viernes, 16 de mayo de 2008

Off to Tallinn in 9 hours.

We will be back with tons of pictures and stories in approximately 3 weeks.

De vuelta en 3 semanas con muchas fotos e historias buenas, espero.

Proportions are not very well stitched....I know, she knows, he knows, everybody knows because it has been commented in our other blog HERE

lunes, 12 de mayo de 2008

Relativism, more or less.

The term culture encompasses a wide range of manifestations common to a group of people. Language is one of them. In some cases language is precisely the agglutinating element, the maker, the carrier or the comprised essence of a human conglomerate. As an example I can cite nations such as Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. However important we consider this element out of the many others to be (religion, beliefs, customs, traditions, uses, etc), it serves people to exercise their social being, and to communicate. If language and culture are known to be so inextricably linked, language development, communication techniques and cultural skills should be combined for an efficient cross cultural training, free of avoidable misunderstandings and disputes.
Edward T. Hall, anthropologist, developed the theory of Low vs. High Context Culture, based on the way in which we communicate. The notion that our cultural settings determine very differently the content of verbal and written communication and the interpretation given to what otherwise seem similar codes (words, symbols), is one argument of his contribution. He also considers the importance given to subsidiary concepts such as rank, appearance, origins, non-verbal cues, etc. In simple terms, he claimed that a "framework" determines how efficient the communication process might result. Generic standards are not applicable in what regards to communication. Conflict could be significantly reduced if we consider the cultural differences even in aspects as important as respecting agreements, telling the "truth," punctuality, creditworthiness, etc.

High-Context Cultures

The context is very important, it supports messages both sent and received. To understand one needs to be "initiated" because all kind of clues that are external, additional to what is said or written are as important. Many silent rules apply in these exchanges, other factors include age, the type of relationship that exists between the parties, gender, position, location of the exchange and courtesy signs employed, among others. Latin America, Japan, Thailand, Spain, Egypt, Kuwait and South Africa are good examples of this type.

Low-Context Cultures

The “context” in which something is said isn’t as important. The message is literal, so attending to written messages is enough to proceed. Information is compartmented. Considerations regarding time (efficiency) are strict so punctuality is more valued than rank, position or age. People are not "trained" to read between lines, they do not act creatively and therefore they do what they are told to do because that is what is expected and no more, but no less. Instructions are important, guidelines, lists, schedules, agendas, orderly planning. Formats are imposed over courtesy, formality therefore derives from rules not from tradition. What is said is usually what is meant. Germany, Scandinavian countries and to some extent The United States are instances of this type.

Most of the times people can behave one way or another depending also on many other circumstances but we TEND to act more like one of the types. Being aware of the differences is a good tool to prevent and manage disputes. If your employee is French, it seems better not to present a very detailed list of responsibilities because it might be misinterpreted as lack of trust in his/her abilities to "manage." Being resourceful is a quality that a high context culture should appreciate greatly. However, if you leave up to your Swedish employee to figure out anything without your request and instructions nothing will occur. Your unrealistic expectations will discourage both of you and the work will never get done. It makes no sense to demand an Argentinian to be on time for an appointment, but it makes even less sense to get irritated because of someone´s lateness in Morocco. A million things could have prevailed, and "understandably so" in the period of time between making the appointment and appearing in the designated location. This shows "flexibility" and the skill to accommodate to the arising circumstances, which in turn must be not only respected and understood but also valued.

I have mentioned very little of this subject but these posts should not exceed the million pages limit! It also seems weird to post without pictures like if I was giving some sort of speech so here it is my choice of the day. Because I am amazed at how much blooming is taking place around here. Madrid is full of roses of all colors and my garden (NOT REALLY MINE, certainly not under my care) too!
The house of my dreams, above: The Moomin house in Finland.

viernes, 9 de mayo de 2008

Delayed again

I am in a friendly relationship with my own flaws. I can´t post as much as I wish these weeks because life is busy before a journey across Europe. I can´t forget for a minute that I will be leaving Madrid in about 2 months time neither. We have a million things to do before we leave, precisely those things that we always delayed because we were in no rush such as going out and visiting the monuments.

