When I conduct surveys involving global teams, there is always one common thread strung throughout: people want to learn more about the different cultures of their team members. While having direct dialogue is important, it is also crucial we seek information on our own so as not to overwhelm our team members. As such, I have compiled a few online resources to help us all become better familiarized with the cultures and practices of different countries around the world:
The Cultural Crossing Guide is self-described as “an evolving database of cross-cultural information about every country in the world. This user-built guide allows people from all walks of life to share essential tips with each other about how to navigate our increasingly borderless world with savvy and sensitivity.” It currently contains information on over 200 countries, organizing facts into three categories: 1) “The Basics” (greetings, taboos, etc.); 2) “For Business” (dress, titles, etc.); and “For Students” (class rules, socializing, etc.). Because the guide is user-built, it is always evolving and being updated with new information. There is even the option to Ask an Expert a question!
(If anyone is concerned about accuracy, don’t fret: information on individual countries is submitted by natives, residents, or former residents, and all “information… is vetted by a Culture Crossing staff member and checked for credibility by cross referencing with at least two other sources.”)
Commisceo Global has resources for every area of learning! There are Country Guides, allowing one to “learn about the culture, language, people, beliefs, etiquette, business practices and more” for over 80 countries. There are also Quizzes where a person can test themself on the information they’ve learned, with categories of Cultural Awareness, Business Culture, and Country Specific. And for people craving in-depth discussion, the organization also offers a plethora of Country Insight Reports. But now that we have all this information from Commisceo Global, what can we do with it?
Well, how about we use their Self-Study Guide to Cultural Awareness to help ensure we are using our new knowledge respectfully and in appropriate ways? (Sounds like a plan to me!)
Now, the above two resources are incredibly comprehensive and, consequently, a little overwhelming, so let’s dial it down for a moment:
This short slideshow goes over common gestures around the world, explaining how actions that are commonplace in one region might be offensive in another. For example, eye contact may be the norm in Germany, but in some parts of East Asia, extended eye contact is at best uncomfortable and at worst rude. Take note of the slideshow’s “What You Should Do Instead” advice at the bottom of each page!
While all of the previous resources are fantastic in their own right, one could argue that there’s a level of impersonality to them. Perhaps they lack the “human element.” Fortunately, there is still one item left on this list:
4. ViewChange (on LinkTV)
ViewChange is a series of videos from all around the world depicting the stories of real people, typically with a focus on lifestyles or global development. The episodes range in length, from some as short as five minutes to others longer than an hour. These videos offer an opportunity to engage with individual experiences beyond general information about their cultures; as such, they are an invaluable resource and the perfect one to close off this list.
And there we have it: a variety of online cultural resources are but a click away. Keep in mind, however, that culture is not static. As such, we shouldn’t consider these resources the be-all, end-all of information. Our knowledge of other cultures can and will evolve with time, so long as we allow it!
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company with a primary mission for advancing individuals in leadership. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. In addition, she provides guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within the organization.