Culture and context: the hand-holding conundrum

Here’s another little gem that came my way via Twitter: a thought-provoking video about overcoming knee-jerk reactions (“challenging your inner Stone Age brain”) in unfamiliar cultural settings.

“Cultural intelligence is all about interpreting behaviour in the right context and choosing your battles” while still “remaining true to yourself.” Very nicely said.

The example chosen is an interesting one. I’m curious: how many of you would hold hands with a business partner in India?


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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9 Responses to Culture and context: the hand-holding conundrum

  1. Great clip! Hand holding among men is very common in Dubai since we have so many South Asians here. Even though I know the context, my initial reaction still is that it looks strange.

  2. Judy says:

    Lovely video which makes its point very well. I remember my other half coming home from a trip to Russia, hugging and kissing me as he walked in the door, and remarking “It feels so good to kiss a woman again after kissing so many men these past 2 weeks.” 🙂

  3. YES! This was great. As a person with a huge personal space bubble, um, I’m pretty sure I won’t even hold my sister’s hand, I’ve found differing notions of personal space hard to get used to. That being said, I have gotten much better over the years at accepting things that are different as just different, not as wrong, or a personal attack.
    Still, I wonder sometimes about some questions raised here (I also wrote about this recently) like, how much do I need to adjust to a new country. What if a practice that is common here is totally incongruent with my morals (namely treating humans of lower social-economic status terribly)? Must I adapt to that, or accept it? So far I’ve gone with “ummmm, no.” But that’s gotten me in some sticky social situations. (Admittedly one of those sticky situations was sticky because I was also being a jerk.) Thoughts?

    • Maria says:

      I think you have to set a moral baseline, because if you don’t stay true to your values, you’ll be up to your eyeballs in cognitive dissonance – and who knows where that might lead. Keep on refusing to treat people terribly, because that’s the kind of person you are. And also if you have a minute, share the story of you being a jerk. Just so I don’t feel so alone.

  4. debdundas says:

    Great video! Haven’t run across that particular conundrum, but it does remind us that we sure can’t jump to conclusions.

  5. Naomi Hattaway says:

    Ah ha! Brilliant! Though I don’t think it’s that common for business men to hold hands in India. It IS very common among friends, bhaiyas, but not something you’d see between men in suits during their work day … (at least that is my observation) — Love the “suspending your initial reaction” bit !!

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