How to Develop Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is the ability to effectively interact and operate in different cultural settings. Cultural competence, or cultural intelligence, is crucial and could be the difference between success and failure for expatriates, their families or any individual dealing a culture different than theirs.


Acquiring and developing cultural competence is an ongoing and dynamic process with different stages.


The first step to increase cultural competence is to build cultural awareness. In other words, to acknowledge the particularities and characteristics of one’s own culture as well as those of other cultures. It is then imperative to recognize the evident and, not so obvious differences between cultures and accept them. In this way, stereotyping and pre-judging would be gradually replaced by more informed interpreting of the cultural reality.


In a second stage, cultural competence is developed through knowledge acquisition of other cultures. This includes learning, reading, researching and observing other cultures to understand them better and to progressively develop more flexibility and empathy towards them.


Lastly, in a third and final stage, cultural competence translates into developing the skills to successfully interact in other cultures. This means that through the awareness and knowledge acquired in the two previous stages, one is ready to adjust his/her behavior to make less mistakes, to communicate effectively and to skillfully operate in a foreign culture.


Developing cultural competence is a non-stop cycle that benefits from practice and continuous cultural interaction.

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