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windmill for understanding cultures

With the advent of newer technologies and the expansion of globalized business has come a dwindling of our world’s barriers.  This reduction has inevitably led to a world of much closer quarters, where differing cultures find themselves living virtually side by side.  Separate cultural ideals often lead to conflict, and the skewed mentality of “us” vs. “them,” although it doesn’t have to be this way.  Indeed, many individuals, groups, and businesses are striving to live and work across cultures in order to better understand, respect, and appreciate one another.  For a truly globalized world like ours, such cultural awareness and acceptance is a must. Continue reading for more information about the importance and benefit of understanding cultures different from our own.

Harmony > Conflict:

It’s interesting that every culture is so complex, and yet each has the opportunity to be so easily written off and pushed to the side by another.  Quick assumptions and ignorant/misinformed stereotypes seem to plague the cultural exchange process, but having a better sense of the value of different cultures can help nip this in the bud very quickly.  Otherwise, we easily slip into a system of conflict where we don’t understand why another group acts the way that it does and, therefore, we allow anger and suspicion to lead us to biased and dangerous conclusions.  People are more apt to respond violently to another culture when they’ve either been denied the opportunity to know it better, or have outright refused to do so.  Conflicts can easily range from a refusal to accept new medical advancements and ways of structuring society, to angry physical skirmishes and even war.

Understanding cultures isn’t just about understanding and respecting those residing in foreign nations.  Most nations these days, such as the United States, have a blended population that’s comprised of a multitude of cultures and backgrounds.  In order to remain together as one, we first have to understand what makes us different and why that’s a great thing.  Breaking past barriers of language, religion, and cultural traditions allows us access to the realization that we truly can coexist with one another.  On top of this, this breaking down of barriers also allows us to see how to coexist.  We learn that while there are certainly differences between us, there are also many similarities.

Businesses as Cultural Ambassadors:

Businesses are in very interesting positions in terms of cultural awareness and exchange.  While we may consider businesses to be associated primarily with commercial endeavors, and really only concerned with issues of industry and profit, these entities are also prime cultural ambassadors.  In many instances, what we first see of another culture and what they first see of us comes about through business practices.  When a business from one culture steps into the marketplace of another culture, there’s an immediate moment of cultural exchange and assessment.  Knowing how to properly approach another culture, no matter which of these positions you may be in, is crucial to ensuring that these exchanges don’t result in negative impressions that ultimately turn into unwavering stereotypes.  For many businesses, taking on aid from a language service not only provides direct access to consumers and investors through their own language, but also ensures that people are approached in a culturally informed manner.

How we approach and interact with culture has an immediate impact on how goods, services, and knowledge are all exchanged.  Not understanding the nuances of another culture can easily lead businesses to offend, thus damaging their market potential and setting a negative precedent for both commercial and societal interests.  Apart from not offending anyone, businesses also need to be relatable to their consumers, and this can’t be achieved if there’s no true comprehension of the culture to which they’re marketing their products and services.  What you offer has to be believable, relatable, and achievable, and the only way to ensure that these criteria are met is by presenting them in a way that is culturally informed. And in order to be culturally informed in a truly genuine sense, truly and genuinely understanding cultures is essential.

The Pitfalls of Ethnocentricity:

Ethnocentric mentalities are those that place one’s own culture or ethnic group above all others, never stopping to think that other groups have equal value and may even offer better ideas.  Operating on this basis of thinking, whether in everyday life or through business, leads to a deplorable system of cultural and human devaluation.  Such thoughts of superiority create an atmosphere of arrogance, and such arrogance not only breeds contempt, but also hurts people inside and outside of your culture.  Imagine ignoring scientific research that could create a cure for cancer just because it came from a different culture you assumed to be inferior and therefore incapable of such breakthroughs – pretty ridiculous, yes?  Such situations are prime examples of why cultural awareness and understanding cultures is so crucial in our world.

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