Going to another country to study and live there can be both scary and thrilling for many students. Some may experience culture shock at the beginning. However, for the most part, the feeling of excitement trumps over everything. Not only are you able to live independently but you also get to experience another culture, visit the places you usually only get to see in books or the television, and you get to meet new friends. Sometimes, we are too into living those experiences that we forget about the feelings of other people, especially the locals.
That is where the importance of cultural awareness comes in. So what really is it?
What is Cultural Awareness?
According to the New South Wales Health and Education Training, cultural awareness is being sensitive to both the differences and similarities that are present in different cultures. This sensitivity to those differences and similarities is usually key to improving your relationship with people from different backgrounds.
How do you Practice Cultural Awareness?
Although cultural awareness should be practiced wherever people are, this is more important to people visiting another country such as international students.
As international students, it is important to always practice cultural awareness to avoid making bad decisions and reduce the chances of offending other people, especially the locals in their host country. To help international students improve their cultural awareness, here are some tips they can follow.
Observe and Listen
The lack of knowledge toward another culture, including some basic norms and practices, may not sound important to some people. However, this lack of knowledge may not only cause confusion, but also offense to another culture. When faced with a new situation, the rule of thumb is to step back, observe, and listen. This way, you can learn from other people; what your demeanor should be, how you should address people and so on. Also, ask your local friends, or do your own research on how to act when meeting other people, during celebrations, including holidays, birthdays, and even how you should act when eating dinner with other people.
Understand the country’s history
Another way to practice cultural awareness is by learning and understanding another country’s history. Understanding how things are, how they came to be, what challenges people of another country underwent, the roots of their practice, their manners, and so on. Once you understand another culture’s history, you get to sympathize with them and their situations, and learn why they do the things that they do, and prevent misunderstandings.
Learn to speak the language
You don’t have to speak fluently to practice cultural awareness, but knowing some useful phrases like greetings or asking how they are are sure to show the people you are trying to understand them, and can help if you want to present yourself in a positive light.
Also, by trying hard, you might even earn the local people’s respect.
Practice good manners
There might be some differences between different cultures’ practices and cultural norms.
However, good manners are universal. So, another rule of the thumb when interacting with other people is to practice good manners by being polite and respectful of other people. Also, don’t forget to say thank you, please, and welcome.
Befriend the locals and speak with them
The best way to practice cultural awareness is by befriending the locals of another country. This way, you won’t have to always do your own research, when you can learn and ask your friends instead. Also, by always being with your friends, some of their local practices and ideals might just even rub off on you naturally.
Learn more about living in another country by checking out MSM Unify’s articles on tips for international students living abroad.