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Week 5: Adaptation: Applications of Intercultural Competence

Canada Seeks Immigrants Who Fit Better

Ottawa Screens Applicants for English, French Fluency and “Adaptability”

– Headline from The Wall Street Journal

The image depicts four birds with various beak sizes ranging from large to small.Like Darwin’s finches, people who migrate to a new place must adapt to new surroundings in order to function in their new environment. What would you do if you were surrounded by a new culture? Would you work to fit in all the way, pick and choose how you will be a part of your new surroundings, hold on to your native culture’s traditions and practices, or camouflage yourself with appearances? When you encounter someone from another culture, do you want to see evidence that they have adopted “your” way of life? Are they regarded with suspicion if they do not have the “right style” of dress, speak the “right” language, wear the “right” hairstyles, or eat the “right” food?

In this week you consider the concept of what it means to “fit in” culturally and how adapting to another culture affects your communication. You explore which behaviors people are willing to change or not willing to change in order to interact with a different culture.

Graphic credit: Gould, J. (1838–1842). Darwin’s Finches (or Galapagos Finches) [Illustration]. In Charles Darwin, Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Assess the challenges of adapting behaviors to another culture
  • Analyze intercultural interactions
  • Evaluate intercultural competence in effective intercultural communication practice

Photo Credit: [pixdeluxe]/[Stock/Getty Images Plus]/Getty Images


Learning Resources

Required Readings

Lustig, M. W., & Koester, J. (2013).
Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

  • Chapter 12, “The Potential for Intercultural Competence” (pp. 286–309)

Discussion: Melting Pot or Tossed Salad: Assimilation and Acculturation

: The image depicts several kinds of vegetables falling into a wooden salad bowl. Unfamiliar cultural situations can create stress for many individuals. People encountering new environments must decide how to act and communicate without being able to rely on acquired knowledge and skills. In new cultural climates, people must adapt knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the new environment. Environmental adaptation can take the form of acculturation or assimilation.

To illustrate the difference between acculturation and assimilation, consider the metaphors of a melting pot and a tossed salad. At the height of European immigration to the United States in the early 20th century, the melting pot metaphor represented a new, homogenized cultural identity. New cultural groups immigrating to America often took on the beliefs, values, and social practices of the culture they encountered to be functional in their new environment, otherwise know as assimilation. A more modern metaphor of the tossed salad recognizes the distinctiveness of each individual and his or her cultural identity adding to the flavor of the American experience; this version of adaptation is called acculturation.

In this week’s Discussion, you consider topics related to cultural adaptation – the extent to which an individual changes to fit into a new environment.

Photo credit: Microsoft Corporation. (Producer). MP900438794 [Photo of produce falling into wood bowl]. Retrieved September 12, 2013, from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=salad&ex=1#ai:MP900438794

To prepare for your Discussion:

  • Review “The Ethics of Intercultural Competence” section of Chapter 12 of the course text. Pay particular attention to the stories of how different people experience cultural adaptation and what it means to them.
  • Think about the behaviors you would have difficulty giving up or changing if you were required to move to another country. Why would those be difficult for you? Now think about the behaviors you might be able to adapt to another culture, and why. If you have lived outside of your home country for any length of time, think about your own experience of adapting (or not adapting) your behavior to another culture.
  • Consider some of the challenges in adapting behaviors to another culture, especially when those behaviors may be in opposition to your cultural values. Can these challenges be overcome? Should they?
  • Reflect on how you would handle situations where someone from a different culture expected or imposed their cultural beliefs while visiting you. How could you use intercultural competence to help explain what is expected in your culture?
  • Select two countries with different cultures. Consider how much a person from one of the countries would be expected to adapt if he or she were planning a long-term relocation to the other country:
    • What behaviors should a person be willing to change upon moving to another country?
    • What behaviors should a person not be willing to change upon moving to another country?
    • Does the choice of the goal of assimilation or acculturation affect which of these behaviors someone would be willing to change or not change?

