21 december 2005

The Greatest Belgian (2)

According to the French speaking community of Belgium, the Greatest Belgian of all time is Jacques Brel. Actually, he was of Flemish origin, singing in French, living in Brussels.

I wonder whether Brel is really better known abroad than the Flemish Greatest Belgian. Since he performed in France and in most of the French speaking world, I guess the answer will be yes. By the way, Father Damian was third.

20 december 2005

Bye, bye, international students!

Yesterday, we held a reception for the international students who took the international semester on Digital Business Management. In a moving closing speech, Zdravka could easily convince the audience that this has been a wonderful experience. Not only did the students learn quite a lot (often in an other way than would be the case in their home faculties), but the international students will also be friends for life.

I can only confirm these words. It was not only a nice experience for the students, we - on the teaching side - have learned a lot too. What I learned most from the international students, was their eagerness to communicate. Compared with the coyness of our students, it was nothing more or less than an intercultural clash... Hope our (Belgian) students learned from that for their future lives. It really was a wonderful intercultural experience.

Have a nice trip home and many thanks to: Bernardo, Ricardo, Catia, Joana, Joao from Portugal, Risto, Zdravka, Elena, Suzanna from Macedonia, Ramon from Spain, and Istvan from Hungary (hope I didn't forget anyone...). And why not: see you (somewhere, some time)!

12 december 2005

Integration: Egypt

What I liked most about the Egypt document were the last two paragraphs: the ones on tradition and moral codes. The rest of the information is fine when it comes to length. Try to elaborate the last part a bit. Especially the religious limits and the moral codes (e.g. difference between men and women in a Muslim country) need some more explanation.

Don't forget to include a list of references (URL's and/or books)!

08 december 2005

Lecture 10: Intercultural Communication and Ethics

Feeling better after Monday's "breakdown". Thanks for asking...

The world is a stage filled with actors and actresses, but they come from different cultures and they need to coordinate their scripts and actions in order to accomplish their collective purposes (according to William Shakespeare).

Three key ethical dilemmas:
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
- To what extent must individuals adapt their culture?
- Respect, but what is possible and reasonable will vary, also depending on circumstances.
- Sometimes: difficult for people to change their behaviours to match cultural patterns that contradict their own beliefs and values.
- Question: how far would you go?

Are cultural values relative or universal?
- Every culture has its own set of values. Do you agree?
- Two values (David Kale) that transcend all cultures:
o maintain human dignity in all circumstances
o world at peace

Do the ends justify the means?
- Should all intercultural contacts be encouraged? Are the outcomes of intercultural contacts always positive? Are all circumstances appropriate for intercultural contact?
- e.g. Tourism: tourists may consume natural resources at a greater rate than they can be replaced.
- Intercultural contact could severely affect culture and even change it. (e.g. locals had to move in Bali for tourism)
- As an ethical intercultural communicator, some of the following questions must be confronted:
o Is it ethical to go to another country, for whatever reason?
o Should intercultural contacts be encouraged for those who speak no language but their own?
o Should those who are prejudiced seek out intercultural contacts?
o Is it ethical to send missionaries to other countries?
o At what cost would you help people (medical assistance)

Ethical communicators should do the following:
- Address people of other cultures with the same respect that they would like to receive themselves.
- Try to describe the world as they perceive it as accurately as possible.
- Encourage people of other cultures to express themselves in their unique natures.
- Strive for identification with people of other cultures.

Impact of national and international events on intercultural communication
cf. 9/11
cf. Tsunami (26 Dec 2004)

- What does my culture and nation represent to others?
- What are my culture's values, norms, social practices and beliefs?
- What is my relationship with other cultures and economies in the world?
- To what extent should I trust people who seem different from me?

Forces that pull us together and apart
Economic interdependence
- globalisation (cf. French: against all English words)
- alternative globalisation

Rapid communication systems
- internet: cf. Tsunami-blogs
- cf. blogs influencing Spanish politics (11 March 2004 attacks)

- Pluralism is the reality
- This is a new situation, so: between hope and concern, between optimism and pessimism

Additional emblem for Red Cross

I heard in the news this morning something that is nothing less than an intercultural discussion:
So far, Israel (among others) could not join the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, because no appropriate symbol (i.e. a symbol free from religious or cultural connotations, whatsoever) was available. The solution to this problem is the introduction of a third - new - emblem: a red frame in the shape of a square on edge, on a white background (Source: ICRC press release).

