Office Cultures 101

Here is a quality I have observed when comparing office cultures in North America from the Middle East. It would be good if we could also extend this idea when comparing mature markets from emerging ones. We can extend it even further towards comparing cultures.

Vancouver versus Dubai
Dubai culture in general is based on race. The general rule is reflected both in the way the overall population regards you (e.g. low regard, high regard, or indifferent) and this is directly proportional to pay grade and lifestyle.


The exception from this general rule is the upper class, highly educated and therefore cultured citizens of each race. These ‘elite’ are more or less equals by right of their skills and talents which are unrefutable and hence respected. But in an Arab country where this general rule exists, the race at the top of the pyramid still likely holds certain opinions which relate back to the hierarchy. Of course, this can exist in various degrees depending on the country and individual.

What usually happens when we see immigrants arrive in Vancouver or any other western city, region, or country I know, is that they tend to create mini-China, mini-Iran, mini-Russia, and so on, in the new country. A developed culture, typically western, does its best to integrate these new entrants and assimilate them to become sincere members of the whole. So the degree and extent of these mini-countries which exist in the host country depends on the latter’s development. The greater it exists, the less developed — that’s the idea, anyway.

Now if we take this macro idea and overlay it on corporate culture, and even deeper to the culture which exists at a small, local, office — we see the same dynamics and can make the same observations. Perhaps we can therefore also feel free and right to judge the development of the culture based on the same idea of integration, assimilation and — more importantly — the willingness of the general population to work towards those ideas. So, for example, this particular office has Arabs, Caucasians, and Asians — and though the first two groups seem to mesh together (somewhat clouded by the fact that they are all highly educated) the Asians stick to established ethno-centric groups.

There are of course other significant factors which relate to the barriers which exist to integration and assimilation. The biggest one in particular is the age of the immigrant or the individual’s level of attachment to their home culture. For example, the children of such citizens will likely be fully integrated from the get go, and this again depends on if they were born in such cultures or raised there from a very early age.


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