2. Cultural awareness – the basics
Every culture has its individual characteristics, norms, values, traditions, customs and history. In order to fully understand a specific culture, it is worth exploring all these elements. How much of a challenge it may be, getting a sense of the culture is a step towards understanding it.
Culture is very wide term and among others encompasses civilization, history, community, identity, literature, lifestyle, food, dance and music.
It also covers many concepts or variants such as cultural diversity, cultural issues, culture change, digital culture and mass culture, to name the most common ones.
Do you know what each of these concepts actually means?
Cultural diversity means the interaction of many cultures in the same area, that people of different cultures demonstrate a sense of belong to a community, although they have different cultural identities, come from different continents, countries or regions, and carry different distinctive traits associated with particular cultures. Cultural diversity is also known as multiculturalism.
Organisations are willing to take on board candidates with different ethnic or cultural background. It is for the reason of challenging the minds to think out of box and encourage creativity. Developing a cultural competence influences professional relationship building, provokes change and sparks innovation. Such employees are very valuable for an SME that strives to introduce change, promotes tolerance and supports diversity.
Cultural issues are problems that result from conflicts between representatives of different cultures. Small things can lead to a cultural conflict, from individualism in the roles of leaders who want to introduce their own norms or rules based on cultural peculiarities, through emotional expressions when some cultures are more open than others who are not comfortable with being expressive at work, to modes of communication where in some cultures digitalization is not an advanced process in comparisons to others – also implying a different level of digital skills.
Another example is that in a workplace it can be that some employees are used to starting work earlier, while others are accustomed to a different working schedule, which can be an issue and generate conflict between employees that do not understand the situation.
Cultural change is something that cannot be avoided, that happens over time and can be influenced by global activities. It is a human thing to accommodate to change, learn and experience new things. It is worth mentioning that cultures influence each other. Such an “operation” does not completely transform a culture but allows it to benefit from the other one by the introduction of certain elements to either enrich it, provoke a behaviour or show an alternative. As a result, the culture that has undergone change has an added value and appears to be completely different from that culture it was influenced by. Such a tendency is known as the ‘pizza effect’ and yes it originates from Italy with different forms of pizza across the globe, but also alongside Italy…
This cultural influence is common for groups, teams, SMEs that have a feeling they are behind their competitors, lack new ideas to grow or quite often rely on the big players to be innovation drivers.
Digital culture relates to digital environments and shared common experience across cultures in using digital technology. Most commonly known is social media, hugely influencing the way people behaviour. However, the familiarity with and preferences for a social media channel over another, results in different channels used in different countries. Also, for the purpose of business, while Facebook will be popular in one country, in another in order to “be heard” you should use LinkedIn.
Phenomena of digital culture includes:
- filter bubbles (=applying filters to visuals classified as imperfection or to improve the visual presentation),
- surveillance (=monitoring behaviours through digital equipment, usually cameras or sensors),
- immersive experiences (=simulated digital environments to get a real feeling when interacting) and
- digital twin (= digital representation of a real object).
The previously mentioned can enrich the offer of an SME to be more attractive to the public, but should be used in a careful way.
Mass culture comes from large groups, which can be explained on the example of the Internet since internet media has the power of influencing the society even in an unconscious way and ideas from the other side of the planet have the power of reaching you. A large number of commodities also results from mass culture. Your real-life experience can be substituted by virtual experience, either by watching a television programme or playing a game.
From mass culture there is a short way to global culture, making concepts, ideas, services and products exist across the globe. This unfolds how cultural behaviours, discoveries or inventions are not limited to a specific nation but shared to exist at global level.