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The Complexity of the Intercultural Paradox

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Loes Damhof

on 13 October 2015

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Transcript of The Complexity of the Intercultural Paradox

Do you think of yourself as being tolerant?
You probably said confidently'yes'! But
think about it for a minute...

What does 'being tolerant' mean?

Let's have a closer look.....
In the past few weeks you have
experienced working and communicating
with other cultures.
It might have had an impact on how you
view yourself and the world, but....

has it, in fact, made you more
Being aware of cultural differences
will clarify many global issues. And if cultures would peacefully live next
to each other, there probably wouldn't
be any problems.

But that world doesn't exist.
Knowledge of other cultures will help
you understand the differences.
but it will also strengthen this long
time narrative:

"we are different from them."

or simply put:
US versus THEM
In a rapidly changing world, where
people migrate and integrate, where
cultures are daily influenced by
others... you might want to ask

Who is 'US' and who is 'THEM'?
If theories about cultural differences
can lead to US-THEM thinking, you can
argue that they, although designed to
reach the opposite, often encourage

This is what we call:
The Intercultural Paradox!
Simply put: the more we learn about other cultures, the more we tend to think in abstracts. Groups. Us. Them.

Not the individual.

But isn't every individual the result
of many different influences? What
about yourself? Look at your own
cultural profile.. How would YOU call
Cultural knowledge can lead to thinking
in patterns, and as a result we avoid looking at the person and situation at hand...

This type of avoidance is also called 'tolerance':
But Us-Them thinking can also lead to
an attitude as: We are better then
they are.

We call this 'ethnocentrism': when you
judge other cultures by your own
Both attitudes, ethnocentrism and
tolerance, are based on the same Us-Them thinking, and therefore can easily
morph into one another.

Can you think of examples where tolerance changed into ethnocentrism? Or
vice versa?
In the last few weeks you have worked
with different cultures and and thought
about how to communicate more
effectively. You thought about
whether something was personal or cultural

Now we are taking it a step further.
Not the culture is a central aspect,
but the unique person him or herself.
When presented with cultural conflicts we tend to fall back on our own basic assumptions. We start to think in US-THEM patterns again, and even our tolerant approach can morph into an ethnocentric one
An ever more changing and globalizing
world asks for a new challenge: NOT to
fall back inot old patterns, but to
move forward.

How can we do this?
By taking a critical look at the concept of 'Culture' and intercultural theories. When is it helpful and when does it enhance the paradox?
By determining that every person is a
unique individual and that we are all products of our own surroundings and upbringing.
By keeping an open and critical mind.. towards ourselves, our cultures and

The wold has become a global village,
and with new territory
come new responsibilities. We
need to become Global citizens
so we can learn how to work,
play and communicate
in a way that benefits all.
Full transcript