Have you ever experienced interacting with a person coming from another country? Or being in a team of different races and nationalities? What did you think and feel during such interaction? Were there any feelings of apprehension and uncertainty dealing with foreign people? Did you find it easy mingling with them or was it hard for you to relate to them? All these questions and many more will cloud your mind especially if it is your first interaction with individuals of foreign race or nationality.
Experts have coined a shared set of values, behaviors, beliefs, and perceptions as ‘culture’ and we have learned that culture is dynamic and evolving process depending on a lot of factors.
Now consider the situation illustrated in the earlier paragraph? Many of us have probably been doing it for quite some time now. But probably not all of us are aware of what the process is called. An interaction or an exchange of communication among cultures is called as cross-culture.
The concept of cross-culture is very broad in scope, however, understanding cross-culture can be made easy since it already exists as a result of the interaction of different cultures.
An important aspect we need to remember is that even if it is contact with people of other cultures, it does not just focus on the differences. Cross-culture is also about learning the similarities and what is commonly shared between and among cultures.
In the broadest sense, you share the similarities and differences of the other culture of the people you come in contact with, whether it is within your cultural group or from another ethnicity.
In a cross-cultural interaction, usually we tend to look for similarities or common denominators with others more than the differences. It is because when we interact on a common ground, it is easier to get along with each other.
When differences appear to be all there is, this is when cross-cultural issues and conflicts arise and when you perceive these differences to be barriers or hindrances instead of taking it as a challenge to even strengthen the bond between your cultural orientation and that of the others.
Since similarities are easier to identify and put together to gain a common ground, let us focus more on the obvious differences that exist among cultures. One of which is differences in language.
When you deal with a foreign counterpart of a different ethnical or racial background, language may be a barrier unless English becomes a common denominator for good communication between cultures. The way to deal with this difference is to adjust to each other’s languages by learning even the most basic form of a culture’s language.
Two other differences, ethnical and racial background, were already mentioned. Interacting with people from other countries is not that easy. You have to consider the cultural norms and beliefs of their nation. This includes the cultural etiquettes and policies established in that country.
Religious belief is also a difference. Cultural sensitivity is required in dealing with such difference since the topic of faith or religion is a sensitive one. Other standard cultural differences are gender, age, social class or status, and education.
There is no need to fear about getting your main cultural traditions dissolved during cross-culture interaction. In any case, it will definitely take a really long time for it to occur. Once the cultural traits are embedded in the traditions and heritage of a country or a culture, people identify and accustom themselves within the grown culture and pass this process over from one generation to another. This is a misconception about cross-culture that we must not dwell on.
With the exposure to other cultures, such a situation diversifies a country or a nation and enriches its culture. A very good example to illustrate it is the United States which the world knows to be the “melting pot” because of the coming and meddling of various cultures from different origins. America opted not to disregard and block other cultures from coming in, but the nation has retained its cultural heritage and traditions up until now.