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Cultural Awareness

Being respectful and understanding of different cultures is an important quality for each of us to have. It helps us to make sure others feel comfortable and helps ourselves to gain rich insight into some of the other lifestyles that exist throughout the world and within our communities. Every culture celebrates a slightly different way of life, and by respectfully taking part in other cultures or even simply being aware of them, we can embrace our relationships with one another and profit off of this exchange.

The fundamental step of cultural competency is awareness. This involves understanding the differences and similarities between our practices and others, as well as having a general knowledge of what different cultures consist of. Not only should we understand the differences between our various lifestyles now, but also how our pasts have strayed as well. Signs of different cultures include differences in dress, conversation, and rituals. For example, a holiday for you may not be significant for someone else, or something that you consume may not be consumed by the other person. Try to acknowledge that some of these differences will be caused by culture and try to learn about this diversity. Some of your differences will be very interesting to someone else, and vice-versa, there's a lot to learn!

This first step of understanding is easy, next it takes respect for these other cultures. By paying attention to the differences in culture, you will be able to understand how to be supportive of any differences they may have from your lifestyle and accommodate these in the same way that they are accommodating to yours. If you don't understand something about someone else's culture, it is okay to politely ask. This is quite important because as you realize, we have a tendency not to correct others if their actions aren't major, so it is possible that without asking about our actions that they will go on incorrectly. Getting answers to your questions tends to be a straightforward interaction, but if you feel at all uncomfortable asking, just remember that we are all similar and respond positively to kindness and humility. Culture is beautiful and something to take pride in, so friends will often be open to sharing it with you if you show interest.

Once we have this baseline of understanding of another culture we simply get to enjoy and incorporate. Being culturally competent helps to foster respect and break down barriers of the past. Remember to think about how other people's practices may affect them and be supportive. With different cultures come different beliefs, they may not make sense to you but do not dismiss them. The more open and understanding that you can be, the more you will be able to experience the beauty of cultures from all around the world.


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