Cultural Awareness towards Cultural Intelligence

 

We are living in this world, we step on one ground and we breathe the same air but on the other hand, we are divided between multiple identities because of different cultures our world has. Some people might have trouble fitting in and finding their comfort zone whenever they got a chance to travel in different countries. In order to survive, they need to relate and determine one’s lifestyle by examining its social system and understanding its content. This what we called ‘Cultural Intelligence’.

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(I do not own the image. Credits to the real owner.)

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to recognize multiple cultures and be able to fit in regardless of the differences. Measuring one’s cultural intelligence is almost like measuring intelligence quotient (IQ). A person with higher level of cultural intelligence has high possibility of becoming a successful individual living in multicultural country. However, when one is not aware of his own cultural identity, he will not be able to recognize and understand the other cultures. If he is blind for himself, how will he be able to care for others? Then, cultural self-awareness is really necessary.

Cultural Self-awareness is the ability to understand your own cultural identity, not just the values but also the oppression, and it is also the very first step towards Cultural Intelligence. This becomes necessary every time we got a chance to meet different kind of people gathered in one place. In this situation, misunderstandings may occur so we have to be more careful and aware.

As a Filipino, It is mandatory to recognize foreign behaviors especially this country is now composed of different cultures. Most of the fast-growing company are developed and controlled by foreign people. I experienced having a boss which is an American. They are very considerate so sometimes, I did not give attention to my working hours. I put my time on my hands not knowing that time is very valuable for my boss. I realized that Americans are very sensitive when it comes to working hours. For Filipino, reaching your office 5 minutes before the time will be okay. But for them, it is considered as late. If a single penny is very important for you, why not give ‘time’ some importance too? Time is money for the Americans.

In a study, there are several stages of Cultural Awareness. The first one is the Parochial Stage, wherein a person understands his own culture but he is never aware that there are more cultures than his own. He never bothers to see and explore what is living outside his own circle. Persons in this stage tend to ignore the cultural differences. Second one is the Ethnocentric Stage, people are aware of multiple cultures but tend to not mind about it. They knew that there are cultural differences but they give less importance about it than their own, which they think is better than the others. The third one is the so-called Synergistic Stage, which people are aware of their own way and others’ ways and they chose what’s best for the situation. At this stage, people realize that cultural differences can lead both to problems or benefits, yet they are willing to use cultural diversity to provide new solutions. The fourth one and the final stage is the Participatory Third Culture stage, which is very significant these days mainly in the Global Activities like ASEAN summit conference. It brings people from different cultural background together for the creation of a culture of combined meanings. People converse repeatedly with others, create new meanings, new rules to meet the needs of a particular situation. It is very applicable nowadays, mostly for the leaders around the globe, that aim to build a better world.

Recently, there’s a small incident regarding the two leaders of two countries. According to the news, President Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, insulted President Barack Obama, the President of the United States. Everybody knows that Mr. Duterte is a very vulgar person, and it is in his background even before becoming a President. He then clarified that he did not cursed or insulted Mr. Obama, it is just an expression whenever he got irritated and he did not directly pointed it out for Mr. Obama. But, as a culturally aware kind of Presidents they are, Mr. Obama did not take it seriously and Mr. Duterte did not make it as a big deal.

People have a natural attitude of judging a behavior once they experienced it for the first time. They tend to see it in a wrong way and misinterpretation will occur. They did not able to go deep in the real meaning of that behavior because judging takes first. While, in fact, the appropriate gestures or behaviors for your country may be inappropriate in some other cultures. For example, there is a popular reality show here in the Philippines that run everyday in the television. In the said show, there are Europeans involved. What I observed is, the action of the two European boys was sometimes misinterpreted by the others, especially the girls. In Europe, hugging a person, whether a girl or a boy, is a sign of respect when you two have no relation at all. While in the Philippines, hugging a person sometimes means that you have an intimate feeling for that person. In the said television show, so when one European boy hugs a Filipina girl as a greeting, misunderstanding takes place. The rumor immediately spread that shocked the European boy.

In absence of better knowledge we tend to assume, instead of finding out the genuine reason behind it. Another example is, we, Filipinos, are used to look straight in the eyes of someone who’s talking to us as a sign of sincerity and honesty. However, in Japan, looking straight in the eyes is a sign of disrespect.

Cultural awareness is a step to attain cultural intelligence. It is a lifelong and continuous process of becoming a globally competitive person. To grow and adapt well in an environment different from where you’re from and where you really belong. In understanding cultural awareness and becoming culturally aware, we should remember that similarities and differences of each culture are both important. What’s good in you may not be good to others, so better be aware of other things than judging some things.

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