The Culture Map

Have you ever been in an awkward situation caused by a culture clash when you were abroad? I got this thing back when I was in Korea for a summer school. It was when I about to have lunch with my assigned Korean buddy, she asked me, “Sera, how many cars do you have at home?” I paused for a moment, tried to comprehend her question. Oh, she is eager to know how rich I am. I replied, “I have three cars, one for each of us!” This time, she was startled. “Oh gosh, you are so rich! I don’t even have one.” Oh buddy, please, you believe what I just said?

For Indonesians (or maybe just for me), that kind of question might be considered impolite. It is equal to stop someone who is walking on the pavement and ask, “Hey dude, how much money do you earn in a month?” That surprising question given by a foreigner friend on a very first meeting triggered my curiosity about cultural difference. At first, I wonder why Koreans seem so materialistic (pardon me if it is just happened to my friend) and yes I got an insight about materialism from a survey done by Ipsos. From that survey we can see that Koreans value more of their success by the possessions they have than the global average and they feel more pressure to be successful. Ya ya ya, no wonder if my Korean friend asked me so.

Image courtesy of Erin Meyer

One and a half-year past from that moment, I was hooked to read this book shortly after reading an article about cultural difference. I had a feeling that this book would be awesome and my gut was exactly right! Open few pages of The Culture Map, you will be welcomed by the wisdom of Mrs. Chen. Few more pages, you will understand about the high-context and low-context as an introduction to cross-cultural communications. If you are excited with what you read, go on, because there are a lot more hilarious, even disastrous real-life examples of cross-cultural communications. I personally like chapter four and six because they both talk about trust. On chapter six you will encounter the explanation of peach and coconut relationship based; trust is from the head or the heart; and brief history of egalitarian Scandinavians (that eventually leads me to another great reading). Overall, I find this book very interesting that I finished reading it pretty quick. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional or an executive to read this one because the practicality of this book is applicable to both business and personal situations.