What Is Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is a challenging reality in today’s society.  While some people embrace such differences in a positive way, some people react to it negatively causing crisis in individuals and groups.    

What is cultural diversity and how does it impact our society?  Is there something you can do about it? 

What is cultural diversity 

Cultural diversity is simply the existence of a variety of cultures in a group or setting.  It includes differences ranging from people’s language, food preferences, religion, beliefs, traditions, and mode of dressing to behavioral patterns, interactions, and social habits specific to a group of people.   

Cultural diversity can exist in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and in a country on a bigger scale.   

How cultural diversity impacts the society 

Cultural diversity affects the society both positively and negatively.  Some happen naturally and others because of how people react to such diversities. 

Positive impact 

  1.  New knowledge and experience.   Cultural diversity can increase one’s knowledge and enrich one’s experience.  It can open one’s eyes to new knowledge and experience one has never tried before.  A person can learn a new language, try new dishes, and learn other interesting new things.   
  1. Growth.   Learning about other cultures can also help people grow individually and as a society.    As people learn to accept and embrace cultural differences, people also grow to be more understanding and respectful of others.    
  1. Productivity and innovation.    A group can always learn and benefit from other people.  With other cultures sharing their knowledge and skills, there will be more ideas coming in and there will be more solutions to problems.  All these lead to better productivity and innovation, especially in the workplace.   

Negative impact 

  1. Miscommunication and lack of voice.  Language barrier is natural with cultural diversity.  This can be temporary until one learns the language of the majority.  However, it can be challenging to communicate what one truly wishes to convey.  This failure to communicate can cause misunderstanding, miscommunication, and having difficulty to speak up. 
  1. Misinterpretation.   Aside from language barrier, differences in perceptions and behavior inherent in various cultures can also cause misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  A behavior may be acceptable or deemed normal by a certain culture, but is considered improper by another group of people.  A person with a different cultural background and behaves differently may be misinterpreted as someone who is unbecoming by other cultural groups.   
  1. Conflict.  Varying ideas, beliefs, and perspectives in different aspects – political, religious, and societal issues, can cause unhealthy disagreements and conflicts.  
  1. Bias and discrimination.  People have the unconscious tendency to judge and interpret situations and people based on one’s culture.   These biases may be natural, but it can cause isolation and confusion to the person affected by such biases.  These biases can sometimes even lead to discrimination when people intentionally treat other people or cultural groups differently.           

How to embrace cultural diversity 

Whether you belong to a culturally-diverse workplace, school, or community, you can embrace cultural differences with the following helpful tips: 

  • Knowing and accepting that differences always exist and so do cultural differences.  
  • Understanding that one’s cultural background can affect one’s values, behavior, beliefs, and perceptions. 
  • Being conscious of your own cultural orientation.   
  • Exploring other cultures by befriending people who belong to different cultural groups, traveling, visiting museums and cultural sites, attending festivals, and more.  
  • Respecting diversity, including differences in religious practices, differences in traditions, and differences in certain social patterns. 
  • Clarifying and seeking to communicate to avoid misunderstanding. 
  • Being open to other people’s perspectives and not imposing one’s values to others. 

No matter what skin color, no matter what religion, no matter what belief, and no matter what perspective we have, we are all human.  With whatever you do, always carry with you respect and compassion.  After all, despite diversity, we all need the same thing to thrive as human beings, love, and belongingness. 

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