The National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC) states that Cultural awareness is a major element of cultural competence and defines it as being cognizant, observant, and conscious of similarities and differences among and between cultural groups (Goode, 2001, revised 2006). According to Winkelman (2005), awareness of cultural differences and their impact on behaviour is the beginning of intercultural effectiveness. He states that “cultural self-awareness includes recognition of one’s own cultural influences upon values, beliefs, and judgments, as well as the influences derived from the professional’s work culture”.
Cultural Intelligence is the ability to cross divides and grow and do well in many cultures. It’s a measure of a person’s capacity to function effectively in a multi-cultural environment (Brislin, Worthley & Macnab, 2006). Employers apply cultural intelligence as a way to help develop tolerance and improve cross-cultural interactions. We should think of Cultural Intelligence as being something which we can continuously improve and develop over the length of time of our lives. We do this through our experiences, but also with knowledge communicated by other people.
Cultural awareness helps us to avoid misunderstandings of other cultures. As conveyed by Stephanie Quappe (2005), ‘misunderstandings arise when I use my meaning to make sense of your reality’. Admitting that you don’t know, suspending judgements, showing empathy and systematically checking your assumptions can all help to alleviate potential misunderstandings. Likewise when my husband is discussing with me how hard it is being away from his family for work, FIFO work culture, I know in the past I have assumed that I know how he feels and many a time have thought how easy he has it, having a full night sleep, getting his meals cooked, clothes laundered, only having himself to think about etc but upon further thinking throughout this unit and reading a blog titled The FIFO Wife, it has given me a greater insight and a better understanding as to how he must be feeling and at the end of the day, of his work culture.
Russell (2011) discusses her life growing up as a Third Culture Kid and having to relocate every few years due to the nature of her parents’ jobs. She became accustomed to those around her assuming her family’s reasons for moving and began to ‘bracket’ what information she shared. Russell explains how she would build a front when starting a new school until she felt comfortable enough in her surrounds and less desperate to fit in, to allow her own self and own culture to be shown. She explains that being an American, living most of her childhood years in Europe, she experienced many different aspects of varying cultures and experienced what she called “culture shock” when she eventually became to reside back in the USA. Having an understanding of how others view us helps to be aware of how they may misunderstand our intentions.
Cultural awareness, such as understanding that behaviour is influenced by culture and that each culture is unique, helps us to avoid making assumptions about people when they are ‘different’. In the publication by Brislin (et al,2014) he uses an example of goals, and that cultural norms help people identify and move towards achieving their goals. Here he looks at the goal of marrying and starting a family. In one culture it may be the norm to choose your partner by dating several people and sharing varying experiences until they find a potential romantic partner which they marry and then start a family. Whilst