When you offer a drink to a guest, and she says "no, thank you". Would she be expecting you to ask her again or she really meant what she said The answer depends on if she's from a "high-context" culture like China or a "low-context" culture like America.
Erin Meyer used many enlightening real-life examples like this to illustrate the cultural differences around the world.
I particularly like Erin Meyer's approach of using 8 self-standing yet interconnected scales, communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling, to map cultural differences. She position each country on the scales for visual comparison. This systematic method and the abundant real-life examples together made the book very easy to follow.
The book mainly targets business managers leading multi-cultural teams. I think some of the examples and conclusions are also enlightening to an everyday reader enjoying international travel and curious about different cultures.
Being an immigrant from China who lives and works in the U.S, I experienced a number of aha moments in the book. Remember when my very first U.S boss told someone I was her life saver after I finished , to myself, a trivial task, I felt being put on the spot. People in America do ten to over-use words like "excellent" and "thrilled" (chapter 2), which strikes people from some other cultures as fake and insincere. Indeed It took me a while to recalibrate and adapt., Luckily for me, Americans and Chinese are both confrontation-averse chapter 7).
Putting accounting standard in the cultural context as Meyer described in chapter 3 Why versus How, I came to a realization why IFRS is principle-based, and U.S GAAP is rule/application-based.
That said, I had my reservations in seeing America and China as single cultures. Meyer did include some qualifiers regarding to this point, however with only moderate conviction. For example, she pegged American leadership approach as egalitarian (chapter 4) , but to me the financial and public sectors are leaning more toward hierarchical. As Chinese major cities increasingly westernized, linear time (chapter 8) has become more of a norm in both corporate and social settings.
There are plenty of funny moments; I found myself chuckling from time to time.
Overall a wonderful read; the best culture self-help book I have read so far.