How to Adapt to Multi-Cultural Environments When Working Abroad
Date Posted: 06/25/2015
When everyone shares work and living space in congenial harmony away from their respective home countries, there is successful multiculturalism. This is the demand of a rapidly globalizing world. As a Filipino working abroad, you need to understand the ‘how-to’ as it will help you to adjust to today’s work requirements and living circumstances abroad.
As the expat skilled worker or professional located abroad, you must go that extra mile to get along with all your colleagues no matter where they come from. Leaving your own cultural comfort-zone and entering unfamiliar territory of other cultures without bias against any community or feel apprehensive and anxious about colleagues from other cultures is not always easy. By taking an interest and learning to appreciate how others live, think and react to various situations, however strange their ways may appear, makes you a better person. Any claim by you of cultural superiority is misplaced and fraught with the risk of your being isolated. Avoid negative comparisons between your own and other cultures and drive away notions that you are culturally superior. Accept different viewpoints to enrich your own attitudes and perceptions.
Here are some proven ways to work in multicultural environment which would best drive your professional (and personal) objectives:
• Enrich yourself through multicultural exposure
Remember that all cultures evolve from their own environment and logic over long periods. Therefore no culture can be dismissed as bad just because they are new to you. No reading or TV can match personal exposure to the people working with you. Use the opportunity to educate yourself and gain insights on other cultures. Understand that the attitude, customs and viewpoints of your colleagues from other countries have shaped them into what they are. The variety of people from different countries in your workplace can enable you to reap the benefits of professional collaboration, enhance cross-cultural trust and improved professional relationships.
• Integrate with people
Mingle easily to blend into the melting pot of multiculturalism at work. Your sensitivity to cultural variety will enable you to establish workable relationships with colleagues from different countries.
• Resist generalizing
Thinking negatively about other cultures is usually based on prejudice and generalizations, never applicable to everyone of that culture. Therefore go deeper and treat these people on merit as individuals irrespective of their communities. Establish new friendships across nationalities. You will find that human nature is universally similar and that people from other cultures are all just like yourself.
• Avoid assumptions
The temptation to draw negative assumptions about people of other cultures is always based on misplaced cultural ego. Avoid being judgmental about the cultural values of other societies as this only builds dividing walls between people and creates work problems.
• Appreciate other cultures
Learn to appreciate the varied food, religious beliefs, backgrounds and social mannerisms of your multinational colleagues, though very different from your own. Accept every culture for its unique values and traditions with respect, not ridicule. Accommodate diverse cultural differences, sentiments and beliefs of others, and take keen interest in their foreign ways. Don’t allow peers and friends to mislead you to disrespect other cultures with contempt towards their traditions just because they are different to yours. Acceptance of their differences will also encourage them to feel likewise, and they will be more willing to collaborate with you professionally.
• Be tactful in handling cultural sensitivities
For positive interaction, always communicate your ideas without appearing to belittle other people’s cultural backgrounds. Don’t feel cheesed off or lose your cool when explaining something; be simple and clear so that both sides know what is stated. Be interactive when others respond to your statements so everyone knows that you have also understood what they wish to say.
• Understand differences
Understand your colleagues from other cultures through their subtle differences and unspoken communication. Different food habits, spiritual leanings, dress and overall behavior can reveal many fascinating aspects of others’ cultural heritage. Your newly acquired cultural knowledge will also enable you to understand different behavioral responses in the workplace.
• Make room for varied viewpoints
Don’t get irritated when facing annoying or frustrating situations that make no sense to you and which you feel may create problems in getting some work executed by culturally different team members. When working abroad, you have to accommodate many strange foreign customs of your co-workers so the work gets done properly and on time.
Remember, management is watching. So for your own sake, don’t stick only to your own kind but mingle multi-culturally. Let your seniors see that you mix well and freely interact with people from all cultures. This will give you the edge over others when a major project comes up needing a multicultural team-leader.
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