Monday, January 17, 2005

Being French in America: Bridging Oceans of Differences

An American who has spent several years abroad in other countries, I never felt more "American" than I did when I lived in France. I felt it was a culture of polite indirection, circuitous discourse, and ephemeral business values and goals at odds with what I had learned in Silicon Valley. I'll never forget the bid my company lost with Euro Disney, an American company employing international staff. My boss's explanation for why they should have taken our proposal despite our pricetag and my understanding of why they didn't were 180 degrees divergent. A few years later, I'm still trying to understand my 18 months there. (And, it must be said, I feel a bit foreign in the US much of the time, especially around election time.)

Here's a very interesting article by a French consultant who lives in the States and writes about cross-cultural workplace issues. I'm not sure it's capturing exactly what I experienced, in terms of how I understand the cultural differences I saw, but it's valuable for me to see a French experience on the issues. I especially appreciated the section on "Feedback and Self-Esteem." See Life in America: an International Perspective.

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