Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cultural Inclusion

This month has been such an exposure to different cultures for me. It is very interesting to see how life shows you both sides of same aspect (similarities and differences or positive and negative) of life side by side. Always I have felt this. For example, whenever I was shown an example of men harassing wives, within a week or two, women creating issues for husbands would slap me on face. Strange but truth!! Not sure all of you have felt this ever?!?!

First week of October was an opportunity for me to see how cultures are converging at same point and how magnanimous people can be. Second and third week of October was a good learning for me about how people can misinterpret cultural inclusion.

I started my career in a great organization that opened my eyes towards other cultures. It had a mini India in my batch of trainees who joined on the same day (later I learnt that they do it intentionally to bring in sensitivity towards culture). We learnt so much of software development, soft skills, gender inclusion, cultural inclusion – within India and outside India, meaning of gestures in Japan, Europe, U.S. and so on. Funny, the way we nod our heads varies from country to country; the way we, the Indians nod our heads to indicate yes can never be understood by others J we move our head from one shoulder to the other - clockwise and counterclockwise. Please note it is not turning the head from shoulder to shoulder J

I think such training is needed for employees of all global companies – irrespective of experience levels – the companies should mandate such trainings. I feel it all the more in the past two weeks because of the way one of the senior persons managed a person from another country. This senior person (lets call him Mr. X in this article for ease of reference) was to host another senior person form another country (we would call him the visitor)

For obvious reasons, the visitor did not know many things about Indian food, cultural heritage though he had read many things already. You need to see certain things to learn it / feel it; any amount of documentation can never do that trick!! Mr X went on to explain Indian food and fed the visitor with some spicy Indian food. Thankfully nothing happened to him because of the spices.

Mr X showed his misunderstanding of culture inclusivity in a few occasions.  Looks like, his understanding is, to be culture inclusive, it is not enough if you appreciate the other culture but you need to degrade your own culture!!! He commented about old Indian architectural principles first; after sometime, he badmouthed Indian corporates for manipulating accounts; later he commented about Indian vehicles!!! I agree we definitely have a lot of scope for improvement; but it does not mean that our entire heritage is bad; our science behind the 2000/3000 year old buildings is bad; neither all Indian made vehicle are faulty; nor all the Indian corporates are dishonest while rest of the world is purest of pure!! By the way, he claims that he calls a spade a spade. What he does not understand is you should show your cards only when it is appropriate!!

For a few of his comments I gave counter arguments. But as you know, in front of the visitor, it is not good idea to fight with a senior person. I only wish we teach our employees what is meant by culture inclusion; more than that, I wish we teach people (even children) to respect every one irrespective of the color, race, language, education, wealth and appearance!! Lets make the world a better place to live by including people not by degrading anyone for any reason.

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