Many times you may find yourself working in different situations and struggle to adapt to the local scene. At times, you may cope by stating that you already know all there is to know about your situation. How many times have you thought or commented to yourself the following?
“I know how to change already!” “I work with people who are different than me all the time, what’s so special about culture that I need all this help?”
Now that’s a fair question, when it comes right down to it; no two people are exactly alike. People from your own culture may be very different than you; their personalities and backgrounds may be different but they still hold many of the same fundamental values and beliefs that you do. Chances are what you perceive as being natural and normal will also be natural and normal to them.
However, when working with people from other cultures, there will be many profound differences in values, beliefs and worldviews that will place you in a separate category from working with someone from your own culture.
This doesn’t mean that every global engagement will be difficult, or that the your people skills will no longer apply when you interact with foreigners, but it does mean that whatever adeptness you have in working with people who are different from you, regardless of the difference, are now going to be needed all the more because the potential for misunderstanding will be greater when you are in a different environment than when you are in your own. In addition, you are almost certainly going to need information and knowledge that you may not currently possess.
To say, “I know how to change already,” implies you can easily adapt yourself to the minds of people from other cultures and that you understand why they think and act the way they do, and can quickly and easily become what you think they want, when in fact, that is impossible since you cannot possibly know how to change for everyone and for every situation you find yourself in.
Humans are not like traffic signals that are timed to change, there is a process of learning and understanding that must go into adapting and making changes. You can’t change on the spot and if you try, you will come across as being fake no one will trust you. This perception will cost you money, friends, business and professional advancement. It limits, alienates and hurts you and others around you.
Developing global awareness is no longer a subject taught in college or for globe-trotting executives; it is a basic survival skill for almost everyone.
Few of us live in a monoculture world. Even in your own culture you work with people from other cultures, you may live next door to them, study with them, they may be your customers, your competition; they may even be your in-laws.
The point here is that you are a foreigner everywhere except in your own culture.