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Intercultural Communication – Definition, Importance and Examples

Published by: Hitesh Bhasin

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Intercultural Communication is the type of communication that involves communication amongst people of different cultures, races, ethics to interact and communicate effectively. It describes the traditions, specialties, and problems that arise when people with cultural differences interact.

Effective intercultural communication helps to understand various cultures and communication across cultures, their importance, and how to develop effective intercultural understanding. It is an effective form of communication as it gives room to different cultural norms, and cultural integrity to ensure multicultural relationships.

What is Intercultural Communication?

Definition: Intercultural communication is defined as the ability to communicate with people from different cultures or cultural groups. It comes into the picture in a room when people from one cultural group communicate with people of another culture, and tradition.

It is how well people communicate when they get engaged with a new thought and idea. It helps the individuals to attain a sense of cultural integrity. It helps people learn the ability to converse when there is a difference in thought processes.

Some of the definitions of intercultural communications are-

According to Chen & Starosta

Intercultural communication refers to the communication between people from two different cultures.

While Lustig & Koester suggests

Intercultural communication is a symbolic, interpretive, transactional, contextual process, in which people from different cultures create shared meanings.

Another definition you should have a look at is shared by Arasaratnam-

Intercultural communication refers to the effects on communication behavior, when different cultures interact together. Hence, one way of viewing intercultural communication is as communication that unfolds in symbolic intercultural spaces.

What is Intercultural Communication Competence?

Intercultural competence allows people to know how to interact in a difficult situation.

When people of different cultures are involved, there can be a chance of misinterpretation when people of one culture interact with people of another culture.

Other people have their own way of doing verbal communication or having the ability to decode a message, and that’s where intercultural competence is involved. People become agile with their mindset, and it is known as cultural agility.

Cultural agility is the term used for being at ease with the different cultures and traditions.

Importance of Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication teaches people to interact without showing disrespect for a person’s beliefs or traditions. It finds its place in anthropology, cultural sciences, social sciences, and psychology.

Intercultural communication is often seen at workplaces. It helps in the expansion of the business, especially international communication. It is useful in letting people understand how different cultures, beliefs, and ethics work together in other parts of the world.

It promotes love, harmony, peace, and social integrity. It also uses the knowledge of different cultures and languages for communication.

Improving Intercultural Communication Knowledge

Improving Intercultural Communication Knowledge

As discussed above, communication between persons from two distinct cultures is referred to as intercultural communication. People from various cultures develop common meanings through intercultural communication.

For interacting with people from other cultures, the following are essential areas of knowledge for anyone looking to enhance their intercultural communication-

  1. Some understanding of diverse groups’ and nations’ cultures, organizations, and institutions and their history and general way of life
  2. Recognize that these factors have an impact on behavioral standards. For example, there is a lot of ‘history’ between Greeks and Turks; therefore, serving Turkish food to a Greek individual may be an issue
  3. An awareness of how communication and language are influenced by culture
  4. Nordic people, for example, are thought to talk more bluntly than native English speakers, who tend to employ more ‘nice’ language. Scandinavians in the UK have been accused of offending English people by not saying enough ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
  5. Some grasp of the customs that may control behavior in some international situations, such as attitudes on women’s roles or the license (or lack thereof) given to youngsters
  6. Most importantly, knowledge of your own and others’ views and values, as well as a readiness to recognize when the conflict arises
  7. Cultural stereotype sensitivity that may impact and impede intercultural communication

How to Apply Your Intercultural Communication Knowledge

Intercultural communication skills are an important part of your understanding of communications across cultures and languages. Some of the steps you need to follow here are-

You should learn a few sentences in their language to demonstrate your readiness to meet them halfway. In the word of Nelson Mandela-

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

If possible, you should also try to find out people who are aware of the place you’re traveling to and ask their advice.

You might try to adapt your behavior and don’t always expect others to adapt their behavior. There is no excuse for illiteracy when there are so many free language materials available on the internet.

Let us look at the theories for intercultural communication.

