Intercultural communication

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Intercultural communication refers to communication that takes place under conditions of cultural overlap. These actors can be individuals, social groups, organizations, communities, societies or states. Differences in communication are often dependent on cultural standards, which describe characteristic features of cultures from the perspective of another culture. Misunderstandings can arise from different interpretations of the paraverbal and non-verbal forms of communication in the respective cultures. These are expressed in ways of expression, presentation and behavior such as volume, tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and distance from the conversation partner. In the context of intercultural communication, prejudices can arise if the participants apply their own cultural interpretation system without reflection, that is, without being aware of it. Due to the fundamental attribution error , such interpretation systems can lead to the formation of stereotypes. These do not necessarily have a negative connotation, but can lead to problems with communication and ultimately lead to prejudice. These must be avoided at all costs as they encourage discrimination against people and groups.

Due to increasing globalization, intercultural communication is becoming increasingly important as part of it. In addition, phenomena such as the global division of labor and mobility, increasing freedom of travel and mass tourism , as well as international communication through the Internet, for example, lead to more and more contacts between people from different cultures. In order to understand the cultural other, it is necessary to overcome ethnocentrism .

Culture as an orientation system in communication

A. Thomas defined culture under this aspect as a system of orientation that is typical for a society or a group. This system influences the perception and thinking of the members and thus creates independent ideas for coping with the environment. In doing so, it also indicates patterns of action and approaches to interpreting behavior during communication.

Fields of application and promotion of intercultural skills

In the age of globalization, it is essential to promote intercultural skills in many areas of life. Intercultural competence is understood as the ability to interact sensitively with interlocutors and to be able to be aware of cultural differences in order to avoid misunderstandings. Above all, this involves adopting perspectives from the interlocutor from another culture. This funding is used in the following areas:

  • Training for company staff in preparation for a stay abroad. Especially to reduce the drop-out rate for the stay. This training can either be culturally general, i.e. a standardized sensitization for any culture, or culture-specific, i.e. for a very specific culture.
  • Foreign language teaching. Above all, this should not only stimulate discussion with native speakers, but also include intercultural dialogues. Clarifying different understandings of terms can be particularly helpful.
  • Student exchange programs, international youth exchanges. A preparatory seminar for a better understanding of the foreign culture and one's own culture can support the communication of the participants during the program.
  • Integration work. Supporting migrants to learn the language is the top priority, but courses on culture or history and role-play for everyday situations could also help to establish integration faster and better and thus facilitate interaction with locals.

Transculturality and multicollectivity

In order to do justice to the changed structure of cultures, Wolfgang Welsch proposed a revision of the concept of culture in 1992 and developed the concept of “ transculturality ”, which should replace the traditional definition of culture.

Welsch shows that cultures today are no longer homogeneous internally and no longer clearly separated and delimited externally. Rather, they permeate each other and are characterized by mixtures. "Transculturality" no longer imagines cultures as spheres, but as meshes. This corresponds more to the realities to be found today, because contemporary cultures are on the one hand strongly connected and intertwined with one another externally, while increasing hybridization is taking place internally.

In intercultural practice and intercultural training, it is now taken into account that there is not only a diversity of cultures in society as a whole, but that the individual also unites several cultures: It is assumed that everyone is multicollectivity . In view of the multiple differences that exist within modern societies, the concept of superdiversity was introduced.


Intercultural communication courses are offered at several universities and colleges in Germany :

university Name of the course graduation Normal period


Chemnitz University of Technology Intercultural communication BA / MA 6/4
University of Munich Intercultural communication and cooperation MA 5
LMU Munich Intercultural communication MA 4th
University of Cologne Intercultural communication and education MA 4th
Saarland University Intercultural communication MA 4th

In addition, there are around 40 courses in Germany that are not called Intercultural Communication , but belong to this subject. The University Association for Intercultural Studies (IKS) has over 100 members from around 40 universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


