We come from different parts of the world and have diverse cultural backgrounds but we’ve found a way to create an environment where we can feel comfortable and fit in.
Cultural differences are inevitable, but we shouldn’t let them stop us from connecting and exchanging ideas with people from all over the world.
I’ve been fortunate to travel the globe and work abroad.
Visiting other countries has given me a new perspective on things and allowed me to learn a lot about cultural differences and how to bridge them.
In this article, I share with you my thoughts on how we can bridge cultural differences as a society and as individuals.
5 Examples of Cultural Differences
The best way to understand another’s culture is to know the differences. It’s important to respect those differences and not change each other’s personal cultural beliefs.
In different cultures, people have different ways of thinking, values, and ways of looking at the world. Here are some of the most important cultural differences:
- Family Structure: The family unit is the foundation of a society or community. Most societies have families that consist of a father, mother, and children. However, many societies also have single-parent families or extended families where grandparents and other relatives live under one roof.
- Family Relationships: In some cultures, women are expected to take care of children, while their husband is expected to support them by providing for them financially. In other cultures, the husband may take care of the children and even do most of the housework while the wife pursues a career outside the home or works as a business partner alongside her husband.
In some cultures, there are differences in communication behavior between siblings depending on age and gender, sometimes reflected in local language and even body language. Each person has an assigned status in the family (e.g., some people are leaders, others are educators, etc.), while in other cultures each person can decide for himself or herself.
In different cultures, people have different ways of thinking, values, and ways of looking at the world. For example, in some places, they believe in ghosts, while in others they don’t.
Some people believe in God, some believe the world was created without a creator, and others believe there are many gods.
The cultural diversity of spiritual beliefs can make it impossible for everyone to be friends with each other. But if you understand these differences, you can get along better with them.
Treating all people with respect is a universal concern. But even something as simple as saying hello or goodbye can vary greatly. In some parts of the world, it’s considered rude to greet or say goodbye first and leave it up to your counterpart to do the greeting. In other areas, it’s considered polite to greet others before saying anything else.
Sometimes politeness has to do with body language: In some countries, bowing is a sign of respect; in others, looking others in the eye is a sign of transparency or honesty, while in other cultures it’s considered impolite.
There are also big differences in punctuality from culture to culture. In some places, being on time is more important than respecting another person’s schedule, while others consider it inappropriate to be early. What’s considered “late” also varies from place to place.
Personal space is also perceived as respect in some cultures. For example, in some countries, people exchange information all the time, while in other cultures this is considered intrusive.
Tone of Voice
People always talk about the language barrier, but the tone of voice is one of the most important factors that affect communication in any culture.
For example, if you’re working with someone from another country, he or she may not address you in a direct tone.
In many parts of the world, it’s considered rude to speak bluntly or directly. On the other hand, they may be very direct in their tone. If you respond in return with a direct tone, it could be perceived as insulting or rude. Be aware of people’s different ways of communicating and adjust accordingly so you don’t offend anyone.
If you’re working in a diverse team, cross-cultural communication can vary in terms of showing emotion, and collaboration can be affected depending on the behavior of the individual. In some cultures, showing emotion is a sign of enthusiasm, while in others it can be perceived as a lack of stability and seriousness. In some cultures, empathy is shown, while in others it’s considered a weakness.
Bridging Cultural Differences
Most people tend to generalize others based on stereotypes and conventional ideas because they lack cultural competence. Bridging the cultural gap on a global scale means building a cultural bridge by changing what causes our cultural gap.
5 Examples of How We, as a Society, Can Prevent Cultural Differences From Occurring:
Education is the best way to prevent cultural differences that could lead to incidents and misunderstandings. We can use education to teach people about other cultures and traditions to promote tolerance and understanding.
Parents are the leaders of our unconscious bias and bear the greatest responsibility for narrowing the culture gap. They should talk to their children about why it’s important to accept a different culture, especially when vacationing in a different country. When parents share their own experiences with their children, it helps children develop a better cultural understanding of the world around them, and it will teach them to adapt their behavior in different circumstances in life.
In schools, educators should also teach students about different cultures and traditions. When a student learns about cultural boundaries, he or she can acquire the cultural competence to understand another culture. In this way, we can also promote better behavior of our future leaders in politics and international business when it comes to dealing with another culture and narrowing the cultural gap between different cultural backgrounds.
Getting people around the world to work together to solve common problems isn’t only a benefit, but a practical necessity in today’s society. And when we connect people around the world, they don’t just share information – they take action.
The more diverse the community, the more actions it can take. I experienced this personally when I built the global community of World Citizen Artists, which raises cultural awareness of global issues through culture and education.
A diverse group may also host local or online events where people come together to learn about each other’s customs or share common interests. Such events are ideal for breaking down the cultural barrier between cultures and preventing cultural differences from escalating into crime or incidents.
Cultural Awareness of Conflictual Issues
What usually triggers conflicts between societies isn’t the cultural difference, but the lack of cultural awareness of a different background in connection with sensitive issues.
Topic avoidance is a common strategy for keeping the peace. We talk about things we like, are familiar with, and are emotionally safe. However, avoiding topics of conversation is also a way to avoid understanding and empathy.
Conflictual topics such as politics and religion can be dangerous terrain and are often the main cause of cultural divide and stereotypes in a cross-cultural relationship, where the first misunderstanding between cultures often begins.
Being mindful and learning about the culture of others can make a positive difference.
Food has long been used as a means of effective communication.
Food is the best medium of effective communication between people, which can be seen in the diversity of food in different countries around the world. This diversity has promoted the culinary aspect of life in our society. Food becomes an identity for each person and makes us unique, but also unites us.
Food plays a great role in improving our social relationships with each other. It expresses the culture, traditions, and history of a particular country. It’s also one of the best ways to learn about other countries. The food we eat isn’t only a source of nutrients that keep our bodies fit and healthy, but also a way to communicate with each other.
Food festivals are often places where people interact with pleasure, and they’re a great way to promote cultural exchange.
Art and Music
Art and music are universal languages that transcend cultural barriers. People around the world love art and music of all kinds.
By promoting art and music, we can show that it appeals to people from diverse cultural backgrounds and cultures. At the same time, we create a sense of community by bringing everyone together to appreciate things they enjoy together.
Art and music also have other benefits for our creativity and mental health. Art inspires creativity, while music cultivates emotion. Not only do art and music bring people together, but they can also increase productivity.
How to Bridge Cultural Differences
If we’re sensitive to different needs and attitudes, we can avoid hurt feelings or misunderstandings.
Examples of how we as individuals can bridge cultural divides:
- By being aware of our own values and beliefs and accept that others may have different ones.
- By learning about the customs of those who live or work with us.
- By accepting that our way of doing things isn’t always the best, but just another way.
- By respecting the opinions and beliefs of others, even if they’re different from our own.
- By remembering that we can all learn something from each other, including children and people older than ourselves.
- By recognizing and appreciate our similarities and differences, because both enrich our lives.
- By taking the time to really get to know others before we judge their beliefs, customs, habits, etc.
- By appreciating diversity, we can help create a more peaceful world for all.
When We Respect the Values of Others, We Can Build a Culture of Peace
I’ve been fortunate to travel around the world. I enjoy visiting other countries because it gives me a new perspective on things and I can learn so much more.
The key to bridging cultural differences is to listen – really listen – and not just wait for your turn to speak. When you focus on communicating rather than pushing your point, you worry less about how your next comment will be received or whether it’ll make you look good or bad.
You think more about what you hear, and that creates opportunities for understanding and connection.
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