The World is Not Flat

Monday, April 7, 2014, by Eliane Karsaklian

flat worldFor centuries, people who claimed the world was round were ostracized. Now it’s the other way around. There is a notion that globalization has made the business world flat. That certainly hasn’t been my experience.

A flat world is a place in which we wouldn’t want to live. Culture would be homogeneous. Everything would follow the same routine. We’d all have the same language and use the same currency. And if the business world were flat, sooner or later we’d get to the end of it and then have to turn around. There would be no adventure or excitement. It would be like never leaving home.

The other irony is that, once upon a time, this is how we wanted it to be. I’m speaking in particular of European and North American business people.

When these were the dominant business cultures, other parts of the world were happy to do things our way. Emerging countries wanted to emulate us and were willing to replace their cultures with ours.

Power has shifted since then. World markets that seemed impossible to open 30 years ago are now available. While still economic drivers, North America and Europe now have rivals that equal or surpass them. And these emerging countries know it.

They no longer suffer from an inferiority complex. Now they demand that we adapt to their approach. For example, a few years ago I was doing some international negotiation training with business people in China. At one point, we were covering the use of silence in North America—and how uncomfortable this can make people feel. There came a moment when it struck me, and I turned to the people I was working with and said, “Now you’re using silence with me, aren’t you? Why?” Speaking for the rest, one man replied, “This is just our way. If people want to do business with us, they should get used to it!”

  • Andy Lockhart

    Great post, having done business globally myself, the different cultures are so important.

  • Sophie Bowns

    Ah this was very interesting!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hello Fred

    This is a beautiful post. I was hooked from the very beginning.

    I am completely with you in that homogeneity would be ‘hella boring’! Cultural, social, financial and business differences make the world exotic and ethereal! Life is exciting BECAUSE of these dissimilarities.

    And what a fantastic way to end your post! #HUGS Yes, ‘superpower’ is just a buzz word today. Respect each other’s norms and enjoy a mutually-satisfying relationship!


    Thank you so much

  • Lily Leung

    The world is sort of flat, isn’t it? Walmart is everywhere. And so is McDonald’s, even in the Forbidden City until people protested. I think they are gone from there but I’m not sure. So how culturally diversified are we, really?

  • Fruitbearer

    Interesting article! I regularly participate in an outreach ministry to international students (mostly Chinese) and yes, I’ve experienced “silence” :).

    ~Urailak (Fruit Bearer on Facebook)

  • Maanne Lopez

    Interesting post. At some point I’d say ours is a country embracing foreign culture as economy dictates. We don’t speak our native language at work, that’s because we cater to foreign customers. And yes, there’s a lot of McDonald’s here. And I admit, I can write better in English than in my language.

  • Sophie Bowns

    I find it hard to believe that people ever thought that it was….

    • ElianeKarsaklian

      Hi everyone!

      Thanks for all your comments.

      But this is exactly my point. We tend to think that the world is getting flat because we see the same brands everywhere. But in the essence, people stick to their cultural habits and won’t go out of their ways to do business with other people.

      And talking about McDonald’s notice that they adjust their food to each single country they settle in, otherwise they are rejected.

      2014-04-26 12:42 GMT+02:00 Disqus :

  • Salma Dinani

    Interesting article. Never thought about the world being flat figuratively speaking.

  • Erzsebet Bogyo

    Actually I know that people before the middle ages knew about the American continent and they had extensive trade going on — unfortunately the middle ages can be blamed fro a lot of ugly things…

  • bob

    deez nuts