Developing Cultural Awareness

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developing cross cultural awareness

Developing Cultural Awareness

Cultural awareness is very important for you to succeed in a diverse environment. You don’t want to walk into a situation where you say something, and it may not be taken the way you intended.

Harvard Business Review found high-diversity companies were 45% more likely to experience market share growth compared to the previous year.

Cultural diversity is critical to a business’s growth. This is why it is essential for you to foster cultural awareness.

Below are best practices to better prepare you, regardless of the situation you walk into. 

1. Cultural Greetings

One of the first things you may want to consider is how people in this culture greet each other. In some cultures, a peck on the cheek is common; in other cultures, a firm handshake is what is expected. Knowing cultural greetings will help you develop cultural awareness. 

Consider the following:

  • Body Language – Before you meet someone from another culture, it is essential for you to research what an appropriate and expected greeting is. For example, in some cultures, a peck on both cheeks is expected and appropriate when meeting someone for the first time, and every time after that. Knowing what to expect and preparing yourself for this new way of greeting will help you feel confident and show respect. developing cultural awareness
  • Names  – You may also want to consider what names people say when greeting someone. For example, in some cultures, referring to someone as Mister or Ma’am is the most appropriate. Be sure you know how you should greet someone before walking into the situation.

It is important for you to determine how you will carry yourself in those first few seconds. 


2. What Is Taboo

Another thing to consider when bolstering your cultural awareness is to think about what is considered taboo in this culture. Simple things like numbers or your body language can be very significant to someone from another culture.

Consider the following:

  • Research –  It is important for you to do some research to find out what is considered culturally taboo. For example, using your foot to point to something in Thailand is highly offensive. However, pointing to something with your foot is not considered offensive in the United States. Make sure you do your research ahead of time.
  • Respect – Finding out what is culturally taboo will showcase respect. For example, the number four is considered bad luck in many Asian countries. Because of this, you will want to avoid using the number. If you are determining prices for goods, you can prevent disrespect by not using the number four. Thinking ahead will help you show respect and foster cultural awareness.

What may be taboo to you, may not be offensive to someone from another country. Be sure to do your research so you can be sure to show respect for colleagues from another culture.


3. Humor And Feedback

People from different countries may not find the same things funny. A great joke doesn’t always translate the way you intended. Because of this, you may want to back off inserting any humor into your communications in the beginning.

Consider the following:

  • Ask For Feedback – Asking someone from another culture to give you feedback is an excellent way to foster cultural awareness. For example, ask if you are unsure how something will come across. In this way, you ensure you include others in your decisions and are mindful of your cultural differences.
  • Humor – Humor is great, but it doesn’t always translate. Because of this, you may not want to use humor right away. For example, if humor is how you break the ice when meeting someone for the first time, consider changing your approach. Do your research and find out what is accepted as a culturally appropriate greeting.

Ultimately, when it comes to fostering cross-cultural awareness, it is showing you are taking the time to research and understand. Doing these things can really go a long way to show you are willing to be adaptable and ready to work.


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