The values, the behavior and the beliefs of a culture are revealed in each little thing that surrounds us: the messages on billboards and posters, how (and if!) people use their public space, how merchandise is advertised, what happens in the cafes and restaurants, etc.
There are endless clues everywhere around us that help reveal the values, symbols and emotional imprints that form that particular culture.
In fact, one of the most fun part of my Cultural Intelligence Training is to teach my clients how to take note of these clues. People are amazed about the abundance of information that helps increase their CQ (Cultural Intelligence Quotient).
Take the prompting from the picture above: "ENJOY LIFE!" There are a few cultural groups for whom this type of messages does not really make sense. Here is the dialog I overheard:
French man: What a non-sense! what does that mean, "enjoy life!"? Am I going to enjoy life 'cause somebody wrote it on a paper? Is as if somebody would tell you "Don't forget to sleep!"
American woman: Arghh, you're always commenting on everything! This is a wonderful positive message!.. It is actually very nice that someone, somewhere thinks of you and reminds you to enjoy life!
French man: What are you exactly talking about?!. Why would anybody remind you to enjoy life? You either enjoy the damn life or you don't, you can't enjoy life at command, "hey, you, what's your name, come here, ok, sit down, now ENJOY LIFE!!! Now, right now I want you to ENJOY LIFE!" Let alone the stupidity that follows after this "wonderful positive message"!
American Woman: You know what, you are mean. Mean and disrespectful!
What do you think about this exchange? If it helps you, here is the full picture of the message disputed by the French-American couple: