1. Intercultural Competence


People in Europe are increasingly in touch with other cultures not only due to new methods of communication (emails, Internet, social media) or easy transport systems but also due to migration. It is usual for most of us to work with or teach people who are new to the UK. Adjusting to a new culture doesn’t happen overnight. A migrant comes to a new home country with established beliefs values and cultural conventions. They are in-built - a person’s normal way of seeing things. A migrant may need support (from teachers, colleagues, neighbours) to adjust to the new culture. 


Anyone who has lived in a foreign country will understand that adjustments concern little things and big things. The further you go, the more adjustments you need to make. Imagine migrating to a very different culture from your own and think how many cultural mistakes you would make every day. Are there things you would not know how to do? How long would you survive without help? 

The Iceberg model


Culture can be pictured as an iceberg: Only the top of the iceberg can be seen above the water line. What is underneath is invisible. It is a much larger part and the powerful foundation. Visible elements of a culture are things like dress, music, food, gestures, greetings and architecture. Invisible elements of a culture are values and beliefs, world views, rules of a relationship, approach to the family, gender differences, attitudes to rules - just to name a few.


The Iceberg model implies that the visible parts of culture are just expressions of its invisible parts. It also points out that it can be hard at times to understand people with different cultural backgrounds. We may spot the visible parts of their “iceberg”, but we cannot immediately see what the foundations that these parts rest upon are.