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Cultural Sensitivity

This week, PulseWire reached a membership of over 3000 members from more than 140 countries. I am proud to be a part of this unique community of women and supporters of women's initiatives, where members can speak out, listen and connect with each other to change the way we live.

We are a network of diverse nationalities, tribes and cultures. Celebrating our differences and learning from each other is what we do so well. As culture deeply influences our beliefs, perceptions and values, being aware that cultural differences exist and not assigning values to those differences, is key to maintaining the wellness of our community. However, there are times when our cultural differences may lead to misinterpretation.

For some PulseWire members, this may be their first time interacting in a global online community and they might misinterpret others' words, or keep their own postings so brief as to lead to misunderstandings. For others, English may not be their first language and as electronic communication is very limited, it is easy to misinterpret the tone behind what people say, or their posts or comments may seem unintentionally curt.

As with any community, misunderstandings and disagreements are inevitable but if executed in a manner of respect, they allow us to think critically. We welcome healthy debate and discourse, as long as cultural sensitivity is practiced by all members.

The PulseWire Lounge is a space for members to help shape the community culture. I'd like to open up the space for a discussion on cultural sensitivity. What have been your experiences in cultural misunderstandings and how can we overcome them? What does cultural sensitivity mean to you?

Comments

Nwando's picture

cultural sensitivity

I find this topic very interesting and quite personal, probably because from where i come from it is a big do. Growing up in Africa's largest nation with over 200 ethnic groups it's much easier to step on the feet of anyone with whom you aren't farmiliar with their culture. i'm from the south east and some things we do are seen as disrepectful to other tribes. for instance in the south western part of my country its a mark of respect for a lady to kneel or a man prostrarte when greeting an elderly person. someone unfarmiliar wih these rules could be seen errorously as disrespectful. there are so many more instances.

I believe that everyone should learn and respect the cultures of others and at the same time give others who seem to be "disrespectful' a benefit of doubt.instead of getting angry or feeling slighted such a person should educate the ignorant fellow. we live in a dynmaic world and things are fast changing. cultures are intergrating. what used to be a taboo such as inter tribal marriages are fast becoming a thing of the past.

I strongly belive that no one with good intentions would delibrately disrespect anothers culture or belief.

jadefrank's picture

respect

Hi Nwando,

Thank you for sharing examples of cultural differences within your region. I agree, rather than feeling slighted, we should take the opportunity to share our culture with someone else and enlighten them on proper etiquette for their surrounding. And visa-versa, we can learn a lot from them as well. It's amazing how much etiquette there is for each culture, region or group. In most the things we do or ways we act, we don't think twice about it. But just being aware and open to new ideas and ways of expression will take us far.

I look forward to hearing more from you in your journal, you have a beautiful way of expressing yourself!

Warm regards,
Jade

jap21's picture

Hi Jade

The answer depends on the intention of the writer. If someone is being disrespectful on purpose, such a tremendous wrong doing is unacceptable, and their accounts and writings should be deleted from the community.

If the offense, on the other hand, is not on purpose, it will easily show when the person feeling offended explains why and how this is considered an offense.

This, as I have said before in another comment, is our Temple of Freedom, Our Pulsewire. We need to keep it ethic and open and embracing to all cultures and all ideas.

Thanks for bringing this up. I am positive that all people here come with good intentions. If they do something wrong, it will show off immediately and should be stopped.

In friendship,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

jadefrank's picture

intention

Hi Jackie,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Of course we do not tolerate members who are disrespectful. And while this type of behavior is usually blatant, sometimes it's hard to know someone's intention. There is a fuzzy area when reading someone's words, especially is they are from a culture unfamiliar to you. Talking in person allows a more clear distinction for intention, but when communicating online, you can't always hear someone's tone, read their body language or see into their eyes. We have to be careful to protect ourselves from bad intentions, but also to be careful not to judge too quickly. Luckily, PulseWire is a community that attracts women of the best intentions. And with so many cultures, experiences and personality types mingling opening in a forum, we always seem to have some exciting and juicy conversation!

