As an immigrant to the United States at the age of 15, I learnt that I was indeed welcomed here with open arms. No one made fun of my thick accent. No one ridiculed my cultural idiosyncrasies, or the many words that seemed entirely out of line. Take for example the time I told my American friends: “I’ll be back within twenty minutes. I’ll just go take a quick douche and get ready”. “Douche” in Romanian means shower. That’s what I thought I was saying…
There are several Romanian words that sound entirely inappropriate for the “G” rated blog here. Suffice it to say, that I’ve made every cardinal language mistake in my “Americanization” process, and I’ve learnt the rules the hard way.
Back to my story… The wonderful thing about America is that it embraces all of its people. I felt accepted here and I consider this country my true Mother, the one who raised me.
There are many possible reasons for my affinity for diversity. Perhaps it’s my wonderful adoption process in America, or maybe my nomadic habits (I travel a lot), or perhaps it’s just my innate curiosity. The fact is, I have many clients from different cultures: Filipino, Arab, Chinese. I enjoy observing and learning from them. Being able to speak basic words and phrases in Arab and Chinese are some of the perks I’ve enjoyed in the process. My clients tell me that my pronunciation is perfect, but I think they’re just being nice. I very much enjoy learning bits and pieces of their language and habits.
I am now working with a young Chinese family. In the process, I’ve learnt that to the Chinese it’s bad luck to have your home facing West, North or North West. According to Chinese culture, the front of the home should face South, East or South-East. The number four should not be in the address or in the amount paid for the home.
Greeting an Arab with “As-Salāmu `Alaykum” is not always appropriate, since not all Arabs are Muslim; many are Christian. Showing the proper respect by bowing your head when dealing with Japanese people is well known. Using the proper pronouns when speaking German, French or Romanian is very important. You can be entirely inappropriate by simply choosing one form of “you” over another. (English is such an easy language; is it any wonder that it’s so popular?)
I would love to take a “Cultural Diversity” course to learn all the ins and outs of proper communication with people of all nationalities. After a long struggle to uncover a cheat sheet for quick access to the World’s cultures, I finally found something I’m happy with. Here it is: International Trade on Suite 101.com
Have you embraced a culturally diverse clientele? What have you learnt by working with various ethnic groups? Please share your knowledge here, so we can all benefit!