Guest Bloggers – Sarah Barekzai & Diego Abente
Imagine you are in a car. Your vehicle is – unsurprisingly – on the right hand side of the road. Suddenly, you see an oncoming vehicle in your lane. In the wrong lane! Your mind is racing, what should you do? Feelings of fear, anger, and your survival instinct cause you to change lanes. As you cross paths, you lay on the horn to demonstrate your disgust with the other driver. They do the same. Neither driver stops to ask of the other why they were on that side of the road, no one questions if they may have been on the wrong side. You both drive on.
Now, what if I told you the other driver was from Mauritius, where the ‘right side’ of the road is the left. If you had just stopped to ask why they were driving as they were, you would have quickly learned that, and been able to help them learn the rules of ‘our roads’. Alternatively, what if I told you that you were driving in Mauritius and therefore, you were in the wrong lane. If the oncoming driver had stopped to talk to you, you would have quickly adjusted.
Our cultural identity, much like the road rules, paves a logical path for people within a community to follow. In context, and absent of other cultures, you can travel easily along life’s path. However, in our increasingly globalized world, different paths cross more and more often. These interactions are, like in the story, inevitable. The question is if you will be prepared to stop and learn something from them, or as in the case of our imaginary drivers, just drive on.
The first step in learning about cross-cultural communications is to learn about yourself and your culture. Only then can you accurately identify that which is different. Only then will you know if you are driving in the US or Mauritius.
The second step is to learn how to communicate about your culture, and then ask, and learn about others. It is how to engage once you have stopped the car.
Finally, cross-cultural communications is a life-long journey.
You have to keep driving and you will encounter different drivers in oncoming traffic. At each crossing, you have an opportunity to learn something new and further your cross-cultural communications journey.
Think of our Cross Cultural Communications workshop offered by The Center like the driver’s education of cross-cultural communications. We will provide you with the tools to be a good driver on our globalized roads. With our tools and your practice, you will become a better driver. We encourage you to take the wheel and begin your cross-cultural communications journey today!