Europe, .

Common law = Anglo countries, UK, Canada, Australia. Judges make decisions based on precedent. Judge has a lot of power.

Special laws for indigenous people like aboriginals or native Americans at examples or particularism in universalistic cultures.

Sharia law too.

We all have certain particularism even in a universalistic society. White lies for example. Telling someone that their skirt doesn’t look like shit.

“If we make an exception for you, We’d have to make an exception for others”
Rules established order. Universalism at work.

Accounting for unusual circumstances = particularism.
Price sometimes is based on who is buying it. Universalistic asks ‘why does this happen?’
Particularistic… ‘Makes perfect sense that there’s a foreigner tax or foreigners pay more.’

Me. Could also just be greedy though.

Scheduled clock driven time = more universalistic.
Event time = more particularistic.

If you’re a universalistic person doing business in a particularistic society…Pay attention to this. They may think that it’s natural that you pay more because you are from a foreign country.

If there’s a company policy that states you cannot ‘grease the wheels’, you HAVE to stick to the rules…This is difficult because if you’re doing business with particularistic cultures and societies…You’re expected to do this .
Often find a “cultural broker” a middle man that will do this. To the right amount.
British government and Bloomberg where they don’t accept gifts…Allows them to remain objective.
UK government accepts the gifts in Asia. Just raffles them off later. Bloomberg doesn’t accept at all.

Chapter 11.

Expressiveness – neutral vs affective

Japan = very neutral.
Italy = very affective ..Lots of expression with their faces their hands etc.

It’s the way we express emotion. Not the feeling of emotion by itself.

Affective believe emotion should be displayed openly.
Neutral believe it’s is respectful to keep it from others.  Very reserved. Silence is welcomed.

Confucians like the Chinese is more neutral.
When arguing, people are expected to keep to predefined topics. Noble proud, quiet, speaks in a more monotonal way

Me. The argument with the south China Sea where the Chinese ask the Australians a question and they didn’t really stick to the topic, and then Chinese pressed again to say you didn’t answer the question.

Also with America and their political discussion where no one sticks to the topics. ..And the audience seems comfortable with that.

Affective seem more enthusiastic and spontaneous.

If someone is keeping to themselves they are seen as not being honest with their feelings.

MeMaybe this neutral way, is like China…Not saying ‘I love you’ to their kids or not showing open emotions to their partners.

There’s a Korean saying that says ‘you shouldn’t trust someone who is smiling in a photo.’

Nervous giggle is often found in neutral cultures. Much like China, Japan, Korea.

The concept of Face.
Correlates with cultures of harmony, neutral dignity.
Don’t embarrass yourself with being too expressiveness.
Difference between face and politeness is the extent to which it is done.
Even asking someone to speak up in a group setting can feel threatening to people of the collective group.

Neutral person may find sarcasm, joke making or swearing very bad, or at least not to their liking.

Me. Still, I think the point that they may not understand sarcasm is an interesting factor to take in. Meaning that they take things that you say sarcastically as real, and whatever terrible meaning is made of fun of, and probably meant to be seen as the opposite ..They take the opposite meaning and if you’re laughing about it…Will see you as the horrible person instead.

The author, I feel, assumes that even though the culture is different and proves that some concepts are very different… That forms of humour and even understanding is the same. – I don’t think that is true.

Don’t poke fun of yourself too much. Gives them stress to help get your face back.
If in meetings-  give the neutral party some space to reflect with themselves. Take a break every so now and then.

If neutral is talking with affective cultures – Open up. They see that as more friendly more trusty worthy.

Chapter 12

Social norms – tight vs loose

Saudi Arabia = tight culture. Strict rules. Narrow definition of appropriate behaviour.
Japan = tight culture. But not about religion
Netherlands = very loose culture.
Strong emphasis on welcoming other cultures.

Tight vs loose is how you choose to handle people who deviate with cultural norms. To follow or not follow cultural customs

Jetta= the capital or city in Saudi Arabia.
Very tight place.

Fins and Thais are loose. General lack of formality for how you’re supposed to do things deviation allowance is pretty big .

For loose cultures you’re likely to hear the word “should”.

Green tea with sugar…Is really unexpected because the culture is so tight, so people will often not bring you the green tea with sugar because that’s not what you SHOULD do.

Loose culture asks, ‘why should it matter? You do yours I do mine, live your life as you choose.’

Culture is more likely to be tight when they’re more isolated from others. More closed. The more you become exposed, the more difficult it is to say that your way is the only right way to do it.

Jewish culture for example is very tight.

Dense populations mean that efficiency is needed…So originally more dense cities were the more tight ones.

Being drunk though in Japan is a norm because it allows a let go of the tightness you can see the real person underneath.

