There's some things that all of us keep in our wallets because of the memories they trigger and the joy they elicit, a la Marie Kondo. In my wallet I keep a baseball ticket from a perfect game, my first ever concert ticket, and currency from places I've traveled. One thing I don't have is an American Dollar, mainly because it's something so trivial and something that you could have found in my wallet through most of my life living in the US. When I found out that my business partner, Ali, carries around an American Dollar in his wallet, it highlighted the difference in which we view the US.
As many people who meet us are surprised to find out, Ali is Iranian and I am American. Yet, even with his British accent and Persian features, Ali comes off as the more stereotypical American. He loves to let his voice boom and to take over a room, he is a public speaking trainer after all. While Ali sometimes catches me watching soccer highlights (I know I still use soccer but given the confusion that arises when I say football, I've stuck with it), I sometimes catch him watching WWE highlights. Ali has even wrestled in the past as a pompous Iranian villain, which WWE might want to look into adding to its lineup. We both spent time growing up in cultures outside of our own and find a lot of our similarities in the term, third culture kid.
Third culture kids (TCK) are people raised in a culture other than their parents' or the culture of the country named on their passport (where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years.
Our company and our work culture thrives on this acceptance and excitement that comes from cultural differences. When I found out that Ali didn't know who Van Gogh was, I couldn't hide the shock on my face and I kept bringing it up as a kind of slight against his general knowledge. But that's because we live and work in a western society, where Van Gogh is taught in school and part of pop culture. But when Ali asked if I knew any Persian artists or eastern culture that he kept naming, I had no response as I was no different than him. When faced with different cultures, different backgrounds, and different views, a lot of times our initial reaction is to dismiss, belittle, and avoid. But that's the easy way out, the way that doesn't actually allow us to grow as individuals. And from a company standpoint, that mindset hinders your ability to truly internationalize and grow. The more business cultures you can understand, the greater your potential market grows, not only for customers and clients but for your personal network and career.
We don't have any hiring practices in regards to people's backgrounds, the only thing we seek out and ask for is understanding and a will to engage. We don't want tolerance. Who wants to work next to someone who simply tolerates them rather than takes the time to understand and relate to them. Every single one of our team members holds a different passport and our team speaks more languages than the number of people. We are lucky enough to be in a city, The Hague, and an environment, The Hague Tech, where this is more coincidental than planned. We're lucky to be in a country that doesn't judge us for the place of birth in our passport but sees us as entrepreneurs who are creating benefits for society.
As American and Iranian tensions rise and our newsfeed is full of talks of war and hatred, we stand as a testament to peace. We stand as a testament to understand. We stand as a testament to entrepreneurship and the power of working together. This article is an introduction to our partnership and our history and the kickstart of a content series we are starting on the differences in our worldview and how internationalization has shaped our company and ourselves. Keep an eye out for the next part in of our take on American Iranian Peace Relations!