Cultural differences and writing/communicating

Cultural differences influence writing in more ways than one. Hofstede’s model describes several cultural experiences that create a perspective for an author. These perspectives are country specific and correlate with values and country goals. For example, a country like the United States scores low on the Power Distance scale because American culture is democratic. We do not misappropriate power because we chose to have equal opportunity. Individualism, masculinity vs femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, and even indulgence all effect the perspective of an author and in turn influence literature and communication.

I work for a non profit who’s mission is free knowledge and culture for the world. The company is global and I interact with people from all around the world. During my first few days on the job, I learned a lot about how to speak and write globally. For example, Americans have been overly masculine and while growing up I was taught the culture of “Mailman” or “Manpower”. After a few conversations with people in the office, I realized that I needed to change my perspective or I would end up turning people off.

At the same time, the structure of the organization and how it is run was also effected by culture. Everyone along the chain of command was from a different country and some where still living in their homeland working remotely. This caused a lot of issues when discussing best practices and or leadership issues/solutions.

A lot of countries have a different view of individualism and uncertainty avoidance. I noticed that there where only a handful of people that where able to look past their own cultural differences and still do the right thing. These people where able to notice their own faults and allow for others advice and help/consideration. At the same time I saw people remain the same and suffer because of it. These people usually remained quite and apathetic allowing the situation to play out or dismiss itself.

I have respect for everyone at my job and believe that they each act the best they can given their cultural differences. No one is perfect and it takes experience to learn from mistakes. We all do the best we can.

Andrew Sherman


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Wikimedia Blog

Digital Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

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