Managing Diversity- Coconut vs. Peach

“In Brazil people are so friendly – they are constantly inviting me over for coffee. I happily agree, but time and again they forget to tell me where they live.”

–          A German in Brazil

Erin Meyer is expert in working with diverse teams. She talks about two types of cultures- Coconut Culture and Peach Culture.

peach-and-coconut[1]

In peach cultures like the USA or Brazil people tend to be friendly (soft outside) with new acquaintances. They smile frequently at strangers, move quickly to first-name usage, share information about themselves, and ask personal questions of those they hardly know. But after a little friendly interaction with a peach, you may suddenly get to the hard shell of the pit (hard inside) where the peach protects his real self and the relationship suddenly stops.

In coconut cultures such Russia and Germany, people are initially more closed off from those they don’t have friendships with (hard outside). They rarely smile at strangers, ask casual acquaintances personal questions, or offer personal information to those they don’t know intimately. But over time, as coconuts get to know you, they become gradually warmer and friendlier (soft inside). And while relationships are built up slowly, they also tend to last longer.

Erin gives an interesting example of her (a peach) meeting with a couple in France (coconut).

It was my first dinner party in France and I was chatting with a Parisian couple. All was well until I asked what I thought was a perfectly innocent question: “How did the two of you meet?” My husband Eric shot me a look of horror. When we got home he explained: “We don’t ask that type of question to strangers in France. It’s like asking them the colour of their underpants.”

–          Erin Meyer

culture diversity

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