Happy New Year?

Happy New Year?


A few years ago, after 13 years working with cultural differences, I booked some business meetings in San José, Costa Rica for the first week of December. As the date approached I could read the silent cues that those meetings weren’t going to happen. I called a trusted cultural mentor and asked her what she thought was going on. She chuckled and said…

“Well it’s Christmas time so nobody is really working in December.” My mindset was based in a U.S. framework where the first week of December was a reasonable time to get things done before the New Year. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The reactions I received were similar to the reaction one might have received in the U.S. if they tried to book meetings on Thanksgiving Day.

Thank goodness I checked with a cultural advisor because I could have done what hundreds of my past clients have done which was to judge Ticos (Costa Ricans) negatively. In fact it was I who had set up a situation that was bound to fail.

As we enter the New Year, consider adding to your list: “Shift judgment to curiosity.” Attribution theory suggests we take credit when things go right and blame when things go wrong. When faced with people who are different we often look to “the other” as the source of the problem.

Global Leadership Solution:

  • Clearly identify what success looks like for the organization, its teams and various individuals. Everyone should be clear on what this looks like and they should be aligned (but oh so often are not).
  • Use cultural assessment tools like GlobeSmart or my favorite, Cultural Navigator, to map “the self” (you, your leaders, your teams, your organization) and identify preferences, strength and weaknesses.
  • Use cultural assessment tools to map “the other” to identify preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Do a gap analysis to see where there are potential pit falls.
  • Do a reality check: Are your goals realistic? Are the schedules and bottom lines getting in your way of setting realistic objectives for your teams? Is pushing going to get you there faster or slower.
  • Create a realistic plan that incorporates local knowledge into future strategies.


The real risk in the above story is that I would develop an inaccurate perception of my colleagues that stays with me through my working relationships. I often hear U.S. Americans complain about others based on where they are from or what group to which they belong (“The Indians always do …”; “The latinos are so …”; “The French must…”)  when in fact the problem usually arise from the basic assumption that everyone should be like us and want what we want.

So as the New Year approaches, my gift to you is 123NewYear.com’s Infographic about how people celebrate the New Year based on national and religious differences.  If you scroll beyond that you will find a list of how to say Happy New Year in different languages to share the celebrations beyond our own familiar groups.

Happy New Year and welcome the year of the monkey.

new year

Afrikaans – S: Gelukkige Nuwejaar
Albanian – S: Gezuar Vitin e Ri
Azerbaijani – S: Yeni iliniz mubarek
Bahasa melayu – S: Selamat tahun baru
Basque – S: Urte berri on
Bengali – S: Shuvo Noboborsho
Bosnian – S: sretna nova godina
Catalan – S: Felic any nou
Cebuano (Philippines) S: Mabungahong Bag-ong Tuig kaninyong tanan
Chinese – P: Chu Shen Tan
Czech – S: Stastny Novy Rok
Danish – Godt Nytar
Dutch – S: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar or Fijne oudejaarsavond
Esperanto – Bonan Novjaron
Estonian – S: Head uut aastat
Filipino – S: Manigong Bagong Taon
Finnish – S: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
French – S: Bonne annee
Gaelic (Scotland) – S: Bliadhna mhath ur
German – S: Frohes Neues Jahr/Gutes Neues Jahr
Greek – P: kali chronya
Hawaiian – S: Hauoli Makahiki hou
Hebrew – P: Shana Tova
Hungarian – S: Boldog Uj Evet/ Buek
Indonesian (Bahasa) – Selamat Tahun Baru
Irish -S: Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit /Bhliain nua sasta
Italian – S: Felice Anno Nuovo or Buon anno
Japanese – P: akemashite omedetou gozaimasu
Korean – P: she heh bokmahn ee bahd euh sae yo
Laotian (Hmong) -P: nyob zoo xyoo tshiab
Latin – S: Felix sit annus novus
Maltese – S: Is Sena it-Tajba
Maori – S: Kia hari te tau hou
Nigerian (Hausa) – S: Barka da sabuwar shekara
Norwegian – S: Godt Nyttar
Polish – S: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Portuguese – S: Feliz Ano Novo
Romanian – S: La Multi Ani
Russian – P: s novim godom
Samoan – S: la manuia le Tausaga Fou
Spanish – S: Feliz Ano Nuevo
Swahili – S: Nakutakaia Heri Ya Mwaka Mpya
Swedish – S: Gott Nyttar
Thai – P: saa-wat-dii pi-mai
Turkish – S: Yeliniz Kutlu Olsun Mutlu yillar
Vietnamese – P: Chuc mung nam moi
Urdu – P: nyya saal mubarak
Welsh – S: Blwyddyn newydd dda