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When in Rome…

I have been hearing this phrase a lot lately (Another story).

But today after visiting a new business (a food truck – keep a look out for our new series starting soon) and chatting about the importance of adapting the menu to meet the cultural demands of the customers, the significance of the phrase in relation to Food Safety culture hit home.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
(Medieval Latin sī fuerīs Rōmae, Rōmānō vīvitō mōre; sī fuerīs alibī, vīvitō is a proverb attributed to Saint Ambrose.Saint Monica and her son, Saint Augustine, discovered that Saturday was observed as a fast day in Rome, where they planned to visit. However, it was not a fast day where they lived in Milan. They consulted Saint Ambrose who said, “When I am here (in Milan) I do not fast on Saturday, when in Rome I do fast on Saturday.” That reply is said to have brought about the saying
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”


There are two things about this proverb we should consider in Food Safety.

1. Our Food Safety culture needs to be so strong that any new person coming into our business is surrounded by our culture and is so positively influenced that they adapt their behaviour to fit in from DAY 1. This emphasizes the importance of induction training and DAY 1.  We only get DAY 1 once and thus making the right food safety cultural impression on a new person is critical. First impressions count – a lot – and we need to make the right Food Safety impression for it to be a lasting one. If induction training only takes place two weeks after DAY 1, you have given the new incumbent two weeks to learn the real culture for themselves and it’s going to be very hard to unlearn it.

2. Our Food Safety culture interventions and even our Food Safety Management Systems must take our diverse culture into account. This doesn’t mean we adapt our culture to the culture of our staff, but it means we are culturally sensitive. This is critical in communication and imagery. How do words translate? What do images convey? In all 11 official languages? What is the cultural significance of actions and policies? How is communication best delivered and accepted by different cultural groupings, ages, or gender.  As a multicultural society, we might think these things are obvious. Let’s rather more presume that using the wrong words or images could result in inadvertent offense or finishing credibility in our attempts. And why would we want to do that when there are already barriers to Food Safety implementation without us making it more complicated ourselves.

Formal training in cultural sensitivity and understanding can be very useful. Try hosting a ‘MY CULTURE’ Day where employees are invited to dress in the traditional outfits that best represent their culture/s. Having done this several times, even on a virtual platform has resulted in fantastic results and brought tears to my eyes! Taking time to listen to the cultural nuances and discussing ways of improving inter-cultural relationships can yield great results for Food Safety! And teamwork.

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_in_Rome,_do_as_the_Romans_do