Home » Full Transcript: Pellegrino Riccardi on Cross Cultural Communication at TEDxBergen

Full Transcript: Pellegrino Riccardi on Cross Cultural Communication at TEDxBergen

In some countries, you can’t even see the lines. Where are the lines? Where are they? I suggested once to an Indian colleague of mine, “Perhaps, if you painted the lines more regularly, people would follow the rules.” And he just said, “No, that would be a waste of paint.” That is why we have traffic wardens in Norway. This is a traffic warden in Norway giving a ticket, a fine to this car.

Now, I’m just going to check. You see, Norwegians know these rules instinctively, it’s your duty to learn the rules, but can I ask you why is that car going to get a fine? Too close to the zebra crossing there, pedestrian crossing. What is the minimum distance? People mumbling ’25’. You know this stuff, it’s like a stupid question.

So the day I parked my car in Oslo, let me just explain you what is going on. You see, the line goes under here and then underneath the wheel, this is no parking, I was a little bit in a hurry. My wife said to me, “I think you should move your car forward a little bit.”

I said, “Why?”

“Just move your car. It’s… you’ll get a fine.”

“Why?”

“Just… just, please, move your car.”

You could see she was really uncomfortable, and this irritated me, I thought, “You know, I don’t have time for this. Let’s go.” So I left. OK – and this is especially for the Norwegians in the room – did I get a fine? Do you feel sorry for me? No. You get no sympathy. No sympathy whatsoever. It’s a simple bloody rule, follow the rules.

Now Italians believe that the power of speech, the power of persuasion is your most important tool in life. We believe that you can appeal to people, and if you’re good enough at appealing, they might listen to you, and they might find an alternative solution. So I believed that I could call the Oslo Traffic Police and talk my way out of the problem, and I can see Norwegians doing this, “Oh, no! You’re wasting your time. Don’t bother.” No! I thought I would try.

So I called the guy down at the Oslo Traffic, “Hello, this is Pellegrino …” by the way, I spoke English, of course, not Norwegian, because they take you more seriously. “Hello, this is Pellegrino… I’m referring to the case 78206.”

“Yes, I have it in front of me here.”

“Listen, I was just wondering if we could be a bit flexible on this, we’re only talking about 20 centimetres, I’m really sorry, I’ve learned my lesson, I won’t ever do it again.” Did it help? Not at all. To his credit, he was good, he was really good. I could hear him clicking in the background, he had all the rules, he was saying, “I’m very sorry, but the wheel must be inside the box. It says so here in the rule 5, paragraph D.” He had all the answers in front of him.

And then he said something I’ll never forget, he said to me, “Riccardi is your name, you may be Italian. You probably like football.”

I said, “I do like football.”

“Well, it’s like football, you know. The ball must be over the line, the wheel must be…” But it’s fantastic. It was great. He had all the answers, black and white, he had everything. Fine.

So I told my friend Yves this, my friend Yves, the French guy, who got really irritated. Remember Yves? “Is it?” But he is really good at asking questions and he said, “OK, the wheel must be inside the box. What if I take the wheel off the car? What would happen then?” I thought that was really interesting actually. I called back and asked, “What would happen if I took the wheel off the car?” He didn’t have an answer for me. He couldn’t answer that question. Why not? Because it’s not an accepted and familiar question, and he doesn’t have that approach.

Then you need the help of an Italian because the time I parked my car in Italy. You see, I was looking for a parking place on a holiday, impossible. I see a traffic warden, and I go up to her. And I start talking in Italian, “Listen, I’m looking for a parking place.”

She says, “There is a parking house nearby but don’t park your car there.”

“Why not?”

She says, “It’s too expensive. 40 Euro!”

“Really? What should I do?”

And she says, “I like you. You seem like a nice fellow. I like the way you talk Italian, I’m going to help you today. Park your car over there.” And she points over to this sign and says, “Go and park car over there.”

“Come on, I can’t…”

“It’s OK, it’s not dangerous. Park your car there. Don’t pay 40 Euro in the parking house. Park your car over there. I give you a fine for 30 Euro, you save yourself 10 Euro.”

I’m not here to discuss whether it’s right or wrong, but what I can tell you is that I get it. I get it because I’ve got it inside me. I’ve seen this before, and I accept it, and I can see the positive elements. You see, these three cultures I have inside me.

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