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Old 12.09.2011, 23:52
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Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Since I've been here I've noticed a few patterns when dealing with some Swiss people.
(1) They almost never tell you outright that something is wrong but then later you find out that something has gone horribly wrong and it could have been prevented if they had told you prior to the remainder of the events unfolding.

In connection with this, when they do inform you that things are not right the way they do it makes me feel like a patient being administered poison by a doctor with a smile, telling him all the while it's good for him.

I've also noticed that in dealing with people in positions of authority that they have this subtle or not so subtle way of threatening you if you challenge them about any matter you may need resolved for your benefit.

Has anyone else experienced this? Or is this my weird take on things.
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Old 13.09.2011, 00:26
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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Since I've been here I've noticed a few patterns when dealing with some Swiss people.
(1) They almost never tell you outright that something is wrong but then later you find out that something has gone horribly wrong and it could have been prevented if they had told you prior to the remainder of the events unfolding.

In connection with this, when they do inform you that things are not right the way they do it makes me feel like a patient being administered poison by a doctor with a smile, telling him all the while it's good for him.

I've also noticed that in dealing with people in positions of authority that they have this subtle or not so subtle way of threatening you if you challenge them about any matter you may need resolved for your benefit.

Has anyone else experienced this? Or is this my weird take on things.
Definitely your weird take on things. In fact, I'm not even sure what you mean. Maybe you could be more specific.

In all my years of living in Switzerland I've never been threatened by anyone. Maybe it was so subtle that I missed it. That's certainly possible.

Moving around some (not as much as other) I've learned that no matter where you move to if you don't ask the right questions you won't get the right answers.
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Old 14.09.2011, 14:21
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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Since I've been here I've noticed a few patterns when dealing with some Swiss people.
(1) They almost never tell you outright that something is wrong but then later you find out that something has gone horribly wrong and it could have been prevented if they had told you prior to the remainder of the events unfolding.
No idea about the treat thing.

But regarding the feedback, you are correct (at least the for the East Swiss; no idea if this holds true also for West Switzerland). This is the way they give feedback - very indirect. I see this all the time i our office with newcomers from e.g. Germany. They get confused, too. All the time.

You need to learn that in the sentence "you made this great, there might be minor issues to improve" the second part is what is really important (and there is usually a hidden "immediately" implied as well).

One needs to learn to listen for this suitable message in the feedback. But since you identified this by yourself: you are doing this really good, you just need to improve the perception a little bit
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Old 14.09.2011, 19:03
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

and 2)????
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Old 14.09.2011, 19:48
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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You need to learn that in the sentence "you made this great, there might be minor issues to improve" the second part is what is really important (and there is usually a hidden "immediately" implied as well).
Funny, that's exactly what I, a Swiss born and bred, and from Eastern Switzerland even, had to learn during my first stays in the USA: They never just tell you what you did wrong. They first praise you, and then they serve the big whammy, coated with additional sugar. Maybe we just notice such things more easily when abroad than within our own culture.
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Old 14.09.2011, 20:25
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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Funny, that's exactly what I, a Swiss born and bred, and from Eastern Switzerland even, had to learn during my first stays in the USA: They never just tell you what you did wrong. They first praise you, and then they serve the big whammy, coated with additional sugar. Maybe we just notice such things more easily when abroad than within our own culture.
I think you hit 'it' right on the nail. When we move we become "hyper aware" of our surroundings and we tend to see things that are "normal" as more unusual to the point that when someone is rude to us at home we brush it off as that person is rude. When it happens when we are abroad we find that "those people are rude", instead of we just happened to run into a rude one. Then we become hyper aware of "rude" people and see rude people all over the place.

I hope that makes sense!
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Old 14.09.2011, 20:31
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Cerebral I know what you mean. I don't know how to expand upon it, but I can tell you, you're not imagining it.
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Old 14.09.2011, 20:34
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Contrary to KF above, I honestly have no idea what you mean.
People are people everywhere.
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Old 15.09.2011, 01:25
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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Cerebral I know what you mean. I don't know how to expand upon it, but I can tell you, you're not imagining it.
Indeed, let me try to "expand upon it"

not only on the professional life but also on the social and personal happens often.

the locals believe that some things are simply obvious, so everybody has to know about ( and when I say the locals I don't mean only here, but anywhere you have this situation ).

when you do something wrong, they don't say anything, because you should know, they simply bottle in their dissapointment and disapproval, expecting that you understand and correct it, until things go overboard then they overact. ( that is mostly how the swiss handle these kind of situations, in other cultures it could be handled differently with humour or by talking about for example.), and in some cases explode and yell and bang the table, or call the police or send and anonymous note to you etc., because well you exceeded their tollerance.

