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How to Develop Cultural Awareness

We live in a multicultural society. There’s no getting around it. We have multiple religions, multiple ethnicities, and a whole load of world views. It’s difficult for people to adjust, especially if they have become so used to having quite a limited cross-section of society in their lives. But businesses that are dealing with a globalised world need to develop cultural awareness.

No matter where you work or how long you’ve been working for cultural awareness is important. Let’s take a look at how you should go about developing cultural awareness.

What is Cultural Awareness?

Cultural awareness is arguably best described as another way of being considerate. It’s like you wouldn’t stand in the way of a wheelchair user trying to get into the elevator. You wouldn’t bully someone who’s clearly going through a bout of mental illness. Cultural awareness is about not making judgments based on someone’s racial or cultural background.


In other words, it’s about treating other cultures like normal human beings, whilst being aware that they may have different needs. For example, a business with a high number of Muslim employees may decide to serve halal meat in the cafeteria. That’s being culturally aware.

Start with Learning About It

The best thing you can do to build cultural awareness is to listen to people. Let’s say someone has gone home to Pakistan to visit their extended family over the holidays. Ask about it and show a genuine interest. Build up your knowledgebase so you know what to say and what to do. Most culturally insensitive actions aren’t caused by any genuine maliciousness. They’re caused by ignorance. Often, the person doesn’t know when they’ve done something wrong.

Treat People as Individuals

Cultural awareness isn’t about treating people from a different background in a way that’s different to everyone else.  They don’t want special treatment. They want to be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else. Never make assumptions based on someone’s cultural background. That’s racism and it’s not going to help morale in a working environment.

If someone performs good, bad, or indifferently it doesn’t matter where they’ve come from. Break past these barriers so you don’t notice things like skin colour.

Leave Assumptions

One of the core foundations of cultural awareness is being able to leave assumptions behind. Forget what you’ve heard about certain groups of people in the news or the experiences that you’ve had with certain people in the past. Reset your assumptions with each new person you meet and judge someone based on their decisions and actions.

Assumptions that can be extremely damaging include:

  •  All Muslims are terrorists.
  •  All people with an Irish background are drunks.
  •  All Romani people are thieves.
  •  All people of Latino descend are lazy.
  •  All Jews are only interested in money.

These stereotypes are extremely dangerous and damaging. Ignore these stereotypes and never make assumptions based off of them. They’re simply not true.

Relaying Knowledge of Cultural Awareness to Others

Cultural awareness training concentrates on more than the self. You’re an individual, but as an individual it’s important that you transfer your knowledge to others. If someone else is being culturally unaware, talk to them about it. Relay your knowledge and take a leadership position. This isn’t something that only a manager or a team leader needs to know about.

All cultural awareness training will aim to teach people about the importance of transferring knowledge to others. If everyone is more tolerant and more open-minded when it comes too cultural issues, the problems surrounding a lack of racial incorporation and a lack of diversity will lessen far more quickly.

 Image source: Educational Post