Cheers,
Jade

Tina's picture

Important and Interesting Topic

Occasionally, I have found myself feeling somewhat defensive and very protective of my own culture following the odd comment here and there on Pulsewire. I had not expected this to happen at all and my feelings surprised me. I am certain that the persons commenting had not meant to be offensive, nor were their comments personal towards me, but they sat very uncomfortably with me anyway. I think that no matter what we do or how sensitive we endeavor to be, this is bound to happen within such a diverse community.

I agree with the above posts, I don't believe anyone here intends to be offensive and if we describe why we have been hurt, it facilitates greater understanding between the two parties. I think that the only way for us to learn and understand each other is to find some way through these misunderstandings and unforeseen cultural sensitivities.

jadefrank's picture

growing together

Hi Tina,

I appreciate your insight on this subject. I wonder if you've come across some interesting culture clashes or misunderstandings living in New York City, a place of so many cultures living side-by-side. It's like PulseWire in a way, isn't it?

You have every right to be protective of your culture, especially when putting yourself out there or everyone to see. I agree that we are bound to feel uncomfortable now and then despite our open attitudes towards other cultures. And I love your suggestion of openly addressing those feelings and engaging the person who offended you. This allows them to learn something about your culture and feelings and a chance for them to explain themselves and help you understand where they are coming from. Rather than bottling those feelings up and feeling bad, we can take the opportunity to learn and grow together as a community. I love it.

Cheers,
Jade

Sophie's picture

Appreciating and celebrating diversity

Culture is one of the aspects of life's diversity that is quite personal to each and everyone. In this global network cultural sensitivity to me would mean not trying to interpret issues from our own cultures but see through the persons point of view. on the other hand in celebrating diversity it is interesting to me when I find people commenting on my posts by giving examples of how the same issue affect her in a different culture but in a different way!! For example I feel happy when I read someone narrating how they visited Kenya and what fascinated them about Kenya that is so different from their own culture. As long as we have good intentions at heart there will be more celebrations than hurt from the posts that we read and comment on.

I come from a country where cultural diversity has sometimes led to tribal hatred and war yet other times we are together celebrating and it has reached a time when we realize that the tribal wars are not real but are a tool used to bring division since as we live in everyday lives we interact with people from different cultures and find it very interesting!

At pulse wire it would help if someone feels slighted to speak out, since I believe that we are here for a noble purpose and the hurt is not intentional. On the other hand be sensitive to some of the issues you have raised, like English not being a first language to many, remembering that others may not understand what we are writing about since the context is different hence make our posts more elaborate.....etc...otherwise we be ready to learn as we stumble and wake up and go on!

It feels nice to know sisterhood is global, coz the issues we share seem to be so similar in different ways!!

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

jadefrank's picture

we are the same but different

Hi Sophie,

Yes! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on cultural sensitivity. I also think it's great when we can share an experience here on PulseWire and other members chime in with similar experiences in opposite corners of the world. It's these moments when I realize how much we share as women and while we can learn so much from each other and our respective cultures, we can also find solace in the fact that we are all on this earth together and marching forward as women in our movement for equality, respect and peace.

I agree, that we have the responsibility to speak out if we are offended, and also to be more thorough in our writing so as to include everyone's basis for understanding.

Yes! Sisterhood is global!

Hugs,
Jade

busayo's picture

Despite our diverse culture

This is a very interesting topic. I think despite our diverse culture we should be able to accept each other as we are.
In my culture for example you don't show your emotion openly, but in this journey i have really appreciated people that showed their emotions at one time or the other. I have even learnt a lot from them. We should just learn each other's culture and respect each other for them. We have one thing in common, we are all women and the treatment we receive all over the world are the same, the gravity only varies. Therefore we must be ready to fight our course together despite our diverse culture.

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

jadefrank's picture

accepting one another

Hi Busayo,

I love that you've shared this experience with us. In adapting to a new, global community that openly shares their emotions and the stark contrast of what you are used to in Nigeria. I am excited to hear about your experience in New York and what types of cultural differences you notice there. We are all very happy for you in your journey thus far and all that is yet to come!

Jade

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