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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Your Essential Guide
to Culture Shock
full title of this week’s book is “Your Essential Guide to Culture Shock, SE
Asia and the Orient” (ISBN 974-7313-80-2). It is published by the IQ Inc
people and was compiled and edited by Jake Anthony. Inscribed across the
bottom of the cover is “Never at any time in history, has the world so
urgently needed knowledge of other nations’ cultures.”
The foreword states the obvious, in some ways – there are aching chasms of
difference between the Oriental East and the Occidental West; however,
editor Jake Anthony then highlights those appealing factors in the East,
such as the cultural diversity and polite natures, saying that it is
difficult to imagine better holiday locations. However, when the reader is
someone contemplating business, or settling in the East, the aching chasms
appear again. In an attempt to bridge those chasms, or at least forewarn,
this book has been written.
The countries covered are Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia,
Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand
Make no mistake, this is not another of the “guides to …” which will tell
you the cheapest bus to get to XYZ, and where you and your backpack can doss
down for less than $5 a day. This is much more of a serious attempt to
unravel the knotted conundrum of working with the Asian mentalities.
Like the usual guides, there is an initial grounding given on the size of
the area, some historical facts which have a bearing on today, and other
pertinent items, before getting into the nitty-gritty of visas, immigration,
work permits, currency and getting around.
Following those general details, the book gets into ‘culture shock’ with
each location. The oriental ‘face’ concept is explained in depth, and how it
can affect all business dealings, especially those with foreigners. From
there, the book covers ‘Essential business dealings’ and ‘Understanding
local customs’, knowledge of all of which can also spell success or failure.
Even what you should do when receiving business cards is covered, and I must
admit I have been errant in that regard. I now know what to do!
Each country finishes with a list of all the public holidays, then trade
fairs and some useful addresses and some contact phone numbers. Again this
is extremely worthwhile data – coming to Thailand for a business trip on the
first week of May would be very frustrating, with public holidays on May 1,
May 5 and May 7.
At B. 450, this should be compulsory reading for anyone contemplating
business in SE Asia. Understanding when “yes” means “maybe” and when “maybe”
means “no” will cut short many weeks of fruitful/fruitless (delete whichever
is appropriate) endeavors. Whilst many of the concepts/mores/customs are
common, as the heritages are often common, there still lies appreciable
differences between the countries and their inhabitants.
I found the book fascinating, and there was much to absorb. It was also
interesting that all of the different countries have a word to describe the
‘big nosed white faced, smelly foreign devil’. Yes, that’s us folks!
Definitely deserves a place in all business bookshelves.
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