Cultural distance vs. Paradigm shifts

Mar 28, 2010

This week was marked by a development that was somewhat unexpected to me. A place that I’ve been going to for a very long time now, a place that I’ve tremendously enjoyed, has been holding my lesser visits against me. Don’t get me wrong, the relationship has developed to a very casual and joking setting, and indeed, I’ve been going there a lot less than say a year ago, but this has nothing to do with them. I just do it less.

Now when I try to extrapolate, I can understand that in other circumstances (read: other cultures), this may be a common approach: joking about guilting customers in increasing their custom, but to me and quite a few of my local peers, this has been and still is very strenuous as I (we) do care a lot about what people think about me (us). It has now gone as far as to make me consider choosing another place for the time being where I can just go to, not befriend and just transact with at a superficial level where quality/price ratio is the only important variable.

This cultural distance and its negative effects should however not really exist as the second party in play has actually been living and working in Luxembourg for nearly 20 years, but still, I wonder how this could have gone so far. Is Luxembourg and its culture really so different? Is it really so stuck-up and easily offended? Or is it just that the paradigm of me and the people I consulted about this has shifted?

When I was younger, it was invaluable to me to go places and be recognized, appreciated, and treated as “a buddy”, even in a business context. I guess I could have appreciated these sorts of jokes even, maybe even a lot! But today, it seems I value the other aspects more: ease of access, ease of transaction, ability to “log off”…
When written down like this, it also reminds me of my relationship to my phone on weekends where every ringing or beeping seems intrusive. Am I shutting down?

But what is there to learn from this? That customer paradigms shift? That every service person needs to have a lot of experience in reading body language and non-verbal communication? That near-endless opportunities and the anonymous internet may volatilize your customers?
I am not sure, but would appreciate your thoughts on this!

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