I was flying on US Airways and was reading their January 2010 issue of their free magazine when I came across an article written by Robert Tuchman. It was titled The World Cup: How Sports Unites Us and states something that I’ve always believed: the round ball with the black spots on it is a great cultural barrier neutralizer.
At Accentient, when we deliver classroom training to teams of software developers of mixed nationalities and cultures, we try to keep things as simple as possible, especially when the subject matter is as deep and dry as it is sometimes. Early on I made the decision to use the (soccer) World Cup as my point of reference in our samples, discussions, and activities. Everyone in the room, including the late-to-the-game Americans, understand the references to teams, matches, standings, and statistics. It has served us well.