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The world as humans know it is getting smaller and smaller due to globalization and technological improvements. The two has made it possible for people from various cultural, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds to communicate, work together and travel from one country to another half a world away easily. When people meet, they also bring their cultural background with them. This makes it essential for people to have cultural awareness and understand cultural diversity.
Cultural awareness is the recognition and acceptance that people are all shaped by each one’s own unique and specific cultural backgrounds (Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing [CCDA], 2006).
Cultural awareness is the sensitivity and respect for cultural diversity or the fact that people from various cultures have different values, beliefs and traditions. Different histories and traditions result in culturally-prescribed particulars on how people should perceive and relate with other people.
A person is culturally aware when he or she celebrates the world’s colorful cultural richness and assortment instead of discriminating against other cultures, especially against minorities.
Cultural awareness is being able to see through the lens of another culture and the openness to understand another culture instead of simply labeling it weird or “wrong” in view of one’s own culture. Having cultural awareness is essential in facing the technology-dependent world’s unseen cultural challenges.
One technological development that has been very beneficial for people is the Internet. Through the Internet, people can communicate and share information regardless of time and distance. It has even allowed for the existence of virtual classrooms or online education wherein one can share classes without any physical meeting.
Technology has brought people closer; however, the fact the no one can see and determine the race or background of other people lays a hidden trap.
Without knowing that they are talking to someone from another cultural background, people can easily alienate others and be called a racist because of their insensitivity to another. Being culturally aware, having the capacity to understand and appreciate the rich cultural diversity, is thus essential for the success of this computer-mediated communication because it increases one’s sensitivity to the non-physical and non-vocal communication styles of people.
Cultural awareness keeps one from making generalizations and informs one about appropriate communication styles (CCDA, 2006). Finally, cultural awareness generally promotes an atmosphere of respect for everyone regardless of culture.
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