Culture is a central concept of this research project. But what is the meaning of this word? There is no standard definition for it. As a synthesis of various conceptions, culture can be regarded as being manifested in adaptive interactions, which denote language, concepts, symbols, religion, behavioural patterns and social patterns. An additional characteristic of culture is that shared cultural elements, such as language, time and place, are passed on over longer periods of time and across generations. Culture is not dependent on an individual person, but is only passed on through him or her (Kroeber & Kluckhohn (1990), cited in Genkova, P. 2012). People who belong to one culture are therefore similar. Thus, dealing with people of one's own culture is easy – the involved individuals are familiar with the culture. The similarity creates a certain kind of sympathy. In contrast, prejudices and stereotypes are often formed against people of other cultures; that is, there is an (unfounded) prejudice against another group of people whose culture is seen as foreign (Genkova, P. 2012).
When people from different cultures interact, misunderstandings and problems quickly arise. This can start with greetings: While people in one country greet each other with kisses on the cheek, people in the other country keep a much greater distance and, for example, greet each other with a bow. To prevent intercultural problems, it is important to acquire knowledge about the foreign culture and to develop an awareness for the impression of one's own behaviour on other people (Thomas, 2014). To deal productively with intercultural situations, so-called intercultural competence is needed. Intercultural competence is a very comprehensive construct that includes different skills. There is no standard definition for it. According to Thomas (2016), the term describes the ability to recognise cultural overlap situations and to understand the processes and the effects of one's own as and if the foreign cultural (“organisational”) systems. Based on this understanding, people in intercultural situations can derive strategies for action that take into account the goals of all persons involved. In this way, the intercultural situation can be managed to the satisfaction of all involved parties and the understanding for the other culture can be strengthened. A prerequisite for the development of intercultural competence is the willingness to deal with foreign “organisational” systems and the interest in intercultural contact (Thomas, 2016).
Overall, the acquisition of intercultural competence can be seen as a learning and development process. The acquisition of knowledge about foreign cultures should go hand in hand with personal contact and the critical review of one's own culture (Thomas, 2016). According to Van der Zee and Von Oudenhoven (2008), Cultural Empathy, Open-mindedness, Emotional Stability, Flexibility and Social Initiative are elements of intercultural effectiveness. See Competences for a compilation of various research findings.
In short, intercultural competence is the ability to interact confidently with people from other cultures, to assess their behaviour correctly and to adapt one's own behaviour to avoid misunderstandings.
How can the extent to which a person is interculturally competent actually be measured? Various questionnaires have been developed to measure intercultural competence, each with a different focus. Some of them are listed here:
- Multicultural Personality Questionnaire (MPQ; Van der Zee & Van Oudenhoven, 2000): measures cultural empathy, open-mindedness, emotional stability, flexibility and social initiative.
- Cultural Intelligence Scale (CQS; Deardorff, 2006): It is based on the model of attitude change, according to which changes occur at cognitive (assumptions and beliefs), affective (feelings and emotions) and behavioural (behaviours) levels. These levels are captured by the CQS.
- Sociocultural Adjustment Model (Ward, Bochner & Furnham, 2001): This deals primarily with stress and strain factors.
- Diversity Organisationskultur (Harrsion and Klein, 2007): focuses on the interaction of people from different cultures in organisations and the entailed demands on management.
- Social Identity Scale (Orth, Broszkiewicz & Schütte, 1996)
- Questionnaire on acculturation strategies - a scale by Berry, Kalin & Taylor (1977): special focus here is on strategies of integration and cultural adoption, or adaptation to another culture.
There are many more measuring instruments and scales in this context. When compiling an instrument, one element sometimes used is the short version of the Inventory of Social Competence (ISK-K) from Kanning (2009), which aims to assess, for example, empathy and sensitivity.
Research indicated that dealing with people from other cultures can be trained by the Critical Incident Method and the Cultural Assimilator.