Me. So getting loose cultures drink is silly. They’re already showing you how they are.

If society wears the same or similar clothing…The more tight it is in general.

Tight cultures are not necessarily against women. But they are typically.

Norway is tight.  However is NOW very equal opportunity towards women.
In 2017, Norway has required 40% of boards are legally required to be women.

If you’re going to a loose culture, you don’t always have to follow the cultural norms.  They understand more that people are different.

If you’re from a loose culture try to understand their culture…And carefully consider what the best response is.

Chapter 13.

Roots of cultural differences

From a Japanese perspective- ‘to struggle is human. And to persevere through this struggle is success.’

Me. Sounds very Mao- like as well.

From an American perspective. ‘To struggle is usually the first sign that you’re stupid.’

Why cultures do what they do.
Why some cultures put more value on indirect communication, and why do other put it on direct communication?

Psychology analyses this a lot.

Anthropologists however, ask “how do people survive here? ”

Anthropologists 1st look at food. That’s the start of a culture.

Farming is generally more communitive collective.
Hunting = more individualistic.

They become this way based upon how they address their question (basic needs) of survival.

Psychologists  = More the cognitive assumptions.
Anthropologists however tend to look back further in history.

Viking = more individualistic. More hunting.

What if you can’t grow or get enough = exchanges/ trading.

Me. If you can’t get what you want or one says they don’t need anything from party A, and denies party A from trading with them. Then it’s more likely that party A will go to war with party B. (Exactly what China did to the UK right before the Opium War) Therefore party B’s survival tactic may be to interact with trade to ensure other countries are happy so as they don’t get “punished ” for it. (Just like China didn’t do…thus resulting in the Opium War)

2nd. Offspring.
How marriage works also originally came down to how the environment was and about survival.

What was 3.???

4th. Governance. Laws and rules. Helps a society survive. All about survival.

5th. Modes of transportation. Based on the environment also. What is possible and needed?

6th. Protection from outside groups.

Cultural clusters are important to BEGIN to understand a group of people. Not to generalise everything. Some applies to some individuals, some don’t, but they ARE the cultural root of the people whether people like it or not.

“Sophisticated stereotypes” – neutral generalisations. Archetypes. The tendencies of a group of people to behave a certain way

The 10 cultural dimensions are archetypes. They follow a bell curve.

Applying a strategy which takes advantage of these archetypes is really making use of cultural intelligence.

Avoid negative stereotypes at all costs.

Me. At least to the person you’re talking to. And for those that you do discuss it with, state it in a way that maybe you haven’t seen the whole picture…Or make an effort to understand HOW or WHY things are the way they are, or seem to be.

Check to see if your 1st guess is accurate.

When meeting people keep these ‘sophisticated stereotypes’ in mind, but get to know an individual. What is cultural and what is personal.

Koreans are high power distance. Makes sense with the language .

10 global clusters

Anglo, Nordic, Germanic, east Europe, central Asia, Latin Europe, Latin America, eastern world Confucian Asia, South Asia, sub Saharan Africa, Arabian.

Geography, language , history, religion. Are the usual factors for making them clusters.
Americans put emphasis in being smart or talented.
Struggle indicates that you’re bad at it, because you’re not smart at it. So more likely to give up.
Asians put emphasis on perseverance.
The impossible maths problem.

Americans gave up because they hadn’t covered it.
Japanese kept going until they were told to stop.  Very indicative.

Chapter 14.

Anglo cultures

Australia, Canada, new Zealand, England, Ireland, white south Africa, America. Mainly white or traditionally white people. All English speaking. Most geographically dispersed.

British empire.
Focuses on personal space and hygiene.
About their environment and experiences.

Populations are from migrations from Europe and Roman empire. 420 ad. = Roman removing population from Britain.

Not Anglo Saxon anymore because it’s been blurred so much.

Nearly all have oceans on both sides of their borders. Desire to welcome immigrants as long as it doesn’t affect the Anglo culture.
Veterans day or remembrance day is common.

Cultural value dimensions
Anglo main points are: individualism, competitive orientation, short term time orientation , emphasise in doing rather than being.

Anglo Individualism-

Anglo culture is mainly organised around 3 things, individual rights, freedom and responsibility

Tit for tat. I do something for you, you do something for me.

If someone asks a favour, we expect it to be repaid. Or that if someone offers to do something big you think ‘what are you getting from it?’

John Darwin – Unfinished Empire book – Britain didn’t initially begin with any unifying ambition, but ended up as so.

Britain managed to get colonies to be collaborators in their own colonisation.

Anglo- short term time orientation. Quick wins. Little patience with |20 year plans.

Hallmarks of Anglo culture = protecting the rights of the individual and prioritising achievement and completion in a democratic society.

