A Mexican, an Indian, and an American walk into a bar. But Wait! It is not a joke! It was a planning session for one of my companies (and to be honest, something we do somewhat regularly).
To me, multi-culturalism has been one of the greatest assets in my life. It all started back in the year 2000 when I had the opportunity to go for a professional experience in the United States. Over there I found myself surrounded by people from different parts of the world and different backgrounds.
In the beginning, it was not easy. People speak, dress, behave, and even smell differently. Crossing the language and accent barrier (for starters) was difficult, especially when even the facial and no verbal expressions are different as well. Then, truly understanding different ways of working became the next challenge.
Some cultures are more direct, others more polite, others would not go an inch out of the process while others would bend whatever is necessary to get things done.
But in the end, multi-culturalism has given me a power like few things have. It has allowed me to connect, build, and grow.
In my team, the sales people are in India because that’s where most of my customers come from, the recruitment team is in Mexico because we focus on recruiting Mexican professionals primarily, and the US HR Team is in the US because they are on the ground and they can assist better our operations team members, and the operations team is all over Mexico and the US. As you can see, I created the company strategically so that each function can interact, understand and create better empathy with their clients. In short, I purposefully built a global and multi-cultural team and it has been awesome, not easy, but awesome.
So here, dear readers, are 3 ways in which you can take multi-culturalism to the next level!
- Eat, Sing and Dance. I can say that I truly started to become multi-cultural when I met with friends from different places and we sat down to eat, drink, sing and dance to the beat of their food and music. Nothing is more powerful than when people feel acknowledged and loved for who they are.
- Travel. If you have the chance, go to different places with the willingness to learn, be open-minded to the unexpected, and act as a sponge to absorb your surroundings. There is a big difference between going to a place as a tourist and going there as a student of the world.
- Learn the language. I do not mean that you take months and months of classes to become fluent. Learn basic words and phrases. Nothing breaks the ice like at least trying to speak someone else´s language.
Be open, embrace other cultures and ideas and, while you are at it, enjoy the process!