Understanding cultural similarities and differences, and navigating intercultural encounters is easier if you know yourself and something about the other person’s culture. Most people are quite unaware of their own cultural identity and other factors influencing their social behaviour. Similarly, most people do not know much about other cultures unless they have been in contact with them in their social lives or through travel, or living, studying or working abroad, for instance.
Intercultural encounters usually increase your knowledge and skills, especially if you take some time to reflect on them. When you first come to a new country, culture, or community, you might feel a bit like a fish out of water. In time, and with the support of others, you will hopefully learn to navigate in the new cultural environment.
Individual exercises and tests might help you learn something about yourself. When entering a new community, we often wonder if we fit in, how we are welcomed, what will our role in the community be, etc.
Click on the link below to see one exercise you can do. You can also find more exercises under Tips for developing intercultural communication skills.
Learning about yourself
First, think of what are important values in life for you. Consider which values you can compromise on, and which ones are non-negotiable.
1. Write down five of your values that are non-negotiable.
2. Do a cultural profiling test, e.g. one by Erin Meyer.
3. Take the results from 1) and 2) and reflect on them.
Do you recognize yourself in the results? Is there something surprising in either your thoughts about your values, the results of the test, or how they (do not) match?
We all have unconscious and implicit biases towards certain characteristics (age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.). It’s perfectly normal and learning about them will help you be more aware of how they affect your attitudes and behaviour towards other people.
To learn about your own biases (or thought patterns), you can do a few simple tests. You can also reflect on your own attitudes and behaviour with the help of these questions below.