American dream used to be your own house and 2 kids, but now it’s are you pursuing what you want to do.
Americans are much more orientated towards entertainment rather than politics.

Socialism is thought to be so strongly loathed by Americans because the American culture concentrates on the individual. A person’s success and failure is almost entirely based on his or her own efforts and abilities.

Fate and external circumstances apparently don’t come into play.

Do’s and don’ts for Anglo.

Do be in time. Will be judged for it.
Don’t ask them how much money they make. It’s an individual private thing.
Gift giving is not necessary. Just be friendly
Allow for plenty of personal space

Chapter 15.

Nordic European cultures

Blend in , try to dress nearly and sharply, but not flamboyant.
Looking clean and neat without looking pretentious.

Thomas Sandal = Scandinavian fashion designer.

Stig Larson

Viking = men of the Vike. Area between Norway and Sweden
Scandinavian empire used to include England. Known for trade , exploring and telling folk tales.

Endurance, speed strength. Extremely active culture.
Love for the outdoors, making the most of life by the sea.

Ikea follows Scandinavian design. Simple functional and clean. Minimalist.

Yantee concept.

Yantee law. = Most important Scandinavian concept.

Modesty, equality don’t think your something special, humility scepticism.
Don’t criticise others, don’t flaunt your wealth.
Quite opposite to American culture.

Nordic. = Pursue your individual interest whilst allowing others to do that as well.

Ikea, Volvo, H&M clothes.  Crisp clean, blends in, functionalism & minimalism.
Should observe the simplicity in Nordic design.

Key values = more individualist than collective. But not as individualistic as the Anglo. Greater attention for the needs of the whole.

Protecting the rights of the individual so that everyone can have the opportunity to prosper yet me. not a free for all like America.

Norway lays outside the European Union. Denmark & Sweden stayed clear of the Euro.
Low power distance. Resist hierarchy.
Incredible distaste for inequality.
Strong orientation towards being out of the being , doing.

Working to live rather than living to work.
Work is to enhance people’s quality of life.

Most businesses are closed during the month of July.  In Sweden every employee gets 5 weeks of paid vacation.

Norway has been discussing dropping the work week to 30 hours. Not just to be generous, but because the society as a whole believes they’ll have a better society if people have a ‘whole life’.

Nordic people are committed to working smarter rather than harder. And the driving directive that fuels this is to enjoy life.

They often look at those that work 12 hours with pity, as they think, it’s a shame that they don’t have the skill to get done what needs to be done in 7 hours rather than 12. They see those longer working people as inefficient.

Being’ stems from the natural environment , I think around the sun.
Committed to protecting the natural environment.
Lots of Nordics non-work hours are spent outdoors.
Most Nordic cultures are loose and open to a plurality of ideas and perspectives.

If you want to rile up a Nordic person, you tell them that they’re socialist.
Generally 50-70% of their income goes in taxes.
Taxes go straight to the government.

Me. Just like Australia for that.

But they are equally committed to social equality and to profitability and efficiency. Hard to argue with the results.
Highest social marks for equality remained efficient and remained relatively stable.
Wage differentials are small.
High growth, low unemployment, high equality , high growth high efficient allocation of resources.
Any product you purchase is guaranteed for 1 year. Must be.
Lowest disparity between rich and poor is in Sweden and Norway & Finland.

The richest 20% is 4 times wealthier than the poorest 20%.
Singapore & United States = 10 times.

There’s a lot of competition between the Nordic countries. However Fins have the most practical and simplistic style.

Swedish are more inclined to be stylish.
Danes are the most direct of them all.

Very family orientated. All outdoor. Pace of life is a bit slower.
Yet you’d never go on about how busy you were… Because that would be showing to be someone special and frowned upon.
Also they’re very anti-religious.
85% of Swedes consider themselves atheist.

Do and be on time. Call with an explanation. To show up late is to think you’re something special .
Dress neatly but limit the bling.
Be precise and clear with your communication yet don’t exaggerate.
Don’t be late.

As they’re a being culture. Most people will be interested in your personal pursuits rather than your work pursuits. That’s how you build a relationship with them.

More relaxed attitude towards nudity.
Saunas are visited into the nude.
Nordic couples are more independent than most other cultures.

Chapter 16

Germanic cultures

There’s a German law that states ‘A person should enjoy their property in such a way that is not a detriment to his or her neighbours.’

Typically it translates to everyone needs to remain quite from 8pm to 6am. All day weekends and on holidays.
Cannot mow the lawn, drop glass bottles into a recycling bin, rev your car, blast loud music,
And it’s enforced too by court of law.

Cluster = Germany, Austria , some parts of Switzerland and the Netherlands. However the Netherlands is the biggest less German culture of this cluster.

