Here are three short stories to illustrate what miscommunication caused by cultural differences might look like:
There is no “No” in Asia
Imagine that you are a project manager from the Western World, working with a remote JAVA development team in the far East. You are dealing perfectly well with your client and happily sending the tasks to your peers, that gladly accept them on the other end of the world. One day, you find out that one of your tasks was not completed, then another one, then one more, than at once you figure out you have 36 hours left to complete 1076 more tasks and you are on the verge of a breakdown, but simply cannot leave your client alone now, because there is an event planned, that requires your web application to be online at that particular hour. Not believing what is going on, after everything was perfect and you got all the “yes, no problem” messages on HipChat.
You take a deep breath, try to fight back the frustration and start investigating what caused all the problems. At once you realize most of the requirements you’ve sent were unclear and some of them misleading. You gave requirements that were unacceptable, but you got a “Yes…” on the other side of the line for a reason you would most probably never understand… And now it is too late, there is nothing you can do. The project has failed. You wild depressed in your chair. It is 6pm and you don’t even have the energy to go home….
And than you receive a message from the other side, yes, this same side you are mad at. Somebody wants to help. Than you receive one more message, and one more from a different person. At once you have a development team of 12 people at 12 am their time willing to stay with you until the end and YES, to help you. Your mood slowly changes, and you can feel motivation fleeing through your body. You jump back on the mouse and keyboard and start revising the requirements. After one sleepless night and a half, 46 coffees and thousands lines of code, you cannot believe it, but you have the project ready to be deployed on the production server…
Now you know, there is no “No”.
We are not yelling, this is how we speak in Macedonia
Imagine that you are a Software Engineer with more than 15 years of experience and a whole lot to share with the younger developers in your company. You are about to visit the newly opened office in Skopje, Macedonia and meet the newly formed Drupal Development team. All very young and enthusiastic about their new job.
You have meticulously prepared training materials to share for the kickstart of this new Drupal project. At 08:54 am you enter the tiny but cozy conference room and clean the whiteboard, while you are waiting for the team that comes at 9:04am. You share your screen and open your presentation, open your mouth to start speaking and right before a sound comes out of your month you have already received our first question “Are we going to develop it in Drupal 7?”.
This was just how a session of 4 exhausting hours began. You can not even tell in a linear story what exactly happened, you just know that you have a headache and that you had to fight back the intensive downpour of questions, comments and ideas for four hours not being sure at the end that you finished the presentation you had initially prepared.
After the working day is finally over, you have to drink a few Rakia-s to loosen a bit, and are finally able to render what has happened during the ideas chaos in that room. At once you realize that the implication you got from the team would actually greatly impact the quality of the project and smile…
😉 doesn’t mean she’s flirting in Belgium
Imagine you have just started working in a new company. You get immediately involved in a project and the project manager puts you in a chat room with the designer, who’s profile picture is so hot. (Excuse my French). Staying alone with her even in a virtual room is a bit intimidating.
You start discussing the design she created. On top of the cool profile picture she has, the girl seems to be talented as well. You start working on the Front End development. The next day you deploy the first version of the homepage. Having in mind your passion for the detail, you have put this twisted roll over animation on the icons that was not required. You share the link and receive back “I like the rollover effect ;)” . And that was it. You blush and your heart rate intensifies and you feel like jumping from the window. Wellah, the office is on the ground floor.
A few days later, while already feeling in a relationship with the designer, you speak to the (male) project manager online and you receive “The client would like to use the rollover effect on all the pages ;)”. Oh my. The “;)” again. Questions start popping up in your head. What is that supposed to mean?! You take your pack of cigarettes and passing behind the monitor of your colleague you see another “;)”. And now you know… With heart a little broken, you get out for your cigarette break and think on the importance and meaning of the emoticons.
Here is an illustration on the amount of meaning emoticon bring to the words:
Here is a link for the most curious of you – Scott Fahlman, The inventor of the smiley faces 🙂