As I travel around the world on a weekly basis, I meet a variety of people from different cultures. I often feel blessed that I have the opportunity to be part of this melting pot!
It always gets me thinking though: what do culture and multiculturalism mean to us all? Or indeed, what does it mean to my friends, colleagues, clients and strangers that I meet on my wanderings?
On the face of it, we mix at airports, train stations, hotels, taxi ranks, at work, in school etc. Just taking a walk on a busy road in any global metropolis, it should be obvious what multiculturalism is.
Our culture is what shapes us: our behaviour and our identity. Culture is our way of living. It refers to the shared language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviours, and material objects that are passed down from one generation to the next. The term “culturally diverse” is often used interchangeably with the concept of “multiculturalism.” Sociologist Dr Caleb Rosado, who specialises in diversity and multiculturalism, described seven important actions involved in the definition of multiculturalism:
recognition of the abundant diversity of cultures
respect for the differences
acknowledging the validity of different cultural expressions and contributions
valuing what other cultures offer
encouraging the contribution of diverse groups
empowering people to strengthen themselves and others to achieve their maximum potential by being critical of their own biases
celebrating rather than just tolerating the differences in order to bring about unity through diversity
A dizzying list to be sure, and if I am honest, I am not certain that I honour all of these actions all the time!
Why not? Well, I know that I am a product of my upbringing. My experiences, where I have lived, gone to school, worked, loved and lost, all this tapestry of memories impact how I see the world. What Daniel Kahneman refers to as “unconscious bias” is hiding in our shadows and ready to impact how we think, feel, act and react to others around us. I am more aware of this than others perhaps because of my job, working with diverse teams and company cultures that espouse the virtues of diversity to drive a profit and add value for shareholders.
However, every so often I have to remind myself that cultural diversity is not just a means to deliver company results. There is an inherent richness that comes from being thrown into a melting pot of ideas, viewpoints and ways of doing things in each culture. It’s down to each individual to embrace it.