HOW INTERACT WITH PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT CULTURE ? Dr Kamal Khurana PhD
Updated: Jul 8
I believe that people are a product of their personalities. And their personalities include sets of likes and dislikes, aspirations, preferences, meaning making systems, perceptions, value systems etc. Everyone grows up observing rituals, social norms and life styles in their respective cultures, place of birth / residence. These social norms and habits range widely from mundane things like food habits to life decisions like marriage, rearing kids, career decisions etc. For example India has a concept of arranged marriage and savings and investing in land. And as a contrast, mostly people in west believe in living life in the present, spending their income in travelling, clothes and experiences instead of blocking the money for future security.
When I interact with people of different cultures, I find very easy to connect with them. It’s not that it’s a smooth sail right from the start. At the first meeting, like anyone else, I too find myself incompatible to people or situations due to difference in cultures. At that point I ask myself – “Is it my inability or the other person’s or both?. Very quickly when I sense my nervousness, I reflect on myself and my emotions. And I tell myself right away, that instead of judging, I need to be proactive in understanding the other. And this solves it all for me. There is a history to this. While growing up, I have consciously inculcated loads of confidence and a concept of collaboration in my attitude. It has helped me develop the art of proactively barging in strangers or a group, while carrying a sense of vibrancy in my personality. This builds a collaborative environment between me and others. Of course I also use my communication skills to understand them and share my world with them. For an instance if i am in a gathering, I carry a smile and I don’t shy completing people. This gives a cue to strangers that they can comfortably interact with me. Also another example is that when I go to a mall for shopping, I find it easy to call the attendants and enquiring from them about some details about their backgrounds. They find interacting with me very easy and comforting.
A lot of times I do encounter difficulty when the cultural difference becomes a barrier to friendship. For an instance while interacting with a particular sect, I find it hard to absorb the coldness in the air. In such a case I find it a little challenging. In most of cases from my end, i attempt to find out if something can be done to fix the situation. For this, I introspect and try to find out the deeper reasons behind their thinking and behavior. Also I try to find out why their ways are different from mine. In such a scenario I promote discussions and dialogues. I try to create a room where, I ask other to speak out his/ her realistic expectations while asking them their logic behind their expectations. I share my expectations in the same way. This will help me and the other in understanding and accepting each other. I also ensure my willingness to accommodate their differentness. And this works out in most of the cases. An instance that I recollect is when as a kid when I used to play with few of cousins who live in distant states, I don’t get entangled in their cultural differentness. An example of the same is their accent, their thought process, their religiosity. I make them believe that I accept their different beliefs around religion or superstitions, while not judging them for all the things that they do. For example they don’t eat certain foods in the night or don’t wear certain color clothes on certain days. At the same time I assertively express my non-conformity to their ideas (while not calling those ideas as superstitions).
Yet sometimes, there are scenarios where i encounter negative experiences with some people who are unable to comprehend what I want and why. And same happens vice – versa. This leads to a huge deal of hurt which stops me from making any further attempts to collaborate or problem solve. Though I know that I need to identify the idiosyncrasies that cause disputes and thereby differences between me and them. I have yet to learn how to communicate in such a scenario. I know that nobody can operate in isolation in this world. And this world is constituted by different cultures. Perhaps that is the beauty of this world. Be it India, or USA, or Europe, cultural diversities can be noted very discretely. Only formula to a successful life is where we accepting each other’s differentness.