Working in Intercultural Teams and its Challenges - different similarities or similar differences?
My name is Eva and I am from Guatemala. My mother is French, so I grew up speaking both Spanish and French and I moved to Paris for university. Now I work at an international insurance company with a team of people from all over the world. We work well as a team, but I remember a few touchy moments when I first started. Cultural differences are a source of a lot of fun between us, but they have also caused some stress at times. Here are some tips I use on avoiding the pitfalls of cultural differences and enjoying my time with an international team.
Avoid getting frustrated or angry
The fastest way for conflict to explode is for people to get angry in the face of cultural or linguistic misunderstandings. Instead, relax and remember that misinterpretation is much more likely than malign intent.
Cultural differences are really no different than any other differences; people come from different backgrounds, and we should always be accepting of that fact. Remembering that "different" does not mean "worse" opens you up to new perspectives and ultimately enriches your own world view.
Avoiding clashes that arise from cultural differences won't solve the problem. Instead, engage with your teammates and calmly express not what they are doing wrong, but what your issue is. This will allow them to explain their intentions and their understanding of the situation. If you don't say how things are affecting you, you never give others a chance to explain themselves, and you prevent yourself from gaining a deeper understanding of the people around you.
Learn to compromise
There will always be times when a group of people don't see eye to eye; the ability to comprise means even when such moments come up, your team will be able to surmount the challenge amicably. Learning to be flexible not only creates a healthy working environment, it also helps you think beyond your own cultural limits.
Be true to yourself
Accept the cultural differences of others, but remember that your own culture is also wonderful. Don't be afraid to discuss your culture with others or to share why those aspects of your culture are important to you. Just as you should be open to learning about your teammates' cultures, so, too, should they be open to discovering yours.