Thursday, February 7, 2008

Le Feel Internationale

Hugh MacLeod, in his blog,, mused that in the quiver of the necessary business tools of Financial, Intellectual, Technical and Cultural properties, that the only possible shortcoming in Microsoft's arMcDonalds-Korea, International, Microsoft, Geeks, bangalore, microstiff, sorority-girl, attorney, low-cost-outsourcing,advertising, Korea, America, mess, what's=wrongsenal was the latter. Oh, we all know there's a million Bangalorean geeks slaving away at code for good ole MacroStiff but is that really cultural? Or just low cost outsourcing? Cultural assimilation and growth require absorption of new ideas, divergent histories and traditions – a true crashing and synergism of disparate advantages towards the greater benefit of the whole.
(very Confucian...or nuclear?)

Following is an excerpt from Wild Wild East – One American executive's view of a foreign culture as pitched to an employee a few years ago:

"The attorney was a whole other story. A primpish North-side Chicago gal she had all the charm of a sorority girl on spring break. I honestly don’t recall her name but her pitch was nothing short of glowing – glowing in the manor of stinking shit about things she didn’t know fuck all about. Oh, the international life as she recounted it. Sunsets on the Champs-Élysées. Wines at quaint corner cafes and an exotic circle of European friends pervaded her life in Paris with her husband, also an attorney with an international law firm. I can still smell the champagne soaked carpet of her description as it was being rolled up after the American Chamber of Commerce Ball on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower. I had been to Paris in 1990 and while much more of a backpacker than an executive at the time, certainly knew a few of the finer moments of that great city. I had stayed in the shadows of Tour Eiffel and busied my trip with cooking school, trips to the Louvre, Musée Rodin and Musée d'Orsay. My father used to say that I had “champagne taste” on a “beer budget” but my budget had come a long way from college and I had the wife to prove it.

“Have you ever been to Korea?”, I asked the attorney.

“Hong Kong?”, “Anywhere in Asia at all?”

Her “no’s” were just sheepish in an unknowledgeable sort of way.

“Honey”, I recall thinking, “Seoul, Korea ain’t no fucking Parée!”

Hell, she wouldn’t have understood it if I had said it in exactly that way so I tried my best to describe to her just how different from Paris it really was, but I knew all my counter-claims were falling on deaf ears. Her memory of Paris truly was truly blinding. She thought all international assignments were like Paris. I'm sure she'd love Bangalore.

And though this tale is over ten years old, I encountered the same just last week from a recruiter with a major global advertising group. She was recruiting for a Tokyo position but couldn't spell the Japanese partner's name correctly nor even confirm facts that are listed on the company's website (in English!)

At least when you see a McDonald's in another country, they will spell the name in the appropriate language and even represent the typography in the style of the culture. "Le Grand Mac!" , to quote Travolta from Pulp Fiction..

What are the chances that Microsoft can even bridge that chasm as it slips in word dominance? MicroDeux? I dunno, I think legal's gonna have some issues... I'll get back to you...

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