This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Intercultural communication" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) This article is in list format but may read better as prose. You can help by converting this article, if appropriate. Editing help is available. (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Intercultural communication is a discipline that studies communication across different cultures and social groups, or how culture affects communication. It describes the wide range of communication processes and problems that naturally appear within an organization or social context made up of individuals from different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. In this sense, it seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures act, communicate, and perceive the world around them.[1] Intercultural communication focuses on the recognition and respect of those with cultural differences. The goal is mutual adaptation between two or more distinct cultures which leads to biculturalism/multiculturalism rather than complete assimilation. It promotes the development of cultural sensitivity and allows for empathic understanding across different cultures.[2]


Intercultural communication is the idea of knowing how to communicate within different parts of the world. By understanding the theories, people are able to understand how certain norms are prevalent in adapting to new cultures. Intercultural communication uses theories within groups of people to achieve a sense of cultural diversity. This is in the hopes of people being able to learn new things from different cultures. The theories used give people an enhanced perspective on when it is appropriate to act in situations without disrespecting the people within these cultures; it also enhances their perspective on achieving cultural diversity through the ideas of intercultural communication.

Many people in intercultural business communication argue that culture determines how individuals encode messages, what medium they choose for transmitting them, and the way messages are interpreted.[1] With regard to intercultural communication proper, it studies situations where people from different cultural backgrounds interact. Aside from language, intercultural communication focuses on social attributes, thought patterns, and the cultures of different groups of people. It also involves understanding the different cultures, languages and customs of people from other countries.

Learning the tools to facilitate cross-cultural interaction is the subject of cultural agility, a term presently used to design a complex set of competencies required to allow an individual or an organization to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations.[3]

Intercultural communication plays a role in social sciences such as anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology, and communication studies. Intercultural communication is also referred to as the base for international businesses. Several cross-cultural service providers assist with the development of intercultural communication skills. Research is a major part of the development of intercultural communication skills.[4][5] Intercultural communication is in a way the 'interaction with speakers of other languages on equal terms and respecting their identities'.[6]

Identity and culture are also studied within the discipline of communication to analyze how globalization influences ways of thinking, beliefs, values, and identity within and between cultural environments. Intercultural communication scholars approach theory with a dynamic outlook and do not believe culture can be measured nor that cultures share universal attributes. Scholars acknowledge that culture and communication shift along with societal changes and theories should consider the constant shifting and nuances of society.[7]

Two woman communicating beyond language
Two woman communicating beyond language

The study of intercultural communication requires intercultural understanding. Intercultural understanding is the ability to understand and value cultural differences. Language is an example of an important cultural component that is linked to intercultural understanding.[8]


The following types of theories can be distinguished in different strands: focus on effective outcomes, on accommodation or adaption, on identity negotiation and management, on communication networks,on acculturation and adjustment.[9]

Social engineering effective outcomes

Identity negotiation or management

Communication networks

Acculturation and adjustment

Acculturation can be defined as the process of an individual or individuals exchanging or adopting certain culture values and practices that the dominant culture of their location possesses.[19] Acculturation differs from assimilation because the people who are adopting new culture habits are still processing some of their original own culture habits. Young Yun Kim has identified three personality traits that could affect someone's cultural adaptation. These personality traits include openness, strength, and positive. With these personality traits, individuals will be more successful in acculturating than individuals who do not possess these traits. Kim proposes an alternative to acculturation is complete assimilation.[18]

Three perspectives on intercultural communication

A study on cultural and intercultural communication came up with three perspectives, which are the indigenous approach, cultural approach, and cross-cultural approach.[7]

While indigenous and cultural approaches focal point is emics, cross-cultural approaches are etics.[7]

Other theories

Authentic intercultural communication

Authentic intercultural communication is possible. A theory that was found in 1984 and revisited on 1987 explains the importance of truth and intention of getting an understanding. Furthermore, if strategic intent is hidden, there can't be any authentic intercultural communication.[31]

In intercultural communication, there could be miscommunication, and the term is called "misfire." Later on, a theory was founded that has three layers of intercultural communication.[31] The first level is effective communication, second-level miscommunication, and third-level systemically distorted communication. It is difficult to go to the first level due to the speaker's position and the structure.[31]

