One of the most exciting topics and challenges for me is to working with people with different cultural background, representing different social habits and norms. Understanding, accepting and adapting to them, and manage situations and solve conflicts arising from the differences. So when I start to talking or writing about the culture, I know in advance I can go into an endless long opus.
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At the very beginning of my career, I’ve already faced a challenge that followed me later in my professional life, and which eventually became the most exciting task for me: for more than two decades, I represented and managed a French retail company in Hungary. My bosses were French top managers, from whom I received the instructions and the guidelines, with whom I regularly participated international meetings, workshops and different trainings. At the same time more than eighty percent of my team members were non-graduated Hungarian retail salespeople for whom I represented the parent company, the French brand. They could not communicate directly with the French owner, the international managers, neither the regional collegues, so they got know the brand and the company through myself. And more important, that these employees sold the products of this company to the Hungarian customers, it means, that we, together with my team represented this French brand to the Hungarian people.
… and me, I worked as „melting pot” of different national, organizational and social cultures…
We use this word quite often, but do we really know what does it mean? After all, in the everyday usage of the word „culture”, we first think about oeuvre of art, such as theater, music, literature, fine arts or architecture. Yes, these are the “tangible”, objectified products that can be perceived by our senses, but to really know them, we should essentially understand how the cultures behind that shaped these creations are working. And that is the other cultural perception. This is the cultural perception we need to deal when we talk about intercultural coaching.
THE INVISIBLE THAT WE KNOW
The word „culture” has many definitions, for me one of the simplest: the culture of a group is the set of characteristics that distinguish them from the members of another group. A common system of symbols through which the members of a given culture interact and organize the life of the community. It has a “visible”, easily observable parts (e.g., language, gestures, decency, traditions, norms of behavior, etc.). But the more significant and more important elements of a culture are hidden they are “invisible”. These elements represents the essence of a culture. Such hidden elements e.g. decision-making mechanisms, conflict management or problem-solving strategies, and plenty of internal norms. We are not even aware about them until we realize that we are thinking differently from our peers with different cultural backgrounds. It is our knowledge of culture, which cannot be expressed by words, that represents the way of thinking and the values that determine the functioning of a society and the social behavior.
CULTURAL DIFFERENCIES – DIVERSITY
We all belong to several, cultural groups. When we talk about different cultures or different cultural backgrounds, cultural roots, the most often think about the geographical, ethnic, religious cultural differences, groups. When we talk about interculturality these differnces come to mind first. Although there are many more levels of culture. There is, for example, the “professional” culture, which means the common culture of people with the same work or the same training and studies. Or we can talk about corporate, organizational culture, or even about the cultural background related to certain jobs and positions within the same company. At the same time our social affiliation also determines our behavior, our culture, according to what groups we belong to, what activities we do, what family we come from, who our friends are. And we also have to talk about our gender culture, our gender difference, because we are all different according to whether the person is a woman or a man, what is our sexual orientation.
INTERACTION BETWEEN NATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
During my two-decade decision-maker career, I had to deal not only with the national cultural challenge arising the I represented a French company in Hungary, but the parent company was a giant organization employing thousands of people with a typical French corporate culture and hierarchical structure. In Hungary we operated as a SME, a “small mouse compared to a big elephant”. At same company both our national culture and our organizational culture were different
Today the management of the international companies is composed by the representatives of several countries. It means that the disagreements between employees with different cultural backgrounds are inevitable, as the behaviors and decision-making procedures are also different. If we talk about differences in economic life arising from the cultural background, it is not enough to think about the national differences, we must also take into account the organizational cultures that influence all cooperations. Not only the national cultural background can influence the behavior, but in a business environment, the culture of the organization also has a similar impact and influence on the thinking and behavior of the individual. These two effects interact continuously, while a company’s organizational culture is heavily influenced by the country’s national cultural background, the quality of a company’s international collaborations is determined also by its organizational culture.
Our general behavior is developed by our basic cultural knowledge. This knowledge is about cultural facts and norms to be followed, and it is based on the understanding of the reasons and contexts behind them, both in terms of the own and the foreign culture. If someone is placed in a new, unfamiliar environment or group, or he would like to integrate a foreign culture, it can rise the sensation of insecurity, anxiety, and tension, because in this situation the individual lose the signs and symbols he has been previously accustomed. This feeling of the loss of psychological direction called the cultural shock. During the cultural shock the individual’s effectivenes, the decision-making and judgment ability decreasing, so in order to reach a succesfull integration it become essential to handle the effects of the shock.
As an intercultural coach I provide a complex support and attention to be able to create a climate of trust in order to improve the quality of human relationships, the work-efficiency, and self-confidence. That is essential to open new windows into a changing world with a new perspective.
A free introductory conversation will reveal to both of us if we can work together and find your answers to the questions that arise when you are facing a problem.