A Noticeable Cultural Difference

USC Campus

Being a guest and a student in another country with a different culture, sometimes gives room for some interesting discussions. On many aspects Denmark and Australia are very similar towards the perception of the world; however I have discovered a difference that applies to a large amount of the citizens living in the subtropical Queensland of Australia.

A noticeable difference from Denmark to Queensland is the houses and the way they are constructed. I have had the argument with high educated academics, but they do not seem to see the need. What I am talking about is the need for insulation. Insulation is widely used in climates of low temperatures, because it keeps the heat in, and the cold out. This is economically as well as environmentally a good investment, because the money already spend on heating the house, is well saved because of the insulation. What is not well understood is that insulation should matter in a subtopic climate.

Let me try to explain: In subtropical climates, houses are like big refrigerators. The concept of a refrigerator is to keep a closed space cool. This is best done by an insulated cabin with a cooling system to it. If you leave the refrigerator open it will not stay cool for long, and the energy bill will rise dramatically. Houses in subtropical climates often have air-conditioning, which applies the same function as a refrigerators cooling system. When the house is not insulated, it is the same as leaving the refrigerator open. Simply all the energy consumed by the air-condition system, to cool down the house is wasted, because all the cool air is disappearing out of the walls and windows. Not insulating is not very environmentally as well as economically responsible. Even though it seems quite straight forward, the population and even academics of high education doubt the need for insulation, leaving the environment and the bank account to suffer.

The conclusion must be that whether or not you are in a warm or a cold climate, the same concept towards insulation applies. Either you seek to keep your home cool or you seek to keep it warm. I does not matter which climate you are in, you still need insulation to minimize energy consumption.

Danish music without limitations

Medina Album Cover

As I thought Danish music had a limited reach, I was surprised this evening. I was attending some evening gathering in what is called the pavilion, a common area for the students to hang out. I got to meet a lot of international students from Germany, France, Norway, America, Australia etc. However I seem to be the only Danish guy so far.

What I noticed during the evening was the selection of music. Mainly mainstream, such as Party Rock, Mr. Saxobeat and so on. However in-between were also played Medina and Rasmus Seebach, which are popular Danish artists performing in Danish. I must say I was surprised to travel 12.000km to hear the same music that is played in Denmark. Apparently my assumption about Danish music being limited to a rather small Danish audience has been wrong. It apparently is also known and played in the wide world and I am wondering what other Danish objects I might stumble upon. Lurpak the Danish Butter brand might be the first, as I managed to buy it in the store today.

Today’s lesson learned. Watch out for your assumptions; if you do not know it. There is a possibility that you might be wrong. Do not let that assumption limit your vision.

Be careful with irony across cultures.

Alexander Hold Irony

“Irony is a great tool when doing business across cultures!” Or not. – Example of Irony.

Who would know it was Irony, if I had not said it? Probably not many. In general irony is not working when writing, because a main part of irony lies in the strictly sarcastic tone of voice. To compensate for the disability to set a tone, people try with smileys and other symbols when writing, but in general people are more or less unsuccessful. Therefor try to avoid irony when writing!

Not just is sarcasm evil when writing, it does also have certain limitations when talking. Usually you would use sarcasm among friends and they would have no problem getting the fact that you were being ironic. The problem happens when you bring you sarcastic humor at work and to your first business meeting. Acting as a salesman in a local community, irony will usually not cause you any trouble. But the day you sit in a meeting with an overseas business partner and fire up some ironic joke, you will experience the true evil of irony.

The problem is that irony or sarcasm is often different from culture to culture. It exists in every culture, but the understanding of humor can be very different. Therefore be careful when telling sarcastic jokes! Frequently ironic jokes get misunderstood and in the worth cases it ends up costing the deal. A man that has experienced on his own and has studied the concept of cross cultural business behavior is the Author and businessman Richard Gesteland. From his book “Cross-Cultural Business Behavior” you can read real life examples of clients walking out of a meeting because stupid ironic joke or a basic misunderstanding of the cultural differences.

So if you want to avoid getting in trouble, keep the irony between you and your friends. And go to work as a professional.