  • Nancy Aalto, Ewald Reuter (Ed.): Aspects of Intercultural Dialogue . Theory Research Applications. Saxa, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-939060-03-1 (text partly in German and partly in English).
  • Christoph Barmeyer, Petia Genkova, Jörg Scheffer (Eds.): Intercultural Communication and Cultural Studies . Stutz, Passau 2011. ISBN 978-3888493409 .
  • Jürgen Bolten, Claus Ehrhardt (ed.): Intercultural communication . Science and Practice, Sternenfels 2003, ISBN 978-3-89673-138-8 .
  • Jürgen Bolten: Introduction to intercultural business communication. 3. Edition. V&R, Göttingen, ISBN 978-3-8252-5003-4 .
  • Wilfried Dreyer, Ulrich Hößler (ed.): Perspectives on intercultural competence. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-525-40332-7 .
  • Anton Escher, Heike Spickermann (ed.): Perspectives of interculturality. Research fields of a controversial term. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-8253-6839-5
  • Csaba Földes : Intercultural Linguistics. Preliminary considerations on concepts, problems and desiderata . Universitätsverlag, Veszprém / Edition Praesens, Vienna 2003 ( Studia Germanica Universitatis Vesprimiensis , Supplement; 1), ISBN 3-7069-0230-3 ( online 83 pages ; PDF; 4.0 MB).
  • Csaba Földes: Intercultural Communication. Positions on research questions, methods and perspectives . Universitätsverlag, Veszprém / Edition Praesens, Vienna 2007 ( Studia Germanica Universitatis Vesprimiensis , Supplement; 7), ISBN 978-3-7069-0442-1 ( online 67 pages ; PDF; 1.3 MB).
  • Hans Jürgen Heringer : Intercultural Communication . Basics and concepts. In: UTB 2550, 3rd, continuous. Edition. Francke, Basel 2010 ISBN 978-3-7720-8394-5 ; again university paperbacks ISBN 978-3-8252-2550-6 .
  • Dagmar Kumbier, Friedeman Schulz von Thun : Intercultural Communication. Methods, models, examples. rororo 62096, Rowohlt Verlag , Reinbek 2006, ISBN 978-3-499-62096-6 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink: Intercultural Communication. Interaction, external perception, cultural transfer. Metzler, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 978-3-476-01989-9 ; exp. New version ibid. 2016 (supplemented in particular to include business communication).
  • Gerhard Maletzke: Intercultural Communication. For interaction between people from different cultures. Westdeutscher, Opladen 1996, ISBN 3-531-12817-5 .
  • Norbert Schröer: Intercultural Communication . Introduction. Oldib, Essen, 2009 ISBN 978-3-939556-10-7 .
  • Jürgen Straub, Arne Weidemann, Doris Weidemann (eds.); Handbook for Intercultural Communication and Intercultural Competence . Metzler, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-476-05019-9 .
  • Alexander Thomas (2001): Intercultural Competence - Basics, Problems and Concepts. In: Considering Knowledge Ethics - Forms of Disputes for Recital Culture , 14 , 137–228 (as well as numerous reviews and comments on this main article).
  • Alexander Thomas, Eva-Ulrike Kinast, Sylvia Schroll-Machl (eds.): Intercultural communication and cooperation . Volume 1: Basics and fields of practice. 2nd edition Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht , Göttingen 2005, ISBN 978-3-525-46172-3 .
  • Alexander Thomas, Stefan Kammhuber, Sylvia Schroll-Machl (eds.): Intercultural communication and cooperation . Volume 2: Countries, Cultures and Intercultural Work. 2nd edition Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-46166-2 .
  • Hamid Reza Yousefi , Ina Braun: Interculturality. An interdisciplinary introduction. Scientific Book Society WBG, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-534-23824-8
  • Hamid Reza Yousefi: Intercultural Communication. A practice-oriented introduction. Scientific Book Society WBG, Darmstadt 2013, ISBN 978-3-534-26260-1

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Alexander Thomas, Celine Chang: Intercultural Communication . In: Ulrike Six, Uli Gleich, Roland Gimmler (eds.): Communication Psychology - Media Psychology: Textbook . 1st edition. Beltz, Weinheim 2007, ISBN 978-3-621-27591-0 , p. 209-229 .
  2. Wolfgang Welsch: “What is actually transculturality?” Transkript Verlag, Bielefeld 2010, p. 39-66 .
  3. Arjan Verdooren: Taking Multiplicity Seriously: Towards new Approaches for Intercultural practitioners. Taking Diversity Seriously: New Approaches for Intercultural Practitioners. In: interculture journal 13/23. 2014, accessed on April 26, 2020 (English): “[…] people, depending on their class- or political position for instance, can take up very different positions within their national culture. [...] multicollectivity . Can be Assumed in any human being " 20. Translated:" People can, depending on the class-related or political position, for example, be very different Posi Tinen within their culture. [...] it can be assumed that there is a multicollectivity in every person. "
  4. Arjan Verdooren: Taking Multiplicity Seriously: Towards new Approaches for Intercultural practitioners. Taking Diversity Seriously: New Approaches for Intercultural Practitioners. In: interculture journal 13/23. 2014, accessed on April 26, 2020 (English): "In reality, the differences in generation, education and socio-economic position between and within communities have urged many leading researchers of integration and multiculturalism to speak of" superdiversity "(Vertovec 2006, Blommaerts 2011, Prins 2013, Crul 2013). " P. 20. Translated:" Indeed, given the differences that exist in generation, education or socio-economic position within and between social groups, leading researchers on integration and Multiculturalism is seen as compelled to speak of “superdiversity” (Vertovec 2006, Blommaerts 2011, Prins 2013, Crul 2013).
  5. Marcus Nolden: Professorship | Professorship for Intercultural Communication | Institute for German Studies and Communication | Philosophical fac… | Chemnitz University of Technology. Retrieved June 5, 2018 .
  6. Munich University of Applied Sciences - Overview of Master’s Intercultural Communication and Cooperation - General and Interdisciplinary Studies and Master’s course. Retrieved June 5, 2018 .
  7. Intercultural Communication (Master) - LMU Munich. Retrieved June 5, 2018 .
  8. ^ Faculty of Human Sciences :: University of Cologne. Retrieved June 5, 2018 .
  9. The subject . January 16, 2018 ( [accessed June 5, 2018]).
  10. ^ Official study guide for Germany. sv "intercultural communication". In: Retrieved June 17, 2018 .
  11. University Association for Intercultural Studies (IKS): University map . In: Retrieved June 17, 2018 .