Lesson Guide | Intercultural Communication

By the end of the lesson, you will have been able to:

  • define intercultural communication;
  • demonstrate effective intercultural communication skills in a speech situation;
  • develop the appreciation for different cultural perspectives;
  • practice effective intercultural communication;
  • apply learning and thinking skills, life skills, and ICT literacy in understanding intercultural communication;
  • communicate sensitively, taking into consideration a listener’s gender, religion, beliefs, and traditions; and
  • reflect on your learning about intercultural communication.
  1. Work in groups of five.
  2. Create a fictional country. Discuss for three minutes the general description of your country using the following guide questions:
    a. What is the name of the country? What are its citizens called?
    b. Is it an island or is it land-locked?
    c. What is its tourist attraction?
    d. What is your country famous for?
    e. What are its citizens known for?
  3. Describe the way these citizens use language, as well as their general traits. Make sure to have a description for the following:
    a. Behavior (Are they reserved? Loud? Generally humorous? Do they smile a lot?)
    b. Language use (Are they talkative? Soft-spoken? Do they rarely use polite words?)
    c. Nonverbal cues (Do they think shaking hands is distasteful?)
    d. Values (What do they find offensive? What positive trait are they known for?)
  4. Based on these general traits, create a list of 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts which your fictional citizens adhere to when they attend a casual dinner party with friends. You have five minutes to come up with the rules and memorize them.
  5. Then, read this scenario: You are a citizen of your fictional country, and you are attending a dinner party with other nationalities. Your goal is to mingle with and introduce yourself and your fictional country to others.
  6. The “party” will be hosted by your teacher. He/she will give the signal for the “party” to start.
  7. Once the “party” starts, each of you has to roam around and talk with people from other groups. Keep in mind the following rules.
    a. Refrain from speaking with your group mates.
    b. Do not talk about the rules which your group created.
  8. The “party” will last for 5 minutes.
  9. Afterward, confer with your group mates and discuss the following:
    a. Was there a difference between your group’s behavior and others’?
    b. How did you handle the differences between your behaviors?

After completing Let’s Warm Up, tick the column that determines how often you practice what the statements say. Do this as objectively as possible. Bear in mind that there are no wrong answers. You can use your performance in Warm Up as a basis in completing this task.

Form five groups. Each group will represent a particular country (Japan, France, China, the Philippines, and Mexico). Imagine yourselves as the ambassadors of the country assigned to your group.

You will be provided with some source-based materials like photographs, newspaper clippings, and letters. Using these pieces of information, work together and come up with some interesting data about your country. Write questions (how, what, why, where, when and who) and provide corresponding answers.

Question: When is the best time to visit your country?
Answer: ______________________________________________


Question: What is the history behind the Eiffel Tower?
Answer: ______________________________________________


Question: How did you earn the title “The Land of the Rising Sun?”
Answer: ______________________________________________


Question: How would you describe your cuisine?
Answer: ______________________________________________


Question: Why are you called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas?”
Answer: ______________________________________________

The Philippines

Come up with as many questions and answers as you can. After brainstorming, pretend that you are in an international conference for peace and that you will field a foreign correspondent who will answer questions from the audience about your assigned country.

Choose one of your members to act as a foreign correspondent. The remaining members will act as the audience from other nationalities who will ask the questions you listed. Present this in a three-minute skit.

Exercise Sheet
On the sheet provided, list the questions and answers that will provide pieces of information about the country assigned to your group.

Country: ___________________________________

Question 1: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 2: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 3: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 4: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 5: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 6: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 7: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 8: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 9: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Question 10: ___________________________________
Answer: _______________________________________

Intercultural communication happens when individuals interact, negotiate, and create meanings while bringing in their varied cultural backgrounds (Ting-Toomey, 1999).

For some scholars, intercultural communication pertains to communication among people from different nationalities (Gudykunst, 2003). Still, others look at intercultural communication as a communication that is influenced by different ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations.

Both interpretations show that intercultural communication takes place when people draw from their cultural identity to understand values, prejudices, language, attitudes, and relationships (Gudykunst & Kim, 2003). Moreover, this facet of communication can also be seen as a bargained understanding of human experiences across diverse societies. Simply put, intercultural communication is the sending and receiving of messages across languages and cultures.

Sometimes, intercultural communication can flow smoothly and become very interesting for a cross-cultural group. However, things may not go as planned when communication is disrupted by cultural collisions.

When you speak, your speech is continuously accompanied by gestures, facial expressions, and other body movements that add to what you are saying in different ways. For example, nodding means “yes” in the Indian subcontinent, Iran, most of Europe, Latin America, and North America. However, in Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Albania, nodding indicates disagreement. Moreover, in the case of Japanese culture, silence as a form of communication is more integrated into their customs than in Western languages. It is therefore important for you to acknowledge and understand the many communication patterns present in other cultures.

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) offers a structure that explores how people experience cultural differences. According to Bennett and Bennett (2004), it has six stages. These are the following:

Stage 1: Denial. The individual does not recognize cultural differences.

An individual in the denial stage might be heard saying: “All cities are the same; they all have tall buildings, fast food chains, and coffee shops.”

Stage 2: Defense. The individual starts to recognize cultural differences and is intimidated by them, resulting in either a superior view on own culture or unjustified high regard for the new one.

An individual in the defense stage might be heard saying: “This culture does not view life the way we do; our culture is certainly better.” “Their ways are better than my own; I wish I were one of them.”

Stage 3: Minimization. Although individuals see cultural differences, they bank more on the universality of ideas rather than on cultural differences.

An individual in the minimization stage might be heard saying: “Once we see through the cultural differences, we really are just the same!”

Stage 4: Acceptance. The individual begins to appreciate important cultural differences in behaviors and eventually in values.

