The first tip in a series of tips on How to Broach Delicate Topics is to:
Have the person identify their impressions about cultural practices from the country in question.
Have your conversational partner or training attendees brainstorm all the impressions of the country they are going to. They can identify stereotypes, cultural practices, holidays, dressing styles, food habits, mannerisms, body language, family structure, or anything else they know or think they know about the new country and culture. As the expert of the culture, address as many issues as possible that have been bought out. If any delicate topics (such as hygiene, sexual harassment, racism or others) have not been touched on by your conversational partner or trainees, find creative ways to broach the topics by related topics they have already mentioned.
Conversely, the discussion can be narrowed from the start by choosing a broad topic related to the delicate topic. Some examples:
“Let’s discus all you know about American professional appearance.” – The facilitator can discuss the relevance of the ideas in relation to their professional environment in the US.
“List out all words you have heard that refer to cultures, races or religions.” – The facilitator can then discuss how many of these terms are avoided in the US office, and at times can also land someone in legal hot water if used. The facilitator should be specific about the words to avoid, and even point to the company Human Resource (HR) policy when applicable.
In this way the delicate topic (ex. hygiene) is not highlighted prominently and given as part of many other cultural tidbits and etiquette tips. It can also be mentioned that use of local behaviors abroad in that particular country can help the locals relate to you better which helps create a better impression.
Tip submitted by an International Student Advisor in a US Institution.
End of Tip #1.
<— See list of all tips.
For your individuals and teams preparing for international assignments, Jennifer Kumar offers global diversity and inclusion training for international business and career success.