Go back

The What and Why of ‘Cultural Awareness’

“One of the most effective ways to learn about yourself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you” — Edward T. Hall

Suppose you are from the Netherlands and are offered an opportunity to work in Denmark. As an explorer, you excitedly undertake this incredible journey to the other side, envisioning various possibilities and outcome in a new environment. Now, you will most certainly be aware of how different life would be, but embracing and conquering uncertainties may be your elixir. Nonetheless, fundamental questions about Denmark will arise regarding elements from language and cuisine to gifting practices and holidays. Aside from your own culture, how culturally aware are you of Denmark? Despite possessing an explorer or adventurous personality, being culturally aware is an important aspect that extends beyond the realms of personality or character. It embodies the epitome of societal understanding and behavior. So why should you possess the knowledge of cultural differences? How is it impactful over your personal and professional life? Read on to find out.

But first, why should you focus on Culture?

Culture marks amongst the strongest influences over human behavior. Brands, businesses, and organizations that work with cultural forces, rather than against them, benefit a significant strategic edge. Having a stronghold over your cultural awareness can help improve your professional or even personal journey. With this knowledge, you can take better decisions for your personal or professional life based on practical data about a workplace or country. For instance, you can understand whether the workplace culture in Denmark suits you best (or) if the culture of Denmark fits you best. In addition, the ability to be culturally aware is critical in order to know the rules and regulations, and other possible cultural expectations of other countries/people. Consequently, you will come to know the differences or similarities between the Dutch societ in the Netherlands and the Danish society in Denmark.

Understanding Cultural Awareness (1)

In general, being culturally aware is necessary to avoid embarrassing mistakes or hurting he sentiments of another individual. In case you possess limit knowledge over the other nation’s culture, you may do something that could provoke the people/society, putting yourself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. While lack of awareness could result in making poor judgements and decisions, cultural awareness helps you become cautious of your decisions, judgements, views, thoughts, and so on that can otherwise cause misunderstandings with the other individual. “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people” — Mahatma Gandhi As we know, the knowledge of one’s own culture and foreign culture is essential especially if working in an international workplace environment or before moving to another country. However, simply acquiring facts of the other culture’s culinary preferences, language, arts, behaviors and the like do not necessarily comprise the totality of its cultural entity. Various unseen and subjective components that are usually challenging to read such as values, traditions, customs, and beliefs are equally important and bound together. Seeking to understand these elements can further help structure the awareness behind the complexities of cultural differences. They help us to adapt our approach to the local culture, attune our thoughts and decisions in line with the local people, and embrace the cultural differences that will enable the creation of further positive outcomes.

Understanding Cultural Awareness (2)

Crucially, being culturally aware helps us to respect the other’s cultures and our own. In cross-cultural situations like a workplace environment or even during a vacation, this can also help you become competent, thus allowing you to make more culturally sound decisions. Naturally, individuals have their own perceptions and thought patterns that may or may not be acceptable to the national culture of another country. For instance, the society in the Netherlands may not necessarily share the same traits as those seen in Denmark. Culture, in a broad sense, is therefore fluid. It can yet change every single day. Understanding these complex notions of foreign as well as our own culture can ensure that we stay informed about cultural differences, make the right decisions and judgements, steer clear from creating mistakes that can hurt others’ sentiments, and interpret ourselves in ways where we can maintain positive relationships.