Diversity is about celebrating difference and thinking about how wonderful it is that we have difference. We have different perspectives, different beliefs and different values. Every person is unique. We think differently, we act differently. Cultural awareness is about having knowledge about a certain culture. To compare your culture to another is to judge another culture. This is not about awareness but about judgment. Observation is the best tool of exploring diversity to look at the uniqueness.
Only 10% of our value and beliefs are visible, but the other 90% is underwater of the iceberg. Some of these underneath beliefs are invisible or negative. These negatives not exist there to harm us. But we just need to know them and deal with them. To celebrate and embrace diversity and cultural difference we must see the importance and value of awareness. Awareness is about knowing ourselves so well. Cultural awareness is to embrace diversity. The more we know about ourselves the more we understand others, because we can see their difference and celebrate it. We can recognize that difference is important and it is what makes us all unique.
“Culture is an integrated system of learned behavior that are characteristic of the members of any given society, … it includes everything that a group of people thinks, says, does, and makes–its customs, language, material, artifacts and shared systems of attitudes and feelings. Culture is learned and transmitted from generation to generation.” Culture exists in the minds of the individuals that have learned from other human beings what is acceptable in their interactions with other human beings.
When working with people in other countries, be aware of your personal “Cultural Baggage.” All of us have misleading stereotypes and preconceptions about others. Be open to learning about their culture and suspend judgment. Don’t let stereotypes limit our relationships.
The success of a relationship will depend on how willing we are to make the effort to understand other people’s culture, and allow them to lead the way. Although you both might be speaking the same language, each culture will have their “version” of the language.
People who work and live abroad for extended periods of time are referred to as expatriates. Expatriates usually face their greatest problems when entering and working in a foreign culture, and when experiencing repatriation on the return home.
The expatriate undergoes three initial phases of adjustment to the new country:
• Tourist stage: enjoys discovering the new culture
• Disillusionment stage: problems begin to occur with language barriers and food supplies of preference
• Culture shock: confusion, disorientation, and frustration