Cultural awareness is act of becoming aware of our own cultural beliefs, values and perception. It is the foundation of communication for human beings who come from different cultural backgrounds. This paper seeks to evaluate and analyze the causes and management of cultural diversity, stages and importance of cultural awareness to human beings as they interact with people from other cultures. People envision, interpret and evaluate things in diverse ways. Something that is considered as an acceptable behavior in one culture may be unacceptable in another culture. It is a problematic undertaking to be attentive to our cultural dynamics since is not conscious to us. From birth, we have grown to be conversant with seeing and doing things at an unconscious level.
Our values, experiences and cultural background lead us to see and do things in a certain way. For cultural awareness to impact us in a positive way, we have to look beyond our cultural boundaries I order to realize the impact that our culture has on our behavior. We can also gather response from overseas associates on our behavior to get more clarity on our cultural traits. Several levels of cultural awareness exist that reflect how people grow to perceive cultural differences. Parochial stage, which is the first stage, shows that people are aware of their way of doing things and their way is the only way and hence they ignore the impact of cultural differences.
At the second stage, ethnocentric stage, people are conscious about other ways of doing things but still consider their way as the best one. Differences in cultural beliefs are considered as bases of problems and people tend to disregard them. At the synergistic stage, which is the third stage, people are aware of their own way of doing things and others’ ways of doing things, and they choose the best way according to the status quo. People realize that cultural differences can lead both to problems and benefits and are willing to use cultural diversity to create new solutions and alternatives.
The final sage, participatory third culture stage, brings people from diverse cultural backgrounds together for the creation of a culture of shared meanings. People dialogue continually with others, create new meanings and new guidelines to meet the needs of a specific state of affairs. Managing cultural diversity contributes to a greater extend, the success of cultural awareness. We must first recognize cultural diversity and learn not to fear it. To become culturally aware, we should admit that we don’t know everything hence assume differences until similarity is proven, suspend judgements before evaluating a situation from collected information, empathize with people from different cultures and learn how they would like to be treated by us and celebrate diversity.
Concisely, to increase cultural awareness means to see both the positive and negative aspects of cultural differences. Diversity becomes an advantage when an organization expands its solutions and its sense of identity consequently beginning to take different approaches to problem solving which creates new and valuable skills and behaviors. Diversity increases the level of confusion and makes it difficult to reach an agreement. Further, to become culturally aware people realize that; similarities and differences are both important, we are not all the same, there are multiple ways to reach the same goal and that each situation is different and may require a different solution.
- Kyra Luijters, Karen I Van der Zee, Sabine Otten, 2008 Taylor Cox, 1994