Imagine you’ve been living in your host country for two years.
By now, you know a lot about its norms and values. You know what behaviors are viewed as “good” and “bad.” You respect these views and have adapted your own cultural behaviors where you can.
At this point, you may have even begun to appreciate certain values and norms in your host culture. And, moreover, you can see your own culture through your host’s cultural lens.
In doing so, you might be noticing some things about your culture that no longer sit right with you.
Let’s take a look.
The Wisdom of Elders
Many African cultures highly value the elders in their communities.
They may sit on councils that govern these communities or even judge disputes in the village. They are respected and believed to be wise.
Being as such, elders are often cared for by younger generations and live in the homes of their children. Outside help to care for them is not the norm.
Societal health in such cultures is represented by the degree to which the elderly are cared for in society.
So, imagine for a moment the idea of a nursing home in such cultures. The concept of abandoning an elder to the care of a stranger would be, without question, taboo.
Due to this difference in perspective, these cultures are shocked by the way Western cultures treat their elderly. They view these values and norms pertaining to the elderly as a sign of an unhealthy culture.
And having been entrenched in their culture, in some cases, you might start seeing your own in the same way.
Take Pride in Being Different, Not in Being “Superior”
Managing people from different cultures requires that you check your cultural ego at the door. If you don’t, it will get in the way of cultural integration.
So, think about other aspects of your culture and how they might be viewed by your host.
Consider values and norms surrounding family, honor, hospitality, wealth-sharing, etc.
How might your hosts see these the standards you place on each topic in your country?
Be aware that measuring the “success” of a culture is always measured in terms of one’s own values and norms. The culture doing the measuring will always set the standards of measurement thereby being the yardstick by which to be measured (see ethnocentricity).
Knowing your host’s standards might help calibrate a picture of your own culture against their yardstick.
This is not to say that one way is superior to the other, and it is important to be proud of your own cultural heritage. But considering your host culture’s standards of measurement will help to keep your own ethnocentricity in check.