Monday, November 24, 2008

Work Mates

Tom e-mails to comment on my post on the different cultural attitudes towards work, specifically how people in different countries regard after hour activities with co-workers:

Coincidentally, I'm just back from a two week tour of Australia. I noticed pretty much the same thing. Each night they feted the Yank (me) and most of the staff came out for dinner (not one Bloomin' Onion, and who knew grilled octopus could be so tasty?) and it appeared that they genuinely enjoyed being with each other. I didn't see any hidden agendas or one-ups-manship I have observed sometimes in North America. The staff that didn't attend offered up sincere apologies about not being able to make it.

Over the weekend, a director of our distributor and one of his sales managers gave up their weekend (they have families) to show me around Melbourne for a couple of days. In fact when I arrived on a Sunday morning, I changed my plans and did a self tour of Sydney (I had originally planned to crash after 24 hours of travel). When the director found I did this the next day, he apologized profusely for my having to walk about on my own and wondered why I didn't call him if I felt like going out.

When we plan to have a guest in here in MN and ask if anyone would like to go to dinner with them, the question is often, "Well am I getting paid for this or will there be some comp time?" Granted, by law Ozzies get 4-weeks of paid holiday each year plus nine federal holidays and get senior service awards that can build up lots of time towards a 3-month sabbatical or such, so may be they are taken care of in other ways that make them more amenable to the occasional night out or weekend showing a guest around. One issue though, the legal limit there is .05, so the fun valve gets shut off early.

Very similar to my experiences when traveling for work overseas. You have to fight to fend off offers to take you to dinner or show you about town. At times, I have struggled to convince my hosts that not only is it okay if I don't go out on a particular night, I'm actually happy to return to the hotel for an evening of room service and solitude.

Tom also notes that our impressions of other countries are often skewed by what we see in the media:

By the way, I was in many different restaurants, pubs, domestic airliners (where beer and wine are FREE - at least on Quantas - take a note Northwest Delta),and hotel bars that serve beer in five different states in Australia. These ranged from a swank, expensive water front Mobil 3 star restaurant to a dusty dirty pub where I thought Donk, Mad Max and Crocodile Dundee would walk in next. Not once, not one time in maybe 15-20 places visited where beer was served did I see a Fosters Lager. Not on tap, not in bottles, not even in the oil can sized empties I used to find on my front lawn when I lived near a university. When I brought up the ad slogan used in the US "Foster's is Australian for beer", it got a big laugh. In fact, only one person of all the folks I met even know someone who drank Foster's but then they thought the fellow was a little off. So - it sounds like there might be a false advertising suit in the works. Don't you know some law talking guys?

It's like going to Amsterdam and trying to find an Amstel Light or a Beck's in Berlin or a Corona in Chihuahua (you can, but it's far from the leading brand). The beers that get imported into the United States and are advertised as representing countries, are often not the most popular ones in the particular country and in some cases are bit players in the local market. They are also usually not the best brews that the countries have to offer either.