History of assimilation

Forced assimilation was very common in the European colonial empires the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Colonial policies regarding religion conversion, the removal of children, the division of community property, and the shifting of gender roles primarily impacted North and South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. Voluntary assimilation has also been a part of history dating back to the Spanish Inquisition of the late 14th and 15th centuries, when many Muslims and Jews voluntarily converted to Roman Catholicism as a response to religious prosecution while secretly continuing their original practices. Another example is when the Europeans moved to the United States.[22]

Intercultural competence

Intercultural communication is competent when it accomplishes the objectives in a manner that is appropriate to the context and relationship. Intercultural communication thus needs to bridge the dichotomy between appropriateness and effectiveness:[32] Proper means of intercultural communication leads to a 15% decrease in miscommunication.[33]

Competent communication is an interaction that is seen as effective in achieving certain rewarding objectives in a way that is also related to the context in which the situation occurs. In other words, it is a conversation with an achievable goal that is used at an appropriate time/location.[32]


Intercultural communication can be linked with identity, which means the competent communicator is the person who can affirm others' avowed identities. As well as goal attainment is also a focus within intercultural competence and it involves the communicator to convey a sense of communication appropriateness and effectiveness in diverse cultural contexts.[32]

Ethnocentrism plays a role in intercultural communication. The capacity to avoid ethnocentrism is the foundation of intercultural communication competence. Ethnocentrism is the inclination to view one's own group as natural and correct, and all others as aberrant.

People must be aware that to engage and fix intercultural communication there is no easy solution and there is not only one way to do so. Listed below are some of the components of intercultural competence.[32]

Basic tools for improvement

The following are ways to improve communication competence:

Important factors


Effective communication depends on the informal understandings among the parties involved that are based on the trust developed between them. When trust exists, there is implicit understanding within communication, cultural differences may be overlooked, and problems can be dealt with more easily. The meaning of trust and how it is developed and communicated varies across societies. Similarly, some cultures have a greater propensity to be trusting than others.

The problems in intercultural communication usually come from problems in message transmission and in reception. In communication between people of the same culture, the person who receives the message interprets it based on values, beliefs, and expectations for behavior similar to those of the person who sent the message. When this happens, the way the message is interpreted by the receiver is likely to be fairly similar to what the speaker intended. However, when the receiver of the message is a person from a different culture, the receiver uses information from his or her culture to interpret the message. The message that the receiver interprets may be very different from what the speaker intended.

Areas of interest

Cross-cultural business strategies

Cross-cultural business communication is very helpful in building cultural intelligence through coaching and training in cross-cultural communication management and facilitation, cross-cultural negotiation, multicultural conflict resolution, customer service, business and organizational communication. Cross-cultural understanding is not just for incoming expats. Cross-cultural understanding begins with those responsible for the project and reaches those delivering the service or content. The ability to communicate, negotiate and effectively work with people from other cultures is vital to international business.


Important points to consider:


There is a connection between a person's personality traits and the ability to adapt to the host-country's environment—including the ability to communicate within that environment.

Two key personality traits are openness and resilience. Openness includes traits such as tolerance for ambiguity, extroversion and introversion, and open-mindedness. Resilience, on the other hand, includes having an internal locus of control, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, and resourcefulness.

These factors, combined with the person's cultural and racial identity and level of liberalism, comprise that person's potential for adaptation.

Miscommunication in a Business Setting

In a business environment, communication is vital, and there could be many instances where there could be miscommunication. Globalization is a significant factor in intercultural communication and affects business environments. In a business setting, it could be more difficult to communicate due to different ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Due to globalization, more employees have negative emotions in a business environment. The reason why one gets negative feelings is because of miscommunication.[37]

One study done entails the communication between non-native English speaking and native English speaking people in the United States.[38] The study showed that, in a business environment, non-native English speakers and native English speakers had similar experiences in the workplace. Although native English speakers tried to breakdown the miscommunication, non-native English speakers were offended by the terms they used.[38]

Cultural Perceptions

There are common conceptualizations of attributes that define collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Operationalizing the perceptions of cultural identities works under the guise that cultures are static and homogeneous, when in fact cultures within nations are multi-ethnic and individuals show high variation in how cultural differences are internalized and expressed.[8]


Globalization plays a central role in theorizing for mass communication, media, and cultural communication studies.[39] Intercultural communication scholars emphasize that globalization emerged from the increasing diversity of cultures throughout the world and thrives with the removal of cultural barriers.[8] The notion of nationality, or the construction of national space, is understood to emerge dialectically through communication and globalization.