All strong economies and interlinked between them. Germany is only behind USA and China as the world’s biggest exporter.

Greatest aspect is not their access to natural resources but their expertise in foreign trade.

5400 BC. Germanic cultural tribe.  Freedom of fighting well known for.
With Charles Demain – German culture spread through Europe.
Hitler’s goal was to unite the Germanic people into one German empire.

Me. So even though he was from Austria people saw him as Germanic, and as he worked within the framework of uniting the Germanic people, it was easier for people to get behind him. (That and the repression that was being felt after repatriations from the 1st world war)

As a cultural cluster it is one of the oldest in the world. A continuity of thousands of years.

Me. What does this mean for China? China is also referencing it’s culture, not the country as China as a land has changed and been inhabited by many other foreign people over time.

Strong influence of Martin Luther in Germany, so has a strong protestant culture. Therefore modern German culture requires each person to think for themselves.

For centuries Germany was the cultural centre of Europe. Beethoven, Wagner, the Grimm brothers.
Most primary and high schools require all students to learn a musical instrument. So emphasis is still put on the humanities and arts.
Rich in art history. Oldest art is in Austria.
Dutch painters Rembrandt, Van Gogh
Germany is the 4th largest producer of Rap and Hip-hop after USA, UK, and France.
Philosophers Kant, Nietzsche

Scientists Einstein. Plonk?

Not as individualistic as the Anglo cluster but definitely individualistic compared to collectivist.
Low power distance.

Everything is neat and tidy, governed by social norms. All houses are neat and tidy.
Scores high on the competitive index. About winning.

Show up on time.
Orientation towards doing is very high.

Work life and personal is very divided.
Employees have 6 weeks of holiday time.

Netherlands is a loose culture more open. But the rest of the Germanic cultures are tight.

Do’s & don’ts.  Thrive on a good debate, politics and religion.
Respect is given for a well thought out negative argument.

Chapter 17

Eastern Europeans & Central Asian Cultures

Cluster = Greece, Albania, Poland, Russia and Mongolia. Countries that were most strongly influenced by the Byzantine empire.

Eastern Orthodox churches.
Kazahk and Hungarian.
Bubshka dolls. Matroshka dolls.
Portable toy from nomads. And tribesmen.

Mongolians put a great deal of pride on their toughness. Nomads envied the towns.
Sharing drinks is used to get to know someone.

Me. Eases conversation. The culture thrives on hospitality.

Nomads normal way is to be tough, cautious and sceptical of outsiders.
But if you’ve already been invited to someone’s home, then they are ready to open their hearts.

They are collectivist towards family and extended family but not necessarily general society.
High power distance.
Unspoken pecking order and importance of respecting those roles.

Very particularist.  Depends on the situation.

Widely diverse group of people.
Constants = thought resistance, curiosity about new comers into their territory.
Now they’ve mostly shifted to industrial economies.

English widely spoken, but always good to learn a few words. They respect you for this.

Offensive = say they’re for Soviet republics. They have a long history before that, and they expect you to be aware of that.
If you don’t like their food. Just eat it anyway.
Very expressive greetings. Kissing several times on the cheeks. Head touches. Uzbekistan etc.


Latin European cultures

Cluster = Italian, French, Spanish, Belgium, French Switzerland, Portugal, Israel. Romanian

The cradle of Europe.  The remains of the Roman empire

Some of the finest cuisine in the world comes from here.
Food is incredibly important. Table etiquette is important.

Europe is the outcome of a ‘triple heritage’.
Europe has 3 big empires and cultural influences.

Greek, logic, debating , critical thinking , science rationalism, philosophy.
Roman organisation of states and geopolitical systems.
Israelis, Judea Christianity.

The Romans promised 4 things

  1. Salvation, physical and spiritual
  2. Peace and assurance of internal and external peace
  3. Freedom
  4. Justice.

A lot of the animosity French feel towards England is the northern Europe stepping away from the Roman empire.

French & the USA clash.
USA is direct, but French is even more direct.

France is taught what’s good but how they can make it better.  USA is taught what is good, but not necessarily what can make it better.

What is sexual harassment in many Anglo cultures, in Latin…It’s accepted.
Men in Latin America would be surprised if a lady was offended when they were called ‘beautiful’

Parenting styles – more authoritative.

Government is looked to as the answer, whereas Anglo…They’re more mistrusted.

Anglo = give people the education & opportunity to think for and succeed by themselves.
Latin is more guided. Helps more.

Americans often look to the French model for how systems don’t work.

Silverware etiquette is different too. Latin = looking inoffensive at the dinner table.
American hand switching = lack of forks, addition of spoons.  Or something?
American culture is more laid back and informal.
Most Americans don’t know, and often ask.

