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Culture Crossing by Michael Landers

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SIX

Respect, Rank, and Ritual

The implications of formality at work and in everyday life

I have a British colleague who loves to reminisce about his first week of work at a Silicon Valley computer maker in the 1980s. The office was staffed by employees who either hailed from California or had been living there long enough to have embraced the state’s relaxed style. You can imagine the staff ’s raised eyebrows and stifled chuckles when my friend walked in dressed in a three-piece suit. To them, he looked as if he was heading to a black tie affair or a James Bond look-alike contest.

Throughout the day his colleagues joked about his attire, assuming he would get the message that he could wear more casual clothes. He recalls many of the staff being ...

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