Note: One of the goals of this course is to promote a wide variety of views. You are encouraged to present your honest personal viewpoint while at all times reflecting a respectful tone for the views of others.

By Day 3

Post a 2- to 3-paragraph description of the expected behaviors an individual might change because of a long-term relocation to another country. Explain how the choice to assimilate or acculturate might affect the choice of behavior changes. Explain how these decisions present challenges in adapting to another culture.

Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to at least one of this week’s Learning Resources. Additionally, you may opt to include an outside academic resource that you have identified.

By Day 5

Respond to the posts of at least two different colleagues in one of the following ways:

  • Share an insight from having read your colleague’s posting.
  • Expand on your colleague’s posting by providing additional examples of behavior that might change.
  • Offer an alternative view on how the choice to assimilate or acculturate might affect the choice of behavior changes.

Support all responses by citing your resources or other scholarly material. For assistance with APA citation, review the Writing Center’s information on APA referencing in the Week 1 Learning Resources.

Submission and Grading Information

Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:

Week 5 Discussion Rubric

Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5

To participate in this Discussion:

Week 5 Discussion


Assignment: Preparing for International Employment

The image depicts two women of different cultures conversing at an art exhibit with tribal art in the background. Looking forward to new intercultural experiences in the context of an international job assignment can be enhanced and improved by looking back at past experiences and through insight of knowledge and understanding. By examining your experiences with people from other cultures, you can begin to see how your awareness of intercultural communication can improve future interactions.

As you consider the knowledge and skills you have gained, also consider how you have changed, and how your cultural perceptions have changed, over time. What are your strengths, and what represents opportunities for growth? In this Assignment, you evaluate your experiences and your knowledge and focus on future growth.

Photo credit: Bridiers, E. (Photographer). (2011). Photographer Dana Gluckstein speaks with High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay at the Opening of Dignity Tribes in Transition [Print Photo]. U.S. Mission to the United Nations Geneva. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/us-mission/5929778746/

To prepare for this Assignment:

  • Review your papers from Weeks 2–4. What are some of the key areas of learning that you gained from the course so far? After using the BASIC and D-I-E tools in the Week 2 Assignment, how have you changed your cultural perceptions and ways of communicating with other cultures? How will this influence which country and/or culture you select?
  • Consider what you have learned from this course. What have you learned about yourself? What do you consider as your strengths in communicating across cultures? What are the areas that you need to work on developing in order to become more interculturally competent? How will your new location and/or culture present you with new challenges, and how will you prepare yourself to meet them?
  • Bring to mind an experience in which you traveled to a new place. How were the people distinct or different, and how did you adapt? How might you use your knowledge of intercultural communication and competency to improve upon your intercultural interactions in this international job assignment?

By Day 7

Submit a 2- to 3-page paper in which you:

  • Identify a culture to study for an international job assignment as a communication consultant.
  • Explain why you have selected this culture and/or country.
  • Describe your personal culture and how it compares to the culture of your international job assignment.
  • Describe your prior knowledge of the culture you have selected to study and why you selected this culture.
  • Explain what you hope to learn or achieve by studying this culture in this manner.
  • Cite all references using APA style citations.

Submission and Grading Information

To submit your completed Assignment for review and grading, do the following:

  • Please save your Assignment using the naming convention “WK5Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” as the name.
  • Click the Week 5 Assignment Rubric to review the Grading Criteria for the Assignment.
  • Click the Week 5 Assignment link. You will also be able to “View Rubric” for grading criteria from this area.
  • Next, from the Attach File area, click on the Browse My Computer button. Find the document you saved as “WK5Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” and click Open.
  • If applicable: From the Plagiarism Tools area, click the checkbox for I agree to submit my paper(s) to the Global Reference Database.
  • Click on the Submit button to complete your submission.
Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:

Week 5 Assignment Rubric

Check Your Assignment Draft for Authenticity

To check your Assignment draft for authenticity:

Submit your Week 5 Assignment draft and review the originality report.

Submit Your Assignment by Day 7

To submit your Assignment:

Week 5 Assignment


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