"Oh, but this is Asia..."
"Oh, that wouldn't work in Asia..."
"You don't understand, in Asia things happen a little differently..."
Everywhere, most people do business with people they like, associate with people they like, like people who think like them, dislike people who don't, care about relationships (but are trumped by significantly more money/better terms, yes even in Japan), and so on.
There's differences between Asia and elsewhere. But it's not that different. Not at all.
Steve Jobs went to Istanbul, the city that founded coffee and coffee hangouts.
The Turks are now drinking Starbucks.
In a product sense, we're definitely one world.
Sebastian: It would be awesome if you could elaborate on this in a future post. I worked for a startup in Beijing for four months and found that the culture shock created an exaggerated sense of "Asia difference." Michael Edge (commenter) makes a great point that I agree with, but I'd love to hear your more elaborate thoughts here. I'm emailing you something that has me thinking more deeply about it...
Agreed. One huge thing I've noticed from travelling is that people are generally all the same. There are minor differences, such as religion, food, etc. But at their core, all people want to be liked, loved and appreciated. We're all extremely similar, despite what external appearances would have us believe.
The fundamentals of how humans interact is basically the same everywhere. Culture is a veneer over the top, and a relatively thin one most of the time - it depends on how long cultures have been in contact.
In the case of Asians and Europeans who have been trading for a very long time, this veneer is really quite thin. To a westerner visiting China for the first time things may seem alien at first glance, but as soon as you start interacting with people you quickly realise it's all basically the same. The same applies for anywhere on the eurasian landmass where people have been trading for millennia.
Even in the case of remote tribes that have had little or no contact with the outside world this still applies. The 'veneer' of culture may be somewhat harder to penetrate, but once a level of trust has been established, the basic interaction between people is still the same.
Marcus, if it's not that different the way he does business, it's not that different. It may often happen a bit differently, but if you can just ignore the difference and it goes away, it wasn't real to begin with.
On the 24th of December, I wrote a post "Happy holidays. Let's have a Skype chat."
It's something I'd thought about doing for a while. Hey, why don't I take open hours to chat with people, and offer my take on anything a person is interested in. I've had a few other bloggers and website runners express curiosity with how it went, hence, this post -
The Good -
I connected with a lot of interesting people. In the guidelines to that post, I wrote "I blocked out 20 minutes for each call, so it might be a good idea to pick one or two things you’re working on or curious about before we get on the phone, because it could go fast" - most people did, in fact, have a couple items when they called, and we wound up covering a lot of interesting ground.
I wasn't sure how 20 minutes would work, but it worked surprisingly well. There was minimal chit-chat and how-are-ya's at the start, which is cool. I've never been a fan of smalltalk, and have always made an effort to move past it into interesting things as quickly as possible in real life.
hello there southeast asia i’ve only just arrived we’ve not met formally though i do hope we’ll be friends no pressure, i just wanted to introduce myself you may remember my parents who met you here some years ago how many i really couldn’t say and it has been quite some time don’t remember them? well, no matter take it from me, they’re nice enough people whom you once met or so they claim
southeast asia, i am wearing the same green shirt i wore in the americas i wear it not as a gesture of familiarity nor a token of goodwill but because i am a lackluster fellow who has not shopped for new clothes since coming to meet you i hope you won’t think ill of me
southeast asia i grew up with stories of you with slideshows of you glowing ghosts onscreen my parents young slim dark-haired smiling before temples fountains statues slides shown to guests after dinner as i played on the rug beside the sofa with my trucks
southeast asia my sister and i were the only kids we knew who ate with chopsticks thought it was exotic knew the old names of your countries siam peiking burma bombay when this was that for whatever reason
southeast asia will it mean anything to you anything at all if i say that before i left ohio left the americas i made pictures of you in my mind i cringe now at the poor likenesses and mourn that in them i made you only a sort of charicature of what i’d imagined of this of you of a continent as far from my own as can be imagined