Welcome, bienvenue, \u0434\u043e\u0431\u0440\u043e \u043f\u043e\u0436\u0430\u043b\u043e\u0432\u0430\u0442\u044c, \u6b22\u8fce\u4f60\u6765, f\u00e1ilte, swagata, wilkommen, y\u00f4koso, selamat datang, bienvenidos, h\u00e4rzliche w\u00f6ikomme.\nThe chances are that you\u2019d probably have to spend some time on the Internet looking up the words above to figure out the languages.\u00a0 Yet, working in international settings, the language barrier is often the least of your worries. Bigger stumbling blocks can often come in the shape of subtle cultural differences that can derail the best laid plans.\nEat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we do IT\n Northern Ireland Executive \n\u00a0Picture this: you have a large project underway that is affecting your company\u2019s offices in different parts of the world. Mostly, things are going fine, but you've come across a major stumbling block. The director for the South-East Asia region is refusing to sign off on testing. There is a problem with the testing scenarios that have been designed by the integration partner, and that were agreed upon by everyone during the project\u2019s preparation phase.\nSo you fly out to Seoul to meet the regional team. As your meeting with them progresses, you\u2019re beginning to feel a bit frustrated because rules are rules, but the regional team doesn\u2019t seem to see it that way when it comes to the testing scenarios.\nThe end of the day looms, still with no solution in sight. The regional director proposes that everybody go out to dinner, and you agree hoping to continue the discussion and save the day.\nThings, however, do not go as you hope. While you take the time to compose your thoughts and restate your arguments, for some reason the regional team doesn\u2019t seem to be interested in listening to you. They are much more interested in the food being served and are constantly ordering new items from the menu with frequent cries of \u201cYeogiyo!\u201d leading inevitably to a new delicacy being placed in front of you.\n bl0ndeeo2 \nThere\u2019s another thing bothering you as well. Everyone is drinking abundantly. Beer glasses are constantly being refilled with something called soju, people are shouting \u201cGunbae!\u201d and downing the drinks like there\u2019s no tomorrow. You want to keep a clear head, so you\u2019ve politely refused. And so the night continues, ending with no solution. What have you done wrong?\nWell, the truth is that you did quite a lot wrong. To begin with you misunderstood the way in which they view contracts and agreements. Going in with the view that \u201cwhat\u2019s written is written\u201d is not going to work in Korea. For them, an agreement is a starting point, a way to begin working and they expect it to evolve and be flexible over time, as working relationships change. So while you were trying to impress upon them that they\u2019d agreed to the test scenarios, you couldn\u2019t understand why they didn\u2019t want to respect that agreement, they were equally baffled that you couldn\u2019t just accept that they wished to make a change. Hung up on a cultural difference, neither side addressed the reasons behind the changes they wanted.\nYour next misunderstanding concerns the motivation for dinner. It may appear obvious that having travelled half-way across the world to iron out the problem, the Korean team would want to push ahead with discussions over dinner. This, however, is not the reason behind the invitation. Koreans have a tradition called \u201choesik,\u201d where colleagues get together after a stressful day to eat and drink. It improves relationships. So, while you continued to discuss work, they wanted to discuss you, and themselves. Not doing so is considered bad manners, a refusal to bond and build rapport.\nProbably the worst thing you did, though, was to refuse to drink with them. Refusing alcohol destroys the ambiance. You\u2019re not giving them the opportunity to see you with your guard down, so that they can get to know you better and, later, work out a solution to the problem. Is it any surprise then, that the trip was fruitless?\nEuh, that\u2019s not what I meant\nCultural differences don\u2019t have to be as complex as the Korean example to mess up plans. A very simple misunderstanding is in interpreting head nods in various places of the world.\nImagine being in Gujarat to agree on an outsourcing contract. You get back thinking you\u2019d reached a verbal agreement, but you\u2019re wrong. That bobble of the head was not the agreement that you thought it was.\nMay you live in interesting times\n JD Hancock \nCultural differences aren\u2019t the only things that make the life of a global CIO interesting. Running a video conference at midnight (because it\u2019s the only way to get your teams from Montreal and Kuala Lumpur to participate at the same time) is just par for the course.\nOver the course of time with this blog I\u2019m hoping to explore some of the challenges, opportunities, frustrations, and fun to be had as a global CIO. I\u2019ll be interviewing CIOs and other senior IT people,\nI will also be talking to people outside of IT to get their views on how the CIO can really help global organizations.\nDo you have an interesting experience that you\u2019d like to share? Some important lessons learned? If so, I\u2019d love hear from you.