The Importance of Intercultural Competence in Modern Times

On the Situation in Western Countries

Term Paper, 2019

21 Pages, Grade: 2.0


I Table of Contents

II List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 What is culture and intercultural competence?
2.1 Cultural Dimensions by Hofstede
2.2 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions: Example of Germany
2.3 Is intercultural competence the key competence? Germany as an example

3 Criticism of Hofstede’s six Cultural Dimensions
3.1 Problem of intercultural competence: A global understanding does not sexist yet

4 Conclusion

II References

II List of Figures

Figure 1: Constituent elements of intercultural competence

Figure 2: Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions

Figure 3: Country Comparison: Germany

Figure 4: Number of immigrants to Germany by country of Origin in 2017

1 Introduction

“We have the ability to achieve, if we master the necessary goodwill, a common global society blessed with a shared culture of peace that is nourished by the ethnic, national and local diversities that enrich our lives.” (Mahnaz Afkhami, 1941, n. p.).

With this statement, the Iranian-American Human rights activist Mahnaz Afkhami describes the importance of intercultural competence and the cohabit of different cultures.

In my term paper I want to give a definition of what is intercultural competence and culture and show the constituent elements of intercultural competence. In the further course I want to examine Hofstede’s six dimensions of intercultural competence on the example of Germany and show, why this model can partly explain the success of the German economy. Finally, I want to go into the criticism of Hofstede´s dimensions and the problem that there is no global understanding of intercultural competence. In the end I consider the results of my term paper. All over the world, even in Europe, there is an increasing awareness of the potential for conflicts and opportunities. They are perceptible in many different parts of life, f. e. in the society, in professional business or in private life. The process of pluralization which has its origin in the internationalization is a continuous increasing process of the 21st century. Because of that the religious, ethnic and cultural heterogeneity of the society will rise and the cohabitation of people from all over the world will increase too. In this context, the ability to deal constructively on an interpersonal level with cultural diversity and many attitudes, such as norms, values and ways of life, is getting more important every day. It´s necessary to mention that the ability to interact with different cultures cannot avoid conflicts between groups and individuals entirely, but, when they are inevitable, this social ability allows individuals to deal better with conflicts (Boecker, Ulama, 2008). One conclusion you can draw is that intercultural competence has a big impact on the interaction of different cultures.

Another point is the influence of intercultural competence on business communication. With the globalization and commercial relationship of countries from all over the world, productive intercultural communication is getting more important in modern times. This intercultural communication must be simple, effective and frequent while also respecting other cultural thinking. If all participants can communicate effectively across culture it gives the involved organizations an enormous advantage like: solving problems faster, increasing productivity, stronger decision-making and better business relationships (Zheng, 2015).

2 What is culture and intercultural competence?

In general, intercultural competence can be explained as the ability to operate efficacious across different cultures, to behave and think appropriately, and to communicate and work with people from different cultural backgrounds at home or abroad (Leung/Ang/Tan, 2014). Intercultural Competence is part of a group of concepts, which include global competence, employability skills, graduate attributes, education for sustainable development, global citizenship and global employability (“What is intercultural competence”, 2019). As an addition Herbig said in 1998, culture can be defined as “…the sum of a way of life, including expected behavior, beliefs, values, language and living practices shared by members of s society. It consists of both explicit and implicit rules through which experience is interpreted”. Additionally, Hofstede refers to culture in 2001 as a “programming of the mind”. Both definitions show many similarities. To put the following figure in context, Deardorff explained intercultural competence in 2006 as an ability “to develop targeted knowledge, skills and attitudes that lead to visible behavior and communication that are both effective and appropriate in intercultural interactions” (Deardorff, 2006). This following figure gives an overview of the different constituent elements of intercultural competence. As u can see this figure is divided into three parts: Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Constituent elements of intercultural competence (adapted from Deardorff, 2006, n. p.)

Knowledge consists of four elements: Cultural self – awareness, that describes, how one’s own culture influences his or her identity and world view. Culture specific knowledge: How much do people know about other cultures, f. e. about their history, politics or communication. Sociolinguistic awareness: Learn locale language skills or non-verbal communication. Grasp of global issues and trends: to explain the sense of globalization. The second area of this constituent elements is Skills, which can be separated into three subcategories: The first is listening, observing, evaluating, the second is analyzing, interpreting and relating and the third is critical thinking. The last element is Attitudes (Deardorff, 2006).

