Multiculturalism is a buzzword that seems to be tossed about in political discourse, but what is it?
Multiculturalism is about different cultures coexisting. Multicultural societies have thrived because people learn to embrace cross-cultural communication. As we live in a proud multicultural society we must appreciate, be sensitive to, accommodate and most importantly, celebrate cultural differences if we are to maintain harmony.
In contemporary society, many people in culturally diverse areas practice cross-cultural communication quite naturally in everyday contexts. You’ll know you’ve mastered the subtlety of it when you successfully converse with someone from a different cultural background to yours, and without (fully) understanding the language you speak, they respond with vigour! This is because cross cultural communication can transcend language barriers. You can still effectively communicate through body language, gesticulation and a good old smile.
Recently, I have been tasked with a Research as Engagement project focusing on the Italian community. With Italian heritage, I was pretty confident I knew the right approach but I have learned a lot.
Since WWII over seven million migrants have settled in Australia. Of these settlers, Italians make the third largest ethnic group in the country and they have played an important role in Australia’s history. Italian cuisine and culture have enjoyed a steady increase in popularity in Australian society. From pizza and pasta to lasagne and coffee, many of the dishes that grace our tables come from the great culinary tradition of Italia.
The beauty and complexity of Italian culture is masked by the shallow experience most of us have through food and coffee. When you need to build relationships with Italians and find out why they make the decisions they do, there are very clear rules to follow:
- You must get up close and personal. Meet people face to face and develop trust based on familiarity and transparency of intent.
- Embrace the culture in context. Meet in Italian venues, enjoy the unbridled self expression and see how your vocal appreciation is very quickly sincere.
- Make an effort. It may be down the road, but Italians (particularly those who were born in the mother country and arrived 50 years ago) celebrate being Italian with each gesture of the hand, as it grasps crusty bread. They often like to stay within a group of people from the same region in Italy. Get to know that region, it’s characteristics. Consider translating any printed material.
- Don’t be over familiar or try too hard. If you are not Italian you are not Italian. It’s good to be you.
- Get an introduction. Like carrying letters of introduction many years ago, to be introduced is to be accepted.
Enjoy yourself. It’s invigorating to be among one of the world’s great cultures!
Have you got an Italian experience or learning you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it. Commento!