What You Need to Know to Manage Cultural Differences in Virtual Global Meetings.

“So Tanaka-san, what do you think of Sandra’s idea?”, you ask of your team lead in Tokyo on a Zoom conference call. You’re in London, Sandra is in New York, and several other members of the global team are in various other world locations.

Tanaka responds with what looks like a smile on your screen, then remains silent. Maybe it’s the connection, you think.

“Tanaka-san, how’s your connection?”, you ask.

“Good, thank you, Collins-san”, he replies.

“Oh, ‘cause I didn’t hear your response, so I just wasn’t…


Cultures Cope Differently. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Keep Going. We are all trying to figure out, yet again, how to live our lives, run our businesses, and survive in another “new normal”, this time in a Covid-19 world. Having passed through the three initial stages of denial, anger and acceptance at the beginning of this crisis, we are now all faced with the question of how to keep going with socially distanced relationships, up-ended schedules and general uncertainty. Whether Covid-19 changes the globalization — or de-globalization — game in the future remains to be seen, but in the…


Everybody working in the 21st century is instantly global: you are on a conference call with your global team, your next big market is somewhere overseas, you are sourcing new talent abroad. No matter who you are, or what you do, today you are crossing cultures to do it. And while crossing borders today is easy, crossing cultures is hard: if you don’t get the culture right (and your competition does), you don’t win the business (they do).

But getting the culture right can be a challenge. What does it mean to be “culturally competent”, to develop individuals who ooze…


Several years ago, I stood in the doorway of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and watched the snow fall silently in the entrance to that sacred site on a very dark and holy night. The mumbled prayers of many pilgrims rose behind me, along with the occasional ringing bell, and the soft scuffling of priests and acolytes taking up their positions as guardians of that disputed ground. Somewhere deep inside the dark, incense-heavy interior, “Silent Night” was being sung, the soundtrack to the amazing Jerusalem blizzard that was raging just outside the church’s door. The snow was…


In the Land of Bella Figura, really solving a problem is not as important as looking like you’re solving the problem.

I was supposed to have been gently awakened by the ringing of church-bells outside my hotel window on the Grand Canal last week. Instead, I was jolted out of bed by a series of rising siren tones, each one higher than the last, indicating the level of ‘acqua alta’, or high water, that was about to rush through the city streets. I counted four tones, which my hotel concierge told me the night before, meant the highest possible level…


IT WAS A DARK & STORMY NIGHT…

…When I Spent Halloween at a Haunted English Manor House.

The wind-swept Salisbury Plains are just a few miles west of London, but exploring these barren and chilly hills on a grey October day a number of years ago, I felt as if I had also stepped back a millennia or two: I could feel the presence of Druids dancing around me at the pillars at Stonehenge, and when I checked into my hotel a few miles away, a cold mist instantly seeped into my very being, confirming the hotel advertisement that the…


…And What You Can Do About it.

“But Greta in Germany acts nothing like what I’ve heard about Germans in general.” — US-American manager, based in Frankfurt.

“Ahmed grew up in Riyadh, sure, but he went to Oxford, and spent summers with his Dad in France, and is nothing like other Saudis I know” — British team lead, based in Riyadh.

“Carlos and I know know each other well, so Mexican culture doesn’t affect how we work together” — French supervisor on-site in Oaxaca plant.

I’ve heard these kinds of comments so many times when consulting with global managers and…


You Don’t Relocate Today to One Culture: You Relocate to Everywhere.

In today’s changed world, cross-cultural training just isn’t enough.

What we now need is something new, that goes beyond traditional cultural training for living and working in another culture, which gives us the skills to be culturally agile anywhere and everywhere, what I prefer to call global skills development training.

Organisations and individuals working across cultures have long known the value of cultural training: most companies with a presence in global markets have, either through bitter experience or wise awareness, come to appreciate the bottom-line advantages that cultural preparation provides, for the expatriate and family being assigned to a foreign…


“J’AI DEUX AMOURS, MON PAYS ET PARIS”.

Je me souviens.

Many years ago, long before I could understand what Paris meant to the world, before the noisy and useless headlines would have their way, before I learned to pause before a newly blossomed rose, I was trapped in a sea of encircling cars on the Place de la Concorde.

“I have to get to the Gare du Nord train station”, I repeated to myself as I tried to avoid yet another potential collision on that notorious, massive roundabout in the heart of Paris. I was already late to pickup my friend who was getting off the train from Brussels, cautiously…


Now, how am I supposed to get out?

What Happens When Cultures Value Rank Over the Rational.

Yup, that’s my jeep. And that’s my driveway (quick cultural query: why do US-Americans park in a driveway, but drive on a parkway? But that’s another story for another time. For now, back to the driveway and the jeep): and that’s also my pile of gravel. The gravel and the driveway and the jeep are all on the little island of St Thomas, USVI, a uniquely Caribbean culture that only happens to technically — and tangentially — also be US-American. Lucky for me that I can split my home-base between Brooklyn, New York (home to the largest West Indian population…

Dean Foster

World traveler (100+ countries), cross-cultural business expert, author, speaker, founder of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions, www.deanfosterglobal.com

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