Module 2: Intercultural communication, local culture and customs

Lesson Title

Cultural parameter “communication”



This lesson gives a closer look on how we express our thoughts, feelings and ideas through verbal and non-verbal communication. Politeness, humour and respect can be expressed and interpreted very differently – better to be able and “read the signs”.



Lesson time foreseen

1 hours for reading the lesson
1 hours for implementation (added links, videos, test)


Lesson Content

Verbal communication:
Misunderstandings can occur in all communication, even between people from the same cultural and linguistic background. We cannot expect to get it right all of the time. What is important is that we know how to respond when a misunderstanding occurs and that we learn from our mistakes.
“Body language” or non-verbal communication in its effectiveness for expression is as important as verbal communication, so be aware in order not to offend anyone. Nonverbal behaviour can include things such as facial expressions and gestures, clothing, movement, posture and eye contact.

You can read a lot from eye contact and gestures. First of all, you will find differences in whether persons have eye-contact with you at all or rather avoid it. Then you can read and interpret a lot from somebody’s looks and gestures – however, the question is: are you really getting what this person intends to convey, or are you biased by a different cultural setting?
See more at:

Example: Laughing is connoted in most countries with happiness - in Japan it is often a sign of confusion, insecureness and embarrassment. []
Example 2: Showing the thumb held upwards means in Latin America, especially Brazil, but also in many other countries „everything’s ok”, while it is understood in some Islamic countries as well as Sardinia and Greece as a rude sexual sign. Furthermore, the sign of thumb up may signify the number "one" in France and a few other central european countries. []
Exercise: have a look at different gestures and tell what they mean to you (or what you think the person intends to express with the gesture)

Example: An “open”, inviting gesture (arms open) as against a defensive posture (arms crossed).
The concept of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg (also called compassionate communication) helps to engage in communication with other persons (no matter which culture) with as little misunderstandings and conflicts as possible. It proposes that if people can identify their needs, the needs of others, and the feelings that surround these needs, harmony can be achieved.
Nonviolent Communication includes a simple method for clear, empathic communication, consisting of four areas of focus:
1. Observations
2. Feelings
3. Needs
4. Requests

Here’s an overview on how to practice nonviolent communication (see
1) Distinguish between judgemental statements and objective observations, example: "It's 2:00 a.m. and I hear your stereo playing" states an observed fact, while "It's way too late to be making such an awful racket" makes an evaluation.
2) State the feeling that the observation is triggering in you. Example: "I see your dog running around without a leash and barking (observation). I'm scared."
3) State the need that is the cause of that feeling. Example: "I see you looking away while I'm talking, and you've been speaking so quietly, I can't hear you (observation). Please speak up so I can understand.
4) Make a concrete request for action to meet the need just identified. Example: "I notice that you haven't spoken in the last ten minutes (observation). Are you feeling bored? (feeling)" If the answer is yes, you might bring up your own feeling and propose an action: "Well, I'm bored, too. Hey, how would you like to go to the Exploratorium?" or perhaps, "I'm finding these people really interesting to talk with. How about we meet up in an hour when I'm done here?"




Test d'évaluation: