The Wheel of… Culture

The Wheel of… Culture

Have you ever arrived at the agreed upon time, waited 20 minutes for your customer to arrive, only to have them express surprise at your apparent distress?

Perhaps your customer has a different cultural orientation to time. Culture can be examined as a wheel with 10 different spokes: nature, time, action, communication, space, power, individualism, competitiveness, structure and formality*

Your orientation to time may be very much single focus:

  • One task at a time
  • Commitment to schedules
  • Punctuality taken seriously
  • Tasks central
  • Plans followed

A single focus orientation to time is typical in North America and Northern Europe.

But your customer may come from a multi-focus approach:

  • Multiple tasks done at one time
  • Commitments taken lightly
  • Relationships central
  • Plans change frequently

A multi-focus orientation is more typical of South Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. So next time you plan to meet with a new customer or colleague, remember that they may bring a different perspective to the table. If your expectations aren’t met, there may be cultural difference at work!

Credit: Adapted from Terence Brake and Danielee Walker "Doing Business Internationally"

Author: Maureen Geddes