Today, I presented at a seminar at Hult International Business School for its MBA students. I talked about the process of acculturation and critical success factors for studying, socializing and job searching in the United States. I hope that the students who attended will take some time to reflect about our discussion and provide your thoughts about this topic.
As I mentioned, within a very short period of time, international must adapt to our norms in the United States on so many levels. For many communications is a major challenge. Within communications is the usage of our language and our expectation for an effective speaker, persuader and leader. What is deemed to be “effective” has a strong cultural component. In the United States, we believe having a point a view is paramount and we readily express ourselves. But for many non-Americans, they come from a very different approach, where expressing personal opinions in a group is restrained and very contextually oriented. Deference to the group, especially in the presence of hierarchy is key. Outward debate can be viewed as conflictual, which is eschewed in many cultures.
Acculturation is a process. To succeed at it, we need to first understand ourselves more deeply. To ask why we do what we do? Why we assume certain things and actions are good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable? When we have greater understanding, we have the opportunity to discern rather than judge. We can accept that other cultures do things differently because their primary values are different. When we can observe and discern, beyond good or bad, right or wrong, we are then truly open to successfully acculturating to a new environment. With that mindset, we are open to changing our actions.
What about acculturating to the US has been most interesting or challenging to you?