Lesson 2: Why is it important to know how to deal with cultural differences?

Lesson 2 Chapter 1

Having a right attitude

Dealing appropriately with cultural differences is one of the most important things in volunteering abroad.

A lack of knowledge about other cultures is a common reason why volunteer work might fail to deliver positive results. 

Depending on your attitude towards cultural differences you can either reinforce stereotypes or create an opportunity for mutual learning.

Reinforcing stereotypes

By having a bad attitude towards cultural differences you might increase stigmatisation and reinforce stereotypes.

A bad attitude involves:

  • Being disrespectful to others
  • Making judgements about others
  • Talking or writing about the locals at your volunteer project in a disrespectful way. For example, saying that 'they are really lazy', or 'not smart'. It's not fair to do this, because you might not be aware of why people do what they do. 

Mutual learning

By having a right attitude towards cultural differences you can create opportunities for mutual learning. 

A right attitude involves: 

  • Learning from each others differences
  • Finding similarities
  • Respecting the values of others
  • No judgements. Don't judge people based on your own norms and values. You might not properly understand the local circumstances.

Next lesson: What should I understand about cultural differences?