So what do we mean by intercultural?

The intercultural is to do with interaction between people with different cultural experience. This difference is more obvious where the experience is markedly divergent as a result of histories, grand narratives and practices that are specific to particular societies with their economies, political systems, geographies and events. The particularities of societies can make us very different to each other in many ways dependent on where we were brought up and come from on a global scale.

However, the intercultural is also to do with the movement between small cultures which is common to all societies. Our common experience in small culture formation provides us with the experience and skills to move through and between societies. Small culture formation on the go is at the core of these experiences and skills. On the go refers to the transient nature of  small cultures, which is a microcosm of the longer-term transience of larger societies.

Therefore, while current interests in the intercultural are to do with people travelling across nations, the core of the intercultural is in the everyday movement between small cultures that is common to all of us.

Thinking about intercultural in this bottom-up way does not help us to define, predict or explain the behaviour of national or ethnic large cultures. This is not the purpose at all of thinking about the intercultural within a non-essentialist, postmodern paradigm. Instead, the purpose is to help us make sense of the world around us wherever we find it. It is therefore more akin to a sociology of culture or cultural studies.

Intercultural training will not therefore be a matter of preparing people for how to behave in specific ways when encountering specific cultures. Instead, it is to do with understanding how culture and society works and how to find the threads in our own experiences that can connect with those of others, and how to be wary of the narratives, ideologies and discourses that get in the way of these threads.

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