Speaking with friends in China, they talked about how the Taiwanese version of Chinese differed to that written and spoken elsewhere. Despite that Taiwan and Hong Kong share a common written language some of the phrases don’t come out quite right. So for instance, the Taiwanese call software (a computer program) ‘soft body’, and the Chinese mainlanders and Hong Kongese don’t.
They went on then to say how easy it must be for British people to communicate with Americans and were really surprised when I explained to them some confusing and embarrassing linguistic differences. For instance, I once had a colleague who told me that she had gone to a party with two friends, they had some drinks and ‘double-fisting’ ensued.
At this point, I will wait a while for the UK readers of this blog to stop sniggering. In the US this means having both hands full holding yours and a friend’s drink. In the UK it means something very, very different. I explained this to my US colleague and I can remember her looking very shocked and saying ‘oh my, oh my, whatever must you think of me. I can’t believe what I just said‘.
However the difference between Americans, British and Irish isn’t only in the language but in the way that we communicate things. Generally the Britsh and Irish don’t do enthusiasm in business communications, we just get on and do things. We don’t say we’re ‘awesome‘ unless we’re being ironic, in fact we feel faintly embarrassed if other people say that we’re awesome or have ‘hit it out of the park‘. Which can come across as lazy, when we’re just action-orientated.
So this means that a little bit of method acting is required to communicate with our American bretheren to make them feel that we are on their wavelength. A colleague of mine was explaining this to the junior member of team prior to getting her to join a client call, when the junior team member piped up: ‘I get what you want, we just need to Disney it up‘.
‘Disney it up‘ – artificially crank up enthusiasm in communications to bridge the trans-Atlantic cultural gulf.