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On Herding Cats and Frenchmen

Herding Cats and FrenchmenPart of my latent career experience is in event management, so the idea of organizing a conference in Paris for fifty or so hoteliers didn’t seem like much of a stretch when I was first approached – shortly after the horrifying Bastille Day tragedy in Nice (July 14, 2016) – by a world-renown American expert on combating international terrorism in tourism, who was interested in speaking to the French hospitality sector.

It was an easy project in Anglo-Saxon terms: get a group of concerned professionals together to explore a timely, “hot” topic – preventing terrorism – in order to come up with some creative, holistic solutions for tourism in France.

When I enthusiastically mentioned my project to a seasoned French businessman, he immediately said that the only “experts” on terrorism the French would ever listen to are the Israelis. Moreover, he added some cultural caveats in the form of gross generalizations about the French, that I thought were pretty self-aware:

  • The French do not know how to listen;
  • The French need to express themselves; and
  • The French will systematically say No to everything in an attempt to create a barrier that they hope will help them avoid additional work.

When I passed this information on to my American expert in Texas, he just laughed and said, “They sound just like the Israelis”. (It turns out the Texan works regularly and closely with Israelis and knows whereof he speaks.)

That exchange reminded me of the GLOBE Country Clusters that we study in my master class on cross-cultural management, which clearly links the French and the Israelis as being of “Latin European” culture, along with the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese and the Belgians. (The Belgians?!)

Anyway, this is just a small demonstration of how important it is to have some intercultural knowledge under your belt.

Hmm. Is Texas still Anglo?