Cross-Cultural (Mis)Understanding | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Cross-Cultural (Mis)Understanding

Bill Gates recently greeted South Korea’s president with a one-handed shake, the other was tucked into his pocket, setting off an international etiquette firestorm. Similar gaffes are increasingly common in a global society where people interact with colleagues and cultures around the world. From hospital bedsides to corporate boardrooms, the demand for a culturally competent workforce has ballooned, and the required skills now go way beyond simple "dos and don’ts." Kojo and diversity consultant Howard Ross explore the nuances of cross-cultural competency in the workplace and beyond.

Cultural Norms: Who Knew?

Today's health care workers encounter a growing number of patients with diverse cultural backgrounds. To help care providers better understand the unique needs of those patients, the diversity consulting firm Cook Ross provides these tips, among others, in its online resource, CultureVision.

  1. Many Chinese in the U.S. follow traditional healing practices which may leave marks that might be misinterpreted as abuse.

  2. Some doctors in Latin American countries prescribe injections rather than pills to treat illness. A patient accustomed to receiving a shot may expect one as part of treatment.

  3. Asian Indians often value stoicism and may not complain about pain. General questions about pain may or may not be responded to as effectively as precise inquiries.

  4. Among some Muslims, the left hand is considered to be unclean, and it is preferable that the right hand be used for feeding or administering medications.

  5. Some Russians will occasionally drink vodka with sugar to treat a cough.

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