The main challenge in our relationship with locals is to understand them, their view of us and of the world. Then we can do business with them, work with them… successfully.
This is the first foundational job.
But do we have time for that?
Relocating, creating new business, making new home…
So, most of us ignore the most important stage and proceed to form partnerships, employment relationships… without this foundation.
Obviously the resulting building has a tendency to crumble.
In our home territory we don’t need to do it as your world views are more or less shared with the people around you. Some people never even crossed the class barriers before, dealing mostly with people with similar education, political views. I always thought it was a bit limiting, but in fact its very comfortable and saves a lot of time and effort.
My only experience of discrepancies which arise from praying different gods was relationship with my husband. But by the time we met I was heavily and willingly westernised (10 years in the country actively trying to adapt my brain, behaviour, lifestyle to the local ways). And I was European to start with.
But even East-European vs West-European and post-communist vs capitalist… was enough to upset and appal him about some of my choices/attitudes…
My husband tried to change me (be nicer, be less direct, be more careful, less blunt…more polite, less open, less volatile, more contained, not that wordy…) but I was quite reluctant. Why bother? Big job and what are the benefits exactly?
I was only seduced and fascinated by Englishness briefly: stiff upper leap … and whatever else it could offer… in various degrees of stiffness… Not pushed enough by life, so my identity changed only mildly and superficially.
Sri-Lankans are not westernised, do not want to be and can not be (not enough influences, those influences need to be super-intense to change adult brain considerably). So their neural pathways are formed and working according to local pattern.
The masks they are wearing are not easy for us to interpret, let along read the mood behind them.
There are a national character traits formed by the climate and geographical position which in their turn over the centuries influenced the whole historical development, which led to political system. This political system translated to economic realities is now moulding the brain infrastructure of the people we are dealing with.
Our pleas to them to be honest, strait, keep their word, work hard… are the white (literally) noise they have to endure while interacting with us.
We need to understand their motivation and expectations to get anywhere with them.
– What is there to understand? – most ex-pats would say, – its obviously sex and money…
That would apply to all humans. But there are differences… The programme the locals are running on or even the operational system is different from ours.
It is in our interests to learn it.