Cultural awareness is a way of thinking about and viewing the world. It means understanding, respecting and successfully interacting with those whose world views, values, behaviors, communication styles, customs and practices are different than one’s own.

Cultural Awareness occurs in stages.

Stage 1: People are all the same.
This is the conviction that we all, deep down, hold the same values and beliefs. This very limited perspective is most often due to a lack of experience with difference.

Stage 2: Cultural differences exist, but my culture is the best.
In this stage, we realize that differences in cultural norms, values, customs and beliefs exist. However, they are seen as less desirable than our own, or even threatening. The desire is both to defend one’s own culture and minimize others.

Stage 3: Other cultures are of value and I can learn from them.
In this stage, we recognize the complexity and richness of other people’s cultures. We accept and see the potential benefits of other cultures’ values and beliefs. We may even choose to adopt some of these values or behaviors.

Stage 4:  More than one cultural frame of reference exists.
We become aware of our own cultural filters and begin to adapt our perceptions and behaviors. Through repeated exposure to or education about other cultures, we develop a deeper  understanding of a culture’s unique traits, values and norms. People in this stage can shift communication style and behaviors to effectively and appropriately  interact with diverse cultures.

Individuals in the first two stages are less likely to identify and resolve intercultural conflict than those in the latter stages.

Which stage are you in?