I want to make it very clear from the outset that what Erin Meyer is talking about in “Culture Map” can be helpful. The idea that there are differences in cultural tendencies that make communication and collaboration nuanced is one that is important. Even in her caveat that all people from a country fall on a bell curve begins to reinforce biases that already exist. There is a danger that the assumption of communicating and collaborating simply shifts from one starting point to another. Additionally, the blind-spot of Meyer’s generalization of cultures was highlighted by her anecdote about taking questions in Japan: that it is helpful to know there are differences in culture, but you simply don’t know what you don’t know. In a few of the appearances that Meyer mentioned this story, she notes that her Japanese counterpart was there to step in and take questions. I am curious why she does not simply allow for her Japanese counterpart to also make the presentation. Would this not have prevented the question mishap to begin with?
There is a tea/boba shop where I live that once called on all their customers to boycott another boba shop in the area. Their complaint was that the shop stole the minimalistic aesthetic that they used. The owner, a white female, went on to explain that she had done the hard work of taking a months long trip to China to learn all about the tea and sourced the tea from the best farms in China; so how dare this other shop “copy” her and steal her ideas for profit. Interestingly, the shop that drew her ire was run by a Chinese family. They had not taken trips to learn about Chinese tea culture. They knew Chinese tea culture because it was a part of their day-to-day life.
So who is the expert? My intention is not to dismiss “cultural mapping” as Meyer presents it but to bring awareness that the principles that make up “cultural mapping”, cultural intelligence and code-switching, are familiar to many outside of it being a scholastic or profitable endeavor. Those people, to me, are truly the experts and the world would be a better place hearing their stories.