Culture rating differences might be holding you back. - TJ Guttormsen

Culture rating differences might be holding you back.

Ok, stick with me here. I have to give you a couple of facts about Norwegians’ rating habits before I can get to my useful advice for everyone. But it’ll be worth it in the end, I promise 😉

I was talking to an employee from the Uber offices a while back, who upon learning I was from Norway said, “you guys really messed with our heads for a while.”

I asked why, and he explained that Uber drivers will lose their job if their rating – given by their passengers – drops below a certain average. In most places, this number is 4.4 out of 5 stars, or somewhere around there.

“In Norway,” he said, “almost no one had a rating over 4. And below 4 is considered horrible. We couldn’t figure out why all our drivers over there were such horrible drivers. But it turned out it wasn’t the drivers OR the passengers. It was that Norwegians rate things differently than the rest of the world.”

You see, it turns out that while the rest of the world tends to rate things in this way:

1-2 stars: Horrible.
3 stars: Bad.
4 stars: Not very good.
5 stars: Good/as expected/very good.

Norwegians (and a couple of other nationalities) tend to rate things this way:

1-2 stars: Horrible.
3 stars: Ok.
4 stars: Good/as expected.
5 stars: Incredibly good!

As someone who has been getting ratings on my online programs for a few years, I can attest to this. Ironically it’s my Norwegian followers – who often are my biggest supporters – who pull the average score of my online programs down because they follow a different rating system than the rest of the world.


Ok, those are the facts. Now, what is my point?

Well, this is just one example of how a culture can be different from another in ways that might not be obvious to us, but that still can influence our ability to communicate effectively.

When a Norwegian want to recommend a product or service to someone else, he might give it 4 out of 5 stars. When an American sees that recommendation, he might think that the Norwegian is trying to tell him that the product isn’t all that great.

But this doesn’t only vary from country to country – it can happen from one social group to another too! And that makes this something that influences our day-to-day life more than most people think. When you’re not aware of the differences between the groups you socialize with, they can easily hold you back from social success.

In one of my social circles, for example, saying that you’re into “the lifestyle” means that you’re into self-development. In another, it means that you are in a polyamory/swingers community. This can lead to some interesting misunderstandings if you’re not aware of the difference..

In one of my friend groups, physical touch – like cuddles, massages or sitting on each other’s laps –  is simply a way to express that you care about someone and are comfortable with them. While in another, it will be seen as a sign of romantic or sexual interest, and an attempt to act on that. (Which can also lead to interesting misunderstandings.)

So what I’m pointing to is that we need to pay attention to the culture around us (also in small groups), to make sure that we speak the language we want to speak.

You have to remember who your audience is and what it is you want to communicate to it. Then you have to learn how to do that in your audience’s “language”. It will increase your communication skills, your results, and your influence immediately.



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