05 december 2005

Integration: Canadian culture

Although Canada has a very interesting past, the group on "Canada" may reduce the historical background a bit. Try to focus more on the last part, which is extremely important for intercultural communication: etiquette. Most of all I liked the checklist included ("What to do in communication with Canadians" + "What to avoid in communication with Canadians"). Very enlightening stuff and a good tip for other groups as well.

Integration: Australian culture

Beneath you find a list of links used by the "Australian" group. They have done far more than that by now. What I particularly like about their work is the fact that they compare overall Belgian culture with Australian culture.
I definitely like their conclusive part, where all particularities about Australian culture are brought up again.
And now, Australian: go for the integration with the other partims!

ð http://oseb79.free.fr/images/Nature,%20animeaux/koala%2001.jpg
ð http://www.sweetmarias.com/map.australia.jpg
ð http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/t/images/theatr_sydney.opera.lg.jpg
ð http://gc.stud.tue.nl/oz/photos/maps/Australian_Flag.sized.jpg
ð http://gladstone.uoregon.edu/~ldangerm/australia/kangaroos.jpg
ð www.4husa.org/modules/coppermine/albums/userpics/normal_didgeridoo.jpg
ð http://www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/articles/images/1012outback.jpg
ð http://www.pict.com/tomi/geo/images/ayersrock.jpg
ð http://wikipedia.org
ð http://www.convictcreations.com/culture/
ð http://www.convictcreations.com/research/identity.htm
ð http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/FOOD_IS_ART/places/Ausfoodarticle.html
ð http://www.theepicentre.com/Australia/aufood1.html
ð http://www.amazingaustralia.com.au/foods.htm
ð http://www.immi.gov.au/multicultural/australian/index.htm
ð http://www.macgregoss.qld.edu.au/aussie.htm
ð http://www.vic.liberal.org.au/AbouttheParty/History/hawke&keating.htm#2
ð http://www.derechos.org/human-rights/ocea/
ð www.tai.org.au/Publications_Files/Papers&Sub_Files/Double%20Dividend.pdf

02 december 2005

The Greatest Belgian

According to the Flemings, Father Damian is the Greatest Belgian of all time (link to article in Dutch). For most Flemings it was quite obvious that he would be the chosen one. But the following question remains: do non-Belgians know Father Damian? Do you know what he stands for? Do you know why he deserves to be the Greatest Belgian? Why could he represent Belgian culture?

Christmas traditions all over Europe

Christmas is only a few weeks ahead. I got this link from BBC. Following it, you could learn something about Christmas traditions in Spain, France, Germany and Italy. Interesting stuff, I can assure you. Any X-mas particularities in your culture?

28 november 2005

Lecture 9: Verbal Intercultural Communication (2)

Sapir-Worf Hypothesis (linguistic determinism)

Language determines the way in which people think
  • Language = a prison; once people learn it, they are affected by its particulars;
  • Effective and successful translation between two languages is never possible;
  • So: competent intercultural communication is an elusive goal.

Light version:

  • Language shapes people and the way they think

Sapir-Worf's main focus was on variations in vocabulary and grammar:

  • Variations in vocabulary
    e.g. classical Arabic has 1000s of words for camel;
    e.g. colours: Kamayura (Brazil) have one word for blue and green (parakeet coloured); Dani (West New Guinea) have only two words for colours (dark and light);
    e.g. Some languages have one word to refer to grandparents, others (like Swedish) have four different words
  • Variations in grammar
    e.g. cultural conceptions of time: English (specific point on a linear plane divided into past, present, and future) vs. Hopi (time is an ongoing process, present will never actually arrive, but will always be approaching).
    e.g. respect: English (you) vs. Dutch (informal jij and formal u)
    e.g. pronouns: I (with capital!) vs. Vietnamese (12 words for I), Chinese (10), Japanese (over 100!)


