Aligning Cultures

Jo Geraghty


Respecting the culture

Date added: 28th Aug 2013
Category: Aligning Cultures

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a warning to travellers to research their destinations before they leave home.  Following on from the recent publication of the “British Behaviour Abroad Report 2013” the advice is intended to stop British travellers from unwittingly flouting local laws and customs.

Whilst there are certain behaviours which would not be tolerated worldwide it can be all too easy to fall foul of a local cultural custom or law and thereby either cause offence or even end up with a fine or prison sentence.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse so if you chew gum on the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system or eat in the vicinity of a Florence church then you can expect a fine to follow.

The FCO warning only highlights a few examples of local custom but it may help to cut down on the 19,244 requests for consular assistance which were received in the last year.  Interestingly just short of a quarter of these requests originated in Spain so if you do plan to go bare-chested or wear a bikini away from the beach front area in Barcelona then you may be one of those adding to the consular burden in that country.

But the advice to find out about the culture before embarking on a venture is not just appropriate for travellers.  Starting a new job, taking on a new supplier, forging a relationship with a new client; how many times do we unwittingly break some cultural taboo which leads straight to misunderstandings and an unhappy, or non-existent, relationship?  Hiring for cultural fit is becoming increasingly important in the business world as is engaging your suppliers in the values of the company.  Taking time out to understand and respect the culture at the start can make all the difference.

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