in Language & Culture, Our People

In North America, you wouldn’t belch during a meal as it’s considered bad manners; however in China and India, burping is completely acceptable—a sign that the food is delicious. Having knowledge about the differing dining habits around the world comes in handy, especially for frequent travelers wanting to make a good impression at the dinner table. But for company leaders involved in international business, cultural sensitivity is a must. Here at CSOFT International, we come from different backgrounds and are strategically placed in different locations around the world. This means that some members of our CSOFT family are living overseas, immersed in a culture different than their own. In the first of our two-part series which aims to leave CSOFT’s employee’s cross cultural blunders exposed, we asked Vice President Matt Arney and Senior Manager Robert Derbyshire to share their personal experience with culture shock.

Robert Derbyshire, Matt Arney

Robert Derbyshire

Nationality: British

Lived in China for 5 years

“One cultural difference I’ve noticed is the approach to text messages. I’ve made many blunders by not replying to Chinese friends’ texts in a timely fashion. In China, it’s expected that you’ll respond within a few minutes; in the UK, it’s normal to reply hours or days later. One day, I met a friendly girl at an Internet café and we exchanged numbers—something else that wouldn’t happen in England. On my way out, I got a text saying that it was nice to meet me. Half way home, I received another text asking if I’d received her first one. Two minutes later, I got a third text saying that I wasn’t good at responding and my Chinese was rubbish! Needless to say, I didn’t meet up with her again.”

Related:  Translating China: Succeeding in China’s Translation Industry

Matt Arney

Nationality: USA

Lived in Japan from 1991 – 1997

When I first arrived in Japan, I spoke zero Japanese and undoubtedly made numerous cultural blunders. After several weeks, I desperately needed a haircut and decided to brave a local salon for a trim. I confidently walked in and requested a haircut in English. I said to the stylist, “just cut a little,” using hand gestures to show her roughly 1/2 inch. She nodded, implying she understood my request. To my shock and horror, I ended up with a buzz cut. Apparently she misinterpreted my “just cut a little” to mean “just leave a little.” I owe her a debt of gratitude as this incident was a major reason I enrolled in a Japanese language school.”

If you are living or have lived overseas, feel free to share your cultural experience below. And for more on this topic, stay tuned for the second part of the series next week.

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