Attitudes consist of respect, openness, curiosity and discovery. All the three elements of intercultural competence lead to internal outcomes which refer to an individual who learns how to social interact with other human beings. This way of behaving is also reflected in external outcomes (Deardorff, 2006).

2.1 Cultural Dimensions by Hofstede

Living in the 21st century means a globalized, connected and a fugacious world. Nowadays you can travel from one side of the world to the other within one day. That means, technology brings all people closer together and promotes a cohabitation of many cultures on places all over the world. In this Cohabitation different cultures work together and communicate with each other, and this brings up many problems and obstacles. How do I know that my conversational partner understands the point of my message? Do I have to be careful of my choice of verbs because of religion or other national characteristics? These mentioned points are just referring to a conversation between people. But how can we understand other cultures? Are there guidelines to follow? All these questions asked Geert Hofstede himself in the 1970s. To answer his own questions, he did plenty of research and interviewed thousands of people. As a result of his studies, he developed an application which is used as a worldwide standard. This following model consists of six dimensions and each dimension is explained afterwards: Power Distance Index (PDI) ,Individualism Versus Collectivism (IDV), Masculinity Versus Femininity (MAS) , Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI), Long Term Orientation Versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO) and Indulgence Versus Restraint (IND) (“Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions” n. d., n. p.).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions

(adapted from Business-to-you, 2017, n. p.)

The Power Distance Index expresses how much less powerful member of a society think that power is not distributed equally in their country. Important in this context is, how people deal with this situation. People in countries with a large degree of Power Distance accept a hierarchical order in which every individual has its place. In contrast to that, people from states with a low Power Distance wants to have an equal level of power for everyone and demand justification for inequalities of power society (Hofstede Insight, n. d., n. p.). Individualism versus collectivism refers to two different parts. First individualism, that means that an individual only takes care of its own, its family or its closest friends. Collectivism means that individuals prefer prosperity for all members of a group or a society (Hofstede Insight, n. d., n. p.). Masculinity versus femininity refers to the different options of men and women of what is important for the society: F. e. values, norms or social responsibility. The masculine side of the dimension represents a preference in society for heroism, assertiveness, achievement and material rewards for success. In general, the society is more competitive. The feminine part of this dimension stands or a preference for modesty, cooperation, quality of life or caring for weak citizens of a society (Hofstede Insight, n. d., n. p.). The uncertainty avoidance dimension reveals how member of a society feel about the unknown future. It shows the degree to which member of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and anxiety about the future. A country with a high uncertainty avoidance index is more intolerant of different behavior and ideas. In comparison to that, countries with a low uncertainty avoidance index have a more relaxed attitude and a more casual view of the future (Hofstede Insight, n. d., n. p.). The dimension long term orientation versus short term normative orientation, which was added later, shows how a society deals with problems or challenges of the present and future. Societies with a low score prefer to maintain their traditions and norms and are more suspicious about other cultures and changes of the society. On the other hand, societies with a high score take a more pragmatic approach. They prefer a multicultural society with modern ways of education to be prepared for the future .The last dimension is the indulgence versus restraint dimension. This dimension shows how the looseness and permissiveness are regulated by the government of a country. A high score of stands for a free lifestyle and tolerance for having fun in life. The opposite of this are countries which are highly regulated and have strict social norms (Hofstede Insight, n. d., n. p.).

2.2 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions: Example of Germany

The following figure shows Hofstede´s cultural dimensions in an example of Germany. On the scale a country can get a numeric value from 0 to 100, 0 is means a low rate and 100 for a high value.


Excerpt out of 21 pages


The Importance of Intercultural Competence in Modern Times
On the Situation in Western Countries
Fresenius University of Applied Sciences Hamburg
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Hofstede Dimensions Globalisation Culture
Quote paper
Jan Wenzel (Author), 2019, The Importance of Intercultural Competence in Modern Times, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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