Cross Cultural Correlation: ‘Zam-brits’ | Emmanuel Muntanga

Humans from different regions and countries always have stereotypes about each other. It is completely natural – culture always contains secrets and myths. It is incorporated with perplexity, unreal stories and subjective attitudes. Some existing stereotypes are correct, whilst others are wrong. Stereotypes can prevent us from learning some aspects about the country and understanding a different culture in a more appropriate way. Although stereotypes reveal certain tendencies or attitudes existing in the culture.

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What is cross cultural correlation?
This is the comparative tendency in various fields of study that looks at different forms of interactivity between members of different cultural backgrounds. From my experience with Zambia and UK counterparts on the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme, I consider that understanding social relationships in a country is very critical to establishing good connections with people. If people know more about particular attitudes and behaviours of each other, this will serve well for collaboration in work placement, host homes and friendly relationships among the nations that have come together.

On the contrary, misunderstanding is often caused by tense relationships and inability to be tolerant to the cultural diversity, represented by different social attitudes. Take for instance a comparison on time punctuality between Zambian and UK volunteers: even though the standards of time are universal, you will find a conflict of interest. I reckon even in countries where punctuality isn’t prioritized, most cultural guides suggest that business associates, job applicants, clients or patients arrive before the schedule appointment time. They may have to wait, but this is advisable because you do not want to be unavailable when the person with whom you are meeting is ready. Fashionably late may be as much as an hour but is usually about thirty minutes. When you have been invited to a social engagement, try to confirm when you are expected to arrive. In some places, arriving for the prearranged time is too early.

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Points to ponder on cross culture correlation
Inter-cultural communication- this involves two or more parties, each one with a different culture, tradition, and approach. It is a circular exchange of knowledge that should follow some predetermined paths in order to be effective. In SMEs and work placements this has been the most influential factor due to the fact that all business processes rely on communication. This is also known as cultural identity factor and is based much on the socialization process as well as racial identity factor that refers to how ones conscious membership of a particular race affects how they interact with people.

Observe and react: first-hand knowledge, collected on the street or from experienced expatriates, can teach you what books and the internet cannot. My counterpart Helen Wright is always amazed about getting on a bus for work as these transport officers are never bothered about time even when you have spent half an hour seated on a bus they will only move when they want to go, but now she has observe and reacted she knows exactly how to negotiate for a bus and she is able to get to any of her destinations on time. It’s very important to ignore stereotypes, because they are counter productive and they may provide shadowy and untrustworthy knowledge.

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Language is vital: English is acknowledged as the universal language and it is used and understood worldwide. Speaking the local language which is not difficult to practice is, however, a way of getting closer to your host country’s culture and traditions, and thus preferable to just making do with English alone. Verbal language is only the tip of the iceberg. Make sure to adapt your body language and your behaviour to the context and your addressees as well. Don’t be afraid of imitating the intonation and gestures of the locals.

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Think cross-cultural: You may have heard about cross-cultural intelligence or cross-cultural competence and you may find these ideas unclear. As the word itself suggests, it is about crossing cultural borders and interacting in an unusual way; I have a friend who is Indian but lived most of her life in the UK. She has the cross-cultural intelligence and competency as she has been brought up in an Indian home but living in a society that is diversely integrated by cultural faculties and this has really broadened her interpersonal skills. Having an open mind and an entrepreneurial approach play a vital role here.

It is up to you to adjust your approach. Don’t expect an entire culture to change just for you. Making a good first impression is something most people strive to do especially in business. Various factors can influence how people are perceived including personal appearance, attitude, body language and their message. All that being true, the initial greeting is key. Since greetings differ from culture to culture, an inter-cultural trainer such as myself will try to impress upon their clients the importance of determining and using the appropriate greeting for the people with whom you will be meeting.

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