Why do Indians stand so close together in lines? Warmth?! Love?! Pickpockets?! Line cutters?! Or could it be because there just isn’t enough space allocated to the group providing the product or service at the front of the line (e.g. Police enforced). I honestly have no idea! This article claims that Indian “men’s queues invariably have a large number of ‘pushers’ who derive peculiar pleasure out of shoving and jostling each other. Their ‘glueing up’ is not to push the others out, but forward, accompanied by raucous cries.” (If you have further insight on this phenomenon, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.)
Now For Something Completely Different…
I’ve always been fascinated by cultural differences. (See my blog: AmericansInBrazil) At one time, I wanted to dedicate my life to better understanding the social and cultural norms of all the various global cultures. Surely, this would be a marketable skill—global organizations need culturally-minded team members. However, as I pursued this interest, I discovered two obstacles which caused me to rethink my goals:
- Cultural natives will always be better informed than an outsider like me. (e.g. someone from a town in Argentina will know the history and vernacular of the people there, more than a BYU Latin American Studies major would.)
- But I can be a middle man. I can develop relationships which I can call upon to connect my organization with those who are truly informed.
- It is simply not realistic to be a master of every culture norm. I discovered that culture refers to more than just each nationality; they also refer to specific cultures which exist at micro levels (e.g. teams within a company, or families from a specific part of town).
- Instead of memorizing all of the customs of every culture, a more realistic approach is to embrace the concept of cultural competency.
Wikipedia defines cultural competency as an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in the context of human resources, non-profit organizations, and government agencies whose employees work with persons from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds.
Cultural competence comprises four components:
- Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview
- Attitude towards cultural differences
- Knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
- Cross-cultural skills
In order to be culturally competent, it is not imperative to know the customs of every culture. Rather, it means to be open minded and respectful when seeking to understand cultural differences, thereby facilitating effective communication and interaction with people across cultures. Why do Indians cue the way they do? I don’t know, yet. But, through observation and discussion, I know I can discover the reasons behind this cultural norm. And in the business world, knowing the factors behind a behavior is the key to finding solutions.