The Intercultural Praxis Model by Kathryn Sorrells, Ph.D. shows us how to navigate through the complexities of cultural differences along with power differences. This model will help you understand who you are as an individual, and how you can better communicate with others that may be different from you. In order to continue living in a globalized society one can use this Praxis model to understand cultural differences (based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc.) within the institutional and historical systems of power. Intercultural Communication Praxis Model requires us to respond to someone who comes from a different culture than us, in the most open way we can. The media are influential in what we think of other cultures and what we think about our own selves. However it is important, we educate ourselves, and learn how to communicate with others through Sorrells' Praxis Model.[40]

Sorrells’ process is made up of six points of entry in navigating intercultural spaces, including inquiry, framing, positioning, dialogue, reflection, and action. Inquiry, as the first step of the Intercultural Praxis Model, is an overall interest in learning about and understanding individuals with different cultural backgrounds and world-views, while challenging one's own perceptions. Framing, then, is the awareness of “local and global contexts that shape intercultural interactions;”[41] thus, the ability to shift between the micro, meso, and macro frames. Positioning is the consideration of one's place in the world compared to others, and how this position might influence both world-views and certain privileges. Dialogue is the turning point of the process during which further understanding of differences and possible tensions develops through experience and engagement with cultures outside of one's own. Next, reflection allows for one to learn through introspection the values of those differences, as well as enables action within the world “in meaningful, effective, and responsible ways."[41] This finally leads to action, which aims to create a more conscious world by working toward social justice and peace among different cultures. As Sorrells argues, “In the context of globalization, [intercultural praxis] … offers us a process of critical, reflective thinking and acting that enables us to navigate … intercultural spaces we inhabit interpersonally, communally, and globally."[41]

Interdisciplinary orientation

Cross-cultural communication endeavors to bring together such relatively unrelated areas as cultural anthropology and established areas of communication. Its core is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. Its charge is to also produce some guidelines with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.

Cross-cultural communication, as with many scholarly fields, is a combination of many other fields. These fields include anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. The field has also moved both toward the treatment of interethnic relations, and toward the study of communication strategies used by co-cultural populations, i.e., communication strategies used to deal with majority or mainstream populations.

The study of languages other than one's own can serve not only to help one understand what we as humans have in common, but also to assist in the understanding of the diversity which underlines our languages' methods of constructing and organizing knowledge. Such understanding has profound implications with respect to developing a critical awareness of social relationships. Understanding social relationships and the way other cultures work is the groundwork of successful globalization business affairs.

Language socialization can be broadly defined as “an investigation of how language both presupposes and creates anew, social relations in cultural context”.[42] It is imperative that the speaker understands the grammar of a language, as well as how elements of language are socially situated in order to reach communicative competence. Human experience is culturally relevant, so elements of language are also culturally relevant.[42]: 3  One must carefully consider semiotics and the evaluation of sign systems to compare cross-cultural norms of communication.[42]: 4  There are several potential problems that come with language socialization, however. Sometimes people can overgeneralize or label cultures with stereotypical and subjective characterizations.[43] Another primary concern with documenting alternative cultural norms revolves around the fact that no social actor uses language in ways that perfectly match normative characterizations.[42]: 8  A methodology for investigating how an individual uses language and other semiotic activity to create and use new models of conduct and how this varies from the cultural norm should be incorporated into the study of language socialization.[42]: 11, 12 

Verbal communication

Verbal intercultural communication techniques improve speakers' or listeners' capacity for speech production or comprehension. Depending on the communication situation, the plans could either be formal or informal. Verbal communication consists of messages being sent and received continuously with the speaker and the listener, it is focused on the way messages are portrayed. Verbal communication is based on language and use of expression, the tone in which the sender of the message relays the communication can determine how the message is received and in what context.

Factors that affect verbal communication:

The way a message is received is dependent on these factors as they give a greater interpretation for the receiver as to what is meant by the message. By emphasizing a certain phrase with the tone of voice, this indicates that it is important and should be focused more on.

Along with these attributes, verbal communication is also accompanied with non-verbal cues. These cues make the message clearer and give the listener an indication of what way the information should be received.[44]

Example of non-verbal cues

In terms of intercultural communication there are language barriers which are effected by verbal forms of communication. In this instance there is opportunity for miscommunication between two or more parties.[45] Other barriers that contribute to miscommunication would be the type of words chosen in conversation. Due to different cultures there are different meaning in vocabulary chosen, this allows for a message between the sender and receiver to be misconstrued.[46]

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication refers to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), body language, posture, and other ways people can communicate without using language.[47] Minor variations in body language, speech rhythms, and punctuality often cause differing interpretations of the situation among cross-cultural parties. Kinesic behavior is communication through body movement—e.g., posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact. The meaning of such behavior varies across countries. Clothing and the way people dress is used as a form of nonverbal communication.