  • Language definitely shapes and influences our thoughts and behaviour, perhaps more than we are aware of...;
  • Knowing more than one language = broadening your personal view on the world;
  • Of course, there is always non-verbal communication as well...

Lecture 9: Verbal Intercultural Communication

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." (L. Wittgenstein)

Let's start with a few examples:
Englishman meets American - they will use English
Scandinavian meets Dutchman - they will use English
Englishman / American / Canadian / Australian meets Belgian - they will use English
Is that a fair thing to do from a business point of view?

Interesting features of language:
  • language is learned (so is culture...)
  • some aspects: typical in one language, lack in others (e.g. use of tenses)
  • spoken first, then written; BUT: written language is stronger (Why?)
  • verbal code = phonology + morphology + semantics + syntactics + pragmatics

Interpretation is the key word (// interpreter - cf. also localisation)

We have to look for equivalences between two different languages.

Types of equivalence:

  • vocabulary equivalence: word by word
  • problem: Igbo (Nigeria) has no word for window (they refer to it as opening)
  • idiomatic equivalence
  • problem: "put this tape on the television" (what do you exactly mean?)
  • grammatical-syntactical equivalence: e.g. difference between English and Turkish / Chinese / Finnish
  • experiential equivalence: e.g. if you want to talk about the "television", it means that you either have a television or at least that you know (from experience) what a television is.
  • conceptual equivalence: e.g. snow in Inuktitut is not just snow.

Integration: Iceland

The group of international students working on Iceland have done a nice job so far. The text so far is a nice mixture of general cultural information (e.g. languages spoken in Iceland) and specific information that could be useful when visiting Iceland for business purposes (e.g. names and greetings - using first names). I would like to focus on the less known aspects of Icelandic culture, because knowing them could make the whole difference in negotiations.

Here is their linklist of the group working on Iceland:


24 november 2005

What creatures are "Belgians"?

After last week's lecture, a student came to see me. She had an article with her from her local newspaper. The article is about how foreigners look at Belgians. Here is the English summary:

  • Belgians have a mentality of "I don't care";
  • Belgians are independent, but always try to get rid of responsibilities;
  • Germans and French people know that the Belgians are pro-European, but are also afraid of non-European cultures;
  • British people know that Belgians are very proud of their houses;
  • Americans think Belgians are reliable and practical people.

This is not how Belgians see themselves. It's how foreigners see Belgians. Do you agree? Or (being a decent Belgian) don't you care?

21 november 2005

Integration: Indonesian culture

The linklist beneath is on Indonesian culture. With these links you will have a good starting point of getting into this country. I only miss one category (which I liked e.g. with South-Africa): some links on business communication/habits. But maybe these can be retrieved from the other information.

De algemene gegevens Indonesië

Economische situatie

Demografische gegevens

Network Indonesia - Culture - History of Indonesia
Explore Indonesia..!! :: The Official Site of Indonesia Culture and Tourism Board
Indonesia WWW Virtual Library
Welcome to My Indonesia
Indonesie Cultuur - Indonesie.nl
WWW-VL History Index. Indonesia
Mark Moxon, Travel Writer: Indonesia: Indonesian Habits
Dicover Indonesia : Home Page
The Impact of Indonesian culture on Human Resources Management [Archive] - Kaskus - The Largest Indonesian Community
Netherlands, Indonesia, Hybrid of Cultures
indahnesia.com - Indonesia - Country of 230 milion people, 15000 islands and 400 languages - Discover Indonesia Online
Indonesians - Culture - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Network Indonesia - Culture - History of Indonesia
History Page - including background and general information
Indonesia country, cultural and history information


Integration: South African culture

I received a linklist of the "South African group".
I guess you have the most important information to describe the culture. What is very useful for your integration task are the links about South African business etiquette. Try to focus on these, but try not to forget the other aspects, of course...


