To Know Thyself: The Importance of Cultural Self-Awareness

Cultural self-awareness is fundamental, and it oftentimes is not stressed enough. As college students, we are in a sort of awkward transition phase where we aren’t children, but we aren’t grown adults either. This particular stage we are currently going through emphasizes the importance of cultural self-awareness. What does it mean to be culturally self-aware? Cultural self-awareness suggests our personal experience with other cultures. It refers to being aware of our strengths and weaknesses in relation to other cultures we are exposed to, and to develop a clear vision of our priorities and goals from those cultures. Constant connection to personal emotions, thoughts, and behaviors allows for self-control and the ability to process cultural environments profoundly and effectively.

Growing up in Argentina as a Korean personally enabled me to experience multicultural identity clash. I remember trying so hard to convince myself and others in my surroundings that I was Argentine—not Korean. As I attempted to fit in with my Argentine classmates, I shunned my Korean culture; I felt embarrassed to look Asian and speak a language that was drastically different from Spanish. As I matured over the years, I was able to reflect on this period in my life. My personal exposure to Argentine culture, which is entirely different from my family’s Korean culture, allowed me to develop my self-awareness skills. I became more culturally sensitive—instead of disregarding my Korean culture, I learned to respect and value my unique multicultural identity. 

Developing cultural self-awareness through personal experiences with Korean and Argentine culture has been a fruitful experience. I have become increasingly open-minded and gained lifelong friendships and meaningful connections. Most importantly, I learned to be in check with myself and found meaning in the effects of being multicultural. Cultural self-awareness allows us to hone our communication skills and achieve success, but the most valuable trait we can gain from it is genuine self-confidence and an enriched worldview. It is a fundamental skill that enables us to prevent cultural conflicts and develop an open mind.