Experiencing the diversity offered by different cultures is one of the most important selling points for traveling. Besides showcasing many displays of contrasting perspectives, it teaches one how to empathize and relate to those with very little in common. It even allows the person to expand their horizons and venture out into thoughts that may not come naturally to them. In order to see such benefits, however, one must know how to adapt to something new smoothly. Failing to do so could make it very difficult to prosper from the cross-cultural interactions.
Prepare for a Shock
One of the first tips that can guide a person interacting with new cultures deals with the so-called “shock” factor. In fact, experiencing it is extremely common when interacting with unexplored cultures. Some of the most obvious characteristics include the following:
- Difficulty relating to the other party;
- Lack of topic-based sensitivity;
- Potential language or interpretation barriers.
Thus, a great strategy that helps shorten the period of the adaption to a new culture includes preparing for the imminent shock. Sometimes, one can do so by simply learning as much as they can in anticipation of future interactions. That way, there will be very little danger of cultural insensitivity that facilitates misunderstandings.
Acknowledging the Customs
Generally speaking, attention to detail is what drives one’s success when facing a new culture. Prophet Kofi Danso, for example, believes that minor details pertaining to some country’s customs can be extremely important. Consider how the United States has practically no formal or even unwritten guidelines on what someone can use each of their hands for. In Ghana, which is where Prophet Kofi Danso comes from, however, handing a gift with a left hand is very rare. It is seen as a sign of disrespect or lack of knowledge.
Although giving consideration to similar details may seem arbitrary, it can help one establish important credibility. Besides showing that they understand the norms, it makes it obvious that they respect the culture. Thus, learning the ins and outs of a certain culture will include everything from common practices to nearly unknown rules.
Keeping an Open Mind
It is extremely difficult to find two cultures that may be perfectly aligned and almost identical in their characteristics. Due to this, people should not expect seeing everything that may be available in their country when they travel elsewhere. In order to overcome these discrepancies, travelers should maintain an open mind. For example, countries in North America tend to have lunch breaks where workers get an hour to eat. In certain areas of the world, such time off is completely unfathomable.
Nevertheless, those countries still operate efficiently and have high satisfaction rates amongst workers. Thus, the fact that something operates differently does not immediately imply that one culture is inferior. Hence the importance to enter a conversation about a new culture with absolutely no biases or predetermined agendas.
If a person born in the United Kingdom has a visitor from the United States, language barriers may arise even when both are speaking English. For instance, if the party from the U.K. asked for a jumper, they would be referring to a sweater. In the U.S., however, this type of request may be followed up with a literal jump in the air. So, language barriers between nations that speak the same language are possible. Accordingly, just imagine how much more difficult it is for those communicating in different languages.
In order to avoid any ambiguity, one should always be transparent and communicate with the other party honestly. That means following up on certain statements that might be misunderstood and asking for clarifications when needed. The likelihood of getting lost in translation will significantly decrease if both parties are straight-forward with each other.
Since there is a lot that goes into adapting to a new culture, what is the reason why someone should even make an attempt to do so? Well, the success of nearly all start-up ventures will be incomparably better when there are different perspectives involved. If individuals with various degrees of creativity and knowledge work together, they are more likely to generate positive results. After all, challenges between people with different backgrounds can easily lead to lucrative compromises. So, establishing a diverse workforce is probably the shortest route to long-term success that is not susceptible to failure.