Understanding Cultural Differences

When working in business, you will meet quite a few different people that may come from a variety of different countries.  This can be exciting and challenging at the same time, due to the different customs and mannerisms.  Getting to know other people and their customs and learning their ways is a wonderful way to show respect.  Here are some tips to help you on your journey to cultural awareness and acceptance.

Open Mind – One of the best ways to understand others is to listen and be open about other’s beliefs.  Even if you don’t understand why someone believes the way they do, you can show them that you are understanding.

Flexibility – When dealing with others, you must consider being flexible.  However, with those with cultural differences, you may need to ensure you are not being judgmental or requiring more than is possible.  Often cultural practices can interfere with certain types of work or certain days and time when work is acceptable.

Be Tolerant – Just because someone’s culture may be different from yours does not mean that you can’t be tolerant of the differences.  Understanding that we are all different is a way to coexist without any feelings of superiority.

Explore – When you are working with others in culturally different environments, consider bringing all groups together and having an event where each culture can showcase their talents.  One great way to do this is by having a potluck.  This brings people together in a social setting and allows them to show you some of their culture.  The different foods and tastes will be a great conversation starter and a way to get to know each other.

Travel – If you are going to be working with a particular country in the future, it is probably a good idea to explore that country on a vacation.  Learn the country and the culture, so you can have some common ground and insight into the culture you will be working with in the future.  Try the food, learn about the history, and see what you can find in common to discuss.

Purpose – If you find some cultural practices that are confusing or problematic in the work place, consider the purpose behind the practices.  Performing outside research so you can understand the true nature of the culture is a great way to understand where their beliefs originate and how you can ensure you are not insulting them with questions.

Common – Look for common ground that unites us all as people.  Realize that all of our customs and traditions hold similarities and have a purpose that ties us together as humans.  For example, African tribes paint themselves and dance, just like the Native American tribes.  For a similarity, we as Americans tend to add extreme make-up and dance when we are involved in the club scene.

Regardless of the cultures that will be uniting on a business project, learning to understand and accept different customs than your own is a way to show respect and tolerance.

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