A guide to cultural awareness

Every culture is different. These differences are what set us apart from each other and make us individuals.


Unfortunately, many people fail to appreciate the beauty of having a variety of cultures within society. This lack of cultural awareness leads to unconscious bias and poor decision-making in cross-cultural situations.


Increasing your cultural awareness can be beneficial not only in professional settings but in personal interactions as well. After all, you never know who you'll meet and interact with. So why not be prepared?


In this post, we'll go over why cultural awareness is so important.



What is meant by cultural awareness?


In order to gain cultural awareness, you must first know what it is. According to IGI Global, a leading international academic publisher, here's a good cultural awareness definition: the ability to understand different cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions.


Having cultural awareness means that you can be sensitive to and understand other ethnic groups. This also means that your attitudes and values can change in order to understand different cultures.


As a result, you're more conscious and more able to identify potential bias based on false information (stereotypes) perpetuated in society or resulting from negative experiences with a particular culture.


Finally, being culturally aware means being able to pay attention to how aspects of your own culture have shaped your beliefs, unconscious biases, and behaviours.




Why is cultural awareness important?


In an increasingly global world, it's important to be able to anticipate differences between cultures when at work managing teams and in life when you see inequalities around you. This also involves recognizing the value that different cultural perspectives bring in being better communicators, in solving problems at work, and in building stronger relationships.

Both the U.S. and Canada are multicultural societies, which means there are many people with varying beliefs and outlooks on the world. Being more understanding and receptive to other cultures allows for more effective cultural awareness in communication and more positive interactions.


Besides personal social interactions, cultural awareness is also important in the workplace. For example, being culturally aware helps to create a homogeneous and inclusive work environment. In a professional setting, you'll likely come across different people with diverse backgrounds. But when you embrace cultural sensitivity and awareness, you'll be better able to understand how cultural differences influence people when it comes to their unique personalities, perceptions, and interactions with others.


A work environment that fosters cultural awareness helps boost creativity, innovation, and productivity. That's because when everyone is on one accord, they can more effectively work as a unified team. Sure, they're different in their own way, but they can embrace those differences by complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses.

What are some examples of cultural awareness?




Below are cultural awareness examples:

  • When a Black woman enters an Asian-owned beauty supply store, the Asian owner doesn't automatically think the Black customer would steal an item. So she goes back to stocking the shelves and doesn't even attempt to follow the customer around the store. She knows that thinking all Black people steal is a stereotype.

  • A white real estate agent networks with a Hispanic real estate investor at an event. The real estate agent doesn't automatically assume that the investor is Mexican. He knows that there are over 20 Hispanic countries and takes that into consideration when meeting Hispanic people and making assumptions about their background.


Here are lack of cultural awareness examples:

  • A successful Black man who's an engineer with several degrees has a sales call with a potential client. When he meets the potential client, the client is taken aback that he's a Black man. The first thing he asks him is, "Where did you go to school?" The engineer's response is, "Which degree?"

  • In a McDonald's TV ad, a Chinese man kneeled before a McDonald's vendor, pleading with him to accept his expired coupon. This showed a lack of cultural sensitivity because begging is considered to be a shameless act in Chinese culture.


How to develop cultural awareness


To become more culturally aware, you should:

  • Learn as much as you can about other cultures by experiencing them firsthand and asking a lot of questions when something feels different.

  • Identify the biases you learned from your own cultural training, and recognize the effects they have on how you view others.

  • Participate in unconscious bias training.


At Tough Convos, a Black-owned company, we promote allyship and help companies tackle unconscious bias within the workplace. Let’s have a tough conversation with your team.