Great questions for team building with many nationalities
This week, I had the pleasure of giving a Product Owner training with a very international company. We had 12 participants from countries as diverse as China, Philippines, Italy, US, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Denmark, India and I’m probably forgetting some. One of the participants told that in her team, every team member had a different nationality, and one even had two nationalities. Which is to say: quite a mix in the room!
Over lunch we came to discuss differences in cultures. In the Netherlands, we don’t just go visit friends: we make an appointment for that. In Italy and Bulgaria, I was told, you just go when you feel like it. We talked about eating habits and about riding bicycles in Dutch traffic. The usual conversation topics in international groups. Then we got to some interesting differences that we found to be good exercises for team building. Over this lunch we had quite some fun with it. Here goes.
- How do you call “the middle of nowhere” in your language? This question was raised by an American who had found out that on the east coast, several different words were used (none of which I can remember) and that later he learned that on the east coast the abbreviation BFE is used (which I won’t spell out). The Italian in the group, after giving it a thought, came up with “God’s place”. I had to admit that I couldn’t come up with the Dutch version – we often use the English phrase.
- What is the gesture you use to indicate the food is nice? In the Netherlands we wave our hand next to our cheek (which Italians use to indicate that someone is behaving weirdly). The Italians point their index finger into a cheek. Americans rub their tummy.
- How do you tell the time? We got to this one when at twelve-twenty-five I used the clumsy translation of the Dutch: “ten to half one”. Not only is it clumsy, but also there is a time difference of one hour between the Dutch “half one” (meaning half past twelve) and the English (meaning half past one). People got curious if we also used things like “five to quarter past half” (which we don’t).
- How does a dog bark in your language? We didn’t come to hearing the different answers, so this one is open for a next international gathering.
Maybe you are working in an international team? Have fun with these questions! Or maybe you can share some you have run into?