Tag Archives: faux pas

Whining and Intercultural Connection Theory

Here’s an article that may help you with intercultural communication, or maybe not. You be the judge.

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Here’s the article:

Whining and Intercultural Connection Theory

By Shelle Rose Charvet

The weather has been unusually bad lately. Too much snow. Too much rain. Not enough rain. Too dry. And the price of gas keeps going up on weekends. And don’t get me started on the Canadian dollar! When it goes above the US dollar, I lose a bundle in the exchange.

Doesn’t this sound Canadian, eh? To the outside ear, this may sound like whining, but what do they know? This is how Canadians connect! And connecting is important, right?

In Berlin, I greeted the general manager of the hotel where I was working. “Guten Morgen Herr Ronald. Wie geht es Ihnen?” He smiled, looked uncomfortable, mumbled something and left.

My local meeting planner Annemarie said, “Shelle, did you really want to know how he is?” “Of course not,” I replied, “it’s just that in Canada we need to exchange at least two sentences.” “Well in Germany we only need one,” she explained.

Okay then! One sentence. I can do that. No problem. But what was I going to do about the traditional German need to be perfect? “I must be perfect at all times and so must the speaker.” How do I get rid of the Perfect Directive and connect to my audience? Through an interpreter? Without losing my credibility? In only one sentence?

I gathered up my courage. Briefed my interpreters. Walked to the front of the room, smiled warmly and proceeded to screw up my attempt to use a traditional German greeting. My interpreter, standing beside me, fumbled her translation back into English, right on cue. We paused, looked at each other, both shrugged a “so who cares” kind of Gallic Shrug[1] and continued.

With one sentence, we had lowered the expectations from perfect to human, made people laugh, and didn’t entirely destroy my credibility. Yeah, but something was missing. I still hadn’t quite connected to my group yet.

“Isn’t it amazing how bad the weather has been this summer, even for northern Europe, especially when the summer doesn’t last very long?” I commented to my group. Now everyone was nodding their heads in agreement.

That’s it I thought! And I gave birth to The Connection Theory on the spot:[2]

1. Each culture has a topic of conversation, to be discussed in a particular number of sentences or duration in time for the precise purpose of connecting rather that communicating specific information. To connect one needs to match the topic and required duration of conversation.

2. Each culture has a precise “order of business” in their places of work wherein a specific number of minutes is taken for greeting, working, informal chit chat, breaks), etc., in a particular order. This order of business ensures that a personal connection will take place.

But you know the problem with theories. They don’t always work in practice. So what do you do when in doubt? Whine about the weather of course. The Canadian Connection Strategy may just be the Universal Connector. There is only one way to find out, n’est-ce pas?

Bon voyage. Gute Reise. Safe travels.

Shelle

 

 



[1] I first learned the Gallic Shrug while living and working in France. It is a one-shoulder shrug which is meant to communicate: “What the heck. Who cares?” It is not to be confused with the two-shoulder Jewish Shrug which generally signals “So who knows and why are you asking me anyway?” I now teach various shrugs as high stakes negotiation techniques.

[2] I gave birth to the Connection Theory metaphorically only. If you were thinking that I actually gave birth, on the spot, in front of the audience, then perhaps you are reading this article a bit too literally.