Office Rituals

What do you do as a Western organization in Taiwan about local holidays? I have worked as a business consultant in my former life, so this question is still fascinating for me. It’s even more important for my wife who now leads the local office of a German NGO.

It was in my role as a photographer that I could get a feel about it two years ago, when I took some images for their inner and outer communication.

Ghost Month and other holidays and traditions play an important role also for businesses and organizations. For “Westerners,” it is a great way to engage with the local culture I think, to build bridges between “Western” and “Eastern” parts of the team. (Please excuse these rough categories here).

On a more mundane level, it is a good way to come together as a team and engage in issues that speak to more than just the daily chores of business. Call it meaning or purpose, I am a strong proponent of creating personal spaces and stories. Work after all is an important part of life as well. While tradition, religion, and spirituality might provide the “content,” their main function is to offer a space to connect.

Some debates in the west are careful about “cultural appropriation.” I think it is in general a good idea to be careful about rituals you don’t understand fully and there are many examples that are cringe. Speaking just about the case I was invited to photograph, I think such criticism would be wrong, though. Done with honest intentions, sharing a ritual such as ghost month is a matter of respect, not disrespect for a European organization in Taiwan.

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