Thursday, February 28, 2008

Well meant, but ...

Those of us who work with international data (and that's most companies on the planet these days) have to be very sensitive to the cultural norms and requirements of each country, nation, ethnic group, religion, language-speaker and so on. It is all too easy to make a mistake or a choice which will cause offence somewhere.

This was illustrated recently by a local hotel's attempt to foster better relations and understanding amongst their very varied workforce. A competition was held whereby members of staff who identified, and filled-in on a form, the nationalities of the greatest number of their colleagues, won a small prize. A very worthy cause which, however, caused great offence to my Croatian friend who works there as the list contained not "Croatia" but the defunct "Yugoslavia", and it used not the Yugoslavian flag, or even the Serbian national flag, but the Serbian state flag.

We all make mistakes, and they can be rectified. They can also be compounded, as this one was, as the hotel decided that it was unimportant and made no alteration to the paper concerned.

Hardly the way to demonstrate cultural understanding.

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