By Aadil F. | Chief Marketing and Development Officer | AFS Intercultural Programs India
While we are given all the right tools and resources to excel in the world of academics, we aren’t taught on how to work and live in a globalized world – a world that requires a distinct set of skills, knowledge, and understanding. If you’re working in a multicultural environment, you must learn the ABCs of being in that environment – the dos and don’ts – otherwise, you yourself will be creating a hurdle for your own growth and adjustment. One has to learn to respect the cultural diversity and acquire the tips to navigate through the journey where you not only see yourself as a learner but also as an experiential learner.
When we work for a multicultural team, we face challenges in the field of communication and understanding, and have to deal with cultural differences, surprises, and microaggressions etc. and when we try to integrate ourselves with the multicultural team to foster confidence, trust, and inclusivity, we hit a wall. We don’t know how different cultures have different ways of seeing and reacting to the same situation. Imagine a French guy giving feedback on an important meeting to an Indian. As per his cultural setting, his communication style might be very direct which might be interpreted by Indian as rude and unacceptable. Another quick example from Indian context is our way of showing respect: we call our elders Sir or Ma’am and if they are relatives, we call them Aunty or Uncle, but when a person from another cultural setting comes to India, it’s hard for them to understand Indian concept of respect; they’d rather call everyone with their first name. In many cultures, respect is demanded while in others it’s earned. Our ways might be different, but our end results are the same. Whether it’s low-context communication adapted by Italians or Germans or high-context communication adapted by Africans or Chinese, one needs to learn how to react appropriately while respecting the native culture.
Seeing how one needs to learn the ABCs of navigating in a multicultural workplace, the most significant question to ask yourself right now is — what’d you do if you are in a situation where you don’t know how to react or take forward the experience of being in a new cultural setting? Will you distant yourself and think that the situation would pass? Or will you think of learning and preparing yourself with the right knowledge, skills, and understanding so that you can learn to respect, observe and reflect on other cultures and make sense of the experience you face?
In the last decade, I have seen thousands of students, of different age group from various background, who went abroad and came to India on cultural exchange programs, and they all accede with the fact that being in a new cultural setting is a challenging experience. They go through many ups and down. At times, they don’t know what to do, what to ask and how to ask, but fortunately, with the curriculum prepared by AFS and facilitated during orientation by Qualified Trainers, participants learn to navigate through the different cultural setting.
AFS prides itself in offering curriculum-based training and workshops to the participants who go on AFS exchange programs. We also have Qualified Trainers who provide exclusive training to the educators, students and other stakeholders on Global Competency that helps them increase their intercultural competence. With the introduction of this amazing and thorough educational product offered by AFS — Global Competence Certificate — anyone who is participating in an international experience can build their global competence. The certification is designed in a way where learners can be interculturally competent and be ready to experience a new culture setting with a new perspective and understanding. GCC maximizes learners ability to cope up in a different cultural setting by helping them increase empathy and curiosity – skills that help you become a global citizen.
Intercultural Skills and Global Competence are appreciated in today’s workplace. The 21st-century workplace prefers employees who can collaborate, connect and co-create with a diverse, multicultural environment. We need to reflect on the skills which we have and the power skills which we need to develop. Once you’re done with the assessment, participate in a training or course, online or offline, to become more interculturally competent and take the first step towards being a global competent person with knowledge, skills, and understanding to create a just and peaceful world.