Case Study of Cultural Differences Between an Iranian & a Kenyan

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University of Wollongong in Dubai

Faculty of Business & Management, Cross Cultural Management

“A case study of cultural difference between an Iranian & a Kenyan”

By: Estatira Shirkhodaee


Working in a multicultural environment like Dubai, provides us with different positive and negative experiences. Those negative ones are likely to have been caused by the cultural differences. Communication is one of the main elements of cultural difference .Different cultures exhibit various sometimes opposite paradigms. This paper aims to study the source of a conflict which arouse due to the intercultural miscommunication & different cultural backgrounds. It was a shock to the writer to find a colleague talking to her in an insulting and authoritative manner. With no power distance, where both belonged to the same organizational level, Sara, the Iranian teacher who had just come back from a sick day leave, didn’t expect her Kenyan colleague, Jane, to come to her, tell her that she was not doing her job properly. Coming from an affective culture, Sara expected her colleague to be sympathetic or less annoying that day .For Jane, Sara’s parallel teacher, nothing mattered but the fact that she had found Sara doing something different in her class. Jane’s seniority gave her the impression that she could criticize Sara’s work and call her irresponsible for not following the schedule. The argument got more serious between the two colleagues and Sara couldn’t remain poised because of the things she heard. . Jane’s words not only seemed illogical but absolutely humiliating. After that huge fight, they never spoke or work together. Failure to form a cultural bridge led to great misunderstandings which reduced their work efficiency as a team.

Why can’t we be friends?


I had been living long enough in Dubai, almost six years, to get an idea of its cultural diversity. My first multicultural work place was the American International School where I had some valuable experience about high and low context people and their cultures. My sensitivity to their cultural differences from mine was accompanied by great respect towards their culture. I always enjoyed dealing with people from other cultures -learning something new -and tried to understand their different values, traditions and beliefs. There was absolutely no problem getting along with them. The whole experience of working in AIS was positive except for a few work-related problems.

When I left AIS as part of my job improvement this September, I wouldn’t imagine that Philadelphia School – the new Lebanese Christian School – would disappoint me both in terms of its academics and environment .I found the new atmosphere quite unfriendly. There was little communication between people and teachers showed very little interest in socializing. Every one would sit in her own class during the break time to finish her work. Few would come to the staff room and if so, little was said. Some very primary personal interactions such as greeting would never take place or would be very concise. Coming from a culture where newcomers are always helped and welcomed, I had this impression that I was not welcomed or supported since senior teachers and some members of the management showed little support. I couldn’t stand a place where everything was about work and there was no room for personal relationships. Feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, I drew back to my shell for a while then resigned after three months. These three months were the worst part of my seventeen- year professional career. The most annoying part was the fact that I had to work with my Kenyan parallel teacher, Jane, with whom I had serious issues.

Case Description

My work at Philadelphia School was not comparable to what I used to do in American International School. There were a lot of new things I had to do yet, I was given a brief instruction of all those new procedures and goals. I was...
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