Theories Of Intercultural Communication

There are plenty of theories available for intercultural communication. The most common theories for amongst those are-

1. Social Science Approach

This model keeps in mind the person’s reaction when they meet an individual of a different culture. For example, how one would behave in a situation where there are people of various cultures present. It talks about the adjustment made by people to understand the other culture and interact.

One would be very comfortable in sharing a secret with a friend than with a family member. It also talks about how one is comfortable and familiar with a person when they communicate, even though different thought processes exist.

2. Interpretive Approach

When people of different cultures meet, they share their experiences and form an essential opinion about them. The interpretive approach relies on the information collected through various experiences and knowledge.

It is very definitive as it doesn’t have any basic and firm background. It is just the accumulation of the thoughts collected.

3. Dialectical Approach

This model uses six opposite characteristics in intercultural communication that are-

  1. Cultural vs individual
  2. Personal vs contextual
  3. Differences vs similarities
  4. Static vs dynamic
  5. History vs past-present vs future
  6. Privilege vs disadvantage

4. Critical Approach

The critical approach keeps in mind the path made by the researcher concerning the different cultures and traditions. It uses the researcher’s ability to understand other cultures.

It also keeps in mind the various portrayals of the cultures through the lens of the media. It is very dynamic and multifaceted as it covers all the aspects and differences of each culture. It helps know about various cultures as it is highly engaging.

Multicultural vs. Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural Communication

Multicultural and cross-cultural are some of the terms that might confuse you with intercultural communication. Let us understand their difference right away-

1. Multicultural communication

It talks about how a group or team is composed. Generally, it is associated with a group that is made up of people of multiple nationalities.

2. Cross-cultural communication

It talks about the comparison of interactions among people from the same culture to those from another culture. It is useful in examing the varying communication styles of different cultural groups.

3. Intercultural communication

It refers to the exchanges taking occurring in different cultures.

Tips to learn Intercultural Communication Skills

Tips to learn Intercultural Communication Skills

There are specific prerequisites for intercultural communication. These prerequisites are:

1. Person should know about the different culture, tradition and their basic lifestyle. It helps to understand them better.

2. The reason to understand this complexity. The knowledge of history is very much essential to know about the background of each country. It helps in solving the problems between people of a different culture. For example, a basic knowledge of the history between Afghans and Syrians would help an Afghan have a Syrian dish.

3. Understanding how different languages are used in conversation. Language is an essential part of communication. Language helps in effective communication. A good communicator knows many languages, and the intercultural communication barrier can be overcome by proper language usage.

4. Knowledge about different laws and governing bodies is also essential. It is crucial to remember that if a wrong message is conveyed, there might be strict punishment in that culture, leading to breaching the law.

5. Being aware of the beliefs and values of people and respecting them

6. Being sensitive towards the norms and traditions of each culture. This would pave the way for cultural integrity.

Examples of Intercultural Communications

Intercultural communication is variable and is equally important in every field. For instance, in the area of corporate business, it is of utmost importance.

A company says, for example, wants to expand its business in the UK, USA, and Australia. The company needs to know about the traditions and cultures of each country. UK officials might have some language barrier. So it’s essential to be cautious of the tone and the language when making contact.

A business official of the USA might feel the tone to be authoritative. So it’s equally important to know about their work ethics and language.

With the involvement of different cultures, it is important to give importance to every communication component, be it language, content, tone of speaking, usage, words, and credibility.


Intercultural communication is important and necessary to develop a good relationship between people of various countries and traditions. A good intercultural interpersonal communication skill makes the person confident to converse without any hesitation and fumbles.

It has been noted here that it is a sensitive type of communication as with different cultures involved, there’s a high chance of being misinterpreted. Be careful and thorough with your knowledge and dialect.

Always make sure to use words without causing harm to anyone’s beliefs or values. Maintain healthy communication between employees of each background and promote love, integrity, and peace at every nook of life.

How crucial do you consider intercultural communication in the modern world? Share your views with us in the comment section below.

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Article by:

Hitesh Bhasin

Hitesh Bhasin is the CEO of Digiaide and his vision is to make business knowledge accessible to everyone.