Cultural and Generational Relationships

Different Cultures

In life developing a successful relationship with individuals from countries with cultures different than your own can be very important to your success. It can also be very challenging.

The only way to develop a successful relationship with someone from a different culture is to know and understand their cultural values, beliefs, etiquette, assumptions, and rules.

It is important to fully recognize how much the USA’s and Canada’s demographics have changed over the past 20 years or so. It will be demographically changing even more in the future. 

Individuals naturally align, accept, and trust people more easily when they are from their “cultural group”. If someone is from a different culture, they will accept and trust them more if they demonstrate that they have taken the time to gain a reasonable level of knowledge and respect for the other person’s culture.

If you show that you have not made the effort to understand the other person’s culture, you will naturally and automatically want to do business “your way”.  That is the only cultural you know. You probably will not even realize you are behaving only “your way” and not the other person’s “culturally appropriate way”.

The culturally-different individual will note your lack of appreciation and respect for their “cultural way”. They will tend to see you as being culturally insensitive – if not more seriously being “culturally inappropriate”.  Your lack of “cultural appropriateness” will significantly limit how successful you can be in developing a relationship with them.

Canadians and Americans are culturally programmed to develop a relationship with someone much faster than individuals from the vast majority of other cultures of the world.  They will spend 3 to 5 minutes “getting to know someone” and then want to “get down to business”.

That approach works fine when dealing with another native American or Canadian. But is a seen as poor, if not aggressive or insulting, to individuals from the majority of other cultures of the world.

It is a matter that the approach of each individual is culturally very different and is the “right” way according to their culture.

We are all strongly culturally-conditioned on how we see things as being “right” or “wrong”.  Each culture has its own unique perceptions and behaviours as to what is “right” or “wrong” in certain situations.

To individuals from the vast majority of cultures, being “culturally appropriate” is far more important to them than how important it is to mainstream Canadians or Americans.

Individuals usually do “what is right” according to their culture but what is “right” in one culture might be perceived as rude, aggressive, or just plain “wrong” in another culture.

Our cultural beliefs, values, etiquette can stir deep emotions.

For example, to someone who grew up the USA or Canada, when they are speaking with someone who consistently “looks them in the eye”, they see that individual is seen as being trustworthy.

However, to individuals from other cultures, such as Japan, someone looking them in the eye for any length of time is seen as being rude, overly aggressive, and/or disrespectful.

Another important area of developing a successful relationship with someone from a different culture is making a good “first impression”.

While creating a good first impression is always important when starting a relationship, creating a positive “first impression” with individuals from a different culture is more important than it in Canada’s culture.

Research has shown that if someone is not culturally trained, they will make three cultural mistakes in the first minute to 1 ½ minutes of meeting someone from quite a different culture.

The culturally different person will likely forgive you for the first mistake you make saying to them “oh well, s/he is not from our culture”; the second cultural mistake you make, say, 20 seconds latter is not as quickly forgiven. They will say to themselves something like “not again” and start to write you off as not being very relevant to them. When you make the third “culturally inappropriate” mistake shortly thereafter, they will usually “write you off” as not understanding them and not caring about them.  You are seen as pretty much being self-focused and therefore irrelevant. They will keep their thoughts about you to themselves. They feel it would be “culturally inappropriate” to tell you how they feel about you.

Conversely, if you know how to be “culturally appropriate” with them, they will see you as knowledgeable and respectful of their culture. They will appreciate you for your cultural sensitivity and awareness.  As a result, they tend to want to see if a meaningful relationship can be established with you.

To the individuals from the vast majority of cultures, the relationship process is to establish a trusting relationship first and foremost. Then, and only then, do business with an individual.

It takes significantly more time to develop a relationship with someone from most other cultures than is the case in Canada or the USA.

Why should you make that extra effort?

Because once a culturally different person has a relationship with you and begins doing business with you, they will typically send a lot of referrals from their “cultural group” to you. We are not talking about 1 or 2 referrals such as you might obtain from American or Canadian clients. We are talking about a lot more referrals. You will also find that referrals from most cultural groups of different countries will be very loyal customer thereafter.

Different Generations

The four generations have very different values and developing a successful relationship with individuals from each generation requires very different approaches.


Among other requirements, developing a successful relationship with Traditionalists requires that you to show a reasonable amount of formality.

Baby Boomers

One of the most important things you can do to developing a successful relationship with Baby Boomers is show that you admire the level of success they have achieved in life.

 Generation “X”

Generation “X” is the first generation where you find a strong value placed on one’s self.  Being self-reliant is seen as essential.

To break through their skepticism of depending on others, among other things you can do to develop a relationship with Generation “X” individual is show that you admire their “Get-a-Life” attitude.

Generation “Y”

Sometimes called the “Millennial Generation”, Generation “Y” also places a strong value on themselves.  Yes, they are a “Me” generation.

They believe they can do pretty much anything using the power of the Internet.

They will respect you if they decide that you deserve to be respected. You need that respect to develop a successful relationship with them.