Developing Cultural Competence

The Concept of Culture

Culture is a complex notion which has an impact on practically every aspect of our lives. Due to its multifaceted nature, culture has a myriad of individual meanings and expressions. The most respected definitions describe culture as a system of values and beliefs which is shared with others and which is an essential building block of our identity. Culture is comprised of elements such as history, values, language, traditions, religion, beliefs and customs. Scholars from different fields have developed numerous approaches to explain the concept of culture. The following definitions represent some of the most commonly used explanations of culture

Onion & Iceberg models of the Culture

The Onion Model
The image of an onion is often used to describe the different layers of culture. Culture can be broken down into layers: The outer layers are composed of the artefacts and products as well as patterns of behaviour. The next layer encompasses the beliefs, norms and attitudes of that culture. The middle of the onion represents the underlying cultural assumptions and values. As the most hidden layer, these aspects of culture are much harder to recognise and understand, but all of the other layers are built upon the centre of the culture onion. Therefore, careful analysis and a better understanding of the different layers as well as how they interact and influence each other is necessary. Intercultural training can help to understand the different layers of culture and their significance.

“Excellent workshop. Gave me a chance to look at myself and to understand how I react. It will be of great benefit to me both personally and in my interactions with people from other cultures.”