The Culture Map
The Culture Map

The Culture Map

February 14, 2023
This is a living post until I finish the book.
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Before We Start


The goal is to read the book “The Culture Map” and, by doing so, understand the differences between people from different cultures. I believe this is key to becoming a better leader.


I’m not going to read it alone. I’ll read it with my friend Sussie, and we’ll take notes and share comments, opinions, and ideas. On this page, you’ll find my side of this journey, if Sussie wants to write about it in public, I’ll link it here later.


This will not be the typical reading. This will not be a race to the end. We’ll enjoy the book, learn from it, and reread it if necessary. We’ll do side research if we find it useful. We’ll take notes and comments, and hopefully, we can add our ideas on top of that. We’ll set a goal of one or two chapters at a time, and then we’ll get online to discuss it. The idea to do it online is we’ll be able to quickly access and share our notes, search some stuff live, and be more productive. However, for an occasional in-person discussion taking a good cup of coffee is not out of the question.


We’ll start by February 16th, 2023.

The Culture Map


Notes about anything outside the chapters. Introduction, author, comments, reviews, etc.

The Narrator

I’m listening to the audiobook, and Lisa Larsen narrates it. She has an incredible voice, and she has so many books with her voice that you won’t believe it. I also enjoyed listening to her singing.

The Author

Erin Meyer wrote this book, and I just learned she also helped to write another book I liked. I am slightly disappointed that the tools around this book are behind a paywall, though.

Introduction: Navigating Cultural Differences

Sleeping, having dreams, or nightmares about inefficient shopping.
Top executives. Preparing them for the cultural adjustments when moving to Wuhan, China.
If successful, she’ll be hired again (15 more clients) that year.
Mrs. Chen, Chinese culture expert. Journalist. Articulated, extroverted, and knowledgeable.

Have prepared cultural examples. While giving the presentation, she was shocked to discover he didn’t speak, even when she was expecting him to do it and providing the space and visual cues for him to speak. He was just nodding. 3 hours. When she asked directly, he showed the examples. He was well prepared, after all.

Reflecting on the story
  • Is his personality?
  • Is her personality?
  • Was it because of the interaction between both of them?
  • Maybe he’s not a very good communicator.
  • Is he shy or introverted?
  • Is she an incompetent facilitator?
  • Was she tired and missed the clues he was sending?
It was actually because of cultural differences and not personality.
Westerners assume Asians are quiet, reserved, or shy.
Asians think Westerners are poor listeners and speak too much just to show off.
Asians need a few seconds of silence before speaking.
Westerners jump on top of one another to make a point.

Be aware of the cultural context that shapes behavior.
  • Invite him to speak
  • Allow a few more seconds to speak
  • Forcing himself to “interrupt” and speak

She worked in Paris, here, and this is the giant thumb she mentions.
This is Dulac’s story.
Dulac’s boss (from the USA) thinks she’s not organized (a mess), and she comes to meetings unprepared. She’s not getting the feedback.
But Dulac thinks she’s doing great!
They have different opinions about her performance review.
It turns out the feedback and culture have a lot to do here!
🇫🇷 Positive feedback is implicit. Negative feedback is direct.
🇺🇸 Positive feedback is direct. Negative feedback is given using positive and encouraging language.
How to fix it? Align expectations at the beginning, and explain what you will do (i.e., give positive feedback first and things to improve later).

🇮🇳 She mentions that half-nodding doesn’t mean disapproving of something; instead, it means you agree.
Being open to individual differences is not enough. You need to be aware of cultural differences while respecting individual ones.

She worked at a place where everyone was a minority.
💡 Is that how she learned these cultural differences? If so, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work in Berlin with people worldwide. 🇲🇾🇧🇷🇩🇪🇲🇽🇷🇴🇷🇺🇩🇿🇨🇴🇦🇷🇬🇧

When she refers to the eight scales, she means this (which is not obvious if you just only listen to the audiobook)
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It’s not culture or personality; it’s culture and personality.
When examining how people from different cultures relate to one another, what matters is the relative position of the two cultures.
Example to discuss
Example to discuss
You discover your own culture when living and working abroad.

Chapter 1: Listening to the Air


Chapter 2: The Many Faces of Polite

Chapter 3: Why Versus How

Chapter 4: How Much Respect Do You Want?

Chapter 5: Big D or Little d

Chapter 6: The Head or the Heart

Chapter 7: The Needle, Not the Knife

Chapter 8: How Late Is Late?