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Why is Cultural Awareness Essential for Expats?

As you move for your international assignment, it is essential to first become culturally aware in order to be productive…and Fast!

Lots of professional expats receive cross-cultural trainings prior to departure and upon arrival, but lots of these trainings and coaching miss out the blind spot for cultural adaptation and adjustment…Cultural Awareness.

Cultural awareness is one of the main pillars of Cultural Competence, which elements are the three main cultural notions simplified as ASK:

1. Awareness: self regulate your emotions in order to identify the facts

2. Sensitivity: develop a thinking process of the differences and similarities, and level ethnocentricity accordingly.

3. Knowledge: unlearn your old habits and be opened to learning

In this article we will focus on cultural awareness; so lets first understand why do some of you underestimate the importance awareness in intercultural environments.

The main two reasons are both derived from an unconscious mechanism, which blinds you from seeing the reality. The first is that this mechanism allows you not to question your own map of the world, your frame of references and beliefs, which can be religious, political…and the second is that it’s an excellent mean not solve a problem or to push a problem away.

Now that we’ve looked at the why, let’s look at the how. Gaining cultural awareness has 4 stages:

1. You do not realize your behavior is inappropriate in the new culture (unaware of the existence of the problem: the state of blissful ignorance).

2. You are aware of your inappropriate behavior, but you choose to undermine or ignore its impact (aware of the problem, but unaware of the impact of the problem).

3. You are aware of your inappropriate behavior, and of its negative impact, but you are unaware that different behaviors can be learnt and applied (aware of the problem and its impact, unaware of other ways of doing).

4. You are aware of your inappropriate behavior, and of its negative impact, and you are aware that different behaviors can be learnt and applied, but you are unaware of your capacity to solve the problem (aware of the problem and its impact, and that other ways of doing are possible, but unaware of your own capacity of acting otherwise).

Those in the first two stages do cannot master intercultural conflict, while those in stage three and four can be coached to raise their cultural awareness, therefore become culturally competent, and productive. Which stage do you think you are in?

Let me know your thoughts and visit my website to learn more about cross cultural coaching and coaching for expats.


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