I am constantly thinking about cultural influences here. In my opinion every question and every answer (almost) would be greatly improved by prominently displaying the cultural perspective of the person asking/answering/commenting. Most of what is discussed here in WorkPlace is about what is the appropriate thing to do in the situation.

I've worked for many years in the USA and a number of years in a south-east Asian country. Everyone, whether they know it or not, is influenced by their culture. Many times people are not even aware of their own bias toward their own culture.

We all get our opinions about what is best from our training, observation and experience. All of this input has a cultural perspective. This perspective then informs the advice we give. This is a wonderful thing really; not at all negative.

From my experience, the best answer to most questions is rooted in that culture. When the question comes from another culture, it's very likely that the advice I give will be wrong.

In my opinion the only reason this works at all is that every participant uses English. It seems that the majority of the questions and answers are from US/Canada/Europe. Although the cultures are quite different, they are less different than compared to (for example) Asian cultures. Most of the time an Asian won't get relevant advice here.

There should be a field in the profile to choose a country as my cultural perspective. This is different than location. I don't live in the US but that is my home country and informs my advice. So I would choose the US. Then in every question and answer the US flag would display next to my name to show my home culture.

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This clarity would greatly improve WorkPlace. Answers would be welcome from any culture. So if I'm in India I would give more weight to answers from India etc. So the answers wouldn't always agree; different answers would be relevant to different places. See this answer for how Judaism.SE appreciates differing answers.

This Q&A is helpful but doesn't break us out of the box Assumed Cultural Context and The Workplace

  • Why not asking the OP to indicate the concerned culture when you think that has importance for the question? – clem steredenn May 3 '16 at 13:00
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    @bilbo_pingouin In my opinion every question and answer would be improved with this. We shouldn't have to assume or ask. – D_Bester May 3 '16 at 13:02
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    A lot of users aren't too keen to provide too many details about themselves, sometimes for good reasons. So enforcing it would probably be a recipe for missing on potentially good questions. Having a systematic focus on one culture might render many question far too specific and useless for people not from that culture. You'd see a multiplication of dupes: "How to quit in the USA, how to quit in India, how to quit in Spain, how to quit in Bahrein, how to quit in Japan, ..." If the answers indicate which culture they talk about, it might be much more interesting than limiting the questions. – clem steredenn May 3 '16 at 13:09
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    But just country flags would introduce a different form of bias into it. Within a country there can be vastly different cultures, and quite frankly, many people would hit the downvote button on certain countrys they don't like almost instinctively. – user308386 May 3 '16 at 13:10
  • @bilbo_pingouin I understand we'd have to give the option to be anonymous. But hopefully many people would be proud of their country and want to share that. Also this shouldn't generate dupes if the question is generic enough. But in the answers we could have something from India and something from UK. So that would inform me of it's relevance. And I might learn something from all of them. – D_Bester May 3 '16 at 13:14
  • @Magisch I understand the fear, but I hope we have enough good people that it wouldn't be a problem. – D_Bester May 3 '16 at 13:16
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    @Magisch Very true. The USA has VERY different standards from region to region and even state to state, for example. I know this is also true in Germany – Old_Lamplighter May 3 '16 at 13:21

What about people who've worked extensively in more than one culture? Are we going to see stacks of flags?

More importantly, though, if it's relevant this information should be in the post, where it's durable and prominent. Accounts and thus their user cards can get deleted. People can fail to fill it out, or -- because they find it intrusive -- fill in a bogus value.

Finally, cultural perspective is but one axis along which answers will differ. Another is company size. Another is field. Another is the amount of experience an employee has. All pertinent information should thus be in the answer, and if it turns out something was omitted that matters, it should be edited in once the issue is raised.

