Cultural Bias, Translation and LearningPosted: June 18, 2014
One lesson learned on my recent business trip to India: idioms don’t always translate. Case in point, in a meeting with several colleagues, I said, “This process is like explaining water to fish.” It didn’t take. The conversation quickly devolved as the Americans tried to explain the meaning to our Indian counterparts (What were we…mammals? Did the mammals eat the fish? Or drink the water?). I felt like Abbott and Costello doing “Who’s On First?” Needless to say, we all had a good chuckle trying to unravel this one.
The key takeaway is that we don’t always appreciate our culture, or ways of working, or knowledge until we see it from the viewpoint of others who have a different cultural background. Note that I said “different,” not better or worse, just different. Are we open to new perspectives? Do we relish the opportunity to be uncomfortable and truly learn? Can we take advantage of others’ experiences without judgment? I’d like to think so.
This was shared by my India counterparts, and was met with many chuckles, even within their culture: Indian Headshakes.
For my Indian friends (and young friends) to appreciate Abbot and Costello: Who’s On First.