It seems like our take on culture is that we’re right.

We shake hands properly, use a napkin properly, speak up at events properly and even greet one another on the street properly.

When I’m in a foreign city, I’m always amazed at how (friendly/offputting/aloof/intimate) everyone else is.

But of course, everyone else is right as well. They’re the home team, so they’re even more right than I am.

The conflict seems pretty obvious:

We can’t all be wrong, which means we can’t all be right, either.

Culture, by its very definition, isn’t the work of being right. It’s the work of being in sync.

Culture is people like us do things like this.

So sure, the way WE do this is ‘right’ if right means, ‘the way we do this.’ But there’s little room for absolutes. Culture abhors the absolute, it is based in the specific instead.

The next time you bump into a culture that you disagree with, perhaps it might be more useful to wonder about how it got that way, and would happen if we did it that way?

How long would it take us to go from, “this is wrong,” to, well, sure, “that’s how we do things around here”?

*Originally published on sethsblog.

Seth Godin has written eighteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything.

Image courtesy of Duy Pham.