The traditional way of approaching cultural differences is to look for differences on geographical and religious grounds. Divergences may also arise from the values that affect life. Nowadays we are also used to explaining behaviour by the year of birth - from baby boomers to Z generation.
While having the co-creation workshops to better understand the wishes and needs of the foreigners living and applying to work in Finland, it appeared to us that the idea that one's origin was not very relevant. There are no better, nor worse persons – there are only different ways of understanding life, changes that take place in the surrounding world and the ways of meeting other people.
One way to understand each other is to understand the cultural evolution in our society and the characteristics of the different cultures that emerged. Currently, the four cultures are traditional, modern, postmodern and transmodern. We look forward to seeing what comes after the transmodern.
This way of approaching the phenomena of different cultures is a very logical one. It's based on the thinking that it doesn't matter from which country one comes, but behaviour is based on the values that are relevant to you. There is also the idea of evolution caused by the changes in the surrounding world. There are differences between countries of how fast the cultural evolution proceeds.
You can learn a bit more about the four cultural groups here: Cultural evolution and Tourism
From Baby Boomers to Z-Generation
In our time, one common way of segmenting consumers has become the approach of when we were born. This segmentation is used in particular when discovering how the customer wants to be contacted for marketing and sales. In the workplace, it is equally important to consider different ways of communicating to be the most effective. Millennials and Z-generation, for example, don't use mobile phones for speaking as much as for using the applications.
You will find the typical behaviour of different groups by searching the above words through a search engine. You can use new ways to approach different cultures as a basis for discussion in the workplace. An efficiently functioning work community is based on the understanding of the diversity of workers and their strengths.
Good to Remember - Traditional Ways of Thinking Still Exist
Employees from different cultures are used to different kinds of approaches. Finns should recognize our own way of behaving to be ready to face the situation in a positive and efficient way.
Finland is a democratic republic and the equality among people can be experienced in a relaxed way of addressing other people – even the visiting tourists. Generally speaking, everything in Finland works just fine, but we still have a lot to learn when serving clients, working in sales and designing the services of a multicultural working environment.
There are 5.5 million Finns spread over a vast area. The density of the population is among the lowest in Europe and the Finns have a tradition of isolation and keeping a long distance from other people. The Finns are usually known as quiet and withdrawn people in public occasions. This can sometimes be understood as impolite sullenness, especially when in a service situation. But that is just on the surface.
For instance; the Russians, British, Chinese, German, French, Iranian, Turkish, Japanese, Italian or Swedish people have their own way of identifying themselves as people of the world. Some of these nationalities are European – some are not, but there are still some of them identifying oneself at first by their own nationality and that is very important to understand when creating a communication culture in a tourism company.
These nations mentioned and many others – have a special high pride in being big nations, being rich in culture, a great past and being imperiums. This is something these people have not only learned at school but already in nursery rhymes, bedside stories and in playing with other children.
In the End, It is About Human Encounters
All people are carrying their unconsciousness into all encounters. The psychological model of icebergs by Edward T. Hall is describing in a very simple way what happens when people of different cultures meet each other. The conscious behaviour is actually influenced by the unconscious. This fact is important to keep in mind while trying to create a culture that it is understood and respected.
The only way to understanding in relationships between employer and employee is to listen, tell and learn. This creates a culture and nothing created a better culture than a happy face and rewarding atmosphere.
1. When meeting each other – use greetings (shake hands etc...)
2. Expectations of small talk
At business encounters, at meetings and seminars; even at business negotiations, the western or European style of public behaviour, greetings and small talk have been assimilated to the etiquette in the international tourism industry. Hugging, kissing on the cheeks, shaking hands, slapping on the shoulder, “giving a high five” are all quite common at informal encounters already when meeting on the second time, but not usually at work. This is a relief for us Finns and to many other people that are not used to showing ones positive attitude.
A smile and shaking hands is hardly ever misunderstood.