Module 2: Intercultural communication, local culture and customs

Lesson Title

Cultural parameter “Clothing”



The lessons intends to equip you with an understanding of different eating habits – about the kind of preferred food as well as the ways it is prepared and eaten.


Lesson time foreseen

1 hour


Lesson Content

“Dress to impress” and “you are what you wear” may be some of the common slogans when it comes to the importance of clothing in nonverbal communication. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is another one.  People interpret a lot from your appearance, whether you are athletic, a smoker, a parent, whether you are self-assured, extrovert, fashionable, fun loving etc. (see the analysis of an empirical study:, so it is worth paying attention to what you might be “saying” with your outfit - or on the opposite – what people with different cultural backgrounds might understand. Beware that some accessories or styles are interpreted differently.
Some of these outfits might lead to irritations and provoke unwanted reactions:
• Outfits which lead the focus on the body (figure-hugging clothes, plunging necklines, but also topless men in summer)
• Clothes with imprints of insulting, racist or sexist content or message
• Hats or headdresses: in some situations, you may be advised to take off your hat for religious reasons (e.g. men in Christian churches) or for politeness (e.g. when entering a house). In other situations, you better cover your hair (e.g. women in Muslim mosques, men in Jewish synagogues). Headscarfs of women are a particularly sensible aspect – they might be requested for religious reasons (or simply worn for other reasons), yet at the same time they might be forbidden to be worn in public.
In general, it is advised to get informed about the customs in the environment (community, company, city, country) that you are dealing with. On the other hand, if you meet a person who is wearing an “inappropriate” outfit  from your point of view, try to be tolerant  and consider that there are different customs in different cultures. If this person is your colleague or somebody you meet more often, better explain in a polite way why you feel irritated by their appearance, and try to find a compromise you can both live with. 
In some companies (especially in academic and “business” circles), particular dresscodes are stipulated, telling explicitly what their staff are expected to wear (and what not). So if you are applying for a job, you may ask directly whether there is an official dresscode in the company.
If you cannot find respective information, going for a rather conservative outfit might be the best choice.  In any case, decent body hygiene (not exaggerated with intensive perfumes and layers of make-up) and clothes which well taken care of make half of the deal.  And  even if you feel have to adapt to unfamiliar dresscodes, still  try to be yourself (with your favourite colours or cloth or the like) and don’t disguise as another person – your opposite would probably notice that you feel uncomfortable.
Individual exercise (or individual in group):
Imagine the following settings and consider what you would wear on the occasion (and if you are unsure how would you try and get advice?):
You are invited to the wedding of your Italian friends in their home town.
You are invited for a job interview at a Latvian architects’ office. / You are invited for a job interview at a Latvian construction company.
You are invited to join your German friend for a theatre night.
If you are in a group, share your ideas and reflect with others on the given answers.
Look at the different outfits here: and write down to which occasion you think they are suitable.


Test d'évaluation: