Our world is becoming even more interconnected.
We talk to friends, families, and strangers online from all over the world. Businesses work globally, and many individuals migrate for new opportunities.
The result? More diverse communities than ever before!
Cultural awareness is the key to working, playing, and collaborating effectively with people from other backgrounds.
What Is Cultural Awareness?
Cultural awareness, also referred to as intercultural awareness, is about being aware and sensitive to the beliefs, religions, ethnicity, values, and practices of different cultures.
Simply put, cultural awareness is about keeping an open mind to cultural differences.
When Tom saw some foreign visitors eating with their bare hands, he thought it was wrong. Was Tom displaying sufficient cultural awareness?
Yes, eating with bare hands is gross
No, Tom was not culturally aware enough
Why Does Cultural Awareness Matter?
How people perceive different cultures shapes our behavior, and the way we respond to others.
Cultural awareness can facilitate collaboration and relationship building.
A lack of cultural awareness can result in miscommunication, conflict, and missed opportunities.
True or False: For someone who doesn't work in an international institution and doesn't plan on traveling abroad, developing cultural awareness is not necessary.
A Checklist To Sharpen Cultural Awareness
Becoming more culturally aware is a skill that can be developed through daily practice.
Complete these activities to build your own cultural awareness!
Learn a foreign language
Visit an exhibit to learn about another culture
Read a book written by a foreign writer
Travel or study abroad if your budget allows
Learn about a holiday celebrated in another country
Make friends with someone of a different cultural background
Watch a foreign movie
Eat at a restaurant that serves food from another country
Read about the history of another part of the world
Observe how people from different cultures live
Learn about the geography of a place where you've never been before
Look at the clothing styles that people wear in a different country
A Few Words Of Advice
Remember: there is always more to learn
Never before in history, have humans had as much exposure to other cultures as we do now. This might lead you to feel that you known enough about other cultures. But what you know can be just one tip of the iceberg. The more you try to understand another culture, the more nuances you will see.
Let go of judgment
You may notice judgements that arise as you learn about other cultures. Make sure to check yourself: there is no right or wrong, cultures are just different. Your culture isn't better than another one, it's just what is familiar.
Look at what others do
When you're in a cultural situation that is unfamiliar, watching how locals behave can give you a snapshot of their cultural norms. Follow their behaviors. And if you encounter something that you don't quite understand, ask!
What factors shape cultural differences?
Identity and language
All of these
Beliefs and social practices
History and traditions
There's no avoiding it: we live in an interconnected world.
Embracing diversity with a judgement-free mindset is the key to developing cultural awareness, and building stronger personal and professional relationships across cultures.
Which tactics will you try from the checklist?
Pick 2 and get started this week!
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