Culture is a central term of the research project. But what does this word mean? There is no standard definition for it. If you try to sum up the different explanations, it results in culture is depicted in adaptive interactions one the one hand. These adaptive interactions include speech, concepts, symbols, religion, pattern of behaviour and social pattern. On the other hand culture consists of common elements (e.g. speech, time and location) that are passed for longer periods of time and serval generations. Culture did not depend on one person, it is only passed by him to the next generation. (Kroeber & Kluckhohn (1990), cited by Genkova, P. 2012). So persons of one culture are kind of similar. Because of this the interaction with people of the own culture is easy – the people are familiar with it. The similarity creates a way of sympathy. In contrast to that there are often prejudices and stereotypes against people of other cultures. That means there is a (non-founded) prejudgement against another group of persons. These group look ‘strange’ to yourself so the attitude is often negative (Genkova, P. 2012).
Within interactions of two (or more) people problems and misapprehension are arise often.
This may start in the acting of welcome: In one country it is normal to greet another person with a kiss on its cheek, while in another country distance is kept e.g. by taking a bow.
If you want to obviate this, it is important to assemble knowledge on the foreign culture. As well it is relevant to get awareness of the impression of the own behaviour on other people (Thomas, A. 2014).
In that context intercultural competency is named often. Intercultural competency is a very complex construct, which includes different skills. There is no standard definition for it. Thomas (2016) gives the explanation that it is the skill to identify situations of cultural overlapping and to understand the course of process as well as the effects of the own and foreign organisation systems.
On that basis strategies for action will be deflected that includes the targets of all involved persons.
So the situation of cultural overlapping can be managed satisfactory for all parties and the understanding for the other culture is boosted.
Requirement for developing intercultural competency is to have the willingness for dealing with foreign organisation systems as well as the interest for intercultural contact (Thomas, 2016).
To sum up, the acquirement of intercultural competency is a process of learning and development. The adoption of knowledge on other cultures should be combined with personal contact and the critical review on the own culture (Thomas, 2016). According to Zee and Von Oudenhoven (2008) cultural empathy, open-mindedness, emotional stability, flexibility and social initiative support the development of intercultural competency. A collocation of the different results of research you can find in 5. Model of competencies.
In a nutshell intercultural competency names the skill to interact with persons of other cultures in a safe manner. The behaviour of the other people is evaluated right and the own behaviour is adjusted to it, so misapprehensions can be avoided.
How can be measured if a person is intercultural competent? Meanwhile different questionnaire are developed to measure intercultural competency. These focus different priorities. Some of this you find below:
- 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): is based on the model of attitude change. That changings are clustered in cognitive (adoptions and convictions), affective (feelings and emotions) and behaviour level. This different levels are included in the CQS
- Sociolcultural Adjustment Model (Ward, Bochner & Furnham, 2001): focus on factores of stress and liabilities
- Diversity Organisationskultur (Harrsion und Klein, 2007): focusses the interaction with people of other cultures in organisations and the new requirement on management.
- Scale ‚social identity` (Orth, Broszkiewiccz & Schütte, 1996)
- Questionnaire for strategies of acculturation - a scale of Berry, Kalin & Taylor (1977): special focus lays on strategies of integration and takeover of culture (respectively on adaption to another culture)
There are many other measuring instruments and scales in that frame. The short version of the inventory of social competency (ISK-K) from Kanning (2009) is also used often while collocating the questionnaire. For example, empathy and sensitivity can be measured with it.
The research indicated that the contact with people of other cultures can be trained by the Critical Incident Methodi and the Cultural Assimilator in a very good way.
This methods of training were developed to get an efficient communication in cultural heterogeneous groups (Kosowski, 2010). Their principle is that intercultural misapprehension are based on culture-specific patters of interpretation. The behaviour of the interacting partner is irritating or interpreted in a wrong way (Kumbruck & Derboven, 2016). Because of that reason a better understanding of other cultures should be gained by the training with problem-based case studies. These case studies can be transferred into praxis e.g. in the work routine.
By using the Critical Incident Method the case study is analysed in a group – what did happen? Where could problems or misunderstandings occur? Subsequent to that a discussion about different ways of acting is started. The target is to find a good approach for praxis in similar situations.
The Cultural Assimilator is kind of further development of the Critical Incident Method. But the approaches for acting are pretended (usually four), one of these are the ‘best-way-of-acting’. The concrete way of acting is written down.
A big advantage of the method is the flexible application. The case studies can be adapted to different contexts, target groups and dimensions. So they can be used by different groups that communicate in an intercultural context. The methods help to train the contact with people of foreign cultures and to understand these cultures (Kosowoski, 2010).