Calibrating your cultural compass – Week 2

I like the way Jan Chipchase studies people behaviour, from different cultures all over the world by observing their daily activities, especially the morning commute.  I agree that societal behaviour is best observed in the morning, as people usually follow certain daily habits. In Singapore, I observe people usually wake up early in the morning, board the MRT trains to get to their office which usually starts at 8-9AM, and just before they get to their office, they usually buy a cup of coffee, or even a breakfast set from nearby coffee shops. Students need to wake up even earlier to reach the school on time at 7.30 AM (note that some school have late days).

ToastBox in the morning. Photo from: ToastBox

Among all the observation methods suggested in this chapter, my favourite is to observe McDonalds’ menu from all over the world. Back in Indonesia, we have Fried Chicken with rice, and when I moved to Singapore and realised that McDonald’s here do not offer such menu, I was surprised at first. I thought Singapore and Indonesia share the same spice palate since both are in South East Asia. It is interesting to find McDonald’s located at countries within the same region to have different menus. Malaysia’s McDonald’s sell durian McFlurry while Singapore’s does not.

Indonesian McDonald’s menu
Malaysia Durian McFlurry

Chipchase noted that in designing a product targeted to a certain group of audience, it is good to do some research on the cultural background. Get to know their needs, their habits, their schedule. Immerse in their lifestyle, so that we can customise the product according to the audience’s needs. With the combination of formal and informal data collection, this method could help us in understanding a society and therefore help us to make a better decision in designing products.


  1. In doing a cultural research, is it necessary to also observe the night life of a society, to collect observation about the security level and crime rate in the area?
  2. In a multicultural country such as Indonesia, how to make a general observation so that the product we design can benefit people from different backgrounds, both in urban and rural areas?

Cover photo was taken from: Today Online

One thought on “Calibrating your cultural compass – Week 2”

  1. I like your observation on the differences between the McDonald’s menus in the region Dhea.  It’s also worth noting that though there are interesting cultural differences, there are some things that stay consistent throughout…the taste of french fries for example.  It is not an accident that the franchise carefully “designs” the user experience of dining at McDonalds in different cultural contexts and a tremendous amount of research, observation and market testing goes into getting this right.

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