06 Apr Cultural Values

I met a pleasant shopkeeper in Nice, France, and she asked a lot of questions about Americans. She expressed a desire to see the “real” America someday, but then said her choice destination would be New York! She admires the American work ethic as the French only work 35 hours per week, and take 5 weeks of Holiday per year. With her praise, she also said that she perceives that many Americans are very closed-minded. She was aware of her bias, and at the same time, believed her perceptions were accurate.

With the topic of leadership, there is always a discussion of values, but the concept is often abstract. When captured in a brief conversation, the differences in values become quite apparent whether cultural or individual. The conversation with the French woman made me think of my own perceptions and biases. How do your values define you; and do they determine how you define others? Are you open-minded when and where you need to be?

2 Comments
  • IntlEntreprenr
    Posted at 00:33h, 07 April Reply

    This is so true, Jan! I’ve been thinking a lot about “cultural values” lately. Every time I have an interaction with someone that doesn’t fit with what I was expecting, I’;ve been trying to trace it back to where our cultural values might diverge. When I’m interacting with someone from another culture – that’s when I really notice more pronounced differences in perceptions.

  • admin
    Posted at 08:09h, 28 April Reply

    Jan, very interesting post. This is Curtis, BTW, from HealthGrades. I found your blog via Linkedin. I like it!
    The topic is pretty deep, man. It’s far more important than I think most people consider. The flip side of being “open minded” is that we as a culture appear to have decided that being “open minded” is a new virtue, something to work toward in a process toward national redemption for previous errors.

    The irony is that a concious effort to reach “open minded nirvana” can lead to a dangerously naive willingness to ignore instincts that are warning us of impending danger.

    In my travels throughout Latin America, I experienced moments in which I distrusted an individual, and then found that little voice arguing that I was just not being “open minded”. I nearly got myself killed a couple of times when I made a concious effort to ignore my instincts and instead “trust” when I should have gone the other way. I knew a young lady for whom the end result of the same conflict was disastrous. She survived, but not intact.

    The point is, it is not enough to be “open minded”. We must learn to be wise and open minded. The path to that higher state is fraught with danger.

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