Saturday, August 27, 2011

» On communication, cultural differences, and the openSUSE Conference

Disclaimer: the next paragraphs may sound presumptuous, but they're not. I swear.

It has occurred to me, time and time again, that some people consider others as semi-gods. People who are highly active e.g. in open source projects, and are sometimes even regarded for their work. Well, it sucks.

I know that this has happened to me a few times (being seen as a semi-god, that is), and I hate it. Not only does it not have any ground for being, we're just folks like everyone else, and while hard and good work should be appreciated, and while a simple "thank you" is way too rare and rewarding, taking it to that level is a very-bad-thing (tm)

The main reason for it to be bad is that it breaks communication, it puts artificial barriers between people. Now, I can only speak for myself, but I want people to talk to me, to come to me, say hi, and have a chat about virtually anything, be it on the matter of the openSUSE project or not.

I like hearing about cultural differences, about experiences people make in their life, about funny and not-so-funny moments. I love spending time talking to people, especially "broken" people, who have gone through hard times (haven't we all ?), because they're full of life, full of content, even if it's sorrow. But hey, I like having a good time with happy people too ;).

But culture is often in the way of common sense and the ability to communicate across those artificial differences, specifically when we're talking about the differences in behavior and, well, yes, communication, precisely.

Generalization is always wrong (got it?), but there are a few traits that nevertheless apply in a very fuzzy way. Germans usually don't like physical contact, getting too much in their protective circle. They don't really like people who talk much either, or who behave in an extroverted way. Latins (French, Spaniards, Greeks, Italians, ...) often appear as sloppy, too relaxed, they don't take appointments seriously, they're always late, they're always talking, and loud, etc... Well hell yes. Asian cultures (in the broad geographic sense) are even more mind-boggling (to us Europeans, that is). North Americans are said to be quite vocal and easy to get in touch with, but don't appreciate digging a little deeper. Germans say things pretty straight as they are ("this sucks" is often perfectly acceptable). All those differences, all those barriers to understanding what we say to each other, and how we mean it.

At the openSUSE Conference or wherever we may meet, or even through electronic media, drop those differences, don't bother, say things straight up as they are, but be relaxed, have a good time, be vocal, talk, say what's on your mind. Don't be afraid to hurt feelings, you won't, because we're all a big happy (and sometimes grumpy) bunch of friends. Feel at home, this is your community. I am your friend. Poke me with a stick, give me a hug, talk to me out of the blue, whatever, slice me into pieces and put salt on it (that's a special for Alberto), I don't care. But don't remain silent, intimidated, blocked by your cultural background and, at the same time, be inclusive and accept those differences, to a certain extent (full circle or chicken/egg ?).

See you there, or anywhere else, and give me a hug, or at least a high five ;).

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Blogger Sankar said...

Like, +1


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