French & French Canadians. The Canadians are way less formal.

Government in France protects society from the ills of fast food, more regulation to protect people that can’t protect themselves.

Me. That’s not a cultural thing is it? Everyone does that. Americans do it for police. But somehow it falls short for other things.

Food is way more important in Latin cultures.
Expect to dress up. Rushed eating is rude behaviour.
Always use a utensil.
Don’t refuse a dining invitation. Great honour to invite someone to dine with them, sign of intimacy.
Quality of the restaurant = sign of respect.

If you’re asked to join for a business meeting, don’t discuss business whilst eating, wait until the coffee to begin talking business, because the meal is meant to be enjoyed.

Meals should be unhurried.
All of this holds true for eating with the Jewish culture. Meal was a sacred event to be enjoyed.

Do’s and don’ts

Be more attuned to good manners. Speaking a few words in the local language goes a long way.
When you go into a shop, don’t make demands…Ask for help…Be more polite.

Me. Seems normal to me.

Why are people not doing that??

Lecture 19

Latin American cultures

Difference between Latin American and Latin European cultures.

Latin Americans believe they are also in America. Just south America. Western people should be aware that they resist being referred to as ‘Latin’ American because it reminds them of their colonial past.

Same as ‘not American’, because then they feel unrecognised.

There’s a saying in Brazil, “For friends everything, for strangers nothing, for enemies, the law.”

Latin American food is more spicy.
Latin American culture is very collectivist.

Fairly low trust outside of the family, or the family network.

More physical contact.
Smaller personal spaces. If you step away it can be seen as rude.
Dress more conservatively. More open sexuality in television.
Most Latinos are more conservative when it comes to abortion gays etc.

Chapter 20

Confucian Asian cultures

Confucius believed knives and forks represented war and aggression.
Food should be cut up beforehand…And at the dinner table, just be peaceful.
Chopsticks were meant to represent gentleness & benevolence.
And harmony.
Ironically sometimes chopsticks is used in some martial arts as stabbing weapons, or darts

‘harmony & benevolence are the highest ideals’ /thoughts.

To better understand Confucianism.

The religion of Li.

Li – to strange in order. Etiquette, customs, order , manners, ceremony, courtesy, civility. All deeply symbolic.
The tighter the culture is, the more important it is to follow Li. If you break these, it’s considered you’re breaking societal norms and breaking harmony.

Yi – righteousness. Applying the customs correctly. To greet elders properly is to use good Yi

Ren– is the inner peace of mind and harmony when you follow the way of Li.

Japan is an even tighter culture than China. More important to follow customs in Japan than China.

Social harmony is supposed to be paramount in the needs for Confucian culture.

Number of relationships:

Father to son. Filial piety.
Elder brother to younger brother.
Husband to wife. Husband should be caring and benevolent, wife should listen & respect him
Elder to junior. Elder friends are responsible to the juniors. Juniors should always defer to the older or more seasoned/ experienced person in the relationship.
Ruler to subject. Subject should remain loyal, as ruler should be there to care for the subjects.

Need to always ask… ‘Who is in the more senior role in each circumstance?’ and work out what you do in that situation.

Unlike individualist cultures where the point of education is for your own growth, in collectivist cultures and Confucianism the point of education is about the benefit of your family and society.

Li is not blasting music, not speaking too loud in public, tactfully asking your parents about their health, standing up straight.

Me. Essentially representing your family well, and your society well.

Cluster is very high context.
Chinese brains are more focused in the whole context rather than individual items, or subjects.

Don’t try to disrupt these policies because you will offend people.

Me. Of course China has destroyed its own Confucian culture…So a lot of this doesn’t apply anymore. They’re trying to reclaim it back, but they’ve lost so much.

So why do business men often get each other drunk so much?

Essentially it’s to establish true friendship. To see those outside the boundaries of cultural norms, & know their inner thoughts. And ensure that they are consistent with their own.
Whoever invites will be the one to pay.

Point of the dinner is to solidify the relationship. Talk about personal life, and if you can .. Keep drinking.

If you can get drunk with them it shows your willing to get drunk with them, just like you would with your friends. ( therefore you must be close to friends in your relationship)
To drink with a new business associate is to be brought into their inner circle.

There are cases where excessive drinking is there to weigh you down, wear you out. But most of it is for trust.

What are the cultural values that most explain Confucian cultures?
Long term time orientation

Confucianism is THE most collective culture of all the groups.

Guanxi -connections.  Giving preference to insiders.
People less likely to spend money that they don’t have.
More long term focused.
Therefore more cash rich.
Very high context, prefer to speak indirectly, and be more neutral in their expressions.

Japan is the most neutral culture in the world.

