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Cruising Diversity: A kaleidoscope of cultures converge on the seas

I recently had the opportunity to go on a cruise in the eastern Mediterranean.  One thing I loved about this cruise was the diversity of cultures of both the crew and the fellow cruisers.  There were 42 countries represented from the cruisers and over 50 countries from the crew.  It was an interesting mix of mostly European countries, many from the US and then from various parts of the rest of the globe.  I was constantly impressed with the crew and how multi-lingual they all were.  Many times announcements were made in several languages with English and
Spanish as the mainstays.

It was interesting to observe the similarities and the differences, both equally intriguing.  On the differences there are the obvious ones like language.  When I would bump into someone accidently I would immediately express my apology with ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’ just to
realize that the person did not know what I was saying.  Yet by my expression and gestures I conveyed the meaning and we had an understanding.
There were differences on what was considered ‘early’ in the morning.  For some cultures 9:00am is quite late in the morning, for others, as was the folks in the cabin next to ours, we found out that a conversation in the hallway at 9:00am was considered rude when others were sleeping – my thought was, who’s sleeping at 9:00 in the morning?  Evidently lots of people!

What is equally interesting is what is common and traverses all cultures and countries.  For instance, things that are funny seem to be funny in any culture even when you don’t understand the language.  One of the traditions on the ship is the infamous ‘belly flop contest’ where men compete for the best belly flop into the pool.   Evidently this is funny no matter where you’re from.  There was a big audience to witness this amazing feat of, dare I say, ‘athletes’ exposing their stomachs while flying into the pool.  There were many antics like this where the crew put an effort into entertaining the patrons.  It was clear that humor transcends language!

When forming an organization it is a distinct advantage to have diversity of skills, background, cultures, perspectives, personalities, gender, the list is endless.  I have often heard that sometimes managers are reticent have so much diversity for a fear that it will be difficult to have the team bond when they are coming from different perspectives.  There are many ways to bring teams together.  Certainly a common goal can be an initial way to rally the team to work together.  And, I believe we can learn something from the diversity of a cruise.  Bringing in teambuilding exercises that are enjoyable to everyone can transcend culture and have the team work together outside of the normal work environment.  While a belly flop contest is not necessary, maybe an outdoor challenge or day at the park doing something as a team can help bring everyone together on some common ground.  And, have some fun in the process.

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