Working and living in a multi-cultural environment is full of excitement, new places, new ways of thinking and new people. It can also be, at times, difficult to get things done or frustrating to communicate. Working and living with people from many different culture groups around the world is both rewarding and tough. After having lived and worked in multiple countries around the world, I have many many ‘learning’ situations which are quite funny, after-the-fact.
Working in our own culture provides a context and implicit understanding of how things are done that is absent when we are working and living outside our own culture. Or perhaps working in our own culture in an organization that is made up of people from around the globe. Or perhaps, simply that the parent company is of a different culture than our own.
Have you had any funny or challenging situations due to cultural differences? What was it that happened? What did you learn from the situation?
How can we understand each other better? What can we learn about each other that will help open doors to better communication in life and work?
Dr. Erin Meyer presents a model she has called, “The Culture Map” to decode for international understanding. In her book with the same name, she shows that culture differences can be analyzed along 8 dimensions. This map can be used to understand one’s own style compared to your dominant culture (e.g. myself vs. Swedish) or to compare two culture groups to each other (e.g. Israel vs. Russia).
The eight dimensions making up the Culture Map are:
Martine & I have put together a workshop we will be offering in March here in Bangkok using The Culture Map as our starting point. We hope to give the attendees new tools for understanding their own culture and others with whom they interact. We are also hoping to hear some great stories!
Julia Middleton gives another model to use in this context. In her TEDxEast End talk she presents the idea that we need to first understand ourselves in order to understand other cultures. She gives us the concepts of a ‘core’ and ‘flex’ in each of us. Our core and flex change with age and experience. The key to cultural intelligence, according to Julia Middleton, is to know our own core intimately and to be firm about what we can and cannot compromise on.
How do you go about understanding cultural differences? What are your tips for others when living and working with people from around the globe? How to you become more self-aware of your own culture?