Cultural skills and awareness are now accepted as imperative for Australians working in Korea and for Koreans working in Australia. Often referred to as Cultural Intelligence or CQ, many organisations have progressed from the assumption that the business world sits outside the influence of local culture.
Savvy businesspeople prepare themselves for differences, recognising that being skilled and comfortable with their new cultural environment opens many more doors and provides an ease and comfort in all dealings, ensuring both personal and business success.
It’s encouraging that more people are aware of value differences and are seeking guidance on behaviours and customs differing from their own culture. Books, websites and cultural consultants can offer valuable information on similarities and differences, referred to as CQ Knowledge. For example, Australians may appear rude to local Koreans if they ignore hierarchical respect, while Koreans may appear arrogant to Australians by over emphasizing their titles or educational credentials in Australia. Knowing these and other value differences can help prevent common misperceptions.
However, there is more to having high Cultural Intelligence than just gaining knowledge or being aware of differences. Consider the following aspects:
Are you curious to learn more about the culture you are working with? Are you keen to try the food, to explore the cities, to learn more about the arts, music and movies? Are you confident and resilient and able to learn from mistakes that you might make? This shapes the attitude you present to the locals.
Be prepared to plan, observe and check your interactions. Knowing that Australian culture communicates more directly and the Korean culture more subtly, do you plan to adjust your day-to-day communication style? Do you review with trusted cultural mentors, especially about confusing interactions, continuing to learn and adjust in each situation? This ensures continuous adjustment to different situations.
Behavioural CQ requires putting into practice the knowledge that you have, adjusting both verbal and non-verbal behaviours with ease. Do you speak the language when appropriate? Whether it’s the distance you stand apart or the volume or tone of voice, can you be comfortable in both your home or host situation? There will be times when adjusting to the local culture is not appropriate and it’s better to maintain your own cultural behaviours. Are you comfortable when all the people around you are different?
The hallmarks of high cultural intelligence are equally relevant and beneficial for business executives, students or family members seeking to work effectively and live happily in a new environment.