When you work within the international marketplace, you surround yourself with people from different backgrounds and experiences. This means that you are working with others who see the world differently than you. In the language services industry, a service that focuses on understanding these differences is called intercultural training… When you participate in a program and learn about how others see the world and interact in it, a common thought that may pop up in your mind is “who is right and who is wrong?”. And it is easy to get sucked into to trying to answer this question. But what if trying to answer this question is fundamentally wrong…
OK, let’s pivot and do what we do best. Let’s do a bit of Googling and look into What is Culture?… If you found that culture is a set of shared customary beliefs, attitudes, values and goals, well, then we found the same links… You might have gone a bit further and found something about fine arts and humanities.
But are my “fine arts” the same as yours? Are my customs better, my beliefs? Again, when you go down this road, you are looking for a winner and a looser, which means we can never see eye to eye… It almost seams that there is no intention of this either when you ask these questions.
My intention in writing this was to simply look at perspective. When you think about culture, are you trying to win? or are you trying to make better connections, friendships, networks and relationships? Are you trying to divide or bring together?
Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.
Culture is people like us do things like this.
So sure, the way WE do this is ‘right’ if right means, ‘the way we do this.’ But there’s little room for absolutes. Culture abhors the absolute, it is based in the specific instead.
The next time you bump into a culture that you disagree with, perhaps it might be more useful to wonder about how it got that way, and would happen if we did it that way?
How long would it take us to go from, “this is wrong,” to, well, sure, “that’s how we do things around here”?
The stranger sees only what he knows —