These training methods were developed to arrive at more effective communication in heterogeneous cultural groups (Kosowoski, 2010). They are based on the rationale that intercultural misunderstandings are based on culture-specific interpretation patterns due to which the behaviour of the counterpart is either irritating or misinterpreted (Kumbruck & Derboven, 2016). For this reason, a better understanding of the other culture should be achieved by training with illustrative situations close to real-life, so that the learnt content can be easily transferred to practice (e.g., to everyday working life).
Following the critical incident method, a possible step for developing solutions to challenging intercultural situations, the situations is analysed in focus groups, guided by questions such as: What happened? Due to which aspects might the problem and misunderstandings have arisen? This is followed by a discussion of various alternative courses of action. The goal is to find viable courses of actions for similar situations.
The Cultural Assimilator is often based on the Critical Incident Method. A Cultural Assimilator typically presents the test person with a intercultural contact situations and with different possible behavioural reactions. One of the possible reactions is supposed to represent the best behavioural option.
A special advantage of the critical incident method and the cultural assimilator is the flexible application. Depending on the context and target group, the dimensions of interest and situations can be adapted accordingly and used in a variety of ways for people who communicate in an intercultural context. Thus, these methods help to train the interaction with people of other cultures and to understand these cultures (Kosowoski, 2010).
Matt Flynn, University of Hull, email@example.com,
Elaine Dewhurst, University of Manchester, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Petia Genkova, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com,
Christoph Daniel Schaefer, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Former coordinator: Louise Wong, Wai Yin, email@example.com
Research topic for Frontiers in Psychology
This research topic is on ageing and migration. We welcome original research, systematic reviews, community case studies, research reports and policy reviews as well as general commentaries and opinion pieces on active ageing and immigration. Contributions are welcome from the perspectives of migration studies, public and social policy, sociology, health, psychology, and business, although this list is not exhaustive. If you are interested in contributing, please email Matt Flynn (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your proposed contribution.
As populations age, there is a growing interest amongst policymakers, businesses, and other stakeholders on ways to enable older people to 'actively age' through: interventions to promote healthy ageing; participation in social, economic, and civic affairs; and ensuring physical, social and income security. Older people's access to resources necessary for ageing well is impacted by socio-economic status. This in turn, draws attention to the policy and resource needs of communities of older people. One such community is older immigrants, those whom Warnes et al (2004) termed 'ageing in place', including economic migrants, asylum seekers and undocumented workers. For many, their life courses are characterized by precarious and disrupted careers, inaccessibility to public resources, and social isolation, in addition to age and race intersecting to create unique forms of discrimination. Thus, a multi-disciplinary focus is needed to apply an Active Ageing framework (World Health Organization, 2002) to enhance the lives of older immigrants.
The goal of this Research Topic is explore how the WHO's Active Ageing framework can be used to understand how older immigrants experience the social, economic, and personal experience of ageing; the barriers which they face to ageing well; and the public and social policy challenges of ensuring safe, participative, and healthy ageing within the older immigrant population. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to understand older immigrants’ experiences of ageing and identify ways to promote active ageing. This Research Topic aims to explore how older immigrants' past experiences in social, economic, and civic spheres impact on present experiences preparing for and living through retirement, family and community engagement, and end of life care. It also seeks to generate a dialogue on the ways in which policy makers, businesses, third sector organizations and older immigrants themselves can enhance active ageing within this community.
Call for papers
We welcome original research, systematic reviews, community case studies, research reports and policy reviews as well as general commentaries and opinion pieces on active ageing and immigration. Contributions are welcome from the perspectives of migration studies, public and social policy, sociology, health, psychology, and business, although this list is not exhaustive. To enhance the policy impact of this Research Topic, we especially encourage co-produced contributions between academics and members of immigrant communities. We welcome contributions addressing:
- How older immigrants experience ageing within social, economic and personal spheres
- Barriers which older immigrants face in ageing well
- Social and public policy challenges in enabling active ageing within the immigrant population
- The intersection of age and migration status in terms of lived experience
- Examples of good practice in active ageing with immigrants and how it can be disseminated, shared, and embedded.