It may come as a surprise, but most Americans are bicultural (at minimum), according to the Interethnic Proximity Indexsm. If you are bicultural, you identify with two predominant cultures (if you identify with more than two you are multicultural).
You may have been raised in a household with Latino parents, for example, within a “traditional” American neighborhood, and, as an adult, you may choose to identify with American culture, or Latino culture, or both.
As a professional, you may consider yourself a Latino employee, and you are not just a part of the American majority, but therefore also have an edge in the workplace. As bicultural employees are now the majority, it is hence important to realize the complexities of intertwining cultural identities.
As a professional, you probably only use cultural norms from the dominant culture in which you are employed, i.e. American professional culture. Now, arguably, there are a wide variety of “American” professional cultures, from old-school cubicle traditionalism to new age rock-climbing-beer-drinking modernity.
No matter which of these you are working within, however, they are all still arguably “American.” We could get even more heady and dive into the depths of what is really “American,” but lets stick with a wider perspective, and focus on how other cultures within America can interplay in the workplace in a beneficial way.
The benefits of diversity in the workforce were disseminated widely in 2016, but the benefits of biculturalism remain lesser known. Although overlapping, diversity and biculturalism only intersect on certain topics. Diversity refers to more than just cultural identity.
For example, diversity can refer only to one’s heritage, which does not always mean that one has the culturally inherited norms of that ethnicity. Diversity can also refer to disability or capabilities, gender, and other characteristic identifiers.
Biculturalism, however, solely refers to characteristics, skills, knowledge, and other traits attributed to a culture you were raised in or are acculturated into. Put simply, for example, you might have Latino roots, but were not raised within Latino culture at all, therefore your ethnicity may be Latino, but you are not bicultural necessarily. If you are truly bicultural though, you have a deep understanding of two cultures in a unique way.
Biculturalism, then, is the under-appreciated gem for workplace opportunity. For example, the benefits of understanding niche markets as a cultural insider because of your biculturalism are unparalleled. In essence, because you are from a culture, you are often considered an “expert” in the culture, and therefore, at minimum, can give insights into tastes, norms, acceptable standards, interest levels, and so on.
For example, as a Latino you might better understand if an advertisement for a certain product is insulting to other Latinos (or not). Hence, you can offer invaluable perspective to any company, because multicultural consumers are now a key part of any clientele. Not only can you understand your cultures, how they collide, what is acceptable, and so on, but you can also become a voice for your “other” culture. This is an opportunity for you to show leadership, use unique skills, and stand out.
The benefits of biculturalism logically should run parallel with the benefits of being bilingual, diversity, and intercultural connections. Hence, being bicultural provides a strong opportunity for success. You never know, understanding your own biculturalism may even get you promoted, or land you your next job!