Magazine article Personnel Journal

Cultural Training Benefits Many Industries

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Cultural Training Benefits Many Industries

Article excerpt

Without having some knowledge of Asian beliefs and traditions, the likelihood for misunderstandings between people from an Asian culture and people born in the U.S. is immense. In an effort to avoid these culture clashes, businesses in a variety of fields are seeking training from intercultural specialists that can help employees interact better with the Asian population.

The real-estate industry is just one example. In this case, the need for training has been dictated by the marketplace and initiated by marketing personnel. In many other industries, however, the human resources department can lead the way in preparing the workforce to meet the cultural challenges outside the workplace walls. Some of the industries that can benefit from such training include:

1) Law enforcement. If a Vietnamese person is stopped by a highway patrol or police officer, he or she may avoid eye contact out of respect or deference to authority. The law-enforcement agent who hasn't been trained in the Asian culture may interpret this as guilty behavior, explains Deena R. Levine, a cultural-diversity specialist based in Alamo, California.

2) Social services. When recommending certain types of counseling programs, social workers must understand that disclosing personal information to a stranger is an alien concept to most Asians. In addition, the cultural upbringing of most Asians dictates that they don't divulge personal feelings or be too direct when communicating. This presents problems for Westerners who expect feedback. We expect people to tell us when they disagree with something we've said. In many Asian cultures, however, one of the guiding principles is to preserve interpersonal harmony, which deters the Asian person from answering a question with no. According to Levine, if they do disagree, they will use soft terms in their response, such as, maybe, perhaps or it's inconvenient.

3) Retail. A jeweler lost a $5,000 engagement-ring sale to an Asian customer because of impatience and a cultural faux pas, says Angi Ma Wong, an intercultural training consultant from Palos Verdes, California. The customer brought relatives with him three or four times to look at the ring that he was interested in. The jeweler, about to go on vacation and anxious to close the sale before leaving, told the man, "You don't have to bring your family every time--you can make a decision on you own." If the jeweler had taken the time to learn about Asian culture, he would have realized that an expensive decision such as this one involves the whole family, says Wong. …

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