Last week, I took part 3 of my corporate anthropology training. This time, the central theme was ‘Observing, identifying and analysing organisation culture’. An interesting subject was de ‘culture shock’ you have to face when exposed to a new culture. You do not recognise everything; things are different from what you are used to. It is also the other way around: your new environment has difficulty placing you. The shock is experienced on either side.

During one of the sessions, I realised I had gone through something like this myself. I was the interim HR manager at an office in Switzerland, working on a major transition. Part of the office was to be moved to the Netherlands. Quite a hassle and little trust, also because the former HR manager had left under rather unfortunate circumstances. Was I also looked at with suspicion?

Every Monday morning, I flew to Geneva, and it was my habit to pop in at the departments just to say hello. Many months later, long after I had completed my job in Switzerland, I met somebody from that office, and she said to me in private: ‘I missed your goodmornings! You were visible, you were there, we trusted you.’

Sometimes, culture shocks go unnoticed. I hadn’t realised that by merely being there on Monday mornings and saying ‘good morning’ to everybody I had made a favourable impression!