Am I right ?
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Old 15.09.2011, 09:22
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Hmmm, not so sure about only the Swiss being indirect in their manner of expressing themselves.
I deal with clients in the United States an awful lot and am always hearing / reading phrases like "become proactive" or "let's move forward". WTF is "PROactive"??? You're either active and then stuff gets done, or you're not active and it lies on your desk for 3 weeks, but pro... And is "moving forward" a suggestion or an instruction?
Once you learn to read between the lines everything becomes clearer, and methinks it's probably the same for most non-Swiss learning to "read" what a Swiss is trying to tell them.
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Old 15.09.2011, 10:06
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

It's a correct observation that in comparison to German and Dutch communication patterns the Swiss are very indirect in speech, but they don't perceive it so themselves as the message is usually clearly understood by other Swiss. Words like 'a bit, maybe, you could' just soften the tone somewhat in comparison to German directness, but they essentially mean exactly the same.

This is partially a result of our flatter hierarchies, I call our CFO Tim(*) but there is no question that "Could you do that for me Simon when you have time" is not a polite request but is pretty much an order that has to be done asap, it's just that giving orders like that is frowned upon.

Sometimes meetings and briefings are held like informal chats with my boss, but there is no question that I have to carefully consider every wording in order not to give a wrong impression.

Or, put more scientifically:

http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofste...tzerland.shtml

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Switzerland's lowest Hofstede Dimension is Power Distance (PDI) at 34. Again, comparing this to the World value of 55 and the European value of 45 indicates that the Swiss population has a relatively equal distribution of power across the population's societal structure. That is, there is an expectation by the general population that power and control of the society shall be more equally distributed among all the members of the society.
note: I don't accept with all the analysis in Hofstede's cultural dimension.
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Old 15.09.2011, 10:24
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

I have found from working with Canadians and Americans that they are just as indirect as the Swiss can be, and beat around the bush a lot. The main difference though was that the boss didn't beat around the bush, but rather talked extremely openly and critically when an employee had done something wrong; here, I have found that even the boss is indirect, even with someone who has royally screwed up.
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Old 15.09.2011, 10:28
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Do you remember this thread started by economisto? It would seem that the Swiss operate similarly.
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Old 15.09.2011, 10:42
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

there is this killer phrase you should keep in mind indicating that your project/idea/suggestion is crap: s'isch schonno schpeziell.
it doesnt mean its very special but for the bin.

i remember that i was at a concert. i went with a close swiss friendhe brought 3 friends along i have never met, all swiss.
the gig was very crap and i asked before i gave my direct opinion what the others thought about it.
all were saying "das es schon noch speziel war". and that means it was utterly s.hit.e. the way i (german) would say it.
i dont like it as its their bloody neutral "i dont want to pee on anybodys chips"-thing.
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Old 15.09.2011, 11:02
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

I think the Swiss are no better or worse than any. The champions at beating around the bush, in my opinion, would be the Brits. My last two bosses would go on waffling endlessly: everything would be "different", "interesting", "robust", "brave" etc. When confronted with a problem which required taking a stand, they would keep hemming and hawing to the point where one had to walk away in disgust and try and find a solution oneself. Even when it was clear that something was a blatant lie, they could only bring themselves to say that he "was being economical with the truth"
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Old 15.09.2011, 11:07
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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there is this killer phrase you should keep in mind indicating that your project/idea/suggestion is crap: s'isch schonno schpeziell.
it doesnt mean its very special but for the bin.

i remember that i was at a concert. i went with a close swiss friendhe brought 3 friends along i have never met, all swiss.
the gig was very crap and i asked before i gave my direct opinion what the others thought about it.
all were saying "das es schon noch speziel war". and that means it was utterly s.hit.e. the way i (german) would say it.
i dont like it as its their bloody neutral "i dont want to pee on anybodys chips"-thing.
Yes - and we British have our '..that was rather interesting', meaning : 'I was never so bored in my entire life' !!!
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Old 15.09.2011, 13:13
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

Well, I guess it is a lot depending on cultural differences and expectations.

And of course there is also this small tiny voice, which forces us to listen only to the "OK - well done" part. We all need it from time to time (well, I do at least).

Basically, you are not alone, others have similar experiences and once you except this as a fact you will be able to adjust yourself and understand what they are really meaning in the correct cultural background. It takes some time, that's all.

I guess it could be also otherwise around, e.g. when a person from a more "indirect" culture ends in a more "direct" cultural environment - they can be easily shocked and insulted, just because they were used to a more "indirect/polite" communication.

It is all part of a "cultural shock".
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Old 15.09.2011, 13:30
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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Or, put more scientifically:

http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofste...tzerland.shtml



note: I don't accept with all the analysis in Hofstede's cultural dimension.
I think the major problem is that the Cultural Dimensions survey was done back a while ago and it was done by examining IBM employees at different locations.

It is a good quick glance guide to figure out what people are like but there is a lot of real nuance that is missing from it.
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Old 15.09.2011, 13:50
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

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I think the major problem is that the Cultural Dimensions survey was done back a while ago and it was done by examining IBM employees at different locations.

It is a good quick glance guide to figure out what people are like but there is a lot of real nuance that is missing from it.
Absolutely, I don't find it very helpful either, but as a rough overview it's ok.
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Old 15.09.2011, 13:59
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Re: Some observations I've made or is it all in my mind

I love the different interpretation for the same words- depending on where you are.

Like in the UK 'it's interesting' = 'hmmm what a load of tosh'

In CH = it's actually really interesting'.

So many others - any suggestions?
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