At the end of this module, you will be able to...
- Describe culture, intercultural competence, and ethnocentricity.
- Determine ways of developing intercultural competence and combating ethnocentricity .
- Assess your own cultural profile and how it relates to cultures around the world.
Like most learning content, you will get out what you invest in. We recommend having a paper, pencil, and your thinking cap ready for use as you engage with this learning module.
Culture is “a learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, norms, and social practices, which affect the behaviors of a relatively large group of people” (Lustig and Koester 2013, 25).
Write down as many differences in culture you may encounter abroad!
Some cultural differences include:
- perception of time
- family structures
- personal space
- body language
- gender roles/norms
- food and meal times
- greetings and communication
- ideas about ethnicity/race
- and those you wrote down!
Brainstorm: What areas may present challenges for you personally? How might you respond to them?
Understanding cultural differences – and how to navigate them – will make your experience more comfortable, and help you better understand the people and places around you.
Intercultural Competence is the ability to communicate EFFECTIVELY and APPROPRIATELY with people from other cultures.
Write down 3 reasons you'd want intercultural competence...
Developing your intercultural competence will promote:
- Meaningful communication
- Perspective taking
- Strengthened relationships
- Reduced conflict
Think aloud- how does one develop intercultural competency?
Did you say...
- Read and research the culture
- Study and practice the local language
- Seek clarification- ask instead of assuming
- Look for someone to coach you
- Don't be afraid to ask for help
There are many ways to develop intercultural competency. Like any competency, it begins with a desire to learn.
Aside from a fancy new word you can use to wow your friends...
Ethnocentricity is the act of judging another culture and believing that the values and standards of one's own culture are superior – especially with regard to language, behavior, customs, and religion. (McCornack, and Ortiz, 2007, 109)
While ethnocentric tendencies can strengthen the connection between in-members of a group, it can also cause divisions and conflict among people of different groups.
Can you think of an example of ethnocentric behavior?
Any time someone criticizes, judges, or condemns another for a difference they are likely being ethnocentric. When people reinforce their own groups, such as saying your nation has the best athletes at the Olympics, they may also be considered ethnocentric.
Which of the following would be considered ethnocentric behavior?
- Saying, "Eating with chopsticks is too complicated. Forks are better."
- Showing disgust when offered insects, or something unfamiliar, to eat.
- Becoming impatient because your homestay family eats meals late.
- Plugging your nose when you walk by dried fish in the street market.
All of these examples show some level of ethnocentricity.
How do I combat ethnocentric behaviors?
- Suspend judgement.
- Question, why might it be this way. You'll likely discover interesting reasons why cultures operate in certain ways.
- Try something new. Engaging in new cultural activities can widen your global perspective and reorient your cultural compass.
- Work on developing your intercultural competence by reexamining your own cultural traits and how they may appear odd to others.
*This is not to say you should try everything and anything another culture practices. It is ok to respect your own boundaries, as long as you don't devalue someone else's experience or practices. Culture is relative- consider what you are seeing based on the context you are currently in, instead of judging your host culture based on your own context. Rather than making a value-based judgement against another way of living, take the opportunity to learn more about your host community and the contextual underpinning of why it operates in certain ways.
As individuals, we have a cultural profile. Likewise, countries have a national cultural profile.
Once you know what YOUR cultural profile is, you can predict where conflict or confusion may arise.
Be aware: although cultural dimensions provide generalizations about national character and how to compare one culture to another, they do not necessarily describe each individual. Remember there are sub-groups with the larger culture group that will often present different or even opposing dimensions. You probably have realized this when thinking about how New Mexico may be different than other states in the US, or how northern NM differs from southern NM, or even how you differ from members of your family.
Comparing Cross-Culturally: Take the quick self assessment below to see how your cultural profiles aligns with your birth country's profile. Take it twice to see how you align with your host country. Take it over and over again as many times as you'd like!
Want to dig deeper? University Libraries provide free access to the book this self-assessment is based on via e-book, so you can continue to learn how to navigate and decode cultures.
Created with images by AMRITA GHANTY - "Lah and Ladakh is by far the best destination to travel in India. Its so calm and serene and one visit will never be enough.Even though this shot is from my first visit and I was so restless to discover the whole place, this sight was so relaxing" • Jason Leung - "untitled image" • Yannis Papanastasopoulos - "untitled image" • Larry Costales - "Adam's Needle Yucca under overcast sky in White Sands National Park, New Mexico" • Nicola Nuttall - "These were some random items found in Belton House, a wealthy English estate where many items have been preserved as left by the Brownlow family." • Martin Balle - "untitled image" • Nareeta Martin - "The sign tells us how far this spot is from a collection of different places on earth." • Farzad Mohsenvand - "Urban Cafe - کافه اربن" • Steve Gale - "Selfie" • Rommel Davila - "I found this amazing door in a trip go Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. We were drinking some hot chocolate and on our way out, I spotted this great and creative door." • Lisheng Chang - "untitled image" • Denise Jans - "untitled image" • Hello I'm Nik 🎞 - "A quote that couldn’t be truer." • Duangphorn Wiriya - "Globe Map" • Shane Hauser - "There are so many spots that we visit over and over. Lake Louise has been photographed countless times and this photo is not the first of its kind. But on this fall morning we arrived just as the fog began to lift from the lake and a light dusting of snow textured the landscape and it was just a little bit more beautiful than usual." • Kelly Sikkema - "Blank Paper and Pencil" • Analia Baggiano - "Happy Hand"