Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Winning as an expat

masterchef TimBar manager Tim Anderson has been crowned the youngest ever winner of MasterChef after weeks of intense competition in the BBC1 culinary challenge.

The 26-year-old American, known for his experimental dishes, now plans to build his own food empire.

The Independent

How do you play the game to your advantage in a foreign country?

I think that Tim nailed the art of making the most of your ‘American’ strengths while avoiding the usual cross-cultural gaffes.  Admittedly distorted by the heavy editing of Reality TV’s narrative lens, I thought his 11-week run to the top on BBC1’s MasterChef was still  a study, reminiscent of Richard Hatch’s first turn on Survivor.

I think that Americans are generally credited with creativity, energy, willingness to take risks, persistence, pluck, and a goofy lack of pretense.  Tim 3Expected weaknesses might include arrogance, disrespect for tradition, provincialism, lack of knowledge, brash rudeness, and perhaps piousness.  Tim played the clever ‘mad scientist’ towards these strengths, yet remained humble to a fault in crediting his competitors and his own prospects for winning.

I think that his cross-cultural cleverness can be traced to a combination of Midwestern roots, Japanese expatriate experience, and local time spent cooking in a London pub. A recent article listing expat success factors covers it well:

    1. You See Challenges as Opportunities
    2. You Believe it’s a Small World
    3. You Can Think Outside the Box
    4. You Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    5. You Feel Free
    6. You Are Adaptable
    7. You Desire Change

Tim 2I don’t know whether these are born or developed traits, but Tim has demonstrated them forcefully throughout the competition.  Now he wants to build a (business) empire, and you almost have to wish him well rather than feel threatened by it.

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