Object language or material culture refers to how people communicate through material artifacts—e.g., architecture, office design and furniture, clothing, cars, cosmetics, and time. In monochronic cultures, time is experienced linearly and as something to be spent, saved, made up, or wasted. Time orders life, and people tend to concentrate on one thing at a time. In polychronic cultures, people tolerate many things happening simultaneously and emphasize involvement with people. In these cultures, people may be highly distractible, focus on several things at once, and change plans often.

Occulesics are a form of kinesics that includes eye contact and the use of the eyes to convey messages. Proxemics concern the influence of proximity and space on communication (e.g., in terms of personal space and in terms of office layout). For example, space communicates power in the US and Germany.

Paralanguage refers to how something is said, rather than the content of what is said—e.g., rate of speech, tone and inflection of voice, other noises, laughing, yawning, and silence.

Nonverbal communication has been shown to account for between 65% and 93% of interpreted communication.[48] Minor variations in body language, speech rhythms, and punctuality often cause mistrust and misperception of the situation among cross-cultural parties. This is where nonverbal communication can cause problems with intercultural communication. Misunderstandings with nonverbal communication can lead to miscommunication and insults with cultural differences. For example, a handshake in one culture may be recognized as appropriate, whereas another culture may recognize it as rude or inappropriate.[48]

