I’m a fan of the Netflix production, Suits. A key character, Louis Litt, doesn’t do many things right, however, in an episode, he prepares a tea ceremony and presents a thoughtful meaningful gift to a potential Japanese client.

I think Patti McCarthy, a Melbourne-based cultural adviser would be impressed with Louis’ planning.

Look out for this new great book for leaders and teams who need to be more culturally aware.

In her book, Cultural Chemistry, Patti has captured more than I was expecting to read – it’s a feast to devour (10 chapter courses) – everything you need to do, say and how to behave, no matter which culture you want to digest. Whether it’s about food, feet placement, doing business with the French and Finnish or is flatulence acceptable; every aspect of cultural understanding is expressed in a delicious format to make these global lessons stick.

We’re introduced to smart phrases which you will recall when discussing cultural matters with your team. For example:

Cultural Cruise control – turning the control off is essential if you wish to maximise the opportunity to absorb the new culture. What works for one culture can be detrimental to another. In Australia, we casually invite people to use our Christian names whereas in Malaysia this is taboo if you’re in senior management.

Be a Sherlock - investigating every aspect of the culture to ensure there is no embarrassment, ‘loss of face’ and importantly, no loss of business.

Cultural Wavelength – deepen your relationships by tuning into ‘their’ wavelength. We know in leadership that we better engage others when we adapt to be the leader that the others need us to be.

There are many simple yet useful reminders including communication differences. ESL, English as a Second Language took me back to my five years of studying Japanese and then attempting to act as a translator. There is a politely unspoken difficulty experienced by so many when English is their Second Language; – consider the acronyms and colloquialisms we Australians populate our narrative during meetings.


The ability to listen is fundamental in many Asian cultures.

I really enjoyed learning more about the system of identifying global societies as either Individualist or collective. Consider this: are you one who thinks about yourself e.g. has a phone conversation on speaker on the train for all passengers to hear or do you consider creating harmony as being more important e.g. not singling out one person who’s caused a problem rather asks the team to fix it. Knowing which system you’re fitting into might enable you to quicken the relocation process.

We’re introduced to a model, the Four R’s to create a circuit breaker – enabling a cultural awareness change of personal habits as you embark into relationship building projects no matter where you find yourself in our global economy.


Here’s the four R’s model:

Rewards – what’s driving you to learn about this culture – what’s the benefit of increasing your understanding – what will happen if you don’t engage with the culture?

Research – at one level you can learn about the dos & don’t and at another level you can make sense of culture by learning about what is value in these countries.

Reflect – how do you feel about this new cultural information; how different is it to your beliefs, values, and your own culture; and how will you use and adapt this new intelligence to your habits and behaviours?

Reach out – how will you adapt do be able to connect with others in what can be an entirely different culture. What’s your strategy?

Patti, in a virtual capacity, coaches you at the conclusion of each chapter, asking you the 4R model questions enabling you to have a meaningful conversation with your team members, if you use this tool to be a proactive global learning team.

We know that we learn through story-telling and Cultural Chemistry has the concoction measured well with succinct stories occupying most pages – heightening your awareness of how important this information is by identifying the differences and similarities of customs, rituals, beliefs, motivations and values.

Reading Cultural Chemistry will enable you to quickly answer these questions:

Q: Which nationality expect you to have a Plan B in addition to Plan A?
Q: Where are you if you’re expected to put on plastic shoes to visit the lavatory in someone’s home?
Q: Which nationality don’t appreciate receiving clocks for introductory gifts?
Q: Which month is a bad month for Filipinos to make a decision?
Q: Which cultures (in addition to Australia) would you classify as individualistic?
Q: Where is it frowned upon to reheat leftovers and eat lunch at your desk rather than eat lunch with the team in the canteen?

Whilst we might have some idea of the etiquette, protocols and even rituals of other cultures, it’s not enough if we are serious about respectfully, ethically and indeed successfully leading and achieving the goal associated with having a new cultural relationship.

I always think of leadership as setting up staff for success; not failure. Providing guidance, coaching and the opportunity to discuss and explore solutions. This is a delightful delicacy of a read; a recipe for cultural success and a must for your leadership library.


I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning, and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!