Working cross culturally is something that, as we’ve learnt, is not very hard. In terms of our ‘African time’ this might sound weird to the UK volunteers but as for us national volunteers, it’s normal. For instance 10am for us is 10:30am. We are surprised at how well UK volunteers are coping with early starts, as we have heard they often lie in till 10am at home! We are glad the UK volunteers are able to cope with Zimbabwean culture.
Something interesting is that we as national volunteers guide them in some cultural aspects, since we know our local cultures well and people expect ‘Ubuntu’ (cooperation) in business, so in order to keep things coherent we have to give them directions in most cases. Also the need to cooperate and work as a team, so as to reach a consensus whenever there are misunderstandings.
We all now have the spirit of cultural relativism, understanding each other bearing in mind the fact that what is wrong in one society might be right in the other. As national volunteers we are able to listen to and learn new ideas from the UK volunteers. We are able to teach them local language and have fun, and the good part of it is that we don’t separate ourselves from them, but rather team up together!
I have learnt that working cross culturally is a learning curve, where we as national volunteers learn new ideas from the UK volunteers and, since we were not time conscious, we are now time conscious!
Written by ICS volunteer Martha