The Power of Being Aware

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How did you get to the United States? How does it feel to grow up in an island? Do you people have malls over there? Are there highways? Did you learn English in Puerto Rico?  These are all questions I’ve been asked at some point in my life. To be honest, they make me feel ignored.

I have lived a very privileged life, and by privileged I do not mean “the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society” as defined by The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I mean that I have had great opportunities as a result of my background. I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I have had the pleasure of living in various countries including Costa Rica, Canada, and now the Unites States.  Living in all of these different places has made me understand how important it is to know about different cultures.

To know about different cultures is to be aware. It’s to know that there are other people with different backgrounds all around you.  Understanding this fact and taking advantage of it will make you a more successful person, because it will allows you to create better relationships with others around you and this is incredibly powerful. When you take the time to appreciate other cultures around you, it actually makes people from other parts of the world feel important instead of simply ignored.

When I meet someone that asks me if there are shopping malls on the island, I am annoyed. On the other hand, when another person knows about Puerto Rico’s current status and asks me a more insightful question, I immediately gain respect for that person. Furthermore, I am equally impressed by someone from a Latin American country that knows about the main issues Italy and Greece are facing today and can speak about these issues logically when they meet someone from those countries.

I’ve experienced the benefits of appreciating different cultures first hand. Last summer, I worked at PepsiCo as a sales representative. Initially, I was very successful in stores with Hispanic owners and unlucky in those with Asian or Indian owners. However, once I understood how you were supposed to act and speak with these owners depending on their culture, I was much more successful.  What I mean is that understanding different cultures will help me succeed in my career because I will be able to communicate and establish better relationships with people from different parts of the world when I know where they come from and how they themselves would act with someone from their country and culture.  I was blessed to be part of both the Puerto Rican and United States’ culture because it has helped me learn this important lesson.  I am excited to grow in my career and I know now that people from around the world, not just from Puerto Rico and the United States, will be a part of my whole experience, so it is up to me to learn about their cultures and make the most out of every interaction.

We live in a world in which business has become global, and it is up to you to make relationships and impress people and not to be a little fish in a huge ocean. For that reason, I advise you to make an effort to learn about different cultures and countries. I’m not asking you to know every single detail about every country, what I’m asking is for you to be intrigued. When you meet someone from a place you haven’t heard about, ask worthwhile and respectful questions, not basic ones that won’t teach you anything.  Be curious about the world because it has a lot to offer, and you will be able to find hidden treasures in every country and culture you visit and learn about.


Estefanía Vale Guerra

Bryant University, Class of 2016

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