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Developing Cultural Intelligence

Interactions across cultures require understanding, sensitivity, and knowledge. How does one develop these? What does it mean to be inclusive and to value diversity? How does one demonstrate this? 

The two articles and Ted Talk below provide a thoughtful discussion and overview of these topics. While by no means comprehensive, they can certainly put the reader onto a path of personal development that will provide greater meaning when connecting with others who come from a different place and space. 

Explore what it means to have cultural intelligence

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE, P. Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski, Harvard Business Review, October 2004 Issue

“Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.”

Explore ways to support diversity and inclusion

Responding to Everyday Bigotry: SPEAK UP! 

“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 


Culture Shock

graph showing 5 stages of culture shockEncountering another culture is usually an exciting experience as a person experiences new sights, sounds, smells, and flavors. However, it is possible for an individual to be put off by the many differences facing him/her. Sometimes, the experience starts out very positively and then something happens and the individual is no longer excited about the differences that must be negotiated. Students should be helped to understand that all of this is normal. What they are experiencing is called culture shock. Huntsman Global Learning Experiences are typically not long enough for students to experience full blown culture shock. However, it is helpful to understand this phenomenon as some students could begin to experience this.

There are five stages of culture shock.

  1. Honeymoon Stage – Euphoria is the dominant emotion of this first phase. It can last for weeks or months. Differences between one’s own culture and the new culture are celebrated even if challenging.
  2. Negotiation Stage – At about the three month mark, what was once exotic and charming is now frustrating, irritating, and confusing. People begin to miss keenly friends, family, and familiar things. Emotions that might be experienced are anger, sadness, unhappiness, isolation.
  3. Adjustment Stage – Between six to twelve months, an individual begins to adjust to his/her new environment. The new culture is not so new anymore and he/she begins to figure things out. There may be frustration at times but it is not so keenly felt.
  4. Adaptation Stage – At this point, after about one year in the new environment, an individual finally feels at home and has figured out the local way of life. Life has been normalized for the most part despite occasional twinges for home.
  5. Re-entry Stage – Re-entry or reverse culture shock occurs upon returning home and finding one’s way of life from the other country is not applicable or perhaps not even appreciated at home. Family and friends have moved on with their lives at home while the traveler has grown in other ways. Sometimes finding that common ground can be challenging.


Source: Lauren McCluskey, 20 January 2020

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