There are cultural differences within every cultural or ethnic group and it is important for a social worker to have a clear understanding of what behaviors within that culture mean. Within each culture there is also specific values and ethics regarding what is important and what is not acceptable behavior. Social workers must use professional ethics to navigate the differences in culture as it is professional ethics that provide the guidelines in terms of how a social worker must act within all professional situations.
When we work as social workers we are not looking only at the individual we are looking at the indiviudals micro, mezzo, and macro enviroment, meaning that we are looking at the area's of the indiviudal's life that affects the decisions that they make. An indiviudal's ethnic background is part of their macro enviroment which means that these are the laws and cultural values that they are expected to follow. These will effect the decisions that they make. As a social worker you may be working with cultures different than your own which means that while the laws of the macro system will be the same the cultural expectations may be different. It is important to understand how these expectations impact their behavior (e.g. in the Native American culture you do not look someone in the eye. In an Amercian culture this may be viewed as sneaky) as you could inappropriately interpert their behavior.