South Africa Business Etiquette
http://www.executiveplanet.com/business-etiquette/South+Africa.html (Good)

Network contacts
http://pretoria.usembassy.gov/wwwhfaq.html (Good)

Arts and culture
http://www.southafrica-newyork.net/consulate/arts.htm (Good for Dance, music, religion, …)
Zalige economice (NERD) site: (Click to “publications”)
Appearance, communications, culture, Religion
History & People, Location, Geography, & Climate

Very Good links
http://www.businessculture.com/southafrica/ (Als je een groot budget hebt :D )
South Africa large country study
Elements of Successful Cultural Adaptation and Adjustment
http://aol.countrywatch.com/aol_topic.asp?vCOUNTRY=159&SECTION=APP&TOPIC=CDATA&TYPE=APPEN (Good)
A bit ICT development

Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions

Integration: Mexican culture

Although you could say and write a lot on Mexican culture, I would prefer a description that is not too long. What is interesting about Mexican culture is the mixture of Spanish and local history and habits. What exactly is Spanish about it? Where can you find the local things? How is that reflected in business communication?

Good preparatory work, needs a bit more being worked out and a bit more focus on business issues: e.g. why is reliability so important to a Mexican businessman?

Integration: Thai culture

I've started reading your preparatory work for the integration tasks. The remarks about the tasks could be enlightening for all of you, so that is why I put them on the blog. If you would like to add comments or additional material, please feel free to do so.

The group that is working on Thailand did a great job on describing the material they collected. From an overall point of view, we have enough information about Thailand. When you start processing the material (and I have pointed this out already in class), try to bear in mind what is really important in business communication. Both business and communication are equally important: whereas an overall overview of Thai culture (including e.g. the explanation of Thai chess) is useful, you could also focus on typical Thai habits that are important in business relations, especially on those habits that are quite unusual to our culture (e.g. the wai).

Lecture 8: Framework for assessing culture

This lecture is based on this article by Michael McGinnis about the integration of Geert Hofstede's framework into cross-cultural negotiations situations.

Four dimensions:
1. Individualism - Collectivism
- individualistic societies: stress on individual independence (e.g. US)
- collectivistic societies: group is responsible for the individual (e.g. Japan)
- individualistic: stress on short term, extreme offers
- collectivistic: stress on long term, realistic offer

2. Power Distance
- Is power distributed (un)equally?
- high power distance: little consultation between superiors and subordinates
- low power distance: more cooperation between "leaders" and "followers" (these roles could shift...)

3. Masculinity - Femininity
- masculine society: money and things - tangible (e.g. Japan)
- feminine society: relationships and quality of life - intangible (e.g. Finland)

4. Uncertainty avoidance
- high uncertainty avoidance: stability, structure and precise managerial direction (e.g. Greece)
- low uncertainty avoidance: ambiguity, unstructured situations, broad managerial guidance (e.g. Hong Kong)

For all of these dimensions, you could ask a few questions (feel free to add answers in the comments):
- What possible problems could you encounter in negotiations when two people of a different kind of culture are trying to reach an agreement?
- What kind of culture is your own culture?
- Could this framework work? Why (not)?
- Why is it important to have a framework? Could you possibly do without?

14 november 2005

Lecture 7: explanation integration task

Case: looking for Belgian culture.

linklist for this lecture (selection):




You can retrieve some information for your country/region as well:
  • expatriate-online: maybe something similar is available for your country; look for forums (like expatica) and personal experiences, rather than general information. Stress is on: social interaction and communication.
  • Wikipedia: could be interesting for you as well.
  • Of course: if you look for personal experiences, make sure that you handle them as such in your portfolio.

If you have information you would like to share with your fellow students, mail me (even if it is only an annotated linklist). I'll put them on this blog.

09 november 2005

Next week: integration week

Next week is the first integration week for NE.

For all of you (i.e. not only for NE, but also for OM and International Students), I will reserve next week's session (14 November) for questions and answers about your integration task.

07 november 2005

Lecture 6: Intercultural leadership

I would like to give some examples of possible differences between "Western" style and an other culture's style of communication. I know that there could be a problem of overgeneralizing, but if I do, please correct me in the comments section.

