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05 Dec 2017
Living And Working With And Around Intercultural Differences

Living And Working With And Around Intercultural Differences

Intercultural interactions are the norm now, both physically and virtually.


Everyone’s culture is an integral part of their being; it is a very huge part of their self-identity. So much so, people grow up convinced that their culture is the best or far better than all the others. 


The world is now a smaller place, but diversity is still everywhere. Because there is so much diversity, it has become extremely important to overcome differences and be sensitive to other cultures.


Steps towards Becoming Comfortable in a New Culture


When in a new land, it is important to become aware of your surroundings right away. Once you gain this awareness, you will notice that you go experience one or all of the following gamut of orientations before eventually becoming comfortable in a new culture: 


1. Denial: Here you might not respond favourably to another culture. You might have no interest in another culture and avoid every opportunity to learn about it. We help you develop strategies to face cultural differences and understand common threads. 


2. Polarization: This mindset is more of an “us versus them” view, where you could adopt a defense or reversal form. While the defense theory makes you believe that your culture is superior to the new one you are in, the reversal theory makes you feel that new culture is better than yours is. For example, people from developed countries might be in defense mode in a third-world country and someone from third world might have a reversal mindset when in a developed country. Polarization in a diverse workplace may result in a lot of discomfort. We help balance the polarization in your workplace by helping people with both mindsets find common ground and balance out their extreme views about each other. 


3. Minimization: This transitional mindset comes right in the middle of denial and polarization and acceptance and adaptation. Here people focus on similarities and values people share universally, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or race. This helps people in a workplace get along with each other. But the risk is, sometimes, cultural values are ignored at the cost of getting along. So we help minimization mindsets broaden enough to be able to have a deeper understanding of culture-specific aspects.


4. Acceptance: This mindset helps people be appreciative of not only their culture but also that of other cultures. People with this mindset are eager to understand the nuances of other culture vis-a-vis their own cultures. We help people with this mindset by­ encouraging them to be more interactive with other cultures and widen their understanding about various aspects of culture.


5. Adaption: This mindset involves cognitive frame shifting and behavioral code shifting. While in the former, you shift your cultural view to match that of the new culture, in the latter you change your behavior altogether to blend in culturally. We teach those with this mindset how to enhance their ability to understand other cultures and develop strategies to adapt to new cultures. 


Working with Cultural Differences


In the workplace, however, you may have people from many different cultures interacting with each other. It is not very different taking up a new job within your own country. Know that every time you change jobs, you enter a different “work cultures.” Every time you move to a new neighbourhood or a town or city, you enter a different social culture. 


1. Identify your cultural competence or your ability to adapt to people from different cultures by assessing your awareness levels, your attitude and your knowledge.

2. Set aside one’s own cultural baggage. Be honest with yourself and understand what biases you might hold against people from certain cultures. Know what stops you from interacting freely so that you start to interact better with those culturally different from you.

3. Learn to look at people as individuals, not as those belonging to a particular culture. 

4. Understand the communication style of your culturally different colleagues. People from China may communicate differently from someone from India or Germany or Greece. What sounds rude in one country may be perfectly OK in another. Learn to adapt your communication expectations to suit the culture of the other person. 

5. Respect the other. It is very important to respect the others in your workplace and their cultures and language. 

6. Do some background research, so you know the cultural dos and don’ts and do not inadvertently offend others. 



On your part, it only takes some self-reflection, self-awareness and a lot of sensitivity and compassion to work and live in intercultural differences. On our part, we offer you more than just a list of dos and don’ts. We prepare you and your staff to gain international competence through cross-cultural trainings and equip you with strategies to work around cultural differences and find success. For effective and positive strategies tailor-made only for you, contact us.  


Jasmin Waldmann