HR Teachable Moment #10 – Cultural Diversity

I am the author of Against Company Policy, a suspense novelI spent Saturday with a book club discussing my book and enjoyed the interaction with readers.

After such a great time, I decided to continue the celebration.  I stopped by a new Asian restaurant  at a local casino with my good friend.  We were ordering food and drink when the Asian waitress leaned close to me, patted my hair, and smiled brightly.   In the span of about 10 seconds my emotions and facial expressions went through all the phases: shock, anger, disappointment, insult, and again shock.  “Did you just touch my hair?”  “That’s very nice” she said and walked away.

As I tried to collect myself, I realized that she didn’t know any better.  If I said something to her, she wouldn’t understand the cultural differences and the apparent cultural faux pas.  As I sat there waiting for my food, the manager, also Asian stopped at a table full of Asians and checked on their meal.  He bowed and walked away.  I noticed that he didn’t speak to anyone that didn’t look like him as he made his rounds through the restaurant.

Shortly after, I watched a server place a large dish of what appeared to be fried lobster tails in front of the Asian gamblers behind us.  I asked our waitress what the dish was because I didn’t see it on the menu.  She advised us it was the special and wasn’t on the menu.  My dear friend asked the waitress “why didn’t you tell us about the lobster dish” and the waitress smiled brightly and said “It’s $89.00” as if that was the answer to her question.  “We have lobster, sea bass, and other delectable delights.”

So…what do you say when you’ve been assaulted and insulted in the span of an hour by someone who will never understand what she said was insensitive and insulting?  Who do you approach with this issue?  Was there someone in the front office that was of a different culture that could explain this situation?

When the waitress placed the bill in front of me, she smiled brightly and asked if we enjoyed our dinner.  I responded affirmatively because the food was wonderful.  I was disappointed that my wonderful day ended on such a sad note.  I grew up in NYC and know all about all cultures, what’s acceptable behavior, and their cultural norms.  I know that she isn’t used to the USA and I said a small prayer that she learn before she meets someone who won’t be so pleasant.

By the way, when I contacted the casino, I was informed that each restaurant is independently run and is responsible for their employees.  I guess this HR teachable moment was a lesson for me in self-control.

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