  • The thing about culture is that people don't think about it. We need some way to bring that forward in a way that is pleasing. This would greatly improve the usefulness of this site. – D_Bester May 3 '16 at 13:25
  • Oh, people do think about it and do it purposely all the time. Just start counting the number of questions where OP has clearly spelled out their country and cultural context, only for half of the answers to start with "Don't know about country X, but here in the US ..." followed by a lengthy explanation of how everything is better in the US, and why the OP is an idiot for following such a stupid culture. None of it benefits the OP or even any other user, but it gets massive number of upvotes anyway. – Masked Man May 3 '16 at 14:07
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    @MaskedMan I downvote nearly all of those answers I read. I wish other people did the same. – enderland May 3 '16 at 14:48
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    @D_Bester some people think about it; we definitely have answers that start by describing the answerer's context. We need to encourage people to do this more, but I don't think the proposed mechanism is the way to do it. – Monica Cellio May 3 '16 at 14:54
  • @MaskedMan That's only because we are so much better in the USA, at least in the fact that we don't paint all posters from a particular nation with that broad brush. – Old_Lamplighter May 3 '16 at 19:21
  • @RichardU I am not denying that US is much better, just that it is not relevant to the question asked. As for the painting, maybe you don't, but a lot of others do. (Example: There are some 30-odd questions here about relieving letter issues, hence, every employer in India abuses every employee by denying them the relieving letter.) Anyway, I did not claim that all US posters are like that, I am sorry if you got that impression. – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 6:37
  • @MaskedMan I actually know a bit about India and it's laws. The laws regarding relieving letters make it very easy for Indian businesses to abuse them. European and American businesses doing business in India tend to not abuse those laws for fear of backlash in their home nations. So, to a degree, those people are right about Indian businesses, they're just right for the wrong reason. And I apologize for being snarky. I am in an amazingly bad humor due to events in RL. Please don't take anything I say personally. – Old_Lamplighter May 4 '16 at 12:15
  • @Richard I am Indian, I know a lot more than "a bit" about India. The relieving letter problem is not as serious as you guys make it appear, and this holds even in proper Indian companies. I keep telling people here all the time, but they just don't want to give up their prejudices. But anyway, I will complain about it and keep trying ... sigh. No worries about your comments, I don't take anything on teh interwebz too seriously. I hope your RL issues get resolved soon. Good luck. :) – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 13:04
  • @MaskedMan Sorry, that came off as condescending, I realize that. What I meant to say is that the internationals are fearful of looking bad. The mere notion that you need to be released by a company is repugnant to many in Europe and the US, so even the accusation of abuse of such is enough to make them behave(mostly). I think much of what you're seeing is more of a visceral cultural reaction to the existence of the relieving letter more than anything else. Stereotypes exist because a few bad examples stick in memory. – Old_Lamplighter May 4 '16 at 13:27
  • @RichardU No, I didn't consider it condescending, even if you thought so! :o In this case, stereotypes exist because people want to believe in them. Considering the size of the Indian workforce and the number of "relieving letter abuse" cases, it there enough evidence to conclude that the whole country is rife with abusive employers? Did people from across the world stop attending US universities after the Virginia Tech Shootout? Looking at the Wikipedia page, we can "safely" conclude that US universities are full of shady characters. – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 17:27
  • @MaskedMan Yep, only the bad stuff makes it to the media. But you're right about the universities containing shady characters, just not of the shooter type. – Old_Lamplighter May 4 '16 at 18:38
  • Hey @RichardU, Masked Man, could you get a room? I'm getting pinged on every comment in this conversation and it doesn't seem to be about my post any more. Thanks! – Monica Cellio May 4 '16 at 18:57
  • @MonicaCellio Yes, I could get a room. How do I do it? Let's see: I go to his profile, and add him to chatroom (or something). Or I could take the easier option, and click on the "create a chat room for discussion" next to "add comment" option below your answer. But wait, there is no such option, and the first option is illogical and cumbersome, so let's not go there. Instead how about you use the "mute" option to prevent getting any notification from either of us? No wait, no such option either. So how about this? Shall we fix the disease instead of complaining about the symptoms? :) – Masked Man May 22 '16 at 17:42
  • @MaskedMan you could support meta.stackexchange.com/q/259622/162102. Meanwhile, we're stuck with the system as it is. Next time, instead of responding to a polite request with complaints, how about asking for help if you need it? – Monica Cellio May 22 '16 at 18:08
  • When requests for help are ignored, there is no other option left but to complain. – Masked Man May 23 '16 at 1:40

Downvote, downvote, downvote!