See also



  1. ^ a b Lauring, Jakob (2011). "Intercultural Organizational Communication: The Social Organizing of Interaction in International Encounters". Journal of Business Communication. 48 (3): 231–55. doi:10.1177/0021943611406500. S2CID 146387286.
  2. ^ "Intercultural Communication". IDRInstitute. Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  3. ^ CALIGIURI, PAULA (2021). BUILD YOUR CULTURAL AGILITY : the nine competencies you need to be a successful global professional. [S.l.]: KOGAN PAGE. ISBN 978-1-78966-661-8. OCLC 1152067760.
  4. ^ Drary, Tom (April 9, 2010). "3 Tips For Effective Global Communication". Archived from the original on 2010-04-13.
  5. ^ "Intercultural Communication Law & Legal Definition". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  6. ^ Byram, Gribkova & Starkey, 2002
  7. ^ a b c d e f Aneas, Maria Assumpta; Sandín, María Paz (2009-01-28). "Intercultural and Cross-Cultural Communication Research: Some Reflections about Culture and Qualitative Methods". Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research. 10 (1). doi:10.17169/fqs-10.1.1251. ISSN 1438-5627.
  8. ^ a b c Saint-Jacques, Bernard. 2011. “Intercultural Communication in a Globalized World.” In Intercultural Communication: A Reader, edited by Larry A. Samovar, Richard E. Porter, and Edwin R. McDaniel, 13 edition, 45-53. Boston, Mass: Cengage Learning.
  9. ^ Cf. Gudykunst 2003 for an overview.
  10. ^ Kincaid, D. L. (1988). The convergence theory of intercultural communication. In Y. Y. Kim & W. B. Gudykunst (Eds.), Theories in intercultural communication (pp. 280–298). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. p.289
  11. ^ Dragojevic, Marko; Gasiorek, Jessica; Giles, Howard (2015). "Communication Accommodation Theory" (PDF). The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication. pp. 1–21. doi:10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic006. ISBN 9781118540190.
  12. ^ Garza, Antonio Tomas De La; Ono, Kent A. (2015-10-02). "Retheorizing Adaptation: Differential Adaptation and Critical Intercultural Communication". Journal of International and Intercultural Communication. 8 (4): 269–289. doi:10.1080/17513057.2015.1087097. ISSN 1751-3057. S2CID 143124075.
  13. ^ Gudykunst, W. & Kim, Y. Y. (2003). Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication, 4th ed., 378. New York: McGraw Hill.
  14. ^ Kim, Young Yun (2000-11-29). Becoming Intercultural: An Integrative Theory of Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4522-6441-7.
  15. ^ Zhao, Tianshu; Bourne, Jill (2011), Jin, Lixian; Cortazzi, Martin (eds.), "Intercultural Adaptation — It is a Two-Way Process: Examples from a British MBA Programme", Researching Chinese Learners: Skills, Perceptions and Intercultural Adaptations, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 250–273, doi:10.1057/9780230299481_12, ISBN 978-0-230-29948-1, retrieved 2021-11-01
  16. ^ "What You Need to Know About : Co-Cultural Theory". Communication. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  17. ^ Orbe, 1998. p.3
  18. ^ a b Croucher, Stephen M.; Kramer, Eric (2017-04-03). "Cultural fusion theory: An alternative to acculturation". Journal of International and Intercultural Communication. 10 (2): 97–114. doi:10.1080/17513057.2016.1229498. ISSN 1751-3057. S2CID 151665074.
  19. ^ Cole, Nicki Lisa. "Do You Know What Acculturation Is and What Causes It to Happen?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  20. ^ Kim Y.Y.(1995), p.192
  21. ^ Mc.Guire and Mc.Dermott, 1988, p. 103
  22. ^ a b Pauls, Elizabeth. "Assimilation".
  23. ^ Giffin, Kim (2009). "Social alienation by communication denial". Quarterly Journal of Speech. 56 (4): 347–357. doi:10.1080/00335637009383022.
  24. ^ Paul, Mundy (1992). "Indigenous Communication". ResearchGate. Retrieved 22 September 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 492
  26. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 496
  27. ^ Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.
  28. ^ Wood, 2005[full citation needed]
  29. ^ Intercultural Communication: Globalization and Social Justice (1 ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc. 2013. ISBN 978-1412927444.
  30. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 497
  31. ^ a b c Fox, Christine (1997-02-01). "The authenticity of intercultural communication". International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 21 (1): 85–103. doi:10.1016/S0147-1767(96)00012-0. ISSN 0147-1767.
  32. ^ a b c d e f (Lustig & Koester, 2010)
  33. ^ "Facts and Figures". Cultural Candor Inc.
  34. ^ Geldart, Phil. "Excellent Communication Requires Patience". eaglesflight.
  35. ^ a b "Importance of Communication Skills at Work Place". linguasofttech. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  36. ^ "Philosophy - Sayed Sayedy". (in German). 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  37. ^ Su Kei, Shum (2015). "The Significance of Intercultural Communication for Businesses and the Obstacles that Managers should Overcome in Achieving Effective Intercultural Communication" (PDF). S2CID 167204294. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-02-20. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  38. ^ a b Evans,Suklun, Adam, Harika (24 November 2017). "Workplace diversity and intercultural communication: A phenomenological study". Cogent Business & Management. 4. doi:10.1080/23311975.2017.1408943.
  39. ^ Crofts Wiley, Stephen B. 2004. “Rethinking Nationality in the Context of Globalization.” Communication Theory 14 (1):78–83.
  40. ^ Sorrells, Kathryn. "Navigating Difficult Dialogues: An Intercultural Praxis Approach" (PDF).
  41. ^ a b c Kathryn, Sorrells (2015-09-29). Intercultural communication : globalization and social justice (Second ed.). Los Angeles. ISBN 978-1452292755. OCLC 894301747.
  42. ^ a b c d e Rymes, (2008). Language Socialization and the Linguistic Anthropology of Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2(8, Springer)
  43. ^ Handford, Michael (2019). "Which "culture"? A critical analysis of intercultural communication in engineering education". Journal of Engineering Education. 108 (2): 161–177. doi:10.1002/jee.20254.
  44. ^ Hinde, R. A. (1972). Non-verbal communication; edited by R. A. Hinde. -. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1972.
  45. ^ Esposito, A. (2007). Verbal and nonverbal communication behaviours [electronic resource] : COST Action 2102 International Workshop, Vietri sul Mare, Italy, March 29–31, 2007 : revised selected and invited papers / Anna Esposito ... [et al.] (eds.). Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2007.
  46. ^ Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. K. (2001). Intercultural communication : a discourse approach / Ron Scollon and Suzanne Wong Scollon. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishers, 2001
  47. ^ Mehrabian, Albert (2017-07-28). Albert, Mehrabian (ed.). Nonverbal Communication (1 ed.). Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781351308724. ISBN 978-1-351-30872-4.
  48. ^ a b Samovar Larry, Porter Richard, McDaniel Edwin, Roy Carolyn. 2006. Intercultural Communication A Reader. Nonverbal Communication. pp13.