How many cultures do you come in contact with regularly?
I just counted 20 in my life: neighbours, other parents at school, friends and colleagues.
Try the same, you may be amazed by the number of cultures you have in your life.
When living abroad this is normal, just as it is normal comparing oneself with others and their culture. What we tend to notice the most are the big differences between how we look at things and how they do it, followed possibly by a more or less noticeable degree of judgment.
“People see what they want to see, they don’t always see what you see”
Says Pellegrino Riccardi, cross-cultural communication expert, and what people see is filtered through a cultural glass:
Culture is a system of beliefs and behaviours that help us act in an accepted and/or familiar way.
Looked at this way it is indeed a cross-cultural theme park we live in, where every culture is an attraction, every culture offers an inspiration to reflect upon our own personal ‘familiar and accepted’.
It is all nice and inspiring and expanding our views until we experience discomfort, judgment, rejection, when we get irritated by what is unfamiliar and we think 'that is not acceptable'. Pellegrino Riccardi suggests that there is always an underlying reason to what people do.
He uses the example of the Dutch culture, known for being prone to complaining excessively. What you can do when you are irritated by a behaviour that is familiar and accepted by the one culture and that is unfamiliar and annoying from your own cultural perspective, is to investigate what the underlying reason is for that behaviour. In the case of the Dutch, says Riccardi, what they are actually doing while complaining, is seeking a better result. If you consider that, you may feel different about the complaining and may even want to help them: seeking something better is probably familiar and accepted also in your culture.
How do you cope with so many cultures?
Riccardi suggests taking the best of all culture and making a new culture, this way we’ll create a global mind-set that will improve the fun in the cross-cultural theme park we live in.
You can hear more examples of cross-cultural misperceptions in the video:
I would love to hear about your experiences in the cross-cultural theme park, positive and negatieve alike.
Would you ever feel stuk in the cross-cultural theme park, let me know, I can help.