Giving Advice

Can giving advice be cultural?

As I mentioned in my last post, my friends are here from Switzerland and have been sharing with me some of their experiences while they are here.

Here is a little story they told me they encountered on their way to NYC. They stopped at a gas station to get gasoline and they pulled up to the full service lane. The man told them to move to the second row where it was self-service. My friends did not understand the difference between full service and self-service because there is no full service in Switzerland.

The man told him proudly that he had just saved him 5 dollars.  Then as though knowing Thomas obviously didn’t know his way around the service pump, the man at the service station asked him what grade he wanted. My friend Thomas, shrugged and told the man it was a rental car. “Ohhh” the man said,”then you want the cheapest grade” and he pressed the relevant button for Thomas. Thomas found this whole interaction interesting because  in Switzerland people would not take the responsibility of telling you what you should select because you must know for yourself. If for some reason they did offer advice, it would be the most expensive option, because if they took that responsibility then they have to suggest something which wouldn’t cause them problems at a later date. And further Thomas told me , the Swiss are a into appearances so they don’t want to appear to take the cheapest option. He noticed the Americans are much more budget oriented and go first to the cheapest option. He appreciated this open and friendly advice.

I have noticed since I have been back in the US that many people are offering their opinion on what I should do in just about any situation I am discussing. Funny even when I didn’t ask for it and in some cases don’t want it. I know that I have adapted back into the culture because I found myself doing the same. Do you feel compelled to give your opinion or advice?

After Thomas’s story, I realized that this nature of giving advice IS cultural. Americans have grown up with a different sense of social responsibility. This is, of course, interpreted somewhat different among the American population but people feel a social responsibility to provide you with advice that they believe to be in your best interest. It is part of the culture to get involved and engage with others even if they are strangers.

What will be different now, when someone gives you advice that you didn’t ask for. Can you see it from another perspective and appreciate it is part of their deeper make up then just feedback on your situation.  It is their way to contribute and comes from a place of service and not of arrogance.  You could argue otherwise, but that is the way I like to look at it.

Share some of your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Anyone disagree? Lets here from you, too.

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Posted in Communication, Discovery, Interview

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