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Intercultural communication. Glossary. Communication: A process involving one or more persons sending and receiving messages during some kind of social interaction. This process is not as simple as it first appears because the process has many layers. How do people communicate?.

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Intercultural communication

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Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication



  • Communication:

    • A process involving one or more persons sending and receiving messages during some kind of social interaction. This process is not as simple as it first appears because the process has many layers.

How do people communicate

How do people communicate?

Verbal communication is language, spoken or written. However it only accounts for about 35% of actual communication.

Non verbal cues make up about 50% of the message.

The meaning of the message is also influenced by tone, volume, levels of formality, speed and pauses.

A model of communication

A Model of communication

  • Message

  • Verbal

  • Non-verbal

  • Cultural Context




(Can be caused by intercultural misunderstanding)

The response usually reveals whether the message has been understood

Verbal communication

Verbal communication

  • There are two types of verbal communication:

    • The ‘verbal text’is the actual words that are spoken.

    • ‘Vocal paralanguage’ is the different ways in which the words can be said.

      E.g. “Come here,” could be spoken in a firm, loud voice by a teacher on playground duty or in a soft, friendly manner by a family member in your household.

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication

  • Research suggests that nonverbal communication is more important in understanding human behaviour than the words people say.

Intercultural communication

  • Messages are communicated through many un-voiced means, including:

    • Clothing & hairstyles

    • Body language

    • Gestures

    • Eye contact

    • Personal space

    • Patterns of touch

    • Observable cultural differences

Intercultural communication

  • Gestures and their meaning differ between cultures.

    • For example, giving directions to someone by pointing is considered rude in parts of Asia.



  • What are the norms/customs dictating body language in Australia?

  • How might a person’s cultural background affect this?

  • Is there room for individualism?



  • Customs:

    • Established ways of thinking and acting.

  • Socialisation:

    • The process by which we learn to become members of society, by internalising the norms and values of society, and learning to perform social roles.

Styles of communication

Styles of communication

There are three main styles of communication that people use. These will effect the message being sent:

  • Passive

    They often take a secondary position to other people and communicate this by stating that the receiver’s needs are of primary importance and that whatever the receiver of the message feels or wants is correct.

Intercultural communication

  • Aggressive

    The aggressive sender believes strongly in his/her own rights and does not feel that other people’s rights are as important as their own.

  • Assertive

    The assertive person expresses his/her own needs while also effectively listening to the receiver’s responses.



  • Values:

    • Those things, which a person feels are very important to them. Values often influence how we view the world

Contexts of communication

Contexts of Communication

  • Communication always takes place within a context.

  • Some cultures are regarded as high-context and others are low-context.

High context cultures

High-context cultures

  • These place a high emphasis on non-verbal communication and implicit factors of the communication.

    • E.G. Japan and India

  • Characteristics:

  • Indirect

  • Implicit/Nonverbal

  • Formal

  • Goal oriented

  • Emotionally controlled

  • Self-effacing/Modest

Low context cultures

Low-Context cultures

  • These cultures put less emphasis on non-verbal communication and social hierarchies.

    • E.G. US, Canada, Great Britain

  • Characteristics:

  • Explicit/Verbal

  • Informal

  • Spontaneous

  • Emotionally expressive

  • Self-promoting/ Egocentric

What about australia

What about Australia?

  • Self help is a valued attribute in Australia.

  • Inherited privilege is viewed negatively

  • Working in pairs think of 8 more characteristics/attitudes of Australian culture.

    • Hint: Think about the values that our national songs, poems, myths and stereotypes perpetuate.

Why bother with intercultural communication

Why bother with intercultural communication?

  • Living in a multicultural society, such as Australia, you are likely to be involved in intercultural communication. At school, work or in your local community you need to be able to communicate with people from a range of cultural backgrounds.



  • Globalisation:

    • Describes the emergence of a global culture brought about by a variety of social and cultural developments. It involves a consciousness of the worlds as a single place.

      E.G. Transnational corporations, the spread of world tourism and the emergence of global sport.

Think about

Think about…

  • Do you make changes to the way you communicate from situation to situation?

  • Does this happen subconsciously or do you have to stop and think about what to do?

Intercultural misunderstandings

Intercultural misunderstandings

  • We all have assumptions about the way people are supposed to behave. These assumptions are invariably challenged in an intercultural encounter.

  • It is important to acknowledge that intercultural communication is a two-way process. Ideally, both communicators need to be making the effort to understand the other’s culture.



  • Cooperation:

    • When individuals work together to produce a common effect

Reconsidering assumptions

Reconsidering assumptions



  • Stereotypes

    • Characteristics that people assign to particular groups of people whether or not the groups actually have those characteristics.

  • Mores

    • Moral rules or ways of behaving that most members of society believe are essential for maintaining standards of decency

  • Cultural Relativism

    • The idea that concepts are socially constructed and vary cross culturally. It implies that one must always view cultures objectively.

Intercultural communication

  • Continuity

    • The idea that things stay the same over time. In Australia this is reflected through the celebration of Anzac Day every year and the continuation of Anzac Day parades. These cultural continuities influence the communication process within different cultures.

  • Change

    • When things within societies and cultures do not remain the same. This can be seen when we examine the way communication styles and mediums have changed over time.

Intercultural communication

  • Acculturation

    • Involves the process of contacts between different cultures and also the outcome of such contacts. It may involve direct social interaction or exposure to other cultures through mass media.

  • Enculturation

    • The idea that to be a full member of a culture or subculture, individuals have to learn to use, formally and informally, the patterns of behaviour prescribed by that culture.

Barriers to successful intercultural communication

Barriers to successful intercultural communication

  • Some people’s enculturation experiences have included absorbing prejudices from other people or the media.

  • The situation becomes worse if the person has little contact with other cultures, allowing stereotypes to influence decision making.

Intercultural communication

  • The key to effective intercultural communication is adopting a position of cultural relativism. This means that the way people from another society behave can only be understood in terms of their own values, beliefs and norms.

  • When we come into contact with people from different cultures, some aspects of their way of life will be observable and some will not.

Intercultural communication

  • The ‘invisible’ aspects of a culture (unseen values, norms and beliefs, etc) will provide the foundation for their observable behaviour. In this way culture is similar to an iceberg.

The iceberg of culture

The iceberg of culture

What you need to know and can actually see



Food Environment

Language Customs Rituals

Behaviour Clothing


Continuity Roles Social structure Institutions

Social change Acculturation Enculturation

Attitudes Status Tradition Mores Values

Religion Rules Organisations Government


What you need to know but is less visible



  • Identity

    • Refers to what makes someone a unique person. E.G. a person’s name, personality, family, cultural background, peers all contribute to one’s identity

  • Cultural heritage

    • Aspects of the past that we want to keep and pass on to other generations

  • Cultural diversity

    • The differences in race, ethnicity, language, nationality and/or groups within a society

Strategies to achieve intercultural understanding

Strategies to achieve intercultural understanding

Be aware that ‘culture shock’

may result in ill-considered

decisions and misunderstandings

Be willing to share

your own culture with the other person

Learn as much

as you can about the culture with which you will be communicating,

including values, customs

and gestures

Learn some useful

words and phrases in the other person’s language.

This opens doors and

brings rapport

and warmth.

Hybrid societies

Hybrid societies

  • A hybrid society is one that comprises a variety of social and cultural influences and components, rather than one homogenous identity.

Individualist or collectivist

Individualist or collectivist

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