Culture is a way of living and thinking where one can pick up values, norms and attitudes that are reinforced by other members in the group, passed on from one generation to another to ensure survival. Our understanding in culture of the world and everything around us, affects our style of communication in terms of the words we speak and our behavior.
Cross cultural communication generally hints at the communication between different people. These people may have their differences in either working style, ethnicity or even race.
When I was in grade 3, my father found a better job in one of the Middle East countries, Bahrain. Six months later, my mother and I shifted there and in the words of Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference”. It was a wonderful, strengthening and life-changing journey for me – but comes with its own share of difficulties.
The official language of Bahrain is Arabic but English is widely spoken. Sure, language barrier is one mighty of a challenge but at least I knew English, thanks to my father’s efforts to enroll me in an Anglo-Indian school. I have come a really long in experience and understanding other people’s culture.
Here are a few tips that have helped me in my journey in a new and different country. Well, in my case, it’s an island (hardly a dot in the world map).
1. The Most Important Way To Deal With The Difference, Is To Respect And Understanding The DifferencesRather than judging their beliefs and opinion, try and understand from where they are originating from and one must always respect that everyone has got their own opinion and their own way of living. A little trip around the city always helps. It is very important to make an effort to learn at least a bit of the native language and culture in a new place. As a resident of Bahrain for around nine years, I picked a few Arabic words such as Salam alaykoom (Hello), Ay-wa (yes), La (No), Shu’kran (Thank you) and many more.
Nelson Mandela rightly said “If you talk to man in a language he understand, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart”.
2. Too Often, We Underestimate The Power Of A Smile, The Right Gestures, The Correct Body Language, A Listening Ear, An Honest Compliment Or The Smallest Act Of Kindness, All Of Which Have The Ability To Turn Our Life AroundLearning how to greet people, how to say thanks and how to avoid the cultural taboos, surely goes a long way. There’s nothing worse than being the idiot abroad, especially when your job is at stake.
3. Different Cultures Have Different Ways Of CommunicationThe people in Bahrain (also called as Bahrainis) are often soft-spoken, friendly and very expressive in terms of greetings. It may be a warm hug or a small peck on the cheeks and it matters a lot to them. Similarly, one must not make assumptions that new culture looks scary, silly or sometimes even weird. Culture obviously matters to everyone. Every culture has certain beliefs and traditions and that is how it has come to be, the way it is.
4. Finally, Just Because You Are Living In New And Different Culture, Doesn’t Mean You Have To Change Your RootsKeep what matters most to you. In corporate world, one must always try to adopt the most of belief and ritual, not wanting to hurt the people’s feeling .One must also carry forward their own cultural habits, adapt other culture’s habits and ritual (not wanting to hurt anyone’s feeling since people can be very aggressive and will always defend their culture) and most importantly, respect the ones you aren’t a big fan of.
One must not always try to rush things, because sooner or later you will be walking on egg shells and that’s not what you want.
5. People Around The World Are More Similar, Than One Can Ever ImagineEveryone around the world is immeasurably different to each other. We all live our tiny bubble. We live our own life, have jobs, our opinions and our own family. We often don’t tend to interact with people belonging with other culture or generally, people outside our social circle. However, if we break out of our shell and talk more to different people, we will realize that essentially we are all the same.
Sure, customs and settings may vary from coordinate to coordinate, but at the end of the day, we all want to love and be loved, follow our passions and live.
It may be true that we are all global citizens but the nationality matters in reality. Culture matters. I lived as an outsider in Bahrain for nine long years. I didn’t get all those jokes. I didn’t know the same stories and I definitely didn’t share the same heroes. Once I used to think that Bahrain will not be my home in the sense that home is where you come from and it will be never be. However, in the span of nine years, it has become more of home, than one can ever imagine.
By accepting people along with their difference and acknowledging that we don’t know everything around us, will help us to open up to people and it will help us in the long run.
Nine years later, I am back on my motherland and yet something’s amiss. Bahrain was become a home to me and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every society often tends to pretty closely-knotted and close minded. Only if you step out of your tiny world, we will begin to open your mind and see life through other people’s eye. We will definitely appreciate different people’s culture and norms.