Communication with people from the Middle East:
- Be patient. Recognize the Arab attitude towards time and hospitality;
- Relationships are much more important than the company (face to face vs. phone);
- Body language and flowery speech;
- Honour: no doubts/criticism in public.

Differences between Japanese and American style:
- No confrontation - confrontation;
- Group - individual(istic);
- Indirect - direct.

Examples of (intercultural) leaders.
- Why are they leaders? Why are they intercultural leaders?
- What is positive about their leadership?
- What is negative about their leadership?

Try to answer these questions (feel free to use the comments section for that) for:
- Malcolm X
- Adolf Hitler
- Ernesto Che Guevarra
- Saddam Hussein
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Joseph Stalin
- Jo Lernout & Pol Hauspie

24 oktober 2005

If the world was a village of 1,000 people

In the village would be:

- 606 Asians
- 138 Africans
- 114 Europeans
- 51 North Americans
- 86 Latin Americans (Central and South America)
- 5 Australian/Oceanians

There would be:
- 335 Christians
- 218 Muslims
- 151 Hindus
- 60 Buddhists
- 38 Chinese Folk Religionists
- 57 People Practicing other Religions
- 142 Atheists or Nonreligious

(Source: Bureau of the Census, 2004)
(Quoted in: Lustig & Koester, Intercultural Competence. Interpersonal communication across cultures, Fifth Edition, Pearson Education, 2006, p. 5)

Lecture 5: Intercultural leadership

Over the last 100 years business and social life have been changing quite dramatically. Especially in the last 15 years, communication has become more and more multicultural (web). If we want to communicate these days, we really need to be interculturally prepared.

How NOT to adapt?
- learn all about target culture: is not realistic, cf. economic "window of opportunity".
- Mimic, adapt as much as possible: is not realistic either, impossible, even insulting.
- Prejudices - cultural superiority

How to adapt?
- Leaders are excellent communicators
- Understand communication (+ link communication-culture)
- Active view on cultures
- Avoid prejudices
- Cultural awareness -> open attitude
- Careful transmission of information
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
- Find things in common and common objective(s)

Perhaps the most important question of today's lecture:
What are our common things and common objectives? (People in the classroom described themselves as: Belgian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Flemish, Muslim, Spanish, Christian, Chinese,…)

To get started:
- common objective: reach the level of intercultural competence
- common objective: building up a network of (new) friends in order to be able to contact them again in the future.

Other things we have in common and/or common objectives? Add them in the comments.

21 oktober 2005

Before lecture 5: intercultural leadership

A question to think about before the next lecture: What characteristics does it take to have an intercultural leader? Use the comments to react.

Some possible directions:
- charisma
- playing with media (e.g. role of the internet)
- linguistic ability
- thinker vs. doer
- knowing everything about two (or more) cultures

17 oktober 2005

Lecture 4: Intercultural competence

Last week I sent you home with this.

With your answers, I would like to make these afterthoughts:

  • The image we have of e.g. a German (punctual, hi-tech industry, conservative) does not always correspond with reality (German economy and industry is not doing well lately, they've had up to now a left government for the last 6-7 years).
  • The image we have of a group (e.g. Muslims) is not always an exhaustive one. The first thing that comes up is terrorism, extreme violence, no rights for women, fundamentalist religion. Only later we mention the important social network (relatives, helping poor people,...), if we will mention it at all.
  • Sometimes we can say a lot about people (e.g. Americans) or our knowledge can be very limited (e.g. Congolese: we know they're black, but that is really it...).
  • We (I mean: in Western Europe) should be a bit more open-minded towards Eastern European people; we still consider them to be part of the Eastern Block (Cold War ended 16 years ago, and yet...). Getting to know our Macedonian guest students, we try to do something about that view.
  • If I missed something (I deliberately did about Portuguese and Belgian), please add in the comments.

10 oktober 2005


To help you with your assignment (previous post), just a few thoughts by Mr. John...

Potverdekke! It´s great to be a Belgian!
I´m not English, I´m not French and I´m not Dutch,
I´m not Spanish, Portuguese or German,
I´m a Belgian so thank you very much!

