Cultural Adaptation and Global Citizenship – Navigating Cultural Differences

By Brent

As the world becomes more interconnected, global citizenship education (GCIE) is becoming increasingly popular in schools and universities. While GCIE can be beneficial to individuals in promoting tolerance and understanding of others, it is important that educators remain critically literate to avoid reinforcing systems of oppression through their pedagogy. Whether for work, study, or travel, many people are moving from their home countries to other places in the world. Successfully adapting to a new culture is essential for success abroad. In addition to facilitating professional goals, it also contributes to a person’s overall psychological well-being. Research has shown that individuals who are culturally competent adapt more easily to new environments and experiences. However, a number of factors influence cultural adaptation. One of the key variables is whether the adversity experienced in adapting to a new culture occurs before or after the move. This adversity can take the form of either a negative experience, such as experiencing discrimination or feeling unwelcome in a new place, or a positive experience, such as gaining acceptance and belonging in the host country.

The current research examined how both of these experiences impact a person’s ability to identify as a global citizen. In addition, the study considered how individual beliefs and values influence a person’s ability to identify as global citizen. Beliefs about the role of culture in society and a person’s own identity are both important for identification as a global citizen. Specifically, the study examined the influence of the belief that cultures are intentional worlds filled with cultural patterns that direct and shape human experiences. Believing that intentional worlds exist relates to a person’s perception of the meaning of their own culture and the other cultures in the world. This in turn influences a person’s abilities to perceive and interact with different cultures and their effects on human behavior.

Another factor that influenced cultural adaptation was the direction of relocation. It was found that a person’s ability to adapt to the United States was greater when they relocated from Germany than when they moved from the United States to Germany. This asymmetrical effect may be explained by the fact that German values, attitudes, and behaviors are more compatible with the American culture than are German values, attitudes, and behaviors with the German culture. In general, a higher level of GCIE was predicted by a greater endorsement of prosocial values. These include valuing diversity (appreciation and interest in diverse cultures), promoting social justice (endorsement of the fair and equitable treatment of all persons), environmental sustainability (concern for and connection to the natural environment), and intergroup helping (desire to aid others outside of one’s own ingroup).

In summary, the findings from this study support the idea that a person’s ability to identify as being a global citizen is largely dependent upon his or her willingness to embrace cultural differences and engage with the world in a respectful manner. As the world continues to become more interconnected, it is important for individuals to engage with each other as valued and integral members of our emerging world community.

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