Culturally, who are you?

Looking around the office, I notice – physically – up to at least 4 different possible nationalities working in my vicinity. Listening to their voices, I can notice up to 10 different accents. Amongst those accents I notice further delineation of intonations and strength of language. Observing over a week or so, I notice there are distinct patterns of behaviour which I’ve not seen previously. Observing over a greater period of time, I notice distinct working patterns, that I am not sure if I should attribute to culture or to personal performance capabilities.

And that’s where things become interesting. How do I know whether I should attribute a working trait to your cultural way of doing things, or to your actual ability to perform a job? Easy answer is, I don’t. I remember doing a module in a leadership workshop, where the delegates were all European, and all with English as their second language. A key thing they needed to understand about each other is how they communicate with each other. And – importantly – how to understand the intent behind the message. It was a truly fascinating module with incredible insights being shared across the group.

So this week’s Q&A post is all about sharing cultural insights, either personal, or your experience of working with others.

Here’s my insight:

I have both Indian and English culture. This means a mixed bag of how I approach work. I have the very English attitude of being sarcastic and enjoying banter with work colleagues. I fully expect this banter to be witty and challenging. I have a built in love of all things to do with London. Anyone says anything against London, or England, and I’ll be all guns blazing! In work, I will be direct and to the point. Fools are fine, and I have the tolerance of a saint, but I will express annoyance if you continue to be a fool. I fully expect to be promoted for good work, and to be rewarded along the way.

My Indian side means I will always defer to authority. It takes a lot of effort for me to be assertive with management if I don’t think I’m being respected appropriately. I don’t like confrontation and will be diplomatic in pretty much every situation I face. Family values are vital to my being, and I will always put my family above work. (Couple this with English stubbornness, and you get an interesting balance) I have a strong belief in God, but will not and do not see the need to evangelise about this. I will share, readily, food and treats that I bring in for those I work with.

And that’s me. So. What about you?

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Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

8 thoughts on “Culturally, who are you?”

  1. As a man of God do you believe in Science as well? We’re having debates in our office… can you believe in gravity and science if you believe in God?

    1. Ha! Hardly a man of God, just someone who believes in God!

      But, yes, I believe you can believe in both. Science explains many things that happen in life perfectly well, reasonably and logically. I think the belief in God helps when you go through hard times, or when joyous occasions happen, as there’s nothing scientific to hang your coat on for them.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  2. Hi Sukh

    Fascinating post and one that I will mull over. I guess we are all component parts of our backgrounds, experiences and role. For me the different elements are senior HR person versus Mum, which have different priorities and values, that require balancing, at times compartmentalising…and juggling ;).

    Loving your work today!

  3. Excellent blog, Sukh. Got me thinking…
    I am proudly English – or British – whichever you prefer to call me. I love the humour, sarcasm and wit. When I moved back to the UK, I knew this was home (I think I physically need the mickey-taking, the twinkle in people’s eyes when they are teasing). I love our pride, our ability to stand strong – especially when the chips are down. I love, love this country and country-side. I think vegetables and healthy food are great.

    I also have American influences (lived near Seattle between 8 and 18). I could live in the US again, easily, but it wouldn’t be home as such. I am positive, have a can-do attitude, believe that I can influence things for me – for the better. I love Good hamburgers, pizza and french fries.

    I think I’m a mixed breed, but that’s not a bad thing – there are lots of us! I’m a whole lot of other things too, especially with values like trust and respect, but I don’t draw a difference on those between the two countries.

  4. Great post Sukh,

    I am myself Slovakian, living in England for last 6 years. I remember coming to this country with no English language abilities at all. I felt very welcome though, and I still do as I try and absorb all elements of life in British culture. Talking HR I am huge believer in “differences” being an enormous competitive advantage if managed properly.
    I am deeply grateful for this post Sukh as it made me think about how much I am culturally Slovakian and how much I am already British. This cultural transition has been nothing but fun, all because of mutual respect between Me and fellow British citizens.
    Thank you All.
    Peter aka HRbeginner

  5. Sukh – another great post!

    I too have managed to merge 2 rather distinct cultures, the Portuguese and the British. Easy-ish task when we’re talking about the worlds oldest allies (all thanks to Port Wine – a good reason in my books).

    I’m a great believer in Integration: when in Rome, be a Roman, so whilst in the UK (or elsewhere), I’ll integrate (or try to) as much as possible whilst sharing my culture with others (not forcing it on them) and also spending time learning about theirs. That’s just as important.

    I’ve adopted the British way of living (hard not to after 16 years), embraced the culture and it’s norms, such as witty sense of humour, sarcasm, banter, sandwiches for lunch, pint after work, Corrie, yet I’m still 100% Portuguese.

    I’ve been lucky in my career to work with people from all over the word, particularly in my last role. One observation I made over time is that I tend to gravitated towards those who integrated culturally, rather than stay in their silos. I still do that today.
    Also, I have naturally tended to stay in touch with the non-brits after leaving past jobs, as my facebook network can testify!

    A sign I’d perhaps integrated too much was when I went to run a course in Madrid a few years back, and the local manager told me: ” You’re in Spain now! You’re Portuguese! You can stop behaving all formal like an English man. What have the done to you?” Opps!

    PS: I too share the same feelings about London as you do…
    “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”_— Samuel Johnson

  6. Oh, and culturally I’m a coffee lover, value friendships and relationships, family, community, long lunches with friends and plenty of food (always with bread!). Also a big fan of I’ll do it later culture…oops!
    As my partner (Scottish, with an American dad) says: you suffer from the Portuguese syndrome of over cooking and over feeding people! I guess there’s worst things to suffer from 🙂

  7. Quite frankly your comments are fecking awesome. I’ll not reply to each one, but thank you all for taking the time to visit and give us these rich, wonderful insights.

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