Chinese and Japanese companies don’t trust each other so doing business together is notoriously difficult. .
China is more of a being culture. Whilst Japan is more of a doing culture.

Passing for drinking in Japan is more acceptable, China is not.

Singapore is included. Chinese make up 70% of Singaporean culture. Plus also has Indian, & Malay. And Christian Chinese.

Do’s and don’ts

Do try to eat with chopsticks. It’s not that they’ll see you as being aggressive. But they’ll see you as an outsider that can’t adapt.
Do try to be more polite and follow their cultural norms.
Do whatever you can to promote harmony. Avoid gossiping and complaining openly about someone else.
Don’t completely empty your plate.

Chapter 21

South Asian Cultures

Anglos food is something to sustain you. We eat in order to live.
Anglos can have it on the go. It’s more simplistic

Whereas many Asian cultures they live in order to eat, or rather the priority on food, enjoying it, and taking time is that much more pronounced & emphasised.

Indians, Malay, Indonesians, Thai etc… More complex , everything involves sitting down.

Me. Johnny and eating a hamburger in the streets of Tokyo and people just staring at him in surprise. Because they consider you NEED to sit down to enjoy it, to appreciate it and respect the chef etc.

Indians take days to make yoghurts, spices etc.

Indian phrase- ‘Eating with a knife and spoon is like making love through an interpreter.’

Cluster = Singapore, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Iran. (The culture of Iran fits more with these countries rather than the middle eastern cluster.)

This cluster represents 25% of the world’s population, but only 3% of the world’s economic output.
More dependent on agriculture as compared to any other cluster.
There’s not really 1 theme that combines them together that’s obvious at least.

The main thing is – they are more peaceful and have an interactive coexistence of such diverse cultures over long periods of time.

Obviously there are exceptions. India & Pakistan. Lots of it is religious based. Christians &  Muslims.

They generally prefer to have a sin, and the practice of giving a dowry for marriage.

Ming dynasty, Portuguese, the Dutch, Persians and Greeks, Romans, British, the Spanish. All dominated or tried to dominate the region, but the native people held together strong and still managed to fight the foreign presence.

Chinese have been moving there since the 12th century.

India is a very diverse place. 10,000 different languages spoken across India. 100 at least that are widely spoken. It is difficult for the Indian government.
Officially the government recognises 22 different languages.

South East Asia has a loose culture. High degree of acceptance. Much like Dutch culture in this regard.

46% = Hindu, 35% is Muslim, 7% Buddhist, 6% Christian.

Thailand = almost all Buddhist. Philippines = Christians. Indonesia = largest Muslim country in the world.

In the Constitution of India, Hindu refers to all Indians regardless of their religion.

Islam in Indonesia looks quite a bit different than Islam in Saudi Arabia.

What cultural values do they have? Most have?

Thai – Don’t point your foot facing towards someone. Make sure you stand for the national anthem, in respect for the king. Don’t touch anyone on the head. The head is sacred, feet are unclean.

‘My pen rai’. Means no matter.

Slow to anger, speaks softly. Proud of their cultural heritage, only country in the region not to be colonised. Called ‘the land of smiles’.

Many of the cultures are loose, way more being than doing. Very hospitable. Low uncertainty avoidance. Very collectivist and high power distance.

Not exactly the same as the Netherlands. But relaxed view of life and wide acceptance of religions and values. Many laws are made so as to be accepting of different people’s thinking.

Less pressure to adhere to your in-groups ideas. More freedom given to the individual.

Saving face is still very important. Respect should be extended to people regardless of religion .
Filial piety plays much less of a role in sea as compared to Confucian, religion plays a heavier role.

Do’s don’ts

Be conscious of eating practices. Simply asking a question about it goes a long way.
Look for restaurants that accommodate these things…It will go a long way.

Just because they’re tolerant about religious stuff.. doesn’t mean they like talking about it.
Let others take the lead if they want to talk about it.

South East Asians are high context. So remember your non verbals are being watched. What you don’t say, how your body language is, is also taken into account.

Lecture 22

Sub Saharan African Cultures

Family is very important.
The bride is very important in this. As she’s the birth giver. Honour and dignity is given to this woman.

Namibia they kidnap the bride first and dress her in leather and cow clothing.

“Perhaps one of the greatest ills of colonisation was that people/cultures lost the ability to survive on their own”

Why is Africa so religious??

Religion is a means to survival, health, children, rain etc.

Ubuntu – living together harmoniously so that together we can interactivity the living universe.  Should strive for reciprocity.

Me. I guess this is where the open source Linux software ‘Ubuntu’ is named from.

Family is a kinship family relationship, huge extended families…Family close friends etc. Whoever you accept regularly into your house.
People constantly send money back home because that family structure is so important.

