Cultural Awareness

We live in a heterogenous world, where we all have our differences.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, “Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries, or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values.” 1

Expats are plunged into a new environment where they must find their place in the host society, their temporary new home.

Rebuilding a social network and a circle of support are part of the integration process. This involves meeting other expats from their home country or other countries as well as getting to know the locals. A need “to belong”, a feeling of being part of a group or a larger community is a fundamental motivation for most humans.

Often Expats find themselves in countries where the culture, traditions and values are different from their own. They are confronted with this diversity and the issue of their own adaption and inclusion.

Locals may consider the Expat as an “outsider”, as the Expat’s presence is temporary, and the Expats culture and values are different. Within the Expat community, there may also exist unconscious biases to integration depending on the above factors as well as others such as social status, personality, interests…

"Unconscious bias – refers to a bias that we are unaware of and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgements and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences."

Unconscious biases and attitudes have a large impact on how we see the world and how we see others. To some extent, we all have unconsciousness biases where we place people into stereotypes and feel attracted to some people and groups and not to others.

The experiences encountered as an Expat can help you in understanding and developing your cultural awareness. Cultural Awareness is a life skill which is important in both a social and work environment. In today’s global and diverse world, it is a key skill that employers seek. 

We will look closer at Cultural Awareness and its importance in the workplace in a coming article.

2 Equality Challenge Unit UK: Unconscious Bias Review in Higher Education 2013

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