It’s fine. (No, it’s not)

It’s been over 20 years but I still don’t seem to ‘get’ how the British communicate. Funny how when you’re busy and exhausted, physically and mentally, you go back to your MO – Hofstede did call culture ‘the software of the mind’.
I’m Dutch: Direct, pragmatic, trusting the mantra what-you-see/hear-is-what-you-get/mean. We are the worst immigrants the British can wish upon themselves…
Dutch person: Are you sure you don’t mind?
British person: No, it’s fine.
Dutch person: I’m sorry that X happened/I didn’t manage Y but I can do/have/sort/organise A, happy to do so (see how they have integrated? Apology, offers solution).
British person: No it’s fine.
Two days later – British person is cold and/or not answering emails/texts/messages/smoke signals
Dutch person rings or sees them in person: Is everything OK?
British person: No, you’re rude. X happened/you didn’t manage Y.
Dutch person: WHAT?! But i tried! And i offered! I even used the word ‘sorry’!
Upset, writes post on FB.
Every British friend: I saw you wrote that about me on FB?
Dutch person: I’ve not spoken to you in weeks/you’re not the only one British person I know/it was the customer service operator, see my twitter feed.

Thank goddess I live with a Yorkshireman.

Jokes aside, the psychology behind this interest me – so the Brit assesses the behaviour through their own cultural lenses and judges it to be inappropriate. But for the other that is their best – they too act from what they deem was appropriate conduct. Yet it was seen as malicious, uncaring, rude. I think that that is one of the biggest challenges for integration in a multicultural society. Forget the British nationalisation test and questions about Corronation Street…

It’s about taking perspective and pause to reflect if the behaviour is representative of the person. Maybe we should all start conversations with “my aim/intention/feeling is this…” and then the behaviour that follows can be interpreted in the correct light. It breaks my heart that in a multicultural society people judge one another thinking disrespect and malice is at the core of it, when it is the opposite: A man not shaking a woman’s hand out of respect, a person showing up late so not to inconvenience the host, a person talking through plans/progress to be consultative not to push their own agenda, someone who is silent to show calm, not disinterest etc. Tolerance is not the way forward; it is indicitive of a power-imbalance (“I tolerate you”), nor should we slap the wrist of anyone who is deemed to do wrong from our perspective before we know intent (yes, that includes crimes of cultural appropriation, political incorrectness and sex/race/ism). It’s hard work but indicitive of a growth vs fixed mindset.

This entry was posted in Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply