Are you sure you know who you are?


Written by: Nghi Dang
I assume that if you are here, you are also involved in intercultural field in one way or another. And we also have great passion for it. Personally, I have grown interest in the field since I moved to Finland. Being able to see a totally different society, I would be lying to say if I was not having problems adapting. However, if one asks me, whether I had a cultural shock moving to a continent across the globe at such an early age, I usually said no. I have been sincerely honest with such an answer. I found differences more intriguing to understand and accept, rather than acknowledging and refusing to adapt. It was my main reason for making effort in pursuing further knowledge and experience with interculturality. Nevertheless, embracing those differences does not equal my not struggling with acculturation phenomenon and its impact of what might be addressed as “losing yourself”.
In a review for the book: Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the process, Dr. George Simons says: “When it comes to cultural competence, there are some big gaps between knowing about, knowing how to, and actually developing and applying the skills to manage self in real situations”. Knowing about includes us both being aware of our own culture and the new culture we have just moved to live within. Simons pointed out the work of the book’s author, Andy Molinsky, by helping readers identifying our own “culture code” and that of others. This is also a goal behind Cultural Detective® tools, which I am sure many of you have heard about.
Since the variations in code can be almost infinite and therefore paralyzing when it comes to seeking out the right approach to a culture, Molinsky insists we not look for a single "right" behavior, but for a "zone of appropriateness", a range within which to operate successfully in each culture. He then provides a practical navigational framework for looking into what is most likely to differ as we face situations in this zone. He asks us to pay attention to the relative measures of how direct, enthusiastic, assertive, self-promoting and disclosing our behaviors are in comparison with those of the other party. These measures are, admittedly, not exhaustive, but are likely to give us the solid return on our investment of the time used to understand and adapt our behavior.
In his review, Simons also mentioned the psychological impact of adapting to a new culture and possible shifting back and forth between old and new self. I found it quite applicable in my case. I do think the topic itself still remains a challenge for many people of all ages, who have just moved to new places or who have already lived in the new place for some time. People of today’s Young generation may struggle with an urge of identifying one’s identity. With so many changes happening, and the existence of big data on the Internet, we may feel driven by an unconscious force to be unique and authentic, to stand out from the crowd. As the outside world is struggling to deal with culture differences and nations are becoming more skeptical about globalization, internally, each individual instead wants to be seen “different” and not “just like the rest”.
Having read this review and having shared with you my own thoughts and wonderings, I hope to hear more thoughts from others. After all, diversophy® is a tool for enhancing cultural awareness and competence, and our discussion can spark inspiration for new products updates to make your work and your mission more successful.

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