Thursday, 25 June 2009

Cultural Observations from Down Under…become a Yes Man

The past weeks have been hectic – travelling around Australia doing some work for my client (although I did manage to keep tweeting….). A fairly gruelling schedule delivering a series of intensive training sessions across four cities with an audience that we weren’t expecting to receive us with open arms.

My last posts have referenced how interesting it is to work with new cultures and I continue to be both inspired and grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this. Some cultural observations about working with our Ozzie brethren:

  • There is both a love for all things British and at the same time a strong desire to be independent and different. As a ‘Brit’ it makes working in Australia an interesting challenge, especially if you are looking to introduce new ideas and ways of working…quite a change management challenge. Personally I found the Australian culture to be a mix of UK and US which are in my view are two very different things! Their cities seem to have an US feel to them but their attitudes seem close to the UK.
  • The Australian culture is quite macho and quite hierarchical – sometimes subtly and sometimes very ‘in your face’. A number of our sessions started with people asserting themselves as the leader in the group with many local stories being shared! I made some fascinating observations of people ‘waiting their turn’ to speak and showing respect for the unspoken hierarchy within the group. I know this goes on across all cultures but it was something that stood out for me.
  • I think a lot of people living in the UK think they could just fit straight into the Australian culture……but that’s not true. They can have quite a laid back culture – things will get done and decisions will get made but only when people are ready to do so (reminds me a bit about Spanish culture).
  • In the UK we think we are the world leaders in culture – fashion, music, films….everything. However the Australians have two important (to me) items absolutely sorted – food and sport. I didn’t realise what steak was meant to taste like until last week (I will never be able to eat steak in the UK again). As for sport – the whole country is totally addicted to it. Whilst in Melbourne the Wallabies (National Rugby Union Team) were playing mid week, attracting an audience of 90,000. Two days later and just across town the local Aussie Rules football team were playing a regular league game – and attracted another 80,000 people to watch. Unlike the UK, tickets are very reasonably priced and families are very much encouraged to attend.

If you are an from Oz then I would love your views on the above, and also your own experiences of working with our friends down under if you are from elsewhere. My thanks to everyone I met in my time there – an amazing country and wonderful people.

As an L&D professional it really stretches and develops me by working with different cultures. A training intervention that may be very effective in one culture can be totally ineffective in another. If you want to develop yourself then spread your net wide. Become a ‘Yes Man’ when the opportunity arises – you won’t regret it.