There is no feeling quite like travelling and exploring new places, it lets you break the monotony of life and work, by allowing you to take some time off to explore unknown lands. You get to study different cultures from up close and interact with people from different ethnic backgrounds. It also gives you the opportunity to put things into perspective. Travelling and exploring places on your own, helps transform your mind as you view things from new perspectives, instead of painting with a broad brush. You learn what professionalism is, first-hand.
Similarly, having traveled to over ten countries has profoundly shaped my thought process as now I’m able to reflect and ponder over things that I would usually take for granted. It has given me the opportunity to immerse myself into people’s shoes and learn to decipher them, irrespective of their beliefs, culture or religion, thereby giving me a better insight into people’s lives. We tend to stereotype an entire religion, culture or group based on the actions of a few people.
Traveling isn’t just moving between locations
According to the ancient phrase “When in Rome, do what the Romans do”.i.e. assimilate. However, we must first be able to decipher the respective culture and work environment, businesses operate in. In terms of business, countries like the United States consist of people of different ethnicities assimilating into the American work culture. Although, this may seem complicated due to the inevitable, language barrier, however, it brings its fair share of advantages.
When people assimilate into a specific culture, they bring in their own ideas and beliefs which integrate into the American work environment, thereby adding cultural diversity. There are primarily two types of cultures including the low context and the high context cultures. The former may include the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom etc. In countries with high context cultures, etiquette is extremely important and the businessmen visiting countries greeted with hospitality. These countries traditionally include China, Japan, and Mexico etc. The notion of ‘global business etiquette” is extremely important in Europe and America, as according to HR recruiters in the US and Europe, hiring candidates who are well acquainted with the basic business etiquette is crucial to the success of a business. These business etiquettes may include, first and foremost, punctuality. Your employer expects you to be on time always.
“Professionalism” evolves between lands
Apart from this, these countries lay a significant amount of emphasis on harassment laws and respecting women at work. It is considered a kind of discrimination in the US and there are certain laws that oppose a hostile work environment for women and offer protection to them, at all costs. International etiquette entails that everyone who is present in the meeting shall be greeted. Anyone who isn’t may deem it as rejection. Also, the interests of professions may vary from one country to another. In order to start a conversation in Australia, the topic of interest or a favourite topic may be sports. However, in European countries like Belgium, personal questions can be deemed as inappropriate and are usually avoided.
Belgians therefore, expect a formal business environment. Apart from this, businessmen usually follow a formal dress code that may include a suit and make eye contact with each other while they attend meetings. Due to the significant amount of cultural diversity that exists in these metropolitan cities, the need to practice cultural intelligence becomes paramount. Companies itself, have a corporate culture that employees spend days trying to decipher. The ability to adapt to that specific culture entails cultural intelligence. This goes hand in hand with being emotionally intelligent which entails, understanding the emotions and needs of those around you. Professionals abroad also focus significantly on hand gestures, body language and styles of communication. For example, in Argentina, one should greet every person individually and not just in a group.
In terms of table manners, in Denmark, they are expected to finish their food at business dinners. In the UK however, know that tea and drink may mean different things across the country. Moreover, bragging about your qualifications may work in the United Kingdom and in the United States but since Australia is not a very class conscious society, going on and on about your achievements may be deemed as discourteous. Americans are generally very competitive and pay special attention to dress code, speech, and smartness in order to come off as competitive, as they equate competition with efficiency. Americans also pay special attention to quality and customer preference.
In terms of language, they use phrases such as “incredible” and other superlatives during presentations. On the other hand, coming off as too competitive in European countries, is not always a good idea as competition may be treated as a threat in some countries. In the Middle East however, the Arabs usually put “honor” before anything else. They therefore, incorporate such beliefs in their businesses as well. They ensure that their business activities are in line with their culture. The table manners of Chinese people are rather, different and if you visit China, you should be well acquainted with them. For example, dropping your chopsticks may be considered a sign of bad luck.
Companies in the Western world always pay special attention to Human rights and focus on practicing corporate social responsibility. An example of a multinational company practicing CSR in term of fair trade practices is Starbucks ‘fair trade coffee’. Starbucks achieves this through helping citizens in poor coffee producing countries to farm in environmentally friendly ways whilst also making sure the coffee farmers make a fair profit from their coffee crop (Wild, Wild & Han, and 2010:132). There are quite a few companies that are cruelty free including Kat Von D makeup, Aveda, OOC, Lush etc. Cruelty free laws have therefore, been widely established in the western world.
Different nationalities are known to have different personalities and traits, yet they are still so similar in so many ways. Therefore, generalizing and judging an entire culture, based on the actions of a few is unfair. Travelling lets you decipher things on your own without someone else’s filter. It helps you interact with people and find common ground with the people whom you thought you do not have too much in common with. Therefore, in order to think with an open mind and to put things into perspective, it is extremely important for every individual to wander around the globe.
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