As I walk along the street, with my mayonnaise and frites,
You can tell I´m as happy as can be.
With my Duvel in my hand
then you must understand,
I´m a Belgian so nothing worries me!

Potverdekke! It´s great to be a Belgian!
I´m not English, I´m not French and I´m not Dutch,
I´m not Irish, Italian or Danish
I´m a Belgian so thank you very much!

Without the Belgians there would be no saxophone,
No Tintin, Captain Haddock or Poirot.
And you´ll excuse me if I´ve missed
anybody off the list,
These are the only Belgians that I know!

Potverdekke! It´s great to be a Belgian!
I´m not English, I´m not French and I´m not Dutch,
I´m not Finnish, Austrian or Swedish
I´m a Belgian so thank you very much!

Now the English egg and bacon´s not so bad,
Especially since all the cows went mad.
But if they´ve never tasted mussels,
on the Grand Place down in Brussels,
It´s no wonder that they´re feeling very sad!

Potverdekke! It´s great to be a Belgian!
I´m not English, I´m not French and I´m not Dutch,
I´m not Spanish, Portuguese or German,
I´m a Belgian so thank you very much!

I´m a Belgian, I´m not Irish, I´m not Greek,
I don´t drink Guiness or Retsina, I drink Kriek!
On the Schelde or the Meuse, you find me drinking Geuze.
Or Leffe, or Chimay, or Lambic!

Potverdekke! It´s great to be a Belgian!
I´m not English, I´m not French and I´m not Dutch,
I´m not a Luxemburger
I´m a Belgian so thank you very much!

Lecture 3: Intercultural competence (2)

Don't forget the assignment with which I sent you home:

Are you (inter)culturally competent?

Try the test: describe - from a cultural point of view:
- a German
- a Muslim
- an American
- a Congolese
- a Portuguese (esp. for the non-Portuguese)
- a Macedonian (esp. for the non-Macedonians)
- a Belgian (esp. for the non-Belgians)

Feel free to describe in the comments...

Lecture 3: Intercultural competence

The ultimate goal is to reach (inter)cultural competence, i.e. “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency or professional and enable that system, agency or professional to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.” (Cross, 1998, http://www.nysccc.org/T-Rarts/CultCompCont.html).

Cultural competence ranges from cultural proficiency to cultural destructiveness. Between these two extremes you have various possibilities (Cross 1998):

Cultural Destructiveness. The most negative end of the continuum is represented by attitudes, policies and practices which are destructive to cultures and consequently to the individuals within the culture. The most extreme example of this orientation are programs which actively participate in cultural genocide--the purposeful destruction of a culture.

Cultural Incapacity. Someone who is culturally incapable, remains extremely biased, believes in the racial superiority of the subdominant group and assumes a paternal posture towards "lesser" races. The characteristics of cultural incapacity include: discriminatory hiring practices, subtle messages to people of color that they are not valued or welcome, and generally lower expectations of minority clients.

Cultural Blindness. Someone who is culturally blind, functions with the belief that color or culture make no difference and that we are all the same. Culturally blind people are characterized by the belief that helping approaches traditionally used by the dominant culture are universally applicable; if the system worked as it should, all people--regardless of race or culture--would be serviced with equal effectiveness.

Culturally blind people ignore cultural strengths, encourage assimilation and blame the victims for their problems. Members of minority communities are viewed from the cultural deprivation model which asserts that problems are the result of inadequate cultural resources.

While these agencies often view themselves as unbiased and responsive to minority needs, their ethnocentrism is reflected in attitude, policy and practice.

Cultural Pre-Competence. Culturally competent people are characterized by acceptance and respect for difference, continuing self-assessment regarding culture, careful attention to the dynamics of difference, continuous expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, and a variety of adaptations to service models in order to better meet the needs of minority populations.

Advanced Cultural Competence. The most positive end of the scale is advanced cultural competence or proficiency. This point on the continuum is characterized by holding culture in high esteem. The culturally proficient people seek to add to the knowledge base of culturally competent practice by conducting research, developing new therapeutic approaches based on culture and publishing and disseminating the results of demonstration projects.

