Adapting to New Cultures

In the week leading up to my move to England I read the book “Watching the English.” It is an anthropologists look at English culture filled with lessons on everything from drinking, eating, tea, gardens, trains, drinking, friends, work, and drinking.

It was a great read to help get me into the mindset of the English before I embedded myself within their culture. It is a phenomenal read that I recommend to any ExPats here in the UK. What has struck me is how true it is, and sadly how much I have ignored its advice at times (only to my detriment).

The biggest advice I’ve ignored is the level of effort the English will go to avoid being impolite or confrontational in-person. For quick context if you are having a conversation with an Englishman and at the end he says “Oh by the way” as an American I’d assume that what comes next is trivial. To the English, this is the most important thing they wanted to say. In emails their politeness can come across as passive-aggressive and as a brash American it can be an interesting clash, but I am learning.

As an American attending the Oxford MBA I am a cultural minority. Sure, we make up 20% of the class but we work within the realities, biases, and cultural traits of 56 countries. Sometimes its hard because political beliefs, ways of communicating, and respect to hierarchy differ drastically. However I couldn’t be happier that I am surrounded by this diverse group of students. It is first-hand, intensive, immersion learning on how to work on a global scale. Its a unique feature that you can’t get at almost any other top MBA program, especially any in the states.

In almost every interview or recruiter conversation with firms in the states I have been asked some variation of “Why not an American program?” Honestly I am grateful for this conversation because it allows me to talk about my classmates and the diversity they bring to the classroom.

While I am still not perfect at adapting to other culture’s methods of communication I am learning and grateful for each chance I get.