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Really Understanding Cultural Differances

April 2018

 

When we are exposed to different cultures, we develop cross-cultural understanding. We learn to appreciate that differences in the way we behave can be strongly culturally based. We know that we need to understand these differences in order to facilitate communication and relationships and avoid tension. However, even with our best intentions and efforts, problems in communication may persist. Julia Gaspar-Bates, a recognized expert and intercultural consultant with HRDLS Intercultural Program, who has spent her career researching, training and consulting in this field, believes that there are many aspects of cross-cultural differences that we are not aware of and which can affect the biases we hold, our relationships and decision-making despite our best efforts, but also which can be overcome through enhanced awareness.

Julia conducted a workshop in February for WBFN volunteers, during which she used hands-on activities to guide the participants to:

  • Explore how our culture, experiences and personalities impact our behaviors
  • Understand how they influence our assumptions, perceptions and expectations
  • Understand visible vs invisible culturally-dependent elements (HINT: most of them are invisible)
  • Identify our preferred style of communication and how it is impacted by culture
  • Examine different practices to build trust across cultures
  • Develop skills to interact more effectively across culture
  • Develop concrete actions to minimize confusion and culture shock

Julia also introduced the participants to CultureWizard, an online interactive e-learning platform, which has recently been adopted by WBG to enable staff and family members to increase their cultural competence.  Using eight dimensions, the self-assessment tool will compare your cultural profile (even if you have several different cultures in your background),  which can then be compared to 160 countries. If you are moving to a new country, or doing business with people from another culture, you can use the detailed comparison to understand the new environment and prepare for areas of potential misunderstanding.

The cross-cultural workshop and the CultureWizard platform are two important steps that WBFN members and volunteers have taken recently to make sure that their interactions in our community are as informed and sensitive as possible.

If you’re curious to learn more, try out CultureWizard for yourself: by CLICKING HERE, Then enter Access code: wbg