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I found this very interesting quote today:

“An expat is often someone who knows little about his own people he spent a long time with, but thinks he knows everything about the foreigners he has spent a short time with.” (T. Crossley)

Food for thought!

Intercultural competence begins with self-awareness

Have you already encountered your first intercultural issue during your holidays? Maybe it was in a restaurant where the waiter did not serve you exactly what you wanted; or maybe your neighbours in your holiday resort are awake when you normally sleep and vice versa. How do you deal with these problems? Do you walk away angry, do you change rooms and hope it won’t happen again?

Intercultural competence begins with knowing who you are and being sensitive to your own values and beliefs. What are your triggers and how do you behave? Where does this come from? How open are you to other views, cultures, habits etc.? A good way to start, is the Bennett scale or “Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity” (DMIS). You can find more info about it here (as I explained it in one of my previous posts). This scale is actually a good starting point to examine where you are so that you can become aware of your own actions/reactions. If you are in one of the ethnocentric stages for example, you will be more likely to think in stereotypes and not be able to appreciate different worldviews as you would feel threatened by these.

I personally always find that Europe during the summer is an excellent place to practice intercultural competence and skills. Why? Many people from different backgrounds are coming together in major touristic hubs so that you can not only hear and listen to many different languages but also observe different cultural behaviours all in one spot. What a great potpourri of people…

By the way: as I am now on wordpress.org and not anymore on wordpress.com, and if you don’t want to follow me with your e-mail address, you can simply click ‘edit’ in your wordpress reader and enter my URL (www.jennyebermann.com) in the text box at the top of the page. All my new posts will start appearing in your reader immediately! Happy reading! Jenny

What a journey: Intercultural Communications at its best!

Trail in Temperate Rainforest

Here I am again after three wonderful days in Italy; I have to say that I very rarely participated in a course where I felt completely at home and at the same time challenged by the subject. I honestly thought I knew a lot about intercultural communications and had to find out that much of what I actually knew needed to be seen in a completely different light and from a different angle. Did you know for example that following Dr. Milton J. Bennett:

  • Culture is an observational category constructed for the purpose of identifying various ways of coordinating meaning or action among people interacting within a boundary.
  • People within the boundaries see themselves as part of that culture.
  • Cultural identity is constructed by associating self-boundary with one or more cultural boundaries.
  • Culture as such does not exist in individuals; culture is a social phenomenon that exists in groups of people.

I therefore learned that because of my upbringing and background, I identify with different cultural groups, i.e. to name just a few:

  • European
  • Female
  • German/French

I also learned that stereotypes as “characteristics of society” don’t exist for groups or societies as they can only be applied to a particular type of person or thing. What we do see though are so-called generalizations, i.e. statements concerning the probability of a certain behavior in a certain context (the probability of patterns of behavior).

To give you one example: Americans have a higher probability of being individualists whereas Chinese have a higher probability of being collectivists; there are always deviants in the middle of the spectrum to which the probability does not apply. There can hence also be Chinese which are individualists and Americans who are collectivists.

I will definitely do my homework and read through all the materials that I have received so that I can already apply its principles to my day-to-day work. I will also certainly continue on that road as I really feel that the journey has just begun! Thank you IDRinstitute!