How I met the author of When Cultures Collide


Last April I attended the International Project Week at Hogeschool Windesheim in Zwolle, the Netherlands. I was delighted to learn that the English communication consultant Richard D. Lewis was there. I was introduced to him and had the opportunity to talk to him briefly about his books. I have read his book When Cultures Collide and found it very enlightening. Lewis also told me that he had lived in several countries and that he had worked for Deutsche Welle in the late fifties. I was very happy to meet one of the gurus of intercultural research.


Photo: Improvised autograph by Richard D. Lewis


First published in 1996, When Cultures Collide is about the challenges that arise when people from different cultures interact. The book explores the different ways in which culture affects communication, negotiation, conflict resolution and other aspects of business and social interactions. Lewis identifies three cultural types: linear actives, multi-actives and reactives. Linear actives prioritise task-oriented goals and are highly organised and efficient, while multi-actives prioritise relationships and tend to be emotional and expressive. Reactives focus on creating harmony and may be reserved or indirect in their communication. In addition, Lewis notes that individuals can exhibit traits of multiple cultural types and that cultural values can change over time.


Clearly, these categorisations need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Lewis himself warns in the book that "such generalisations carry with them the risk of stereotyping as one talks about the typical Italian, German, American, etc.”. He points out that there are subcultures and regional and professional identities.


In addition, Lewis has created various visuals to illustrate the cultural aspects he discusses. Whether you are a business professional, an expatriate, or simply curious about cross-cultural dynamics, Lewis' work is a captivating and informative guide allowing you to delve deeper into the subject of how culture can influence behaviour and interaction.



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