KFC, Fanta and the BBC
If you travel, you know what I’m talking about!
I can be pretty certain that whenever I spend the night in a hotel, anywhere in the world, I know that the one English language station on the television will be the British Broadcasting Company – or BBC. I am able to catch up on the “Premier League’s” soccer scores and learn the latest about the queen and the monarchy and in a strange way, I feel safe and connected to the broader world. The hotel electricity might go off, but when it is restored, the BBC is still there!
And when it’s time to splurge, I can be pretty certain that there will be bottles of Orange Fanta! Yes, there is Coke in most countries but for some reason, orange Fanta is ubiquitous around the world.
I too, can be pretty certain that there will be Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants on many world-wide street corners, with McDonalds across the street.
The world is changing – some ways for the good and some for the bad – but this era of travel and communication has changed forever the way we look at each other.
In The Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice edited by Nohria and Khurana, we learn that “the cultural values of a country will determine the optimum leadership profile for that country.” In other words, we lead in a manner consistent with the values of our home country, which can lead to problems when trying to work and communicate cross-culturally.
I saw this happen recently. An organization from the US wanted a group of churches to declare what side they were on, regarding an administrative situation. The heavy-handed US representative stated in the American “speak the truth – get it out in the open” way that it was this way or that way, and they had to decide this moment,“sign on the line or you are out!”
The result of course was disastrous. The “save face” culture of these Asian leaders couldn’t understand the American’s insistence. Because of the US leader’s inability in understanding how to negotiate with other cultures, “that the cultural values of a country will determine how the leader acts and processes information,” an impasse occurred hurting both sides.
When on a mission trip or the next time you work with refugees or host a foreign exchange student, remember that what works in the US doesn’t always work with people from other cultures or in other places around the world. Understanding of faith, family and responsibility are different. Not better or worse – just different.
Globalization, as the stated book points out, brings people to the false understanding that they think they understand, when in reality, there are still culturally miles – or should I say kilometers – apart!
So when you are in Korea and you can’t stand another meal of “Kimchi,” it’s OK to find the nearest KFC, sit down with a Fanta and watch BBC on the wall TV. Just remember that we are the guests and that God can use us as long as we understand that “our way” is just one of many!