We are living in more global and multicultural environment. This is the case even for the countries which are not very multicultural in population like for example Poland or countries which are not open for traveling and migration. But we are all connected with the world and other cultures via TV and Internet, and this situation requires from us more intercultural competencies.
I like the definition of intercultural competencies of Jane M. Bennett as follows:
“Intercultural competence; a set of cognitive, affective and behavioural skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.”
Some people might have reasoning the aim of such costly events, especially in time of crises. This question was also raised in Poland, the media have asked before and after the EURO 2012 for the benefits of the event. Most of people have founded that organizing the Euro 2012 was a good idea. This information was wildly spread, but very rare you could read WHY people find organizing Euro 2012 as beneficial for Poland. For me the list of them is quite large.
Most of the people have quoted that the new stadiums, especially that in Warsaw, called by many foreign journalists the most beautiful stadium in Europe and the new highways are the biggest benefits. Many journalist has proclaimed that Poland did a civilization step forward.
I agree with this claim, but I think that the most valuable benefit of Euro 2012 we did,, was in regards to social multicultural awareness of Poles. We have gained thousands of volunteers working with foreign visitors who have experienced different culture, we have gained outlook how the fans of different nationalities behave and we have experienced that people can unite on something higher than the score of the match and their sympathy to a national football team. We have learned that people can unite on common value – friendship and joy of being together.
It was really heart-warming to see how the fans from the country, which has lost the match, celebrate together with fans of the country, which has won. People on the streets and the cafes have found common understanding over the result on match, they just have found spending time together as valuable and enjoying.
Media has presented the extraordinary friendship built between Poland and Irish fans. It was amazing – hearing the Irish people expressing “feeling in Poland as at home”, telling “Polish people are as us…have same patriotism, romantic nature and the same approach to life”. The friendship was build not only on private level, but also on public level – the officials of city Poznan, where the most of Irish have stayed, declared as follow up action continuing the official relation and exchange of cultural events between both countries.
What have we learned from EURO 2012?
We have learned that people from different nationalities, even the football fans, can spend time together in a peaceful way, that people all over the world are the same – what they need are the social relation and finding common understanding.
Poles have experienced something extraordinary – for the first time we have united in a joyful event. Up to now we have united mostly in painful and tragic events like the death of the Pope II, the Smolensk tragedy or historical event. It has turned out that we can unite in happy event and celebrate it. This was really a relief for polish people and new uncover of us.
As society we have proofed that we are tolerant, open–minded society and have a lot of curiosity for foreigners
When looking for the model of the Cultural Competencies, the Euro 2012 was for Poles the best opportunity to exercise the cultural competencies in 3 aspects:
- When preparing for Euro 2012 we should have done the audit of our cultural self-awareness, answering the questions – Who we are as the host country? Are we tolerant? What we need to learn as host about international audience? (Cultural self-awareness)
- What is our knowledge about the culture as such –what culture means for us? (Culture general knowledge)
- What do we know about the culture of the countries from which fans will come to Poland? What do we know about the difference in approach to life (like time, space, food, communication style, taboos, symbols etc.) of the visitors from countries participating in the Euro 2102? What should we learn to communicate better? What should we avoid in communication? On which common values communication and sympathy can be built on? (Culture-specific knowledge)
Polish people have the opinion of being very hospitable and generous host. Famous polish proverb “Guest at home is like God at home” confirms this, so we have very important prerequisite for good reception of foreigners – open hearts. Due to the Jane M. Benett model, cultural competent person should have also an open mind – that means be curios about other cultures (How do they think? How do they feel? What is important for them? What do we need to know to understand each other?), recognize the differences and acknowledge them as cognitive flexibility approach.
Preparation in Poland for Euro 2012 with cultural course for volunteers, many articles about culture awareness in the media and experiencing the Euro 2012 was the best way for Poles to model our approach and develop behavioural skills in intercultural communication. I think Poles did the lesson.
Model of Cultural Competencies of Jane M.Bennett
The idea of sports’ events –Olympics in London have also shown that this is the best way for raising the cultural awareness, this is one of those few things in life that bonds people of all cultures, ages, races and religions, together like no other event.
The opening ceremony was unique opportunity to see cultural symbols of the countries expressed in the way how some national teams were dressed and great opportunity to observe different approach to victory or defeat.
I appreciate the idea of organizing the Summer Olympics on different continent and in different cultural region and I welcome the next Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro (for the first time in South America) and in 2020 in one of three candidate cities: Madrid, Tokyo or Istanbul.
For Polish people the London Olympic Games was also the good opportunity to see the management of age diversity – as many of volunteers were elderly people. We have still to make up in this area.
What are conclusions?
The organisation of international events brings a lot of benefits not only the host country but for the whole world as it is the best opportunity to recognize the cultural differences, learn to acknowledge them and enjoy the diversity.
I see my blog as an input in the world into the raising of the cultural awareness and better understanding people from different cultures.
Wiola Malota author of the blog is the expert of multicultural communication and management, Coach, Consultant and Trainer in cross-culture communication and management.