What is culture, world cultures and interculturality?
The world as a global village requires everyone to know about interculturality and cross-cultural differences. Particularly when doing business, or having relationships with foreign stakeholders.
Can you imagine that in our present world we are more than 7 billion people? Actually 7 billion people coming from different places with different cultures. In fact, what do we really know about culture in general and cultures of the world? It’s not just being different because we come from different countries.
It is also the lifeblood of a society and an environment. It particularly influences the way we express ourselves, we tell our stories, we celebrate, remember the past or entertain ourselves.
Culture, communication and cross-cultural differences
Cultures determine our communication and can create misunderstanding. As a result, it really matters to take cross-cultural differences into account in our societies and corporations.
The Global Village
Nowadays it is very important to take into account cross cultural differences or interculturality for several reasons.
First of all, because the world has become a global village. Why? Due to technology connecting people in multinational companies for instance wanting to expand their activities and their markets.
For instance, if multinational companies do not take into account cross-cultural differences, they are likely to experience major problems.
This is the case of Mattel company in the US when they wanted to sell the Barbie doll in the Emirates.
In Saudi Arabia Mattel experiences a major business issue. There was a big cultural gap.
Because the Saudi Arabian market did not like the Barbie doll, the way it was sold and presented in the USA.
Why mastering interculturality matters when localizing products? We understand that a company in the international market must not behave like Mattel in Saudi Arabia.
First of all, it must adapt its products to the environment in which it wants to operate. But what are the real advantages for a company to locate its activities in foreign countries?
Selling abroad, interculturality and creativity
When you consider adapting your domestic products to a foreign market it can generate creativity. As a result it firstly enables you to develop additional products. Secondly, you can identify new opportunities, connected to the intercultural challenges you may face. That’s a great source of creativity.
Avoiding misunderstandings in cross-cultural differences
However, working in a multinational environment, as an employee, with people from foreign countries may generate misunderstandings. Firs of all, because our cultures are different. As a matter of fact, states, working environments and practices may differ. However, they may be an advantage for a work team.
Firstly, the main asset of working with a cross-cultural team is that you generate much more creativity. However, provided that everyone respects you, of course. Otherwise, it cannot work. If you have one member of the team Imposing his views it doesn’t work. Here again, with my clients I also had bad examples, but I do not want to give them here. My only piece of advice is to concentrate on positive people and positive experiences. Lucky me, I have had so many beautiful experiences so far.
Benefits of cultural diversity
Secondly, as we have seen cultural diversity can have positive effects in the business world, but not only. Moreover, its benefits can also have repercussions on our personal lives.
Adapting to a new cultural environment
Thirdly, it is a great opportunity to evolve. As when you are in a different environment and no longer in the routine, like staying in Le Havre, France for instance, I do not mean going to Germany or England it’s too easy, because these cultures are too close from ours, but if you really are in a very different environment – in Africa, or in the Indian Ocean, for instance, every day you have to adapt. Every day you are out of your comfort zone. Therefore, as you no longer feel comfortable with your landmarks, it is a very high stimulating factor and you do learn a lot about yourself.
Because when you are in a very different cultural environment, all of a sudden you realize that in France you do it this way. It also enables you to broaden your mind, and to acquire a few positives characteristics of the other culture you are in contact with.
Learning from others
Learning from others and learning from oneself is something important in our personal improvement. Remaining open minded is a great opportunity and may result in bright ideas, and enhanced thinking power. This is the main reward of interculturality. This approach and state of mind is a great asset when being integrated into our work practices and into our personal lives.
The above article is an adaptation of the Interculturality Documentary Video, produced by the Students of the University of Le Havre, France, International Affairs Department. With the participation of Theodore Pagot, Marceau Peltier, Mamadou Sylvécia and Patrick Lemarié as the interviewed consultant and Associate Professor at the above university.
If you are a firm which would like to speak with a consultant specialized in intercultural matters to carry out a specific mission, or to train your teams, feel free to contact us: https://patrick-lemarie-consulting.com/en/contact/
You may also watch our other videos here: https://www.youtube.com/c/International-management-training-courses/about