Cultural awareness involves recognizing different beliefs, values and customs that other people have that are based on their origins or upbringings. Cultural awareness positions people to be more successful in both personal and professional relationships.
Origin and personal experiences shape beliefs, values and customs. Cultural awareness is the ability to notice and respect these differences. Showing consideration for the cultural norms of others makes a person more hospitable in a home country, and better equipped to fit in when traveling abroad.
Examples of Cultural Diversity
To ensure respect of different cultures, people must first be aware of cultural differences. Race and ethnicity are the main cultural differences that influence attitudes and behaviors, as stated by a representative from Walden University. A person's nationality often defines their beliefs, thoughts, interests and outlooks. Religion, economic status and even sexual orientation are also integral parts of people's identities and belief systems. Showing sensitivity to differences and inviting others to share their cultural experiences can be an effective way to foster cultural awareness and feelings of inclusion.
Showing Respect for Diversity
Practicing cultural awareness of others extends respect to people from different cultures. Cultural awareness also involves making adjustments and adaptations as necessary in different social and professional situations. Some cultures, such as the United States, practice more outgoing and direct communication, whereas other cultures are more subtle and reserved in their communication styles. It could be easy for someone to inadvertently offend someone else from a different cultural background with an overly direct communication style. In the workplace, diversity presents both opportunities and challenges. Different perspectives allow work teams to discuss more options to achieve better results. Using sensitivity and flexibility helps people navigate diverse social and professional situations to avoid offending others.
Employees must utilize sensitivity for the influence of culture on both communication and etiquette. Cultural etiquette often has significant differences, which present challenges for people who are trying to work together. For example, regular eye contact is a sign of engagement when people are communicating in the United States. However, eye contact can be perceived as domineering and disrespectful in Japan, according to Rebecca Bernstein from Point Park University. In fact, Japanese people often show respect for others by avoiding eye contact. Thus, moderating eye contact may help Americans build rapport and mutual respect when communicating with people of Japanese heritage. In the United States, people maintain a fast pace, and they often greet each other professionally with firm handshakes. However, in France, professionals tend to be more laid-back and informal, usually greeting each other with kisses on both cheeks. In America, this practice would seem inappropriate; however, in France, people may be offended by the absence of a kiss.
Recognizing cultural differences and accepting these differences in a respectful and affirming manner helps everyone to feel valued. Because worldwide travel is readily accessible, more people will likely experience situations that demand cultural awareness in their interactions with others. The ability to have positive verbal and nonverbal communication with others who have different backgrounds and beliefs broadens perspectives and enhances the ability to collaborate effectively.