“Judge people as individuals, not as cultural products.”

I partly agree. We are human and unique, in that sense we have individual differences. At the same time we have so much in common. Seeing each other as human beings instead of only Italian or American, gives us the chance to understand each other. To look beyond nationality. Maybe we don’t understand a certain reaction in a certain situation (Why does he raise his voice? How unprofessional!), but we can understand and acknowledge the behavior (sometimes I raise my voice, but not at work). You might want to take personality traits as a starting point and get to know someone from there.

But if you ignore the fact that there are cultural differences, you will have a hard time understanding the other person unbiasedly. You will look at him/her through your own cultural and coloured glasses, of which you may not be aware that you are wearing them. You risk misinterpretation. (She is weird, isn’t she?! Why doesn’t she just…)

Your norms and values and the values of Americans are based on long long history. It has its beauty to see that your ancestors were dealing with certain situations, found solutions and that still today it has impact. For instance ancestors who were concerned with fighting incoming water or sailed to distant places (In the Netherlands) or dealing with changing leaders (in Belgium) and that these aspects still influences the way you were raised, think and act.

Let’s see each other as human beings and let’s try to decode the cultural differences and respect each other. By understanding the Americans, their message, their way of acting, their values, you will able to understand what they mean and interpret it well. You understand what kind of message or ‘package’ they need in order to understand you well. Cultural knowledge and skills are essential to meet your objectives.