The unintended benefit of an informal culture

Cultural Insights — By on July 21, 2006 at 6:12 am

One of the differences commonly used to differentiate between cultures is the degree of formality or informality exhibited by people in their speech, dress, etc.  There was an interesting article this week in the NY Times that discussed how an Iraqi Olympic official took on some of the informal traits of the U.S. culture during a recent exchange stint in this country – and how, in a strange twist of fate, his newfound informality may have saved his life.

Emad Nasser Hussein began dressing more casually during the three months he spent working with the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.  Back in Iraq, he went to work one day without a suit on, which he never would have done previously, and was in a meeting when gunmen stormed in and took numerous officials hostage.  Because he was dressed informally, though, it was assumed he was a less important employee.  As he reported:

“I was wearing a red and white T-shirt I bought in California. The gunmen just wanted the guys in suits. I guess they thought I cleaned the place.”

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