Working with someone from another country or culture has become more important particularly for those who live near to the Mexican border. Many Hispanic people have moved into my area.
With more diversity come varied expectations of service as well as language barriers. Customer service training consultants are adding diversity to their curriculum because customers have varied backgrounds and expect customized service. Employers realize they must attract, retain, and promote a full spectrum of people to be successful.
As a school counselor, it became important for me to learn more about the Spanish culture. First, I took two semesters of Spanish at the local university to at least be able to read what the parents and their children might write.
Language is one of the major barriers to being successful with foreign workers. The use of clichés and idioms often present a problem for ESL workers since most of them can only translate literally the words. Cross culture humor must also be handled carefully. The ESL speaker may not understand what is being said. For example, if a person were to say: “Here is the good news and bad news. Here is the bad news. I had an accident and demolished my car. Here is the good news. It got 32 miles to the gallon.” They might not see any humor at all in the rather humorous but sad news.
Be careful of the word “Yes.” It does not necessarily mean agreement. It could mean that the person understands what the person said. Learn the difference between yes, not, and maybe to the ESL speaker.
Personal space is different in cultures. When someone puts a hand on the other person’s shoulder, this may be an intrusion into the other person’s space. Learn what is acceptable about touching and what is not. Touching may also have different sexual connotations as well.
Learn about the culture of the worker. Food, clothing, government, likes and dislikes—knowing these things will help the person to stem the cultural barrier. Then, share the same information when possible with the ESL worker.
The only kind of attitude to have when working closely with anyone particularly someone from another country is positive. Make the other person feel welcome and secure in work space.
Be sure to learn what offends people from the other culture. That will stand the person in good stead, so there will never be the opportunity to offend the ESL person. Promote team spirit by including the other person in all activities that occur.
Make the other person feel that he is a part of the team and is a valued member.