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Intercultural Stereotyping: We are all GUILTY of it!

By Ange Teo

Living Abroad - Intercultural Stereotyping

Defined as "beliefs about the characteristics, attributes, and behaviours of members of certain groups", stereotyping is a process that we engage in at one time or other towards a group of people who do not conform to our way of life. We hold their "weird" practices and wholly different ideals, for instance, as reasons to justify our ugly and intolerant attitudes.

There are some people who stereotype a person by virtue of his physical attributes, or dress sense. And then proceed to over-generalize the entire community that said person belongs to -- which is often negative to say the least.

Regardless, such behaviour - if left unchecked - inevitably becomes prejudice; and subsequently selective discrimination and xenophobia. Not only productivity and work relations in the workplace are adversely affected, but so is the organization's reputation and credibility. Furthermore, its Competitive Advantage and Market Leadership are harmed as well.

Thus, as a Culturally Intelligent individual, we are able to adapt ourselves to a completely new cultural work environment and ethics quickly and easily. We also become tolerant of people who never, or refuse to adjust themselves accordingly. In other words, Culture Shock is not an issue that we have to cope with; as no effort is spared to facilitate a smooth transition to our new environment.

We do not expect people with prejudicial mindsets to reciprocate our actions. But we are clearly at an advantage as - besides learning each new experience encountered - we embrace it readily. That makes us the more flexible in our future dealings with more varied groups of people, as globalisation is here to stay.

Thus, it is crucial that we check ourselves when we are caught in situations that lead us to stereotype new people we meet -- due to first impressions. It is inevitable, but keep in mind that we are in turn "tarred with the same brush: by these same people, if not broadly.

About the Author

Ange Teo is Singaporean of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual background; with about 20 years of working experience with a number of Multinational Companies [MNC's] and Singapore statutory boards.

Shortly before she founded e2m expat etiquette mentoring, she had been informally advising expatriates on Cross-Cultural communication issues that motivated her to go into consulting full-time - notably in the areas of Executive Coaching, Cultural Intelligence Development and Expatriate Partner Immersion.

Throughout her employment history, Ange Teo has been an IT Executive Search Consultant, Relief [or Substitute] Teacher at a Singapore primary school, Computer Course Instructor cum Programmer, and part-time Museum Guide for the "Silk Road of China" exhibition at the now-defunct Empress Place Museum [now known as Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place].

Ange Teo received her Bachelor of Science with Honours [2:2] in Business Administration, major in Marketing, from the University of Wales - Aberystwyth.

Ange can be found online at:
e2mentoring.tripod.com

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First Published: Jan 20, 2007

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