“It’s History” – Or Is It?


In the US they have a saying “its history.” Typically, this can be interpreted as its old and no longer relevant. As a young country it is very future-orientated and does not have the same historical perspective as older countries. US Americans tend to focus on short-term future results and the demands of the current situation at hand.

However, in places like France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and China, emphasis on historical references and traditional ways of doing things is expected, reinforced and rewarded in business culture. In these cultures and in others, planning is done by observing the past.

For example, Chinese businesspeople in manufacturing operations may not adopt Western safety practices because they have successfully operated without them in the past.

In the Mexican culture, often there is someone who is responsible for providing direction who is typically influenced by what has worked in the past.

The French also tend to make many references to the past. They tend to be proud of their heritage and culture and the role that France has historically played in world affairs.

Understanding how these perspectives manifest into behaviors and impact business builds the foundation of cultural competence and lays the groundwork for a positive working relationship.

Diane McGreal