Most of Sub Saharan Africa don’t consider South Africa as true Africa because of the strong influence of the Dutch and other colonisers.

Lecture 23

Arab Cultures

Left handed people have more trouble travelling through the Arab world than right handed people.

Don’t accept things with the left hand alone.

Me. I guess this is the poo hand.

Train to not use your left hand for a week before you go.

Arabs try to teach children to be right handed regardless of what they are naturally.

Left hand is used for personal hygiene.

If you speak Arabic, you are generally considered Arabic. (Moroccans are therefore Arabic)
Turkey and Iran are not considered to be in this cluster. Cultural values are different

60% of oil reserves are in this area.

Syria?, Libya?, UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan. Morocco.

Strong sense of loyalty to your culture.

Family is still very important. Loyalty to family.
Father’s and older men dominate the family, large families are seen as better.
Son brings honour.
Your self-interest is subordinate to the family as a whole.
Family and business are deeply integrated in the business world.

Most Arabs are very fashion conscious. Expensive cologne is often worn.

Plain white headdress = a man who hasn’t done his pilgrimage to mecca.
White and red or black and white = different nationalities and that they have done the pilgrimage. Hadge.

Omani men can order alcohol in a restaurant provided their heads are covered.

Saudi Arabia women have to be fully covered. But their faces don’t actually have to be covered, that’s a choice.

Many Arab women like the covering thing. In Arabic culture they consider the head and hair to be the most beautiful, only the husband should see this.

Saudi Arabia is having pressure from its own people to loosen up some of its own rules.

Arabic culture scores really high in the being rather than doing.

Yet they are still very savvy business people.

Are Arab and Muslim synonymous?  No.
Arabs only make up 15% of Muslims. Indonesia = biggest Islamic country.
Islam however governs a lot of their culture.

5 pillars of faith.

  1. Shaharah – no god but his, Muhammad is the messenger of the one and only God.
  2. Sallah – ( prayer) 5 times a day. Prayer almost always happens in Arabic. Pray, head bowing, or face washing.  Everything , business, study, courses is all structured around prayer time. Friday is the day of worship. Their weekend is on Friday
  3. Zakat purification – everything belongs to God, generosity and sharing with others. Not charging interest on loans.
  4. Fasting – Ramadan. Fast dawn till sundown, abstaining from food, drink, sex.
  5. Hadge – the spiritual pilgrimage to mecca.

2 million go to mecca each year. Only Muslims are allowed to do hadge.

More short term than long term orientated culture.

Teaches initiative and individual responsibility, but also the underlying notion that everything is preordained from God, so there’s little use trying to change it.

Me. Seems contradictory.

Most Muslims will celebrate anyone who believes in God ( any religion) . However they don’t understand if you have no god.

Jihad – means to struggle.

Some people don’t consider themselves extremely religious, but they still find themselves influenced by the Islamic culture.

Arabic perspective.

Men find in OK to walk hand in hand down the street.
More expressive with their touch with each other.

Me. Indonesians.

High priority in being and relationship building. Small talk, private lives is necessary and normal in business meetings.

The spoken contract has far more weight than written contracts.

Family first, friends 2nd.

Honour and shame very important.

Time is polychronic.

Me. what does this mean? That they do things whenever they come up?

Society aims to protect the rights of the family, whilst western aims to protect the rights of the individual.
Age and wisdom is highly honoured in Arabic world.
Western world, beauty is prized.

Do’s and don’ts

Respect the cultural norms regarding men and women. Avoid extended eye contact or touching.
Avoid using your left hand.
Do travel there.

Lecture 24

Using all this information- Cultural intelligence for life

South East Asia trip example.
Research online.
BBC country brief, country profile. Which news stories are popular.
DKI witness series, cultural exploration.
Read novels or memoires that takes place in these regions. Or a novel based there.


Francois Bezo – The Gate.
John Swane – River of Time. ( Foreigner in Cambodia when the Khmer rouge took over.

Chart Korbjitti – The Judgement. Exploration of Power and appearances , on how Thailand works. A story about temptation.

12 Thai short stories. Morsel boureng.


Paradise of the Blind. By Dương Thu Hương (multi layered look about life in Vietnam.)

Up country. By Nelson de Mill  ( Vietnam vet that comes back to Vietnam after the war on a very different mission)

Read these kind of books with a critical eye.

Watch movies set in the location.

Think about how to boost your cultural intelligence before going to certain countries.

Me. I should apply all of these things to me, and what I supposedly am.

Cultural Quotient drive– Go beyond the tourist stuff.
Cultural Quotient knowledge – Understanding of cultural similarities and differences.
Cultural Quotient strategy – Awareness and ability to plan in light of your cultural understanding. How to plan business meetings, pack gifts where needed etc.
Cultural Quotient action – Ability to adapt in different cultural situations. Being prepared to adjust.

