Danger, Will Robinson!
I recently did an Inter-Cultural Training Session for a Dutch executive on Doing Business in the United States and he recounted an anecdote from his look-and-see trip to California. He mentioned he was in a bar with a few dozen American friends, and one other colleague from the Netherlands. At one point, he said, literally everyone’s phone beeped, rang, vibrated, flashed or signaled in some way at the exact same time. Everyone’s phone, that is, except for his and his Dutch friend’s foreign phones registered in Amsterdam.
He said it was really freaky and wondered if all the Americans were going to be air-lifted out thanks to the local warning and the two clueless Europeans would be left to face Armageddon.
It was his first exposure to this very efficient Amber Alert system, that recently set up an enhanced warning system to allow wireless providers to reach millions of cell phone customers in the USA. The program has saved countless lives, and divulges the information on numerous platforms for greatest impact.
It’s precisely these sorts of cultural oddities that can make assimilating in a foreign culture so challenging, no matter how well prepared we may think we are.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to seek out a mentor to provide guidance on the inner workings and assorted ins-and-outs of the local culture.
Though this helps enormously, we can never get rid of misunderstandings completely. And, we wouldn’t necessarily want to, anyway, because it’s the experiential learning that has the greatest impact. And can make for some hysterical cocktail conversation fodder as the journey unfolds!