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Multicultural work environment

Polish workers are present in every corner of the world, doing their jobs in a various cultural and exotic places. They are forced to find themselves in a new reality, functioning (often after work) in a different culture. We are used to live in a culturally homogeneous environment, which is typical for Poland.

According to intercultural psychology, the word culture “has been understood as a system of values, norms and behavior scripts, which are characteristic for particular groups and nations, going on from generation to generation. In this case, values stand for what is commonly considered as important and valuable, whereas norms suggest direction of taken actions and decisions.”[1]

The experience of meeting another culture does not always lead to the situation of mutual cognition. Multicultural approach refers to “explaining the truth and rules of human behavior. It relies on the analysis of these types of behavior in a various cultural contexts.”[2]

Many shop floors hire workers from various cultural environments. If you want to find yourself in a different cultural condition, first of all, you have to get rid of the cultural egocentrism. It is a common phenomenon, not really dangerous. Noticing the beauty of your country and culture is not problematic but this kind of attitude does not lead to knowing new cultures.

All participants of the European project called “The model of vocational training in Władysław Sikorski Upper Secondary School in Sulechów basing on the experience of the Spanish Partner”, took their first step to toss the cultural egocentrism while participating in the cultural workshops. Their aim was to near different cultures, especially the Spanish one. It was a chance to realize that there are other cultures too. Among our young generation, there is a tendency to leave the old country. When asking about the cultural knowledge of other country, we can usually hear a very poor answer. People who want to leave their homeland usually do not prepare themselves in this matter. They say that they will manage somehow and that it is enough to read something before the arrival.

This kind of attitude leads to cultural shock which naturally affects the future job of particular worker. He or she might not gain any new cultural experience and develop properly. People who are close, immature and not self-conscious are very prone to experience already mentioned cultural shock. The most frequent effects of this phenomenon can lead to the nervous breakdown, fast return and job resignation. In general, every person, leaving his/her country is liable to suffer from the cultural shock but its strength depends on the character of the previous experience and the level of exodus preparation.

While taking part in the cultural workshops, our participants worked on developing the acceptance, openness and not judging attitude. The process of eliminating the attachment towards other people, especially while using very common phrases like “it is stupid”,  “it is strange”, “he does not understand anything” led to the conclusion that what is strange is also good.

Looking at this kind of alterity helps to regard other culture in a wider perspective. It motivates to explore our knowledge in order to understand it. Many researches prove that multicultural workers are more efficient, communicative and open.

After finishing vocational practices in Spain , most of our students admitted that they managed to eradicate their weaknesses, limits and prejudice. The same opinion came from the Spanish students, undergoing their training in Poland. They also said that they gained knowledge about Poland which was quite different before they arrival.

Taking part in the foreign vocational training did not only help to gain new experience and skills but also gave a chance to find yourself in a multicultural workplace. For many our students, it was their first chance to learn so much about some different culture and life.

Ewa Helińska- Project coordinator

Martyna Mospan-translation

[1] red. M. Lipińska, Warsztaty kompetencji międzykulturowych- podręcznik dla trenerów, Warszawa 2008, s.183.

[2] op. cit. s. 183.

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