In the past days we have entertained guests:

Joonas turned 3, and became a well behaved big boy out of the sudden:

And the Spring season has arrived:

martes, 6 de mayo de 2008

I shall no longer procastinate about these posts. Behavioral ecconomics and Cultural issues by Eduard Hall.

This really seems to be a very good option:

Procrastination. An article from Psychology today. Illustrative, so you can sympathize with me.

Behavioural economics is a discipline that tries to explain why people or groups take economic decisions and how. With a scientific approach and a persuasive rate of accuracy psychological elements of human behaviour can allow for the prediction of financial trends. Together with several other key elements the theories developed under this conceptual umbrella find applicability in several aspects of our practical life, allowing room to optimize the results of human activities. Efficiency is in lato sensu, all about economy. Its main difference with the standard economic science is the importance given to the rationality -or lack of it- of decision making processes. Intuitive and unconscious selections, that more often than not occur, cannot be evaluated without the interaction of cognitive psychology and sociology.
For example, when having choices to make, we often face dilemmas that marketing experts "rescue" us from: Do we buy the imported jar of French jam, covered with quality seals, organic, deliciously looking but pricey or the supermarket brand with extra sugar, massively produced, with artificial flavouring, on a lousy container and dead cheap? To solve them, we are offered more options, easy to conform with, comfortably: In between there will be a display of yet another 10 varieties of jam with different and even incomparable characteristics that are consciously set to show us what is the right choice to make. This is not excluding a persuasive arrangement that would convince anybody that the French jam is worth every penny and as a symbol of status, care for the environment and good taste we should acquire.
In other words, for added comfort, marketing strategies would spare us the hassle of a responsible selection of items by suggestively presenting us with their choice, in what usually, but not necessarily, seems to be a good compromise between the best and the not so good option. Tiresome thoughtful analysis is not conducted on daily basis and random choices are offered to us sparing us the hassle. For example, we would choose holiday packages, retirement plans, prepaid medical insurance policies, and mortgage arrangements on the basis of how well it is made easy to us, plus the added value of having plenty of choices to freely discern about. Even in a macroeconomic level, market forces might be influenced by the way in which cognitive psychology helps to assess conducts and trends providing good chances for experts to predict and produce desirable outcomes.
Spending money with credit card is actually more "expensive" but less regrettable than using cash. Even if in the long run the financial effects could be negative, the fact that guilt is delayed and the instant satisfaction still achieved is worth the trouble, that is for most people and better yet if given a number of ways to pay the debt back. Many other phenomena could be linked to concepts developed by this field of studies, procrastination being also one of the most popularly observed. Procrastinators are commonly unproductive, less efficient and often dissatisfied in their personal lives. They are also fully aware of it, which in turn deactivates their interest in pursuing responsible actions due to the increased self blame and loss of confidence that it implies and keeps generating.

Plainly put, B.E. rationalizes, among others, the human tendency to make stupid decisions at any price and act irrationally. Why we do not write to our friends more often? Why we do not start the diet before the beginning of next week? Why not to live a healthier lifestyle before it is too late? Why do we fail to complete plans that require perseverance and patience? Why so many work jobs that make them miserable? Why do we fall into commercial traps and purchase "bargains" that are unnecessary whereas we try to practice economy on what we really need (cheap is very costly!)? Etc..

However cogent these theories may seem I still remain doubtful about the existence of standards applied to human behavior: Could irrational behaviour really be predictable? Can Heuristics be equaled to irrationality?

So the post is not too long I will continue with CULTURAL CONTEXT matters tomorrow!

To read a bit more, find in the link an old article from The Washington Post on this.

A food blog with many good links and easy recipes by a Brazillian who lives in Buenos Aires HERE. Yes, unrelated, but useful!