Updated: Apr 23
Growing up, my family and I lived in various countries such as South Africa, Senegal, the United States, and Lebanon. I was able to learn about my own Senegalese background, while also becoming familiar with different cultural mannerisms and standards. As I have gotten older and deepened my knowledge in business, I realized that cultural awareness is one of the leading factors in corporate comportment.
When working for a business, especially large global corporations, it is important to keep in mind that what may be socially acceptable in one culture, may be seen as disrespectful or “odd” in another. For example, maintaining good eye contact is impressive and shows confidence in American culture, whereas in Senegalese culture, looking someone in the eye for too long can be interpreted as rude. Although this may seem like a miniscule difference, it can alter the way one views cultures besides his or her own. Furthermore, as the rates of diversity in the workplace increase, ethically speaking, employees should keep an open mind to whom or what may seem foreign to them.
According to Erin Meyer, in the September 13, 2014 New York Times, “the hard part is figuring out how to conduct yourself in another culture, and a particular challenge arises when you are managing a multicultural team”. Businesses are constantly looking to expand their brand and broaden their horizons, making multicultural interaction almost inevitable.
After reading Meyer’s article in the New York Times, I realized that although I have interacted with many people of varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds, that does not mean I know everything. In fact, sometimes I used to find myself making assumptions about other cultures due to social and media influence and this may have altered my cultural perceptions. Meyer states, “no matter how much [one] [learns] about the world’s various cultures, there will always be more to discover”. In the business world, especially in marketing, abiding by this notion shows acceptance and internationalism, which usually results in a successful corporate culture. Being culturally aware contributes to future success in that one is able to maintain effective business conversation in a work environment with individuals from around the world, and profounds one’s knowledge and perceptions of cultures apart from his or her own. Moreover, for those who are aspiring marketers, cultural awareness allows for better marketing decisions as well as finding innovative ways to cater to distinct demographics.
By: Oumou Sarr