The following are tips for building cross-cultural relationships. They are adapted from information provided by, and build upon, the presentation by the Centre for Multicultural Youth on cross-cultural communication at our recent Mentor Debrief...
(Picture from Australian Youth Mentoring Network)
Be culturally aware - Recognise your own cultural beliefs and biases. Be open, respectful, non-judgmental and willing to learn about the culture of your mentee.
Discuss cultural differences and similarities - Discuss differences in verbal and non-verbal communication.This can be fun and helps to build the relationship. (For example, in Australian culture, making eye contact is considered honest and upfront, in other cultures it is disrespectful.) Listen carefully and speak clearly in language that is appropriate to the level of English of your mentee.
Be conscious of the pressures faced by young people - Young people from refugee or migrant backgrounds are faced with the extra pressures of negotiating a new culture, language and systems. They may also have traumatic backgrounds. This is in addition to the usual pressures faced by young people associated with school, work, peer and family relationships and responsibilities! Be aware and empathetic, don't pry.
Use a strengths-based approach - Emphasise the strengths of the young person and promote pathways where these strengths can be explored.
Don't assume - Everyone is an individual. Two people from the same country can have very different cultures. Do not stereotype according to race, gender, dress or sexuality. Ask and encourage lots of questions.
Be patient, persistent and consistent - Relationships take time. Build trust and be supportive. Maintain regular contact. Keep promises.
Be aware of power dynamics - In some cultures young people hold mentors in very high esteem. Do not abuse this power. Use a personable approach, encourage questions and pursue ideas and activities led by the young person.
Have fun! - Make sure activities are engaging for both of you. Mentoring should be a fun experience for both mentor and mentee. Laughter breaks down barriers...