Host Culture: It Helps to Understand Your Own Culture

We see things as we are

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but the real priority is not to understand your new host culture, but your own. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are – through our own perspective. According to cultural anthropologists and millions of expats worldwide, it’s very likely that with the exception of Canada, Australia, England, and South Africa, your tendencies and expectations align with 85% of the rest of the world, unlike Americans.

How to tell you’re not American

Read the following statements based on the main kinds of cultural differences like how cultures view authority, groups, relationships, communication, time, change, and work/life balance to determine your personal cultural profile. Give yourself 1 point for each one you can identify with. A score of 6+ means you were probably raised outside the USA and need to adjust your mindset. You can then compare your personal tendencies with the cultural attributes of the USA (# 7-15) For example, you may not be as transactional as a typical American, making you more relationship based. Knowing that about yourself helps you recognize and understand differences, gaps and tendencies, expectations. Cultural values are learned, that means they can be unlearned. When we’re in a stressful situation, we tend to revert to our cultural roots. Imagine you’re a French expat in the USA now facing a problem at your child’s school, becoming frustrated, and exacerbating the situation by becoming imperious. Practice behavior when something happens so it sticks.

  • You probably need a lot of information before making decisions.
  • You would generally put people before profits.
  • You’re not much a risk taker, and don’t tolerate much ambiguity.
  • You save for a rainy day and can really hang in there when the going gets tough, able to delay instant gratification.
  • You think children should be seen and not heard.
  • You believe its business should only be done with friends and family.
  • You shy away from putting your needs above those of others.
  • You think that people should work to live, not live to work.
  • You also think relationships are more important than getting things done.
  • Time is rather elastic to you so talking, doing, and interacting with people, places and things, sometimes all at once doesn’t really seem exceptionally difficult.
  • You think people are pretty much born into their status, or that it’s ascribed to them because of their age or level of education rather than achieving it just on individual merit.
  • You prefer discussion to competition.

If some or all of these statements ring true, then you’re about to live and work with Americans who were raised in ways utterly unlike your own. So, what makes Americans, American?

Tune in next week to find out!

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