Do you travel a lot? Are you employed in a multi-national workplace? If so, now may be a good time to step back and evaluate your level of “cross-cultural awareness.”
I gave a presentation last week before the “American International League of Florence.” But don’t let that first word fool you. After my speech, I spoke with an Estonian, a Belgian, a French woman, an Italian, several Brits and yes, more than a few Americans. In short, this hard-working philanthropic organization is comprised of people from all over the world.
A former past president of the organization who heard me speak wrote to a mutual friend who today forwarded this on to me: “QUOTE Gina London è stata simpatica e indubbiamente capace di attrarre l’attenzione, soprattutto con la sua carica di simpatia e amore per la Toscana e Arezzo. E’ una donna indubbiamente che sa parlare a platee multiculturali e in particolare a una platea anche italiana! UNQUOTE”
For those of you who don’t read Italian that translates as: “ QUOTE Gina London was undoubtedly kind and able to attract attention, especially with her enthusiasm and love for Tuscany and Arezzo. And she is certainly a woman who knows how to talk to multicultural audiences and in particular to an audience that even includes Italians! UNQUOTE”
I was extremely honored to learn that my presentation – about the importance of story-telling to successfully improve awareness and membership – resonated with many of those in attendance – regardless of their country of origin!
Many people came up to speak to me afterward, but to read today that I was considered particularly sensitive to the viewpoints and experiences of others from different parts of the world, was touching. It was a pleasant reinforcement of exactly what I try to practice.
I have lived and coached in diverse places like Cambodia, Egypt, Romania and France. In today’s global marketplace, it cannot be overstated that to be successful, you cannot afford to lose time by “accidentally” disrespecting someone’s culture.
Here are a couple of top-line points to prevent you from careening into a communications road-block.
Read-up on Cultural Norms. Before you visit. Here in Italy, it is considered quite normal and caring for a grown-up to pat the head of a child – regardless of whether they are strangers or friends. In Indonesia, where I have trained, however, that same gesture can be considered rude and even evil – as some traditions teach that the person’s soul resides in a person’s head.
Do NOT overgeneralize. Ever. Just as it is not true that every American is fat and only watches reality shows (yes, I have been told that), it is also not true that every Italian smokes and parks on the sidewalks (and yes, the latter is a direct overgeneralized quote – from my then four-year-old who now knows better. But she was only four, so give her a break). People are made up of individuals. Find that common ground.
If you find yourself preparing to work with a variety of people from a variety of nations, there are a myriad of ways to prepare and empower yourself in this manner. And yes, I do teach and consult on this critical topic.
For more information of how I may be of help for your next meeting or presentation – or preparing your company or division for the year ahead, please contact me here or through my website: GinaLondon.com
In the meantime, I would love to hear your experiences. Successes? Epic Failures? What did you learn?