Let’s talk about cultural norms.
By definition, cultural norms are behavior patterns that are “typical” of certain groups. These behaviors are learned from parents, peers, teachers, community members, and other influential people whose values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors take place in the context of a shared organizational environment.
A bit of a mouthful, but every place has them. Continents, countries, states, provinces, cities, workplaces, schools, you name it. And they’re always changing. The bigger the area you’re talking about, the more general the terms surrounding these norms become.
The funny thing about the malleable and fluid nature of cultural norms is that behaviors considered “normal” in one place could be considered totally “abnormal” in another. If we’re not careful, this can lead to misunderstandings, insensitivity, and even dissent for people, places or cultures different than our own.
Our current world is good example of that.
Whether we realize it or not, one of the first things we do when we enter a new situation is start learning its cultural norms. We call it “trying to fit in” or “be cool.” Sometimes it’s subtle, like in a new social setting or an unfamiliar restaurant, but other times it’s much more obvious. Like when you move to Mozambique.
We PCVs have needed to adjust to a lot over the last 6 months, both in order to adopt appropriate Mozambican cultural norms and to ditch American norms that are inappropriate in this new context.
So here’s a little game I’ve created…we’ll call it “Rude or Not Rude?” In the linked PDF, the bolded lines are cultural norms from either Mozambique or the US. Each one is followed by a quick explanation of whether it is considered rude or not rude here in Mozambique.
(Okay, so it’s not much of a game. But, if you were really excited about a game, I guess you could put a piece of paper over half of your screen and pretend to play. Enjoy either way.)