What is the difference between multicultural, cross-cultural, and intercultural? While they all might be under the same roof, they describe entirely different rooms. The differences in the meanings have to do with the perspectives we take when interacting with people from other cultures.
Multicultural refers to a society that contains several cultural or ethnic groups. People live alongside one another, but each cultural group does not necessarily have engaging interactions with each other. For example, in a multicultural neighborhood people may frequent ethnic grocery stores and restaurants without really interacting with their neighbors from other countries.
Cross-cultural deals with the comparison of different cultures. In cross-cultural communication, differences are understood and acknowledged, and can bring about individual change, but not collective transformations. In cross-cultural societies, one culture is often considered “the norm” and all other cultures are compared or contrasted to the dominant culture.
Intercultural describes communities in which there is a deep understanding and respect for all cultures. Intercultural communication focuses on the mutual exchange of ideas and cultural norms and the development of deep relationships. In an intercultural society, no one is left unchanged because everyone learns from one another and grows together.
The Intercultural Training and Consulting program at Spring Institute is committed to promoting mutual respect among cultures by strengthening intercultural understanding within organizations.
Find out more about how we can help your organization become a model of intercultural communication and inclusiveness. Contact Maria Velasco, Program Manager, at email@example.com or (303) 857-5298.