It’s human nature to consider yourself and your culture “normal,” and others as strange or foreign. Because they are just that – foreign to you.
But believe it or not, you are not “normal.” Not necessarily, anyway.
Normal behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and ways are relative to culture. Culture shapes our world and our worldview. What is considered normal or preferred in one culture will be viewed as abnormal and odd in another.
The following three tips will help you view others without judgment, even while looking through your own culture-tinted glasses.
Tip 1: Remember YOU are the Monkey
In my book, I am the Monkey, I break down what it means to integrate into a new culture through a zoo analogy.
When you enter a foreign culture, you may feel like the spectator in the zoo – the human, not the animal. You might believe yourself normal and even superior to the culture around you, while considering your colleagues all odd ducks. But, in reality, you are the monkey. You’re the “abnormal” one.
While you judge the culture into which you’re integrating, it’s important to remember that you’re in their territory. They’re the normal ones here, and you are the monkey that’s out of place.
Remind yourself this, as you don your culture-tinted glasses: whenever you’re a guest in a foreign land, you are being judged according to their cultural values and norms (which we’ll discuss later on in this blog).
Tip 2: Take Baby-steps to Integrate
A monkey who starts learning how to get around isn’t likely to be swinging from limb to limb like Tarzan straight away. Don’t get frustrated by this, and don’t lash out at your host country’s culture.
That’s easier said than done. You will get frustrated at times – with yourself, with your hosts, with the culture – but don’t allow that frustration to become a brick wall to successful integration.
Make an effort to learn the language and customs. These are the first baby-steps to learning the culture and viewing it without judgment.
Tip 3: Remove Your Culture-tinted Glasses
Once you’ve begun the process of integration, it will soon be time to remove your culture-tinted glasses. And that’s what this blog is all about: helping you to live and manage across cultures by integrating to the point that you start to see the culture through its own eyes, instead of your own near-sighted bias.
You can do this through the five steps outlined in my book:
I’ll talk about these steps in greater detail over the coming weeks.