Who Needs Intercultural Awareness?
The mixing of people from all cultures, faiths and countries has always existed, yet today's world sees it occurring more frequently and in greater numbers. People are interacting on the international stage for both work and business purposes and it is often the case that intercultural misunderstandings lead to negative consequences. There have been well documented incidences of tourists receiving hostile reactions by natives or business personnel losing deals. In many instances the cause has been cultural, such as wearing inappropriate clothing in a conservative culture or approaching a business relationship too casually.
In short, intercultural awareness is a skill needed by anyone mixing with people from different cultural backgrounds. However, there are four distinct categories of people that are in need of intercultural awareness the most.
Although this group of people may not realise it, when visiting a foreign country you come to represent your own culture. An ignorance of the culture you are visiting can and does lead to development of stereotypes and occasionally the causing of offence to the native culture. There are many examples within the tourist industry of feathers being ruffled due to the behaviour and actions of visiting tourists, whether it is alcohol fuelled teens in Greece or scantily clad women in the Gulf.
Intercultural awareness at a surface level helps tourists understand their boundaries when visiting a foreign country and promotes good relations with the native culture.
People who work in Multi-Cultural Teams
Very few industries are now homogenous in their ethnic make-up. With the development of transport technology and the increased need for immigrant labour, we now find foreigners working in industries as varied as agriculture, nursing, manufacturing, law, education, social services, catering and transport.
With the numbers of different cultures interacting, communication problems naturally occur. Intercultural awareness is a necessity to ensure communication between staff is clear and also between management and personnel. With clearer lines of intercultural communication established, companies face fewer problems and see greater productivity.
People who work globally
Domestic companies can rarely escape the need to deal with clients or customers from different cultures. Whether it is for import, export, or general trade, business personnel need to work effectively with people from different cultures and therefore different ways of communicating, thinking, meeting, negotiating and doing business generally. Intercultural awareness is a means to establishing better relationships and promoting healthier business prospects through minimising the possibility of misunderstandings born of intercultural differences.
As companies continue to expand globally, more and more people are being sent to work in foreign countries. Usually on a two or three year stint, the expatriate is expected to apply skills that may have been honed within their native culture to an alien one. In many cases the intercultural differences in areas such as interpersonal communication, managerial styles, conflict resolution and office culture lead to such relocations failing.
Intercultural awareness allows the expatriate to enter into the new environment with the intercultural knowledge to mould their behaviours and preferences so that intercultural synergy is achieved.
As we can see, being sensitive to intercultural differences is a need for many people. In a world that is constantly shrinking, coming to know and appreciate the cultural differences between us is paramount to ensuring the future is one of co-operation and mutual success.
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