In the eye of the beholder: Ethnic culture as a lens

Document Type

Book Chapter



Place of Publication



Omari, M. & Paull, M.


School of Business and Law




Originally published as: Amari, M. & Sharma, M. (2016). In the eye of the beholder: Ethnic culture as a lens. In M. Omari & M. Paull (Eds.), Workplace abuse, incivility and bullying (pp. 39-54). London: Routledge. Available here.


It is said that ‘diversity is the spice of life’, that is, differences add interest and ‘flavour’, but what if the spice is unpalatable, unfamiliar, hard to reconcile/digest, or just too exotic? Will it still add ‘flavour’ or will it cause discomfort or frustration? Human nature is such that people are comfortable with notions that are known to them; this provides certainty and stability. Differences can often cause unpredictability, and may require some degree of flexibility in being able to see multiple potential perspectives; tolerance, understanding, and eventually acceptance come from the ability to appreciate and reconcile differences.

Ethnic culture (hereafter referred to as culture) is multi-dimensional, and provides a lens through which behaviours are perceived and interpreted. There are many famous and well-used cultural frameworks which compartmentalise value systems, attitudes, and resultant standards of behaviour. Often, stereotypes are used for ease of explanation and categorisation; however, caution must be exercised as diversity can be seen even within a seemingly homogenous group. The same behaviour may also be interpreted and construed differently by diverse groups if the points of reference, core values, and attitudes are not the same: resulting in an ‘eye of the beholder’ perspective.