This week I have become more interested in cultural Intelligence and how it effects all that we do. We are all usually born into a culture that for many is mixed. In Australia it was common to have friends whose parents or grandparents were not from Australia originally but had come to Australia seeking a different life. Families integrated while still allowing customs, language and private celebrations to exist within their family unit.
Unfortunately my ancestors for the longest time have resided in Australia so it wasn't until I moved to Europe that I could learn more about how being from another culture felt. By that, there is a term in expat literature called culture shock and I believe it can be real for most who move and travel abroad a lot. Moving to Austria things seemed the same, but below the surface there are differences. The expectations of a different society have to be learnt. I am especially proud of my kids who have adjusted into new cultures at such a young age. I am interested to see how this culture defines their lives and the choices they make.
So how does Culture effect your personal development and the goals and desires you set for yourself? I think there is a lot at play here. Our culture from a young age defines us strongly and perhaps not every culture encourages independent thought, a free spirit and creating a life that fulfills you. For instance, when I speak to many here in Austria they find it difficult to comprehend that I studied Psychology and worked for awhile, then became a professional Opera Singer and am now a Personal Development Trainer. Three complete changes of career. Here the expectation that still pervades many parts of culture is that you do your studies and then find a job in that area. You work in the same position for many years, then retire between 60 & 65. Of course this view existed in Australia but some 15-20 years ago this started to change. Australians like to go against tradition and so things have evolved from there (thank heavens). Here in Austria though this mentality holds people back from trying new things. It holds back the desire to grow, evolve and look into new things. Most of us like permanency but in 2018 this cannot be guaranteed. We need to be flexible and consider our own development and in light of our culture.
Indeed when I decided to do Opera, my family may have considered me mad and in a way I went against cultural norms as well but the hunger and desire to give it a serious go was there and I am grateful for the way it worked out.
Change in general is hard but it can be even harder when your culture doesn't allow you to explore and develop yourself. This is where travel is an eye opening experience. Whether for a holiday or as something permanent we can use travel to open our eyes to possibilities and explore how other people live. To make observations and try without judgement to just look. Be in another's culture and understand more.
The biggest problem we often face is finding it hard to assimilate. I have found Austrian culture difficult and bureaucratic at times but I have to adapt myself. I cannot imply my culture on others. I am the odd man out. I aim by reading this book on Cultural Intelligence to open my eyes and to find better ways of living and working in this most liveable city of Vienna.
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.