Practical Ways To Increase Your Cultural Intelligence When Working Overseas

07-Feb-2017: >>> Back to Articles

If you have lived in another country, you may have experienced that communication can be quite different in a foreign culture. Even small talk can be stressful if you don’t know the rules. Now imagine the stress that working in a multicultural team can cause!

Not only will your colleagues expect you to be able to communicate in the working language, but you will also feel the pressure of accomplishing results in a work environment that you don’t fully understand. If you work for an international company, the team members might come from several different countries, which makes the teamwork even more complex. But don’t despair! If you follow some general rules, you will find that you will soon enjoy your intercultural work experience.

Be patient:

This might well be the most important rule for any multicultural situation: don’t try to rush anything! Get to know each other before you start working and try to find out more about each other’s culture. Don’t expect your team to work efficiently from day one; it will take time for everyone to get used to the new situation.

Ask questions:

If you don't know what another person wants to express, be sure to confirm you have understood correctly and, what is even more important, that everybody has understood the same. Misunderstandings may arise from difficulties with the language as well as from different concepts of how a task is approached.

Respect other team members:

Even if your group is not very efficient in the beginning and you find that team members do not work the way you work, never forget that you have all learned things differently according to your own culture and that having a different culture does not mean being wrong. Don’t blame others for their cultural differences.

Plan to take more time:

Meeting deadlines and adhering to a schedule is not equally important in all cultures. Misunderstandings can also get in the way of your well-planned schedule. Plan some extra time so that the stress of last-minute meetings and night shifts can be avoided. Don’t panic if people seem to work at a slow pace; in most cases, they just have another way of organizing their time and will eventually finish their tasks on time.

Reflect on your own culture:

Try to look at your own culture from the perspective of an outsider. You will find that there are things in your culture that might be in the way of a smoothly running work group. Being aware of one’s own cultural background is an important step to realizing how much we all depend on our culture when we try to solve problems.

Even if working in a multicultural team might sound overwhelming and extremely challenging, don’t stress about working in one. Working with people from different cultural backgrounds is a fascinating and rewarding experience, and many multicultural teams show more potential for innovations than teams from just one nationality. So go for it and have a wonderful multicultural experience with your team!

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