The culturally proficient people hire staff who are specialists in culturally competent practice. Such people advocate for cultural competence throughout the system and improved relations between cultures throughout society.

03 oktober 2005

Lecture 2: Intercultural Awareness

Let’s start with a quote:

From the ritual view of communication (…) the act of reading a newspaper has
less to do with sending or gaining information and more to do with attending a
religious mass – a situation in which a particular view of the world is
portrayed and confirmed. (W.J. Severin, J.R. Tankard Jr., Communication
Theories. Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media, Longman, 2001, p.

The first and perhaps most important step towards intercultural communication is that you are aware of the cultural differences between your culture and the culture of your correspondent.

Simple, you think? Well, it is if we are not prejudiced (and we all are!).

To prove our prejudices, we did a picture exercise. We tried to answer (straight away) the following simple questions:
- What is the nationality of the person in the picture?
- Why do you say so?

We have to admit that you do not always get what you see...

Of course, cultural awareness will not come at once. There are six stages of development in intercultural awareness (cf. Bennett, 1993, quoted in: http://www.awesomelibrary.org/multiculturaltoolkit-stages.html):

  • Denial: Does not recognize cultural differences
  • Defense: Recognizes some differences, but sees them as negative
  • Minimization: Unaware of projection of own cultural values; sees own values as superior
  • Acceptance: Shifts perspectives to understand that the same "ordinary" behavior can have different meanings in different cultures
  • Adaptation: Can evaluate other’s behavior from their frame of reference and can adapt behavior to fit the norms of a different culture
  • Integration: Can shift frame of reference and also deal with resulting identity issues

Why should we bother about intercultural awareness? The answer is more complex than the question…
- Internet vs mass media: cf. civic journalism (the “blogging” phenomenon)
- “International” is not the same as “intercultural” (cf. sub-cultures)
- Any other issue? (Feel free to add in the comments)

What is "intercultural communication"?

With the posts about communication and culture, you should be able to construct an acceptable definition for intercultural communication.

Intercultural communication is... (feel free to complete this definition in the comments section)

30 september 2005

Japanese = sign language

Did you know that Japanese uses a lot of sign language? The following article (in Dutch) is very helpful if you want to do business with Japan...

Studenten die beginnen met het leren van de Japanse taal gebruiken daarbij
Nederlandse gebaren. Mensen gebruiken handgebaren om het verhaal te
ondersteunen. In het geval van de studenten is de woordenschat en kennis van de
grammatica te klein om een verhaal te kunnen vertellen. Dat blijkt uit een
onderzoek van Keiko Yoshioka. Ze promoveert hiermee op 6 oktober aan de
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
De studenten die meededen aan het onderzoek, moesten aan de hand van een stripverhaal zonder tekstballonnen een verhaal vertellen. "Het Japans kent geen werkwoorden die een actie weergeven, zoals huppelen of kruipen", stelt Yoshioka. "Daarvoor in de plaats hebben de Japanners veel gebaren." Ook kent de Japanse taal geen lidwoorden en werkwoordvervoegingen.
De hoofdpersonen in een verhaal worden 'weggezet' door Japanse vertellers. Iedere keer als het personage aangehaald wordt, verwijzen ze met een gebaar naar de plek waar ze hem hebben neergezet. In de Nederlandse taal worden alle personages juist telkens weer genoemd. "In het Nederlands zijn daar genoeg woorden voor", zegt Yoshioka. Het onderzoek wijst verder uit dat verschillende talen hele andere gebaren gebruiken.

26 september 2005

Lecture 1: a few links about "culture"

To help you with the definition of culture, I tried Google.

