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Cultural Match

16. March 2010

Sometimes I wonder, what cultural testing is good for. What can it say about a person? That I am Romanian and I should match with all other Romanians? – Oh yes, I can see that working really well….just joking!

The first time I travelled to Italy, I stepped out of the train from Austria and felt a wave of recognition. Not quite like a déjà vu, but similar. I saw the way people dressed, their hair colour matching mine, and it was the easiest thing to mix with everybody in the train station. Later on in the city I discovered lots of things I had never seen before, but in spite of the geographically foreign origins all this had, I still felt welcome. A certain familiarity was swinging in the air, as if I came home to a place I had forgotten all about.

I don’t know how this works, what kind of synapses are triggered in our brains, when we discover similarity in the middle of unknown territory. But I do know, it exists. And it creates comfort and a friendly attitude towards the new impressions and experiences to come. Some people call it cultural match.

Surely you must have experienced this phenomenon as well in your travels, and maybe you have asked yourself “Will I get along easily here, in this new environment? Can I trust my first impressions?”

You can get an idea about the first question with “Cultural Profiling” tools. The results of such questionnaires will compare your individual cultural preferences to the average country profile of your choice (let’s say you are French and your company sends you to Romania) to come back with similarities and differences. So, even if Romania is totally unknown territory to you so far, the Cultural Profiler helps to get an idea.

Trusting your first impressions depends on how well you know yourself and what you expect from the new situation. Is it a great step up the ladder of your career? Or is it a challenge for your family life? Will you be challenged to take leadership over people you never thought you would have to? Or have you always wanted to go there, and now the time has come?

One thing can be said with certainty: you will see what you are able to recognise, and your experiences will be very much like you expect them to be – for the better or the worse. Self fulfilling prophecy is what you will find at work here. And this is where your very own character will show itself.

Only the intensity of your “Culture Shock” might show how easy or hard the situation is for you to handle. Luckily the success of your international assignment doesn’t depend on your cultural match. You can prepare and learn everything you need to accomplish your mission – cultural competence doesn’t come through osmosis.

Become a Cultural Detective® like me and learn how to improve skills, other people didn’t even know existed.

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