81
Root
22d

Working with different nationalities is interesting, and sometimes kind of bewildering. And tiring.

I've been working with an Indian dev for a little while, and while she's a decent dev, interactions with her sometimes leave me a little puzzled. She glazes over serious topics, totally over-sensationalizes unimportant oddities, has yet to say the word "no," and she refers to the senior devs as (quote) "the legends." Also, when asked a question by her boss, like "Are you familiar with this?" Instead of a simple yes/no answer, she shows off a little. Fair, I do this sometimes too, but it's a regular thing with her. Also, like most Indians I've known and/or worked with, she has a very strict class-and-caste view of the world. It honestly makes me a little uncomfortable with how she views people, like certain people belong in certain boxes, how some boxes (and therefore their contents) are inherently better than others, and how it's difficult or simply impossible to move between boxes. My obviously westerner view of things is that you can pick where you want to be and what you want to do, and all it takes to get there is acquiring the proper skills and putting in the required effort. I see no boxes at all, just a sprawling web of trades/specialities. And those legends she talks about? They're good devs with more knowledge than me, but only one, maybe two of them are better devs. I see them as coworkers and leads, not legends. Legends would be the likes of Ada Lovelace, Dennis Ritchie, Yukihuro Matsumoto, and Satoshi Nakamoto. (Among others, obv.). To call a lead dev a legend is just strange to me, unless they're actually deserving, but we don't work with anyone like Wozniak or Carmack.

Since I'm apparently ranting about her a little, let me continue. She's also extremely difficult to understand. Not because of her words or her accent, but I can't ever figure out what she's trying to get across. The words fit together and make valid sentences, but the sentences don't often make sense with one another, and all put together... I'm just totally lost. To be a math nerd, like the two conversations are skew lines: very similar, but can never intersect. What's more, if I say I don't understand and ask for clarification, she refuses and says she doesn't want to confuse me further, and to just do what I think is best. It's incredibly frustrating.

Specifically, we're trying to split up functionality on a ticket -- she's part of a different dev team (accounting), and really should own the accounting portion since she will be responsible for it, but there's no clear boundary in the codebase. Trying to discuss this has been... difficult.

Anyway.

Sometimes other cultures' world views are just puzzling, or even kind of alien. This Irish/Chinese guy stayed at my parents' house for a week. He had red hair, and his facial features were about 3/4 Chinese. He looked strange and really interesting. I can't really explain it, but interacting with him felt like talking to basically any other guy I've known, except sometimes his mannerisms and behavior were just shockingly strange and unexpected, and he occasionally made so little sense to me that I was really taken aback.

This Chinese manager I had valued appearances and percieved honors more than anything else. He cared about punctuality and attire more than productivity. Instead of giving raises for good work or promotions, he would give fancy new titles and maybe allow you to move your desk somewhere with a better view of your coworkers. Not somewhere nicer; somewhere more prominent. How he made connections between concepts was also very strange, like the Chinese/Irish guy earlier. The site templating system was a "bridge?" Idk? He also talked luck with his investors (who were also Chinese), and they would often take the investment money to the casino to see if luck was in the company's favor. Not even kidding.

Also! the Iranian people I've known. They've shown very little emotion, except occasionally anger. If I tried to appease them, they would spurn and insult me, but if I met their anger, they would immediately return to being calm, and always seemed to respect me more afterward. Again, it's a little puzzling. By contrast, meeting an American's anger often makes them dislike you, and exceeding it tends to begin a rivalry.

It's neat seeing how people of different nationalities have different perspectives and world views and think so very differently. but it can also be a little tiring always having to translate and to switch behavior styles, sometimes even between sentences.

It's also frustrating when we simply cannot communicate despite having a language in common.

Comments
  • 20
    I think it's Very tiring when you get a feeling like "why am I always the person who has to adapt to all the other specific traits?". Like everyone can allow themselves to behave Like their normal self but when you don't adapt there will be conflict
  • 6
    That was a really interesting read, thank you
  • 18
    @don-rager
    I can relate. They expect you to adjust to their mannerisms which is of course, mostly acquired from their culture and yet if you point it out or just simply vent about it, you're a racist. Somehow everyone else is expected to adapt to their behavior but never the other way around, all because "they were raised that way" and they think it's the proper way to behave.

    Guess what? We've all been raised differently, grew up in different cultures and environments but we all have to adapt in some form so we can co-exist and work together efficiently. No "just one" group is supposed to take on the burden of adjusting to multiple groups. The other groups should do their own work too. Individuals have different quirks but some specific quirks are more visible in certain groups.

    But then again, that can't be brought up because "it's racist". Equality, y'all. Fucking naive fucks won't live in the real world thinking their fantasy morals bring insight to the world.
  • 15
    Feeling this. I've got a lot of stories, but one in particular I've been wanting to rant about this exact subject, though mostly humorous; and Indian woman and Chinese woman who worked under me and had a friendship based entirely on their inability to understand what the other said. Will probably do that tomorrow.

    Definitely encountered a lot of what you've mentioned here. Especially the bit about grandstanding and never admitting to not possessing some knowledge. Also the inability to say no directly (instead using any instance of non-positive feedback to convey total declination), weird bathroom and cultural normalization issues, privacy perception issues, 0 interest in trying local cuisine or exiting comfort zone, general abuse of wait staff, disregard and abusive consumption of company provided perk items, as well as generalized idea theft by managers who view all my product as their own.

