Talking about cultural differences

The topic of cultural differences has always interested me and I found interesting the work of Geert Hofstede who has systematized the roots of cultural differences into five dimensions. I was particularly intrigued to see that ethnic Latvians are more like Scandinavians and that Latvia culturally belongs to the Northern Europe and not Eastern Europe. At the same time, talking about culture in a work environment has always been difficult. Culture is such a “fluffy” topic, and it is so easy to blame culture. Every now and then I hear about software engineers working in distributed projects that cultural fit is a challenge, that “they” have different values, that “we” do things differently. And, to be honest, transferring the theories from the books into practical recommendations is not an easy task! The question of what does it mean in practice to have different cultures among software engineers is not straightforward. Besides, generalizing people behavior in a particular country is dangerous, since along with the national culture, there is regional, organizational, team and finally individual culture and individual differences ultimately dominate the national ones! Yet, a while ago I received a task to develop a cross-cultural awareness course for two collaboration companies from Sweden and India.  Continue reading

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