The more global the world becomes, the more diversified the workplace becomes. This means working with and understanding a variety of people from other cultures. Expanding your cultural knowledge will become even more important in the future.
In my own business I work with people in over 20 countries on a daily basis, so I get to learn a lot from them about their culture and how business works in their own countries. It\’s been a great crash course in international business that I couldn\’t get from going to college.
I\’ve been told that you really master a foreign language if you\’re able to speak to them using their own slang. Imagine someone in an office jokingly telling an employee to \”keep their nose to the grindstone\”. Someone from another culture who took that literally might be really frightened off by it. And every part of each country has their own slang.
Being culturally savvy doesn\’t just give you an edge in the business world, but in the job market also. It\’s a crowded field, and a job seeker looking for a job in the corporate world who is knowledgable about other cultures will have an edge over someone who hasn\’t had the same exposure because all major corporations these days are global.
So how can you expand your cultural knowledge without actually packing up and moving to another country? Here are some ways I learn more about my international distributors and their culture:
- Internet research – The first thing I do when I get a new distributor and want to learn about their culture is to Google their country. I look through the images and do some research, starting with their tourism board website. If you want to know more, just send them an email. They\’re always happy to help.
- Scour the library – Libraries are goldmines for learning about the culture in other countries. Get the librarian to point you in the right direction and just start exploring.
- Watch movies, TV shows and documentaries – I actually learn a lot about the culture in other countries by watching Anthony Bourdain\’s \”Parts Unknown\”. By breaking bread with the locals and going way off the beaten path, viewers get a first-hand look at a country\’s culture that you can\’t read in a book. Documentaries and channels like The History Channel, Discovery, and Nat Geo are also good places to start.
- Shop – In any big city you can usually find a grocery store, shops, and restaurants in ethnic neighborhoods, or even at your local mall that cater to a specific culture. Check out the merchandise, order a meal, and strike up a conversation with the store clerk or waiter. You\’d be amazed how much you\’ll learn.
- Get social – Attend different cultural events, preferably with someone who can fill you in on the details. When a friend invited me to a Passover seder I jumped at the chance. All along the way she let me know what was going on and why. I got to see and actually participate in a tradition I didn\’t know anything about. Many cities also have different cultural festivals you can attend. Get out and be sociable and learn about a new culture first-hand.
- Ask – The very best way to expand your cultural knowledge is to simply ask someone from that country. If you happen to work with people from other countries, offer to take them to lunch. Not only will you make a good friend, but people love sharing their culture with others.
As the world gets even smaller, it will become even more important to be more worldly, and you never know when your new cultural knowledge will come in handy. Besides, if nothing else, it will make you a more interesting person to talk to.
How do you expand your cultural knowledge?