If you are in Buenos Aires, or anywhere else abroad, and wonder how you’ll manage cultural differences, remember you have plenty experiences dealing with cultural differences.
If culture is made out of values, beliefs, habits, and rules of conduct, your entire life has been about understanding and connecting to others who hold different values, beliefs, habits, and rules of conduct. Think about all the diversity that has been part of your life -all your life. Think about how you have managed to connect to your own sister or brother who holds such different values? What about relating to people who are at the other end of the political spectrum? Have you had close friends navigating different sexual orientations or gender identities? How about your work colleagues who seem to come from another planet? How has it been for you, to live in your city and relate to those with less, more, same money and social connections as you?
You have been navigating diversity all your life, whether you call it cultural, psychological, religious, sexual, or ideological. You have experience. Trust yourself.
“Trusting yourself”, in my opinion, is not about closing down and moving around oblivious of differences. Trusting yourself is actually using your experiences and positive attitudes to meet others in ways that resect diversity, both in you and in others. If you are open and accepting of differences, and commit to respecting yourself and others, your encounters, whether in Buenos Aires or back home, will be quite culturally successful.
Now that you are in Buenos Aires, what tools from your life experiences can you use to navigate being here and making the best out of participation in the local culture? In my experience, wanting to connect, welcoming uncertainty, trusting my good intentions, intentionally relaxing, and, yes, tolerating embarrassment, have all proved to be great support for navigating diversity, cross-cultural or not.
How about you? Take a moment to think about what helps you in contexts of uncertainty and differences. (By the way, and a side note, you are not the representative of the US, George Bush, Trump or decisions made two hundred years ago. But this is a topic for another post. Write to me if you want).
Being abroad can be a great opportunity to practice flexibility and playfulness. Give yourself credit. Think about your many successes navigating differences. Trust yourself.
The next time you enter a cross-cultural situation here, set the intention to be kind to yourself and others, connect, be yourself. The person in front of you will be enriched by your unique contributions, as you will also. In some contexts, of course, fitting in may be more important than appreciating diversity However, I hope you can be strong enough to be gentle in your expectations.
It is ok to not fit some times. In cross-cultural situations, like in any context of differences, we may not be able to act effectively and will need to be open to making mistakes. It is okay to be awkward and make mistakes. Be kind to yourself and others. If you keep an open mind, a kind attitude, and allow for mistakes in you and in the others, you experience will be less pressured by criticism (whether yours or anyone else’s).
By allowing yourself to be you and welcoming diversity, you will help create more enjoyable and enriching experiences.
Buenos Aires is enriched by having you here.