Topic 1 Cultural dimensions of Martinique’s workplace

Martinique is a diverse insular society, made up of many different cultural influences from France, Africa, India and Syria, among others, with a complex colonial history. We can find the origins of the local society in colonialism and slavery, as well as in the other Caribbean islands. Since 1946 Martinique is a French overseas department and also nowadays part of the European Union. This complex identity gives an unique twist to to life in Martinique and to the identity of its people.

In general it can be said that the respect of hierarchy, titles and politeness are highly valued in local work culture. When talking to people in French, it is important to know which form of ”you” to use: the polite ‘vous’ or the more familiar ‘tu’. In general, you should use ’vous’ (vouvoyer) with your boss, wok colleagues, neighbours, people you have never met, anyone older than you by half a generation or more, teachers, doctors, local officials, etc. You should use ‘tu’ (tutoyer) with your friends and those of your partner, children and teenagers, close colleagues, people who ask you to tutoyer them, and on social media.

Workdays start and finish earlier than in the hexagone due to sunlight hours – the sun rises and sets early in the Caribbean.

There are also subtilities in the use of the Creole language – it is rarely spoken in administrations and at work, especially in official occasions. To address a superiour in Creole can even been seen as being impolite. A fluency in French is indispensable in most jobs.

Work attire in office jobs tends to be quite formal although the tropical climate of the island makes jackets or long-sleeved shirts almost non-existant, as too hot.

The cheek kisses (la bise) have almost disappeared due to the covid pandemic, and people nowadays greet either by nodding, fist bumps or handshakes.

Cultural differences at the workplace

Cultural diversity in the workplace refers to the values, norms, and traditions that affect the way a member of a group typically perceives, thinks, interacts, behaves, and makes judgments.

Cultural competence can be briefly described as the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures. This ability depends on awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, knowledge of other cultural practices and worldviews, tolerant attitudes towards cultural differences, and cross-cultural skills.

  • Our communication style: more or less direct, reaction to conflicts…
  • Relation to time: e.g. punctuality
  • Taking initiative
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Innovation: a diverse workforce from different backgrounds is more likely to produce new ideas and concepts
  • Productivity: many studies suggest that a culturally diverse workforce is more productive than one that is not
  • Growth: employees speaking different languages and who aware of cultural norms of other countries are a competitive edge. They also can more easily build an international netwok

Discussion – reflection

What are some cultural differences you have noticed in your workplace or in Martinique in general? Have you faced any difficulties due to the fact that you come from a different culture?

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