Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cultural Differences

A few weeks back I had a conversation with a coworker from Sweden about the differences in Swedish vs. American corporate culture. Notably, in Sweden there is a high value put on cooperation and consensus, and a lot of time and energy are spent trying to reach agreement. My coworker from Sweden contrasted this with his observation that in the American approach decisions are taken relatively quickly by managers, with or without agreement from their direct reports and colleagues. Inevitably this talk about how business is conducted in America reminded me of Dilbert, and of several particular Dilbert strips that I had read over the years.

However, I was quite surprised to learn that my Swedish colleague had never heard of Dilbert. Dilbert is such a large phenomenon in America, and so much American culture is exported to other countries particularly our culturally near neighbors in Europe, that it hadn't occurred to me that Dilbert would be unknown in Sweden.

I wonder why Dilbert hasn't found a foothold there. Could it be because it is difficult to effectively translate closely written comic strips into other languages? Or, are most popular American comic strips just so bad that there is no market for any American efforts in the field in other parts of the world? Or is it because of those differences in corporate culture between the US and Sweden? Maybe the jokes just don't work over there?

Here's one I like a lot, even if it isn't about corporate culture.


  1. My related question is why don't more people follow other things Scott Adams is doing? His blog is endlessly fascinating, and so is his background story. And I do not generally enjoy fiction, but the two books of his I read were very entertaining and thought-provoking. It is safe to say he is my favorite "celebrity".

    As to your question, I've got nothing. I wonder if this is limited to Sweden or if it is this way in other European countries, too. I would like to see a map showing Dilbert hotspots.

  2. Justin,

    So I have to ask, did you like fiction when you were younger? I'm wondering because I've noticed this pattern with intellectual men that many of them turn away from fiction at some point in their early 20s. I think that many of them actually return to fiction in later life, and that's an interesting fact as well.

    Scott Adams IS an interesting guy! Tons of ideas coming from his unique perspective. He really knows how to query about the world in provocative ways.

  3. My story fits that pattern pretty well. As a kid I was obsessed with Goosebumps books, then through grade school I did as little reading as I possibly could, then not until the second half of college did I get into reading for enjoyment again. I have read a few novels by Kinky Friedman that I enjoyed, but otherwise it is almost exclusively non-fiction.

    What's your reading history like?

  4. I read a lot (almost exclusively fiction) all through my childhood and teenage years. I stopped reading fiction sometime within a few years of graduating from high school. Haven't really ever gone back.

    There are some novels I'd like to read, but I just always end up picking up a book on a topic I'm interested in instead. I've also gotten to be more cavalier about dropping a book part way through. Usually this happens in the first half, or I finish the book. But The Black Swan was an exception: I read the whole thing except the last 20 pages. I just got the idea that NNT had already said everything he was going to say.