TravelBlog 9 – Cultural differences

Until you actually get to spend some time working in a different environment, it's very difficult to get a handle on the subtle differences that exist between cultures – whether they be borne of nationality, industry or company.
There are striking differences between the ways in which people in our Sydney and Hong Kong offices operate, even though there are a reasonable number of expats in both locations, and that we work in a company with it's own very strong culture that comes, in large part, from the owner-managed nature of the business.
In Hong Kong, the office stays relatively quiet. In Sydney, people quite frequently converse from one side of the office to the other. In Hong Kong, the day starts relatively late, and goes on well into the evening. Sydney starts early and finishes closer to “on time”. Hong Kong, lunch is an important event that people make time for. Sydney sees a sandwich grabbed at the desk.
When you are working remotely from your team, it's all too easy to not pick up on these subtleties, and that can form the basis of conflict without either side really realising what is going on. Whilst technology is undoubtedly making the world smaller, actually spending time with people and finding out how they tick is still so very important. Getting the time and budget to do so, though, becomes more and more of a challenge in so many organisations.
Shanghai tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how that, very new to the company, operation works.

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