Oops, cultural clash!

Ever thought of actually experiencing a theory that you might have learnt in lectures, amid partially dozing off? Let’s face it – we study a course, give exam and move on only to never look back! And I did the same too during my undergrad class in Ethics. Yes, shoulder surfing is bad and so is blackmailing your employee to undertake illegal activities – OK, we get it! However in due time, we came across something very interesting called ‘Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory’. This briefed us on various aspects of cultural differences predominantly existing in different corners of the world. One of such was called ‘Power distance’.

The term seeks to explain the hierarchical gap between the people at top and bottom, existing specially within the industry. Not only that but it is also ingrained in our societal values on how we address people at workplace. So post-graduation when I first entered my job in Dhaka, I learnt that you shake hands with your senior only when they offer to do so! Of course, this comes in addition to addressing them as ‘sir’, ‘madam’ or by their last name – something which is an integral part of our culture and that is precisely how we show respect for our superiors. Back home, this is taught to be the norm.

But apparently, this authoritarian gap collapsed the more I moved closer to Sweden! Having addressed a Swedish lecturer by ‘Professor -His Last Name-’, I noticed a look of awe on his surprised face.

‘You can call me by my first name’, he said. ‘But it’s good to hear our last name once in a while because no one uses it!’

Bam! There you go, Hofstede’s theory in action! Few of the all ‘ways we do things here’ kind of lesson for me. Also with this, I am gradually getting the hang of doing ‘lagom’ amount of everything – a popular Swedish work culture, which is absent back in Bangladesh too. But hey, I suppose I wouldn’t mind getting used to it. After all, that’s how Swedes do it and it sounds cool too!

Valkommen till Sverige!


* Picture taken from ‘Reference for business’


Written by Redwan

07 Oct 2014