I almost always downvote answers which clearly ignore the culture/location of the question. I wish more people did this to be honest, because I agree 100% with the problem you are suggesting here.

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    Sometimes even those answers which are not entirely on-culture can be very useful to people who visit the question at a later time (although not necessarily to the OP). I remember a question about a woman being bullied in the workplace in India, or some other country like that. The answers were mostly along the lines of "Go to HR! Get your manager involved!". These are useless to the OP, as in her culture those steps will get you laughed at, nothing more. However the answer of "have your brother talk to the guy in private" - although appropriate in that culture - wouldn't help future users. – AndreiROM May 3 '16 at 17:03
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    @AndreiROM Why wouldn't it help future users, unless that woman will forever be the only person from that culture to use this site? – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 6:38
  • @MaskedMan - what about those people of different culture? Should they ask a separate question? Then why not have an Indian Workplace SE, and a Canadian Workplace SE, and an American Workplace SE ... What's wrong with having answers on a question which help many different cultures? – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 13:11
  • @AndreiROM the biggest thing I find as a problem is that people blatantly and unapologetically answer from the wrong country perspective. If a person is asking about India, how is it helpful for them to get all sorts of "In United States/Canada/Germany/UK, I would do X" (which then get lots of upvotes). It means questions with less common cultural context consistently get mediocre and poor answers. – enderland May 4 '16 at 13:22
  • @enderland - that's when a bounty should be offered. I think this problem stems from the fact that most of our users are from Europe/North-America. If we had more active users from India, etc. then those questions would get more relevant answers. The only real solution is educating the community, not creating localization based answer permissions, etc. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 13:35
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    @AndreiROM That is irrelevant. Your claim seems to be that an answer relevant to the OP's culture is "not helpful to future users" unless the question also gets answers relevant to many other cultures. If 10 "future users" from the OP's culture find the answer useful, you cannot call it useless because there are 1000 users from other cultures. By that logic, most of the answers here are useless since they cover specific scenarios that only a handful of users will encounter. (Example: "My boss asked my coworker to stay at my house.") – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 17:10
  • @MaskedMan - and yet we don't really see users asking a question from the perspective of 1000 different cultures, do we? Most questions are actually answerable from a Western perspective. So I could easily argue that we are wasting our time answering questions which benefit users from a single culture, rather than focusing on questions which fit more than one. But that would be silly. So, in my opinion, is your implied suggestion that we somehow ban people from answering questions from a different culture's POV. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 17:20

I aknowledge your concerns, however I would like to point out some concerns with this approach:

Experience With Multiple Cultures

Even though I may have experience in working and dealing with several cultures my answer may be disregarded because my current location is Canada, for example.

We don't want to build a culture where if your're not from a certain country your answers are not appreciated.

Keep Future Visitors In Mind

Some of these "off-culture" answers may not help the OP, but they may help future users, or at least provide some ideas to the OP.

One question a while ago addressed a woman being bullied at work in India (or a similar country - although the title did not specify this, so a user Googling something along those lines would not be aware that the answers are specific to India).

This question was getting a lot of attention, and most answers were to go to management, or involve HR, which she had actually done, and not helped. The most salient advice was from a comment to have some male relatives "talk" to the bully - something completely inappropriate in Western culture, and which wouldn't help too many users in the future.


The OP should tag the question appropriately, or specify his/her culture in the question. When the answers start rolling in they can also select the appropriate one, or choose to award a bounty.

There are mechanisms in place for what you're trying to accomplish.

