Culture & Identity

A recent discussion on Bloom  facebook page,, is still triggering my mind. I decided to sit down and write something about this. It concerns the cultural factor. How do we experience our own culture and how do we experience other cultures?

Currently I am living  in a very multi diverse European society and I sometimes wonder how all these different cultures interact and deal with often contradicting beliefs systems. And how did I deal with this when I lived abroad?

Is culture a chain around your ankles holdings you back from personal growth? Or is it an opportunity to look at yourself? What parts of your own culture suits your inner self? Can you choose which parts of culture you integrate as if you were picking out clothes that suits you well?

Do you see culture as an opportunity or rather as an obstacle for personal growth?

I believe that culture can be as liberating as it can be restraining, it all comes down to being aware of your cultural self and making conscious decisions.  For me it comes down to being aware of how you perceive culture and how you deal with that part of you that is related and structured around cultural beliefs. Negotiating with yourself  and society at large on what parts and aspects of culture you integrate or not is a process that can be a key factor for personal growth.

It is this negotiation you have with yourself on who you really want to be that can create personal growth or not. It is your choice.

What parts are holding you back to be the person you really inspire to be?

By Sarah Neirinckx

I love cultural differences

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities  – Stephen Covey

I love working with people from different cultural backgrounds. It gives me the opportunity to get to know myself better and it gives me the opportunity to understand the other better. It is like discovering a new landscape, it is always a very exciting journey. In our workshop we discover and rediscover the mental and cultural maps of each other so to stimulate intercultural sensitivity.
Looking at what we have in common and in what ways we differ from each other and this at different levels, cultural and the personal.

Replaying what has been said during the workshop I realized that we were actually discussing the phenomena of fixed mindset versus growth mindset on a cultural level. Some people tend to view themselves as more fixed and unchanging regardless of the situation while other people see themselves as more dynamic and changing with the situation.
People with a more fixed mindset tend to think “I am who I am” and “They are who they are” no matter what the situation is versus people who have more of a growth mindset focus on the situation, people can act very differently depending on the situation.

“What sets the world in motion is the interplay of differences.”  – Octavio Paz

For many people with a growth mindset cultural background it can be quite a confrontation meeting people with a more fixed mindset, and vice versa.

Your mindset influences your interpretation of certain situations.

For just a few seconds image the following:
“a man is running late for work and declines to give a homeless man some money”

  • How would you interpret this situation?
    The man is selfish (characteristic of the man as the cause of the behavior, fixed mindset)
  • The man was in a rush because they had to go to work (situational factor as the cause of the behavior, growth mindset
How do you interpret different culture behavoir?

When you enter a culture where it is not a custom to engage in or spent extensive time in greeting eachother, do you see this as:

  • These people are so cold and are not interested in me
  • These people have a very tight schedule

After living abroad for a long time and returning back to Belgium I was struck by the phenomenon of overemphasis personality factors rather than the situational factors to explain someone’s behavior.

Such things we discussed in and reflect upon in our workshops and this is how we stimulate Intercultural Sensitivity:

  • Would you describe your culture as a fixed or growth mindset?
  • Would you describe yourself as having a fixed or growth mindset?

If you have a growth mindset is it harder for you to work in a fixed mindset environment and vice versa?
Would you like to test your intercultural sensitive for FREE, click here.

By Sarah Neirinckx