Encountering knowledge of someone from another culture can be exciting as well as challenging. We often don't know what we don't know and as a result the knowledge that we "hear" can be a distortion of the knowledge that the other intended to share. When interacting with a person from another culture or visiting another culture (even if it is only in the next neighborhood), it is easy to miss the nuances and meaning of the behavior of others. When someone is inviting you to stay for dinner, are they just being "polite" expecting you to say "no" or are they offering you the gift of their hospitality in which case a refusal could be seen as an insult.
Figuring all of this out (note: figuring is probably a very Western approach) is a never-ending endeavor (note: An Eastern approach probably would see this as a positive). Here are ten behaviors of cultural mindfulness that can come in handy.
- Notice the behaviors of others.
- Be open to novel, unfamiliar behavior without evaluation.
- Fully use your senses to take in details, nuances and stay attuned to them.
- Allow yourself to be curious, especially with regard to the cultural context of the other.
- Try to connect with the other inside their framework - is there some aspect of their culture that also exists within you.
- Appreciate what you encounter.
- Be aware that the same word may have different meanings.
- See the situation from different perspectives.
- Be aware of the impact of your behavior on others.
- Be conscious of your experience.
Do you have additions to this list? If so, feel free to share them in a comment.