  • The woman bullied in India is an excellent example. Thanks. In my opinion the existing mechanisms are not good enough. – D_Bester May 4 '16 at 0:01
  • @D_Bester - i was actually using the example against your idea, but I guess it supports both sides – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 0:05
  • I didn't see that question; sure there are questions where it works OK. But in general it's not enough. Having the cultural background explicitly shown would greatly improve this site. Of course people can also say "I worked in India and this is what I saw/experienced" that's also great. – D_Bester May 4 '16 at 0:14
  • I also don't think tags are the best way. Tags localize the question when it's the answers that should be generally understood as localized. The question should be left more general if possible. – D_Bester May 4 '16 at 0:16
  • Of course if the goal is to export US customs and values then we're doing a great job and nothing should be changed. – D_Bester May 4 '16 at 0:17
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    @D_Bester - but what about users from Western countries? For them that question would be utterly useless. At that point why not localize the whole site? Instead, leave the tag system in place, let the OP choose the answer which applies, and move on with our lives. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 0:25
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    "which wouldn't help too many users in the future" Well, why not? While we are at it, we should also encourage every "Western" question here to be answered from the perspectives of various other cultures/countries. But wait, we already have Quora for that. :P – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 6:43
  • @MaskedMan - again, if you're going to be so rigorous about only people from certain cultures answering certain questions then push for localized Workplace SE sites. Otherwise let our users answer as they will, and let the OP choose that which most applies to them. I don't see any issue with the current system whatsoever. The OP is always free to choose which answer is relevant to him/her. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 13:15
  • @AndreiROM I am not rigorous about who should answer what, my only objection is to the claim that an answer local to the OP's culture is useless because it is inappropriate in other cultures. – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 17:13
  • @MaskedMan - where do I claim an answer to be useless? It is useful to the OP, and I encourage the OP to choose that reply as the answer. However, it will not necessarily be useful to a woman being bullied in France, now is it? However another post on that question answering from a European POV will be. So why is it so terrible to have both POVs on the same question? – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 17:21
  • Well pardon my poor English, but "wouldn't help too many users" sounded very close to "useless", but yeah, you are technically right, you never said it was useless. – Masked Man May 4 '16 at 17:50
  • @MaskedMan - I want the OP to get useful answers, but I also don't want to limit the scope of the question to the point where we are rejecting answers which don't strictly match the localization. After all, each answer may give the OP some piece of advice which is useful. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 17:53

I think it's really up to the answerer, I agree with your basic premise, but I have worked in First and Third worlds and still do, in several languages and cultures. When I answer a question I answer it from what I judge to be the relevant cultural perspective. And I point out the cultural perspective in answers precisely because it is relevant.

We already have a location tag which works well, so I don't think it's really necessary.

One thing I HAVE noticed happening is that quite often mainstream Western ideas, norms and morals are projected onto questions and highly upvoted, when in fact they are inappropriate in that context. And following that advice could get the OP into serious trouble.

But, this site is for general use, those answers may be useful in the future to someone from the West which is probably most of us.

That's my two cents, and don't try and put a flag next to my name, because I'm from a small country and it would be easy to work out who I am, so I wouldn't give it.

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    I would like to point out that your location is being showed in your user profile, still the qeustion of that is actually your country, but still there. – Raoul Mensink May 27 '16 at 9:15
  • @RaoulMensink I just put it in a couple of days ago, but Polynesia is not a country, it's an area of over 2 million square kilometers comprising probably dozens of countries, languages etc,. If someone tried hard enough they could work out who I am, but why bother? In fact that's just where I am, I grew up in Micronesia which is made up of hundreds of little scattered islands and hundreds of languages. – Kilisi May 27 '16 at 10:27
  • Ment to say "Still the question of what your actuall Country is". Also Europa has a flag, Polynesia can get one :P – Raoul Mensink May 27 '16 at 10:56
  • Can't get two Polynesians to agree on lunch, never get them to agree on a flag :) – Kilisi May 27 '16 at 10:59

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