On October 30th, Sneha Manohar, an International Corporate Banking Analyst from HSBC, and Judy Everett, from the University’s Careers Service, gave a talk to a room of students containing speakers of 14 different languages. They were talking (in English, luckily for me) about the importance of intercultural and global awareness when looking for employment in the current marketplace. Not only is this a mark of a ‘Sheffield Graduate’ (http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/sheffieldgraduate/studentattributes), but as Sneha made clear, cultural awareness is very important in real world markets.
She gave examples of companies trying to expand into different markets. An example she gave for a country doing this well was McDonald’s; with their country specific menus taking religious diet constraints, and culturally preferred food into account. She also gave examples of companies who attempted global expansion, and had at least initially failed, like Best Buy and Home Depot. These are successful companies in North America, but when they tried to expand into an Asian market, they utterly failed, by not adapting their practices and identity for the new population they were trying to serve. Home Depot failed due to the lack of a DIY culture where they opened, and Best Buy failed because they weren’t selling the consumer electronics wanted by people they were trying to sell to. However, there is something of a trade-off between adapting to a local culture, and maintaining a brand’s identity.
Cultural awareness doesn’t only apply on such a large scale in fact it is also an essential interpersonal skill. During a group activity during the session, the attendees came up with a number of different ways that you can improve this while still at university, ranging from taking the Erasmus or Study abroad Programmes (https://www.shef.ac.uk/erasmus), joining Cultural, or International Societies
attending the International Cultural Evening (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwjwCdOj8BI),
or simply watching foreign films and eating different international food, any way to get some first-hand experience of a culture you know little about.
Finally, five tips were discussed about how to adapt to a new culture, without risking being too offensive… Firstly, be cautious with your behaviour, and observe what others do first. Secondly, react carefully to people and events; think before you respond to anything. Talk clearly, and try to avoid colloquialisms, and tangents, and speak to people with respect. It’s important to check that you are understood, and that you understand others. Finally, the biggest piece of advice given was to not be afraid to ask questions of those who know the culture already, not only is this one of the best ways to learn, but it shows a willingness to adapt to a new culture, which should gain some favour with the person you’re talking to.
Ed (Student Ambassador for the Faculty of Science)
See our leaflet ‘Develop your Global Awareness’ for more information on this topic - Judy