Remembering when I packed up and left my home country for the first time some years ago, there was no room for hesitation. Landed on a foreign land with just an hour flight away, I thought adaptation was going to be a soft ironing process. Having said that, it was not as straightforward in keeping track of challenges at a multi-nationals workplace.
Diversity, as beautiful as it sounds, consumes enormous effort in understanding, learning to respect, and and accepting differences that we may see and feel. Putting people with various backgrounds together to learn from each other, it seems quite easy to read as defined on management text books than actually living in it.
Apart from familiarising with each others’ background, there are also personal and professional agendas of others to be mindful for. Not everyone has similar interests and priorities. The level of emotions and commitments attached is complex.
Being accepted as part of a team is vital in achieving sense of belonging and settling comfortably into new life. At the beginning, I couldn’t understand the preconceived ideas and behaviours others had toward me. Likewise, I was carried away by my own judgement towards others. The floating notions of what we imagined of each other were merely speculative, but they were powerful enough in forming unnecessary negative emotions and affect behaviours.
It went on for months before one fine day a fellow colleague invited me for lunch by chance. It wasn’t just appetites fulfilled. We discovered stories of each other that we otherwise would never have chance in sharing during working hours. “Why are we here, why we behave the way we do, and how our families play a part in contributing to our values?” Combining both professional and personal aspects to form a bigger picture, a “relationship” was born alongside empathy out of a simple conversation.
And the next, the next, and the next. Proactively, I started to reach out to others.
I found commonalities that I wouldn’t have known if I continue treating others as strangers.
Gaps become a juncture. It’s more than a transactional relationship – It’s transformational relationship indeed.
Last week was my final week in Singapore after close to four years living in such diverse country. Apart from knowledge and experience gained from others of different cultures and backgrounds, both local and foreign, I’ve learned to keep an open mind in learning, accepting and respecting others as who they are without prejudices and assumptions. The challenges I saw in diversity at the beginning were all learning opportunities throughout the years.
Diversity is indeed as beautiful as it sounds, if we learn to embrace and allocate time and effort in developing and appreciating it.
Photo by Sandrachile