The myth of globalisation | Peter Alfandary | TEDxAixMay 01, 2020
I sometimes describe myself as a culturally conflicted Englishman. I am first generation born in the UK. I was educated at the Lisa French School in London for 13 years. I spent much of my childhood in Italy and 30 years as an international lawyer and have always been fascinated by cultural differences, but I think it was upon arriving in New York as a 21-year-old student that I first tasted the oxymoron that I would like to share with you today: Global Village, not global village in the way Marshall brilliantly described. McClellan when he predicted the Internet in the 1960s, but more like a word that we use, an expression that we use a lot now, my experience in New York was not earth-shattering but it left a great effect on me.
I spent my first day walking the streets of the city. The word impressive had not yet caught on and at the end of the day I decided to take a taxi to dinner with some family friends. I knew taxis. I had taken taxis in London, so I got in the taxi and in my very English. Politely, perhaps apologetically, I said to the taxi driver good afternoon, do you think you could give me a ride? I read him the address on the paper, looked around at his eyes, it had become strange at this stage, his brain was clearly working overtime.
The response was unforgettable Sunny Joe I want to go Don't you want to go? Well, of course, at this stage I was confused because I didn't want to go because they were waiting for me for dinner, but I thought for many days and many hours about that meeting. rude confused it was me it was him and it made me realize for the first time how different we all are and how differently we communicate than Sonny, do you want to go or don't you want to go? It was followed by many other examples during my career as a young and not-so-young lawyer.
I remember when I was a very young lawyer negotiating with the Japanese and I came back to the office very proud. They accepted everything I said and my boss looked at me and said Peter, what? Are you sure? Oh yeah. They kept saying yes and he explained to me, of course, that yes meant they had heard me, not that they agreed. I realized that with my Dutch, my German, and some of my American clients, directness doesn't necessarily mean a little rude, like my taxi. driver in New York and of course I also learned that the English really speak in a code that no one understands.
I could cite many examples if we had time, but one of them always reminds me of the Italian that when an Englishman told him but the Englishman was a little disappointed about something the Italian said the Italian said why he mentioned it. I explained to him that a little disappointed in English meant being extremely angry and you will probably never be forgiven. I learned about negotiations and the fact that displays of angry emotion do not necessarily mean that a deal has been made, even leaving a room. I learned about time. Now I'm one of those people that if I have a conference call at eight thirty because I'm what's called monochronic, I'll dial in at 8:26 in case the password doesn't work the first time, some cultures don't, some sofas, time is, how should I put it?
A guideline, the world won't end if the meeting starts twenty minutes late, relax, what are you going to get? I got very excited because I also learned about lunches and negotiations, so in some cultures a long lunch in the Middle East, in France for example, can be an integral part of a negotiation, and I always remember a Frenchman who once said So when his New York colleagues suggested they had a working lunch with a sandwich, he actually felt physically ill. I learned about the use of silence in Finland. I am still learning every day. You see, my belief is that the idea that there is a global village is a
myth, there is no single village. there are many villages in our world we talk about global warming global economy global crisis global communication but village life village culture still rules I'm not making any value judgment when I say that, but I do think we have to stop believing in the quasi-
mythical powers of globalization and we have to start remembering how very easy it is to misunderstand each other, we live in paradoxical times and what I call the paradox of the 21st century has two pillars: the first is the predominance of English in, certainly , the world of Commerce as the world's lingua franca;
The second is our relentless and total dependence on digital communication; both lead to what is called an intercultural dilemma, the belief that because English is spoken so much and because it is so easy to communicate, we really understand each other but we sit in boardrooms British Americans Chinese Russians French after negotiating English but always We understand each other but often do not interpret subjectively We jump to conclusions We look at the world through eyes and lenses designed to correct our vision and not the other people we stereotype We also think and react very quickly and the question we may want to ask ourselves is whether we speak enough.
We send one hundred billion business emails every day. I feel in my own isolated cultural environment. space in oral clue that my words may have been misinterpreted my tone may have been misinterpreted I write that email in a vacuum without being aware of the cultural variables so culturally we are not global, you see, it is all a matter of context, it is It deals with the individual or the cultural group to which he or she belongs. he or she belongs to my context your context his or her context we communicate or rather we have contact but contact means communication you know it's a bit like internet dating you can meet someone online but at some point you have to have dinner with them and I I also ask myself a question that you may have asked: Have we forgotten that phones were originally designed for conversation and dialogue?
Are we too dependent on data at its source? Culture shock was a term we probably remember being used to describe that feeling. of disorientation that an expatriate felt when he first went to another country he experienced it firsthand and in situ but now something different has happened the culture shock has become invisible it has become virtual it hides behind our technology and the learning experience that we have I would have gained from a conversation or face-to-face communication Missing psychologist Paul Bats who lived once said that what is true is not what I say, but what you understand I can't see you that well, but I bet if I ask the next question how many women in the room think that men always understand them how many hands are raised not many interesting and if I then change the question say how many men in the room think that women sometimes don't understand us are there any men?
If there are still hands raised, you see, it's all about programming in this world of ours, we are not all Macs or PCs and even the same computer can have a different keyboard, we must concentrate now on creating new software so that those of you who are Macs in this room and those of you who are PC in this room can communicate effectively and harmoniously and the key to that is cultural intelligence. The key to that is understanding different cultures and learning techniques to adapt in order to improve, it is not about taking it away it is not about losing our own cultural identity cultural intelligence is about simply realizing that not all of us reason and think in the same way. the same way that culturally we look at a variety of important things very differently risk uncertainty leadership power hierarchy relationships trust but it is Also about understanding our own culture within those parameters there is a beautiful saying: the last thing the fish notices is the water in the than nothing.
Cultural intelligence can be taught and I believe it is one of the key instruments to help us navigate the paradox of the 21st century. my conviction is simple we need to make cultural intelligence part of our educational system at all levels it must become a cornerstone we must teach it in our homes we need to teach it in our schools in our universities in our business schools in our places of worship in our community centers in each of our villages our children need it I need it you need it our colleagues need it and there I also venture an idea perhaps our politicians and our leaders also need a strong dose of cultural intelligence yes, this is a call to guns, if you will, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to each other, you know, the dream in me is that if we make the teaching of cultural intelligence at all levels part of the system educational, we may return a little more to intolerance and tolerance increases who knows, but at least let's make it part of our daily interactions the French writer o 20 sythetic savetti said something beautiful si tu de faire de moi more Flair my de Mulas e Tamaki, if you differ from me, my brother, instead of hurting me, you enrich me and that's why the next time you send an email or the next time you get into a taxi or an Uber in New York, remember that your town does not represent v- world and maybe if we collectively all do it every day, May we create a better and richer world and hopefully a safer world.
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