Can cultural diversity create connection instead of isolation? In the following article, Green Jakobsen talks about a crucial aspect that can either create bonds or cause social isolation and impact the mental health of seafarers.
How can we turn cultural diversity into a force that binds rather than divides?
The finger that caused a cultural stir
A well-known cultural experience told by one of our former seafarers is this: “When I was still working on board, I once pointed a finger at a Filipino cook to get his attention.
I wanted to thank him for sending my taste buds dancing with his version of our popular Danish meatballs, “Frikadeller”. Oh, how they tasted exactly like the ones my mother prepared when I was a kid!
But good as my intention was, I sensed that the Cook felt rather uncomfortable. And I didn’t know why.
I later learned that unlike for us Danes, pointing a finger at someone is a no-go for Filipinos. Realising my mistake, I apologised, and thankfully, he accepted it”.
Now, this is one of the thousands of stories of cultural dynamics and communication barriers on board. Some stories end up positively. But some don’t.
In some cases, the differences have a bigger impact than the one mentioned here and can evolve into conflict, harassment and bullying, social isolation … or even suicide.
So how do we deal with culture’s complexities?
The first step is to develop cultural awareness
For starters, let’s swap our judgement hat for a curiosity helmet. Let’s ask questions to understand a behaviour so that we avoid making assumptions based on limited information or biases.
Cultural awareness makes us more open-minded, adaptable, and appreciative of the diversity around us.
Now, let’s explore a cultural aspect that often brings misunderstandings and conflicts – communication.
To learn about how people from different cultures communicate, use the following comparisons as a guide. These are based on Erin Meyer’s Culture Map scales.
Image Credits: Green Jakobsen
Unlock a world of connection and learning
When we take the time to understand and embrace our differences, we break barriers, bridge gaps, and cultivate an inclusive environment.
But that’s not all – we also tap into an incredible source of learning.
Ah, the wonders of cultural diversity! It’s like uncovering a hidden treasure – we discover fresh ideas and innovative solutions because everyone brings a unique set of knowledge and skills. And we also learn more about ourselves and how we are perceived by others.
A healthy mind in a healthy body: Adopting a holistic approach to well-being
Aside from managing cultural diversity to help prevent social isolation, we need to adopt a holistic approach to well-being that focuses not only on the physical but also on the mental aspect. We need to have, as the Romans say, “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”
The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) published a guideline called BACES, which aims to promote positive mental health.
Life at sea is not just about navigating the vast oceans. It’s also about navigating the vast melting pot of cultures. Add to it the unique conditions on board (separation from loved ones, limited opportunities to relax or socialise) – it’s a lot to handle!
So, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Remember, you are not alone, and there is strength in reaching out, Green Jakobsen highlights.