Differences in work culture

Whenever we have business meetings or training, one thing I do apart from participating in the meeting is to observe the cultural differences in the way people do work.

Note: I am very much biased towards western way of doing things. 

1. Work life balance

The general perception in here is that west are more into work-life balance than asians. That is absolutely true. Insisting on work-life balance makes you be perceived as a slacker or lazy and there is this general peer pressure to show your face in

Last Thursday, we had a meeting at 6 PM. It ended at 10:45 PM. That was after an entire day of office work from 8:30 AM. The important point to note was no one ever apologized for making us all stay that late. Via email. In the meeting. When telling us to stay back for the company presentation. They assumed that is was but normal that people stay back when needed and not even bother mentioning it even as a joke. They were even sitting in the office and emailing about work at 11 PM.

If it were me, I would have apologized several times, asked if it were okay, be conscious of the time and try finishing sooner because people are doing me a favour by staying back longer and thank them all 3 times.

If I were the boss, I would let my employees come in later the next day.None of that happened. I do not say that there can never be a time you will be staying back late in office but I do not like people’s time and staying late to be taken for granted. It is like, nobody has any life beyond work.

2. Personal Life – The Oxymoron

This is something I have observed in USA , Canada as well as here. Far East Asians almost never ever reveal anything about themselves or their lives beyond their work role. You will not know who they are except as a business partner. This is an oxymoron because there are no boundaries between work and life when it comes to time spent on work and you will receive emails at midnight.

For example, most westerners will talk about their kids, their spouses, where they did their college, their interests outside work and chit chat in general. East Asians, at least all the people in my office never ever do that. Even when asked. They will skirt the questions but not answer it.

Like, if you were to ask them, how many kids they have, they will try to avoid it unless you persist. I do not think it is a state secret and nobody is asking you to reveal all your children’s details. So, I don’t get what the fuss is all about.

If their kid is currently studying abroad in the country where the business partner is from, most people would say something along the lines of: “Hey, you are from ABC country. My child is studying there. I have been to this city a couple of times to visit her. Very nice. I liked this place and I tried that blah blah…”

Their conversation goes like this –

“You are from ABC country. Have you lived in this city? Do you know this city?”

Foreigner – ” Ya. I used to live there. Have you been to my country?”

“How long have you lived there. What about city #2?”

F – “Nope. Not city #2. I went there on a holiday though. Have you been there.”

“Yes. I have visited.”

F – “So, did you go there on a holiday?”

“My kid studies there.”

F – “How did she end up there?”

“I don’t know.”

End of conversation.

What are your observations? Do you have similar experiences?


4 thoughts on “Differences in work culture

  1. Hahahaha that is so true. I notice that with our Indian side a lot, it’s like 150 questions and you don’t know what the heck is going on in their life other than what they had for lunch LOL. Our family seems to be quite secretive but at the same time inquisitive…

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