Having high cultural awareness is the key to becoming aware of the content of your own and other’s cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions. It is the understanding of the differences between people of different backgrounds especially in terms of their behaviors and values. It applies when there are interactions between people of diverse cultures and this is where they can analyze, interpret and evaluate things looked at with various perspectives. An appropriate behavior in one culture is often considered as inappropriate in another one.
Cultural awareness often provides the sensitivity that is needed to ensure a good communication with members of another cultural group. It lays emphasis on observing and being conscious of similarities and differences between the cultural groups and this has helped in many practical applications today. For example, in medicine, it is highly crucial to know how culture affects different people’s approach to health and illness.
After the convergence of new and increasing technology in the global market, cultural awareness has become an important branch of various disciplines such as business, politics, and entertainment. A major concern today is with the rising of stereotypes when what is examined and perceived in a different culture is turned into a generalized view defines those belonging to the same culture.
However, cultural awareness counters these stereotypes by identifying the uniqueness of traits and personalities of the individuals and by considering all elements of the culture as equally responsible for merging the individuals.
Degrees of Cultural Awareness
- Parochial stage. Initially, people are aware of their own way of doing things and think that their way is the only way, thus neglecting any cultural differences.
- Ethnocentric stage. During this stage, people are aware of some other ways of doing things, but still, consider their way as the best one among all other ways. Hence, people consider the effect of cultural differences to be problematic, so its importance is reduced.
- Synergistic stage. During this stage, people are aware of both their way and other peoples’ ways of doing things, and so, they choose the best way depending on the circumstances. People understand that cultural differences can be both problematic and beneficial, but they are open to using them for opening new alternatives/solutions.
- Participatory third culture stage. This is the last stage that brings together people from different cultural backgrounds together to derive a culture with a shared context of meanings. Constant solutions to problems are possibly generated through new rules and meetings.