Culture and ‘Cultured’

Culture is usually defined as being ‘characterized by refined taste, manners, and good education’. An indispensable addition to this definition in today’s ever growing world of international melting pots, would be the ability to use the stated ‘refined taste, manners, and good education’ in appreciating and coping with other culturally diverse tastes, manners and schools of education.

In today’s world, the workplace has developed into a highly diversified melting pot where people from all over the world live together for more than half their day. The workplace features various cultures and flavors of the eastern, middle, and western worlds, whether in ways of life, manners, convictions, faiths, or attitudes. There is no best way of doing anything anymore. A ‘way’ of how things will be done is often chosen depending on how far it conforms with all parties involved, as highly challenging as that may seem.

Of course it IS usually very challenging to set rules, or to reach a solution, or find a compromise that is appreciated by all members of the community and the workplace, but the least that can be done is to choose the solution that does not directly offend or challenge the moral foundations or principles of anyone.

Many occasions have risen where a certain trait of a culture is misinterpreted and ill received by others from other cultures. An example of that is punctuality. In some cultures, such as the Arab culture, punctuality gives no indication of the level of sincerity or commitment of the people involved. Whilst, in other cultures, punctuality is of great importance and reflects how disciplined and respectful an individual is and to what extent this individual is committed to the project or mission. Many conflicts can rise as a result of misinterpretation, sometimes resulting in a team member being rejected by his team or even a whole business deal being canceled. A very simple and minor modification could save both cases and many more.

For some cultures, manners are more important than results, others the opposite. These different angles of viewing the same picture can result in a catastrophe or they can result in the most creative, comprehensive and successful achievement of any goal. It really depends on how ‘cultured’ an individual is and how empathetic and open they are to fully understanding and embracing the cultures of others.

Culture is one of the most important aspects of today’s world, and being ‘cultured’ is very important when working in the Middle East. Having an understanding of your own cultural tastes, manners and education is a great asset. However, the best asset an individual can possess is the willingness and openness to absorb and appreciate others’ cultural values.

Rania Abdel Ghaffar has more than 18 years experience of teaching English Language Skills, Business English and Customized programs, both as a freelancer and as a member of several international institutions such as The American University in Cairo, Cairo University, The American University in Dubai, and the Eton Institute. She is a certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Assessor and Coach from the Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence and a certified SEI Assessor by Six Seconds Organization.

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