A number of studies on the development of intercultural skills and competences have shown that first-hand experience of ‘otherness’ and even sojourns in a foreign country are not sufficient conditions to foster interculturality.
Both study abroad and intercultural education literature state that, in addition to experience, intercultural learning needs reflection and analysis, and that immersion in a different culture does not in itself reduce stereotypical perceptions of otherness.
Interculturality does not mean comparing two or more countries, nor learning to adapt to a specific ‘national culture’.
Rather, the concept implies, for example:
- Understanding how different types of identities (eg gender, age, racial, ethnic, national, geographical, historical, linguistic) impact on communication with others
- Interpreting what people say about their culture as evidence of what they wish others to see about themselves, rather than as the ‘truth’ about a particular culture
- Exploring the role of power in dominant discourses (media, political, institutional) and reflect on how these discourses affect the way we perceive people from other backgrounds.