An individual in the acceptance stage might be heard saying: “These people and I have different values and experiences, and I think we can learn from one another.”

Stage 5: Adaptation. The individual is very open to world views when accepting new perspectives.

An individual in the adaptation stage might be heard saying: “To address our issue, I have to adjust my approach to consider both my own and my counterpart’s background.”

Stage 6: Integration. Individuals start to go beyond their own cultures and see themselves and their actions based on multifarious cultural viewpoints.

An individual in the integration stage might be heard saying: “I can look at things from the perspective of various cultures.”

Once you understand these stages, you may apply them to 1) recognize communication behaviors that differ from your own, 2) take into account what can influence these types of behaviors, and 3) try to analyze how linguistic and cultural communities differ in terms of communication behavior and influencing factors (Allwood, 1985).

Characteristics of Competent Intercultural Communicators

World Bank (2010) identifies the following traits that define a competent intercultural communicator.

  1. flexibility and the ability to tolerate high levels of uncertainty
  2. reflectiveness or mindfulness
  3. open-mindedness
  4. sensitivity
  5. adaptability
  6. ability to engage in divergent thinking (or thinking creatively) and systems-level thinking (or thinking how each one in a system or organization influences each other)
  7. politeness

Note that in addition to culture, other elements such as gender, age, social status, and religion must also be taken into consideration when communicating with others. Refrain from showing bias when talking to someone by following the tips below.

  1. Avoid stereotypes, i.e., generalizations about a certain group.
  2. Challenge gender norms; avoid using “he” and “man” to refer to a general group of people. To remedy this, you may use plural pronouns or rewrite a sentence to avoid using pronouns. The use of his/her is also acceptable.
  3. Do not talk down on younger people and the elderly.
  4. Be sensitive to the religious practices of others.
  5. Be polite at all times; do not belittle people you perceive to be on a lower social class than you.

Exercise II (Individual-Pair)

Read each statement. If it displays bias or insensitivity, write the group/element being misrepresented (gender, social status, age, religion, culture). If not, write “OK.” Once done, compare and discuss your answers with a partner.

  1. “Each employee must wear his ID at all times.”
  2. “You won’t understand if I explain; you’re too young.”
  3. “Japanese people are so rigid and stoic!”
  4. “Don’t buy those shades; only low-class people wear those.”
  5. “Lolo, this is an iPhone. ‘iPhone.’ It is a very complicated device, but I’ll explain it to you simply. It is used to talk to people from other places.”
  6. “All staff members have to submit their leave requests before the day ends.”
  7. “My belief is the absolute truth. Other religions simply got it wrong.”
  8. “Manang, let’s go, I’ll treat you. I bet you haven’t eaten sushi in your entire life.”
  9. “Catholics and Protestants do have big differences, but we must respect each other’s beliefs.”
  10. “You’re the youngest person in the family, but I trust that you can handle the situation well.”

Exercise III (Individual)

Write T before each number if the statement is true and F if the statement is false.

  1. Intercultural communication occurs when there is interaction and negotiation between or among individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
  2. Intercultural communication refers only to communication that happens between or among individuals from different nations.
  3. Communication that exists between or among individuals from different ethnic, religious, and regional backgrounds and sexual orientations is not considered as intercultural.
  4. The DMIS by Bennett and Bennett (2004) can be used to understand those who do not recognize other cultures and cannot communicate interculturally.
  5. The denial stage could be interpreted as distrust towards other cultures.
  6. The acceptance stage refers to the recognition of cultural differences.
  7. In the adaptation stage, individuals begin to integrate with other cultures.
  8. Cultural sensitivity matters in intercultural communication.
  9. One character trait of a competent communicator is sensitivity to nonverbal cues in other cultures.
  10. A competent communicator is a person who is effective in intercultural communication.


Group Activity. Work with your group mates in Warm-Up.

A. Look at the following photo which compares an advertisement in Sweden and in Saudi Arabia.

Note your comparison of the advertisements in the space provided below.

B. Now, discuss your answers to the following questions.

  1. Why do you think was the advertisement edited?
  2. Is the edit justified? Why or why not?
  3. If you were members of the advertising team of the company, would you edit the advertisement as well? Why or why not?

    Discuss your answers in 5 minutes.
    Choose a representative to present in 3 to 5 minutes.

II. Group Activity. With your group mates from the previous exercise, do the following:


  1. Imagine yourselves to be a group of individuals of different nationalities.
  2. Think of a business you are interested to put up.
  3. Think of a creative name for your business.
  4. On the lines below, write what the business is about, who your prospective clients are, and why you put up such business.
  5. Do these in 10 minutes.


  1. Brainstorm for a logo for your business that will show an integration of the cultures of the countries you are from.
  2. Draw it in the space below.
  3. Do these in 10 minutes.

III. Group Activity. Do the following:

  1. Work with your group mates. Assign a number to each member.
  2. Individually, prepare a two-minute speech about this quote taken from Understanding Cultural Differences by Edward Hall and Mildred Hall: “The essence of effective cross-cultural communication has more to do with releasing the right responses than with sending the ‘right’ message.”
  3. Highlight your speech with your answer to the following question: Why is “releasing the right responses” more important than “sending the right message” in intercultural communication?
  4. Prepare your speech in five minutes.
  5. Based on the sequence of your number, deliver your two-minute speech in your group.
  6. Everyone in the group should present.

Reinforcement Activity

Choose an international company that interests you. Visit their website. If a company has multiple websites, visit at least two of them.

Using a minimum of 500 words, write an essay discussing at least two (2) strategies employed by the company to ensure that the right messages on their products and services are sent effectively across cultures worldwide.

Use the following format: computerized, font 12, Times New Roman, 1.5 spacing.


Reflect on what you have learned after taking up this lesson by completing the chart below.