Finding Success on Multicultural Teams
Having grown up in Europe, lived in North America and Africa, and traveled to many countries, I have experienced many different cultures. For the last 25 years, I have worked in East Africa—mainly in Kenya, but with short stints in Tanzania and South Sudan.
At the same time, I have worked in virtual teams from across Africa and am currently on one team that has members from North America, South America, Europe and Africa. Working in such diverse groups is challenging, but always rewarding—if you remain sensitive and follow simple rules.
Working in a foreign country, you will always be the odd one out; you need to quickly understand where the others are coming from, earn their respect and help others to avoid cultural faux pas.
1. Learn about the culture(s) in the country you live and work in. When you move into a foreign country to work (or you start working), you need to ensure you understand the culture(s). Even if you have grown up in the country, you might have lived in a kind of bubble and not experienced the deep local cultures. Yet understanding these is important because our values are deeply shaped by our culture.
My father was a language teacher who, during his heyday, spoke nine languages fluently and taught four of them—as well as teaching German to immigrants. He gave us a simple rule as children: You have not truly experienced a
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