Why is it Important to Have Cultural Awareness?

By The Cultural Story-Weaver

Worldview is “how we see the world.” Cultural awareness, on the other hand, is “the ability of standing back from ourselves and becoming aware of our cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions,” according to the Culturosity Group. It’s asking ourselves questions like:

Why do we do things that way?

How do we see the world?

Why do we react in that particular way?

There are Four Degrees of Cultural Awareness (Culturosity)

1. My Way is the Only Way

People are aware of their own way of doing things and believe that their way is the only way. They tend to ignore cultural differences and their impact during this stage. Culturosity refers to this as the “Parochial Stage.” This was my degree of cultural awareness before I first left America at the age of 19 to study in France. I thought my American way was the only way . . . until I was exposed to another culture and saw another way of living.

I didn’t even realize that I carried my American culture with me in my suitcase until it suddenly collided with another culture—the French culture.

You can read more about my cross-cultural collision in “MY STORY”.

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2. I Know Their Way, But My Way is Better

During this stage, people are aware of other ways of doing things. However, they still consider their way as the best way. People tend to perceive cultural differences as sources of problems and ignore them in order to reduce their significance. Culturosity refers to this as the “Ethnocentric Stage.”

In a recent conversation with my friend from Norway, she was describing her last trip to Guatemala to visit her husband’s family. While there, she struggled with their cultural differences around the notion of time. Norwegians are very prompt; whereas, Latin Americans can sometimes be “late” . . . sometimes “very late.” When my friend challenged her husband’s family about being on time, they realized (maybe for the first time) that there were obvious cultural differences between them. However, the problem, the tension, and the significance of their cultural differences were ignored. My Norwegian friend would simply have to adjust to their way and their notion of time.

3. My Way and Their Way

People become aware of their own way of doing things and others’ ways of doing things. According to the situation, they will choose the way that seems best to them. In this stage, people tend to realize that there are both problems and benefits resulting from cultural differences. They begin to look at cultural diversity and search for new solutions and alternatives. Culturosity refers to this as the “Synergistic Stage.”

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As an American married to a Frenchman, this is the reality of our cross-cultural marriage and family life. We are almost always aware of our different ways of doing things (American and French), and we are forced to constantly choose the way that seems best for each situation. (Which language will we speak in our home? Which Christmas traditions will we celebrate this year? How will be discipline and educate our children?) There are obvious advantages and disadvantages in each of our cultures—leading to tensions, problems, and benefits—but we try to use our cultural diversity for our good and the good of our children.

After years of cross-cultural marriage and family life . . . we gradually developed “Our Way.”

4. Our Way

People from various cultural backgrounds gather together to create their own culture of shared meanings. They dialogue together, create new meanings and new rules for a particular situation. Culturosity refers to this stage as the “Participatory Third Culture Stage.” This is the beauty of our many years of cross-cultural marriage and family life. It also describes the uniqueness of our “Oasis of Cultures” (https://culturalstoryweaver.com/i-found-my-oasis-of-cultures/) that we have formed around the world. We love to gather together—representing 10 or more countries and a smattering of diverse cultures and languages. We dialogue together, we learn from each other, we share our cultures with each other, and we create a new “third culture” together—an “international culture” wherever we are.

Why is Cultural Awareness Important?

Culturosity is defined as:

1. A desire to learn about and engage with other cultures

2. An essential mindset in a global world

3. Today’s competitive advantage

Having cultural awareness makes us global citizens! It helps us break down cultural barriers and build cultural bridges. I know it’s a cliché, but it truly can help us “change the world.” When we break down those cultural barriers, we learn to love those who are different from us. We begin tosee the beauty in our diversity which truly can “make the world a better place.”

As we begin to see our own culture and understand ourselves better, we will be better able to relate to people of other cultures—resulting in less cultural conflict and more cultural connection.

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If you would like to put on your cultural glasses and develop your cultural awareness, join us on the “5-Day Cultural Awareness Challenge.” Sign up here.

Let’s Weave Cultures!

When you look at the four degrees of cultural awareness according to Culturosity, where do you see yourself? What can you do to develop your own cultural awareness—expand your global tapestry—right where you are? We invite you to tell us your own cultural stories and global adventures . . . as you engage with the world, breaking down barriers, building bridges, and “weaving cultures”!

Please visit the Cultural Story-Weaver at: www.culturalstoryweaver.com

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