Scratching the surface of culture with respect by Charlotte Rydlund

Guest blogger - Charlotte Rydlund

What is culture? It’s such a broad topic that it’s hard to know where to start. Culture can mean so many things, and has a different meaning or connotation for everyone. Culture can be a country’s culture, a religion’s culture, an organization’s or company’s culture. It can even be a family culture.

Culture is something that we interact with every day, be it within our own culture (or comfort zone) or learning about and discovering new cultures (like traveling to a new country or joining a new organization). The way we interact with people is in part formed by our culture.

Do we shake hands when we meet? Or do we bow, hug, wave or even look away? All of this depends on culture. Even a simple gesture like greeting someone, makes you realize how important a role culture plays in our everyday lives.

Because culture is so ingrained in each of us in our own way, as long as you interact within your own cultural context, gestures like greeting or thanking someone comes naturally. However, it can sometimes feel like you’re leaving your comfort zone when you start branching out. When I was in Thailand last year, I remember being conscious of showing respect in greeting someone or thanking someone. I tried to remember how to say hello and thank you in Thai (even if it was with a very poor  accent). The same happened when I was in Kenya and Egypt. I wanted to show respect to their culture.

When interacting with a different culture, it can open your eyes to new ways of doing things that you would have never thought of or tried. It can teach you new things about yourself. This is very similar when experiencing coaching.

Having a certain culture means you naturally see things in a certain way. It can be a mixture of your national-religious-geographical and socio-economic culture, and of course your own personal perspective. When entering a coaching conversation it is possible that you feel stuck or see only one way forward. This is similar to interacting within your own culture and within your comfort zone. Just like when you interact with new cultures, coaching can help you learn something about yourself, about your possible blindspots, or about preconceptions that are keeping you from getting un-stuck.

A meaningful coaching conversation can help you gain a new perspective, and see new possibilities or ideas that weren’t there before. Just like travelling to a new destination to discover a new culture, every coaching conversation can take you somewhere you’ve never been before.