Training materials


Module I – What is culture

This module examines concepts of culture that capture its highly nuanced, multi-dimensional and dynamic nature. Three recent approaches will be presented which are particularly meaningful because they focus on the multi-dimensional nature of culture. It will start with an early definition of culture, explore where the concept of culture comes from, and then introduce the three recent approaches in more detail.

By the end of this module, you will have learned about:

  • culture as complex social construct
  • the definition of “world culture” of Hannerz, and his thoughts on how local and global cultures are connected
  • the “fuzzy culture” approach of Bolten, and his concept of intercultural competence
  • the UNESCO focus on culture as creative diversity, and its concept of “culture identity”

Module II – Models of culture

The iceberg model, the onion model and the cultural dimensions are essential in any Intercultural course. These models try to explain the differences and similarities when comparing various cultures. Diversity of culture can be easily explained by the fact that we are all dealing with the same challenges: how to find food and shelter, how to structure our society, etc. The solutions that a specific group of people might apply will differ from group to group.

These models also increase our sensitivity of cultural values and demonstrate that not everyone has the same values.

By the end of this module, you will learn:

  • how to appreciate cultural diversity,
  • to be able to compare and contrast various cultures,
  • to understand your own cultural background,
  • to evaluate how useful the application of “cultural dimensions” is to your relationship with other people.

Module III – The impact of culture on VET

Particularly in Europe society has changed over the last two decades. Societies within the EU have become culturally more heterogenous due to people moving from one EU country to another, and from a non-EU country to a country within the EU. This means that many (young) adults start living and working in a country whose language they may not yet speak, and whose institutions they are not yet familiar with. Integrating into the new societies requires being able to respond to new circumstances, and this holds for both the newcomers and the receiving societies. EU societies have to be adaptive at all levels, including political, institutional, economical, individual; the society, its organizations and individuals need to be able to constructively respond to these changes and modify their structures to new challenges.

By the end of this module you will know

  • about the interdependency of cultural background and learning habits,
  • about certain elements that are characteristic for certain learning cultures,
  • how to identify stumbling blocks in cross-cultural communication and learning settings.

Module IV – What can you do now

Cross-cultural misunderstandings may lead to an interruption of communication. In this module you will find some helpful content in order to overcome challenging cross-cultural encounters.

By the end of the module you will know:

  • how to overcome the stumbling blocks in cross-cultural communication,
  • about different factors involved in an intercultural encounter,
  • how to judge the relevance of different factors involved in the intercultural encounter.

Module V – Trends in the field

Here you will learn about trends in the intercultural field, which will help you

  • anticipate people’s responses to the topic of ‘culture’ and ‘intercultural competences’
  • have a clearer frame of reference when discussing the topic
  • have a more informed conversation with your clients, and anticipate their interest and needs
  • satisfy your curiosity about this important theme.

We have identified the following four trends:

  1. From cross-border business interactions to interactions within culturally diverse societies
  2. From stand-alone intercultural trainings to ‘culture’ / intercultural competence being part of a more complex package
  3. From cultural differences as obstacle to cultural diversity as opportunity
  4. Culture meets psychology, and psychology meets culture