What Makes me me
The technological developments of the modern age have brought many wonderful conveniences to the for front of humanity; however, with much of society interacting on a global stage, it has become more important than ever to employ cultural sensitivity in our lives. Though many people still live in areas that have a dominant culture, migration and immigration, have allowed for people across the globe to become more enmeshed in geographically. To help ease the tension that combining cultures can sometimes cause, it is imperative to increase cultural sensitivity within our own sphere of influence.
Growing up in middle class Oklahoma, I wasn’t really exposed to many different cultures. When I was a young adult, I befriended an immigrant family from Central America. This was my first personal experience with a culture that is profoundly different than my own. I realized at that time how naïve it was of me to believe that everyone is the same at the base level. Language, food and hospitality customs are only the base of what defines different cultures. Motivation, respect and other important traits separate me from those of different cultures and heritages. As such, I believe that I fall somewhere in between the stages of Acceptance of Difference and Adaptation to Difference on the Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity.
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I have learned a lot since moving to Virginia Beach. This area is ripe with many various cultures, and I have had the pleasure of being able to travel quite a bit within the United States. Washington D.C. and New York City particularly are culturally diverse areas, if you know where to look. Prior to moving east, I was firmly planted in the Acceptance of Difference stage. My view on cultural difference was limited to learning about other cultures to understand what makes humanity diverse and interesting.
My limited experience with the family from Central America, piqued my interested and I began to read about other cultures. I began to understand that the more I knew about other cultures, the less “foreign” I found them to be. My way of live is neither better nor worse than others, just different. I have also found that our culture influences every aspect of our life, from our views on education and family to how we view money and work. This realization brought me to a new level of self-reflection. I began to have a small level of understanding of the difficulties experienced by those from other countries who immigrate to America who are trying to embrace our culture while maintaining reverence and respect for their own.
Recently, I believe that I have begun to shift to the Adaptation of Difference stage. In my office, there are several people who are first generation immigrants. In working with them, I have realized that acceptance is not enough. Occasionally, we have had difficulties with communication or work ethics, not because of any language barriers or miscommunications, but because culturally we are different. For example, I will ask for help with a certain task when they have time, and though I didn’t request an immediate response, they tend to drop what they are in the middle of to assist. This was explained to me as a respect that they were taught. As such, I have begun to ask for them to let me know when they have time to talk. The difference is that I am not immediately asking for assistance, which decreased the pressure they feel to assume that I need their attention as a priority.
The more exposed I am to different cultures increases my firm footing into the Adaptation of Difference stage. I now know that my sense of humor is not universal and that I need to speak differently to my co-worker’s Filipino mother than I would to my own. I still occasionally struggle with cultural sensitivity; the issue does lurk below the surface in most of my interactions.
I grew up in a predominately white middle class farming country in Oklahoma. As such, I wasn’t exposed to various cultures as I have in the last 10 years of my life. Prior to this assignment, I erroneously believed that I have learned and grown so much from what I experienced in the limited cultural area of my youth. After this assignment, I realize that I still have so far to go. Though I am much more conscious of cultural differences, empathy still occasionally eludes me. Until I can interact in culturally appropriate ways without conscious thought, the final stage of the model will be outside my grasp.