Cultural differences and misconceptions?

August 12th, 2011

We came across a number of differences in the rules of the road whilst driving in Europe which highlight how cultural differences can impact on potential conflict situations.

In the UK we are so used to giving way to incoming traffic onto a dual carriage way that it is almost instinctive to do so. When I did so in France in an attempt to be helpful, I got the middle finger treatment. Incidentally, I also got the middle finger treatment when I pulled out in front of a French driver. I will admit that I had not given quite enough room but in my defence it is more difficult to judge when you have your steering wheel on the wrong side of the car and are relying on passengers to assist.

Driving in Italy the give way rules are reversed, so it is ok to give way to Italian drivers. However, I know from experience that, a moment’s hesitation in navigating your way around a city brings swift disapproval and honking of horns which is not entirely helpful! That said when we got lost finding our way to a hotel in Italy a rather nice young man got out his own car and personally escorted us to the correct location. How brilliant is that? He went so far out of his way to ensure we found it and were ok that we now love all Italians!

To me these are good examples of how our actions (often with the best of intentions) can be misunderstood and misconstrued by others, particularly when we are operating under different rules. It also demonstrates how others reactions to situations will differ according to the context and cultural differences. It is very easy to react in a way that would be seen as acceptable by some without thinking that to others such a reaction may be totally unacceptable. To avoid such situations causing further conflict it is important to try to stand back and understand both the context and the other persons point of reference. With that in mind I resisted the temptation to respond with similar hand gestures and simply smiled and waved.

« All posts

Leave a Reply

Our Newsletter

Testimonial

Hayley’s report was very professional, it dealt with all the issues raised and was particularly thorough. She had clearly taken the time to fully understand all of the issues and background. It was complex but the report really helped to break it down and I’m hoping we can progress in a positive manner following the recommendations.

Group HR Manager, Energy Sector |

More Testimonials »

Latest from the Blog

View all blog articles »

Featured Case Studies

Group Conflict – Conflicts between teams

It is not uncommon for conflict to arise between different teams. This can have considerable impact on both individuals and performance. A number of approaches can be used in this sort of scenario, including neutral assessment, team facilitation and group mediation.

Read more »

Conflict Coaching – Shareholder/Director dispute

Agreement could not be reached to enter into mediation in this situation and therefore coaching was an alternative support provided to one of the parties. The relationship between a majority shareholder and a shareholder/director was causing conflict. The relationship would be ok at times but disagreements would flare up from time to time and this was beginning to impact on the business.

Read more »

View all case studies »

Close