Culture is the backbone of any organization and has a huge impact on employee engagement. How do you feel when you are immersed in a culture completely different from your own?

Do you resist? Or, do you simply accept the differences as you encounter them? I would posit that it depends. Do you dwell on feelings of frustration when you can’t do or get what you want or what you are used to?

Upon reflection on my two weeks in Colombia there were a number of differences between life in Colombia and in the U.S.

What is it like when you visit a place life Colombia and have an average command of the language?

Imagine some of these cultural differences:

The economy: one dollar is roughly equivalent to $330,000 pesos.

The crazy traffic: Driving in Bogota is like driving in Los Angeles on a holiday weekend when the whole of LA is leaving the city on the exact same freeway.

Social etiquette: When you approach someone in public to ask a question, you must express niceties first. “Disculpame por favor, buenos dias. Se puede ayudarme?” (“Excuse me please, good morning, can you help me?”)

With all of that said, what similarities can you find in a different culture? What common bonds can you establish?

Respect for and love of people and family are high in Colombian culture. If you are kind to others, they will respond kindly to you. When an elderly person needs help, a family member moves in with them and other family members bring meals every day.

Just imagine during this Black History Month truly getting to know people who are different from ourselves, and looking for the common ground, rather than dwelling on our differences.

One way to find similarity is love of music and dance, as I have done here:

Gratitude for what you have and not comparing yourself to others is also a common feeling.

Just imagine if we could apply these simple principles to corporate cultures?

Start by sharing respect and kindness for one another. This means respect for one’s time and workload, meaning showing care for employees by not expecting the unreasonable from them.

Spread and encourage the seeking of intrinsic satisfaction in our work.

And last but not least, start by looking for similarities so that we can communicate and work together on a common, shared purpose.

Other than working hard to learn the language, finding shared joy for music and dance, while seemingly simple, is how I mostly connected as you can see in this video.