Q:

What is cultural awareness, and why is it important?

A:

Cultural awareness is the ability to recognize the different beliefs, values and customs that someone has based on that person's origins, and it allows a person to build more successful personal and professional relationships in a diverse environment. A person's state, region or country of origin and local customs heavily influence cultural background.

Awareness that someone from a different culture gives a person a chance to adjust and adapt. Americans tend to operate at a fast pace, so they must often slow down and allow for informal interaction when dealing with people from parts of Europe. Showing consideration for the cultural norms of others makes a person more hospitable in a home country and better-equipped to fit in when traveling abroad.

In a workplace, diversity is an opportunity and a challenge. Different perspectives allow work teams to discuss more options to achieve better results. However, employees must be sensitive to the influence of culture on communication and etiquette. Regular eye contact is a sign of engagement when talking or listening in the United States. However, it is sometimes viewed as domineering and disrespectful in Japan. Therefore, moderating eye contact may help Americans in building rapport and mutual respect with people of a different cultural background.


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