More than a year ago, back in Buenos Aires, I was interview by my Czech current boss:
– why don’t we go have lunch somewhere near by? he said – and I pointed out a nice Italian restaurant that was only 5 blocks away.
Well, in fact it ended up being 12 blocks away, which even though was still walking distance to me, under the hot summer sun of Buenos Aires, made my boos´ face sweat frustration.
– “You said 5 blocks so I expected 5, not 6 nor 12” – and then he laughed. Lucky me –
That was my very first lesson about cultural differences even before getting on the plain. What came after that were many months of meeting people from everywhere, a lot of frustration, and a lot learning and satisfaction, and also a good chunk of self reflection. Reflection on who I am and how my cultural background determines the way I behave and communicate.
A simple example: in Buenos Aires the public transport is not good compared to Europe, so nobody surprise if you get 10, 20 or 30 minutes late to work. In Czech, not even once the metro hasn’t arrived in time! On my first day to work I left 20 minutes prior my designated google-maps leaving time, just in case something would happen. The next week, only 5 minutes, and then I realized it took me always the same amount of minutes, between 19 and 20, no more. Nothing ever happened! Quite boring…
As the weeks went by, always checking the news in Argentina, just because I miss my country, I sadly starting to reflect on why things work as they do in Argentina.
Argentinean are very well know in the world by la Patagonia, red wine, steak, and Madonna (over Messi, unfortunately), and also because of being very creative people: when the bus doesn’t come on time or just stops because of a strike, and you have an important meeting to attend, you still have to find your way through. That’s when creativity strikes!
And then, as we live in a constant crisis, creativity is a must. It is just a skill we develop to survive in the Darwinist jungle.
So when we are put into another cultures that require some level of change or crisis management, we feel like in our element.
But still the metro arrives on time everyday in Czech, and there are daily strikes in “Plaza de Mayo”! How is that possible?
I was thinking about this when coming back from the airport in Prague and I recognized the Argentinean slung of a family walking next to me. They had no coins, so when we arrived to the metro entrance, (there are no barriers in the Prague metro) one of them asked the Argentinean host:
– How do we get a ticket? And he answered, kinda smiling – you don´t need a ticket, and they just passed through.
You do need a ticket! There are machines on the sides. It is just that the systems works assuming that the citizen will pay for it, and very weirdly they ask you for it.
So, my reflection is the folowing: crisis triggers creativity, uncontrolled creativity brings corruption, and corruption brings crisis.
I am creative as well, and I have jumped over the metro barrier in Buenos Aires more than once, but I don´t do it in Europe. There a system made of people, norms and culture that just tells me, it is not the right thing to do. I still challenge the system sometimes, like drinking a glass of beer before driving, which they just dont do.
And that is how argentineans seems to be stuck in this never ending cycle of creative crisis.