Fair Play

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Saw an article in last week’s press about a new study showing that the British really do have a sense of fair play. Apparently in scientifically-controlled games if Brits were reported as cheating by fellow players they accepted the situation and began playing by the rules. So did the Americans and Swiss. The Russians and Greeks, on the other hand, sought to get revenge on the people who had reported them.

It’s good to see that there are some scientific ways of demonstrating culturally-determined behaviour, as cultural difference is so easy to see and experience, but so hard to pin down and prove.

On the subject of Russians, I was talking with some of them the other day about trust and was reminded of an episode I once witnessed on a Lufthansa plane. The pilot announced that we would have to wait  2 hours before take-off because of bad weather in Munich.

A Russian lady in front of me beckoned the hostess over until she was within whispering distance and said “Please, tell me the REAL reason!” The hostess drew back and said in a loud voice: “Are you calling me a liar?”

Russians tend not to believe official announcements, and so this poor lady was actually showing how much she trusted the hostess on a personal level to tell her the truth.

Makes you wonder how many disputes, broken business deals and even wars have resulted from such cultural misunderstandings…

It seems silly to wait until differences can be scientifically proven before using experience and observation to modify where we tread in the cultural minefield.

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