This is what came up... - if you don't want to click the link, I've made a selection for you. Here we go:

a particular society at a particular time and place; "early Mayan civilization"

the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group

acculturation: all the knowledge and values shared by a society

the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a

particular social group or organization; "the developing drug culture"; "the
reason that the agency is doomed to inaction has something to do with the FBI

The word culture comes from the Latin root colere (to inhabit, to cultivate,
or to honor). In general, it refers to human activity; different definitions of
culture reflect different theories for understanding, or criteria for valuing,
human activity. Culture is traditionally the oldest human character, its
significant traces separating Homo from australopithecines, and Man from the
Animals, though new discoveries are blurring these edges in our day. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture

a set of learned beliefs, values and behaviors the way of life shared by the
members of a society.www.saa.org/publications/sampler/terms.html

The accumulated habits, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people that
define for them their general behavior and way of life; the total set of learned
activities of a people.odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/GEO/glossary.htm

Learned behavior of people, which includes their belief systems and
languages, their social relationships, their institutions and organizations, and
their material goods - food, clothing, buildings, tools, and machines.www.mdk12.org/mspp/vsc/social_studies/bygrade/glossary.shtml

The reflection and prefiguration of the possibilities of organization of
everyday life in a given historical moment; a complex of aesthetics, feelings
and mores through which a collectivity reacts on the life that is objectively
determined by its economy. (We are defining this term only in the perspective of
creating values, not in that of teaching them.)www.bopsecrets.org/SI/1.definitions.htm

The shared values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, institutions,
and experience of a group of people. The group may be identified by race, age,
ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, or other social categories or

The collective body of understanding, belief and behavior among a given
group of people; depends on the human capacity for learning and transmitting
knowledge from one generation to another.www.apsu.edu/wet/whatis.html

Culture is a group's way of life including language, clothing, food and

a common way of life of a group of people www.uwlax.edu/mvac/PreEuropeanPeople/EarlyCultures/glossary.html

The civilization responsible for the creation of a work of art. Ex.
Egyptian www.art-and-artist.co.uk/art-terms.htm

The history, traditions, and social mores of an organization.www.customersurveystore.com/The_Process/Definitions/definitions.html
The complete way of life of a people: the shared attitudes, values, goals,
and practices that characterize a group; their customs, art, literature,
religion, philosophy, etc.; the pattern of learned and shared behavior among the
members of a group.www.digonsite.com/glossary/ag.html

Archaeologically, a human population that shared a similar economic life
style, activities and beliefs which can be recognized through the identification
of residual remains and artifacts which were left behind by the group.members.aol.com/artgumbus/glossary.html

The organization has built an interesting organizational culture, has a
strong set of values. (Result)ccs.mit.edu/21c/iokey.html

is a combination of organizational history, shared experience, group
expectations, unwritten or tacit rules, ethics, and social interactions that
affect the behavior of everyone in the organization. Culture is developed dejure
(organizational rules and pronouncements from upper management) and defacto
based on shared experience. Culture is a complex social structure. We
simultaneously participate in many cultures such as family, local, religious,
national, and organizational. One culture may permit an action, while another
forbids it.home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/defin1.htm

Lecture 1: Introduction

I'd like to share with you my notes and thoughts after the first lesson of this course.

What is intercultural communication?
- What is communication?
- What does (inter)cultural mean?

In most handbooks, this is the definition of communication:

Communication is the exchange of information between at least two (groups of) people.

As you can see, three elements are very important in this definition:
- exchange
- information
- at least two

If one element is not there, you could not talk about communication whatsoever.

People have four basic skills at their disposal to successfully communicate with one another:
- reading
- writing
- listening
- speaking

Apart from these basic skills we also distinguish between verbal and non-verbal communication:
- verbal: words/sounds
- non-verbal: gestures, ...; (can anyone think of other examples? Feel free to add in the comment section).

As for the term culture the definition is somewhat problematic. In class, we defined culture as:
- indificiation of a group of people
- language
- place, nation
- time area
- traditions
- values
(anything to add? Use the comment section)

Think about this by next time: what makes your culture different from e.g. surrounding cultures? (e.g. Holland vs. Flemish culture; Portuguese vs. Spanish culture - Feel free to add before next week in the comments)

06 september 2005

Lecture blog

The purpose of this blog is to write down ideas, comments and links about intercultural communication.

The blog is meant for students of my course "intercultural communication" (Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen, Department Simon Stevin, Bruges). They are invited to participate in the discussions as well. If you are a visitor, though, feel free to read and add. It could be enlightening to get a view from the outside.

The lectures will start on September 26 and will end with the semester exams in January.