    The only thing that I truly can't reconcile as an American, on and off expat, working with foreign individuals in the US is when they expect me to respect their title and "know my place." It speaks to your reservations about caste-forwardness. Obviously we are somewhat founded on the proposition that we are all more or less in the same place. Nothing brings out my bad side faster than being disregarded because of a perceived hierarchy, except possibly witnessing someone abuse someone else simply because they can. Political expectation of boot licking triggers my genetic don't tread on me response.
  • 6
  • 4
    I've worked with people from China, India, and Iran, and they all felt quite normal to work with. I feel like they understood the western culture well. I had some trouble talking with the people from India but it was partly my own fault and it turned out fine in the end, I guess.
  • 6
    @SortOfTested @Root I've also been on off again expat and seen exactly what you talk about. Is crazy to think what in a personality is nature vs nuture.
  • 10
    The point of different cultures is to allow people to suck in different ways, and mixing all of that results in a global clusterfuck.
  • 1
    Have you had the chance to work with Israelis? I'd love to hear your point of view in that regard. Ofcourse there are good and bad Israelis, but the cultural aspect of your interaction is what interests me.
  • 2
    @bioDan Too small of a sample size. Sorry!
  • 1
    Proud to be INDIAN..๐Ÿ™‚
  • 2
    @tuddatuh I'm not American and I don't remember saying so in my comment. Also, we talked about various cultures not just YOUR culture and the American culture. I'm pretty sure you can't speak for all non-American cultures with "we".

    If you come to somebody else's house, they can only be hospitable to an extent. You can't come into somebody else's home and start imposing your own rules. The tricky part here is the people who often come (let's use your example), "America" are often from third world countries so by default, no matter how well they are treated, they are the "oppressed" but imagine a group of Americans coming to those immigrant's countries and imposing their own cultures, demanding the locals to adjust to theirs, many would scream it's culture rape, harassment, or even colonization.
  • 2
  • 2
    @tuddatuh
    Oh dear, an American has her first encounter with another culture, and it's too much for her!

    yeah right.

    I'm not some stubborn, elitist American who has never met someone outside of her little bubble, or is incapable of comprehending anything different.

    The summary of my rant is two points:
    1) It can be shocking how differently people thing -- to the point that I cannot understand it, and I consider myself to be an intelligent person.
    2) Dealing with people who refuse to make an effort to adapt is tiring, to the extent they refuse to adapt. Individuals who impose their own rules, especailyl in foreign countries, are exhausting and irritating. See: the comment earlier about people who only eat their own culture's cuisine, expect you to know, understand, and follow all of their culture's rule, etc. These people exist and dealing with them is *awful.* I suspect they're bloody awful to deal with even if you're from the same country; probably doubly so. Again, the more stubborn these people are, the more exhausting and irritating they are.

    That's not a culture thing.
    That's an arrogance thing.
  • 1
    @SortOfTested Is that a sundae? I'm hungry for sweets, all I see is dessert. Thank you. :3
  • 1
    @rutee07
    Popcorn, unfortunately, sundae sounds good though.
  • 3
    @rutee07 ๐Ÿจ
  • 4
    @tuddatuh two things are clear to me:

    1. You don't know anything about @Root

    2. Your argument disregards the reality in the world which is as follows: Populated places are grouped by values and common law (countries) and they maintain cultural norms. It's perfectly reasonable to expect from immigrants to adapt to the ways of the land. In fact, tha's been the behavoir of all soverign countries in history and its still true for many countries today.
  • 1
    This rant reminds me of my struggles to understand my foreign-born math teachers assistants in college. One lady said “x” but wrote “n” on the board so often that finally a student went up to her board in the middle of class and wrote the two letters, asking her to name them. Sure enough, she had them completely reversed in her mind. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get through her accent, we all had been having to mentally retranslate all of her writing mistakes.
  • 1
    Hahaha,amazing read, thanks for it.
    As an proud indian(yet to take steps in job life), web series binge watcher and news junkie, i have a few thoughts and guesses.

    Indians can be difficult to understand. Its interesting that even her words fitted and made correct sentences, that's also an unusual trait for many. Its mostly because we (most of us) are thinking in our mother tongue and converting to English at the same time.
    Try asking to text/mail her questions the next time and see the results. She would be more understandable if given enough time to rephrase her question.
    And as always i blame those amazing american/English web series/movies for making us aware of Western culture , we love them :) America's global influence has made it easy for any non American to understand them.

    And i guess irish people have anger mixed with every other emotion , in india we call them punjabi xD ( watch aisling bee explain https://youtu.be/z7hLql1SJ8I)
  • 2
    @StopWastingTime I'm Irish ๐Ÿ˜Š. Might explain why I'm always somewhere between annoyed and irritated, if not outright angry at something.

    Edit: that is hilarious and surprisingly fitting ๐Ÿค” Totally explains why I'm a bitch to both people I like and people I can't stand.

    ------

    Also: with said Indian chick, I communicate with her exclusively on Slack. It is strange that her words and sentences fit tigether and make sense, but never actually say what she's trying to convey. Like, it sounds very much like she's trying to explain (A), but if I read into it, I sometimes see a very small possibility she might be saying (B) instead. After discussing it with her for ten minutes or more, I realize she actually is saying (B).

    I'd give an actual example, but they all contain information, names, details, etc. I'm not allowed to share. ๐Ÿ˜•
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