Communicate with Customers and Colleagues from Diverse Backgrounds – Part II

Certificate II in Hospitality – dealing with conflict at work or at schoolCultural awareness is about realising that not all people are the same. It is about knowing that different people have different values, different behaviours, and sometimes fundamentally different approaches to life. Cultural awareness also means that you can accept and show respect for other cultures in the workplace, even if certain practices seem strange to you or mean you are inconvenienced on the job. Cultural awareness is a core component of a school-based traineeship in hospitality.

Awareness of cultural difference includes realising that various cultural groups have different rules for

  • The use of humour and irony

  • Courtesies in speech, such as when you say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or ‘excuse me’

  • The meaning of yes or no

  • Rules of politeness – who can speak to whom, and who can begin a conversation

Perhaps the most important reason we all need to be culturally aware is that – awareness and knowledge is a first step to understanding. Watching a game of football is much more rewarding if you know the rules of the game! A friendship where you know and understand the other person is more satisfying than a superficial first meeting with a stranger. It is the same with cultural awareness ‑ the more we know and understand, the more we gain from our relationships with people from all cultures.

Wherever you live and work in Australia today, you will be in constant contact with people from a huge range of cultural backgrounds. In the hospitality industry, this includes both co‑workers and customers.

This means that you will be in constant contact with people who may choose to live their lives differently from the way you do!

Your main aim in embracing cultural awareness is to help you:

  • Live and work more effectively and more harmoniously with people from all cultures

  • Provide better service to customers of all cultures

It is hard to over-estimate the effect that our culture has on our everyday lives. In fact, culture is an integral part of life. Our cultural values are so ingrained in us that we automatically behave in a certain way. This is part of the reason we find it difficult to understand behaviour that is not the same as ours! If you are a Christian, you are unlikely to have a year without Christmas! If you are a Muslim, it is hard to imagine the year without Ramadan. If you are brought up in a society where it is polite to avert your eyes when talking to other people, you will probably be quite uncomfortable when people look straight at you during a conversation.

Different cultures will have different customs when addressing people. For example:

  • In Asia, the handling of a business card is very formal, where the card is presented to the other person and handled with great respect.

  • Germans are not used to being called by their first name, it is usually “Mr.” or “Mrs.” with the surname following. Once the person is on a friendly basis, the first name is offered.

  • Some cultures do not make direct contact when talking to the opposite sex, including some of Asian, Native American or Middle Eastern cultural groups.

Working in the hospitality industry requires cultural awareness.