In today’s world, there are more and more people looking to relocate for a better future. London is a good example of a diverse cultural workforce. You have people with Jamaican, Nigerian, Spanish, French cultural background working and living in London. Their kids will be of a hybrid cultural background. Over time, more and more of the younger generations will be of mixed cultures. London is not the only place where there is a melting pot of cultures. Some countries such as Singapore, Mauritius were populated by migrants from various parts of the world. People born and raised there, had to create a new cultural identity over time as they found themselves different from their culture of origin.
Social cohesion is sometimes not only a result of economic prosperity or the fact that most of us are all law abiding citizens. Cultural etiquette is also important when we live in a multi-cultural environment. There are boundaries to be respected and an awareness that our behaviour can offend without us knowing why. Learning about other cultures can sometimes be difficult because of the tendency to stereotype. Sometimes, people are not so willing to share their cultural heritage because of a lack of trust. So, here are a few tips to bear in mind
1. Time and Space
People’s relationship with time varies. Punctuality is not always upheld as some people are more focused on leaving the meeting on a good note. As long as they feel that they have not yet built the rapport they need, they may prolong the meeting. In their views, relationships are what matters most.
Personal space is not always easy to respect especially at peak times in public transport. When it comes to making friends or reaching out to people, it is useful to know that some people do not like any friendly pats on the back or being physically close. Hugging is also very uncomfortable unless you have known each other for a while. People may see that more as a violation of their personal space. Though they may not say anything, it may send the wrong message.
We all have different tastes in clothes, some more obvious than others. Respecting people’s choices is important though their choices may seem alien to us. I was agreeably surprised when I went to New York for the first time. It was amazing to see such a diversity of clothing style. This would not be case in some other parts of the world where people tend to conform to certain implicit norms. No matter how people look different from each other, they all seek the same thing: happiness. They are all trying their very best to achieve their goals. This is what is most important to bear in mind when it comes to meeting people with a different dress code.
We all speak English and yet we don’t always understand each other. Speaking English with an accent or using slang or professional jargon can make communication more difficult. Using simple language and speaking slower build better rapport with others. Getting used to different accents are also useful as what matters is the strength of the rapport that you build with the other person. Do not allow an accent or a wrong pronunciation mislead you. That same person may become a great friend over time or it may be one of your best clients ever.
20 years ago, it was a novelty to find so many different languages spoken in one location. Today, we have a number of cities, across the world, where you can listen to French, German, Japanese, and many other languages being spoken all in the same place. Learning to be “politically correct” is essential if you want to raise your profile in a culturally diverse environment.