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Marina Salgado

Living in Switzerland, from Mexico

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Living in Switzerland, from Portugal

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Cross-Cultural Communication

Intercultural Competence

Intercultural competence is an invaluable part of your preparations for life as an expat. Yet it is often overlooked in the run-up for a job posting abroad. InterNations shows you how you can benefit from this skill to make sure your international assignment will be a success.

By training your intercultural competence, you might be able to avoid what the British novelist and travel writer Rebecca West once described in the following manner: “Intercultural relationships are preordained to be clumsy gestures based on imperfect knowledge.”

Though more and more people are aware that intercultural competence is a useful tool to prepare for expatriate assignments, some statistics about the success of expatriates’ international tasks are rather depressing:

Would intercultural competence have helped them to benefit more from their time as an expat? The proponents of learning about cross-cultural communication would answer this question with a resounding yes. Their approaches may indeed support you in becoming an interculturally effective person (IEP).

Intercultural Effectiveness

Being an IEP doesn’t mean being a VIP: You don’t have to be special or unique to become an interculturally effective person. Intercultural competence is not magic. Ideally speaking, it is a multi-dimensional process with some very pragmatic goals. It should teach you to:

To reach these goals via intercultural competence, a potential IEP will have to address the following topics and exhibit certain soft skills.

Before You Start

Without a basic willingness to question and improve yourself, any amount of theoretical knowledge or international management seminars will be in vain. Before you begin your training, ask yourself if you agree to examine and change the following areas:

If you are indeed prepared to fine-tune your respective abilities to another culture, intercultural competence has already begun.

Main Components

In general, cross-cultural training can be described as having two main aspects and three key stages. Its essential dimensions are cognitive content, as well as emotions and affects.

To use less fancy terms than the academic experts in cross-cultural learning, we could put it this way: Intercultural competence is about what you know and what you feel. Awareness – knowledge – skills are therefore three basic training steps.

In our articles on Cultural Awareness and Cultural Intelligence, we’ll talk about these three main components of intercultural competence in greater depth.