South East Asia example again.

Individualism vs collectivism.
Western world generally = individualistic.

Look at how people order food…Do they share? Or eat individually?

Power distance. Notice how the two genders relate. High power distance usually = more distinction between how men and women should interact with each other.

Do they use formal titles? Or is it more casual?

In South East Asia -Status and respect are given most to people who are well educated and to people that are older.

Uncertainty avoidance – how are the rules and guidelines listed out? How do you see people sticking to them?

High uncertainty avoidance will list out the things you should and shouldn’t do. Will likely experience less flexibility like adding an extra person to your hotel room. Or making an unusual request.

To what degree to people seem unnerved in a change of plans?  Things that may indicate tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity in a culture.

Thailand & Vietnam are moderate with uncertainty avoidance. But not as much as some other countries.

Corporative vs competitive.

A corporative culture will focus on how people are working together to achieve a goal. But competitive culture will focus on a nationalistic focus on people being the best.

Thailand , Vietnam, Cambodia cooperative. About embracing different cultures.

Time? Look for patterns on whether or not people stick to meeting times etc.

Long term goals or short term goal. Look for news stories and see what they focus on.

Germany , Switzerland = more punctual than South East Asia.

Governments in South East Asia send to be equally concerned of short term and long term whilst there civilians seem generally short term focused.

Context orientation – Lots of clear signs at the airport or ambiguous?

Being vs doing. Not just about work ethic.

If people are sitting around and are content, it’s quite likely an indication of a being culture.
Thailand, Arab countries.
But Norway is being and they’re active.

Me. Basically are they ‘living to work’ or ‘working to live’?

What priority’s come through from a conversation with taxi drivers. Massage, meditation & festivals, all signs of being.

Particularism or universalist – difficult to tell unless you break a rule.

Universalist more likely to enforce prices so that it’s fair to everyone else.
Particularist more likely to give different prices based on the situation for locals vs tourists.
Particularism is more the norm in South East Asia than universalism.

Neutral or expressive. Notice what kind of facial expressions people use when taking pictures of each other. If a lot of noise happens, how exclusively to people respond to it?

How much physical space is there when people speak to each other?

Tight or loose. How much variety is there in how people dress?

See how the general public react to someone who is clearly deciding from the predominant norms.
On the whole, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam are pretty loose cultures.

But some tribes with the countries can be fairly tight.

Applying these make your travel more interesting. Allows you to see diversities you may have missed.
Helps you adapt to the customs much more easily, and use the knowledge, whether it’s for business or tourism.
Will give you insights into other cultures you encounter, maybe even within your own country.

Take care of yourself. Physically and emotionally. Our personal well-being plays a pivotal role in whether we interact with other cultures or not and even to be able to see these cultural points.

Me. If you’re feeling stressed or not rested, take a rest, take some personal time, allow yourself to be relaxed, well rested and open to interact with another culture without it playing on your mindset so much.

If you’re tired a cultural difference can make you annoyed. Rather than inquisitive.


As soon as you board your international flight, set your watch to your new time zone.

Attempt to follow the sleeping and eating patterns of your destination country. Generally eat about half of what they give you on the plane. Don’t drink alcohol on the plane, it will make you dehydrated, and tired. Which will make you more irritable when you land.

Drink lots of water though.

Force yourself into the new sleep patterns as soon as you arrive. No midday naps.

When you do arrive, take a walk outside around your hotel or whatever and get a lot of sunlight. (Apparently sunlight is one of the keys to fighting off jetlag)

When it’s light be awake, dark…Sleep.

You’ll be more easy to engage with a different culture if your well-being is looked after. And not stressed or tired.

Go visit a grocery store as soon as you arrive.

People watching, see what’s for sale. How is the signage? Buy some new items and try them.

Pick up a copy of an international paper and a local paper and compare them. What stories get time, how are they different in how stories are being told?

Talk to taxi drivers if you can, get their opinion on life.

Do whatever you can to get beyond the tourist areas.

Always be respectful and safe.

Even in international chains…Look for the cultural difference seeping through. Who are showing up at these places?

Art galleries are interesting places. What do they focus on? See modern day perspectives.

Music too. Or early morning exercises.

Apply your cultural intelligence to your home country too. For different ethnic groups for example.

Cultural intelligence: help you develop friendships with local & other internationals there.
Helps lessen the frustration of schedule orientated cultures working with more people orientated cultures.
Helps you build trust within, and among multi-cultural teams.
Best ways to foster innovation and effectiveness.
Help you better appreciate and engage with many people in today’s diversifying world.

It is a lifelong pursuit.