Cross Cultural Clashes

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Culture: Why Does It Matter?

You know that values differ among different people groups and that certain innocent behaviors may be offensive to a particular group of people.

Working in Conflict—Culture Clash? – Brink – The Edge of Risk

For example, it is offensive for either a man or a woman to cross his or her legs in Thailand because pointing, even with the foot, is offensive. With the person who offended the other, you may want to try to understand her intentions behind her actions. This may be especially important if the clash came about because of a language difficulty. If you can understand your student first, you may be able to explain that to the other student. When you are having these one on one discussions with your students, take a warning. You may initially have a difficult time getting your students to open up and be honest with you.

In some cultures, it is inappropriate for a student to have that type of conversation with a teacher, especially if the student thinks he may be criticizing his teacher. Help your students know from the beginning that is it okay for them to share with you their honest thoughts and feelings, and that this type of honesty will not affect their grades. Once you have had individual conversations with your students involved in the conflict, your next step is to take a more generalized version of the issue to the class.

For example, if the conflict arose from one person crossing her legs and pointing at another, you may want to bring the topic of body language to your class for discussion. Set aside some time, or integrate it into what you have already planned, to give a lesson on culture. Help your students understand the value differences between cultures. Be careful not to bring unnecessary attention to the specific students involved in the initial conflict, but address the issue from a global perspective.

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Look at it from many different angles and many different viewpoints. Keep your classroom open and nonthreatening by allowing all of your students to weigh in on whatever topic you are discussing. You can do this by preparing some discussion questions on the topic or issue that caused the conflict. Allowing your students to discuss the situation among themselves in a friendly manner will be even more effective than having the teacher up front lecturing on the issue.


Though it may be risky, you can even group students by nationality for the discussion, and then ask each group to share with the class what they learned or could articulate about their home culture. Culture is such an ingrained part of who each individual is that we are often not even aware of our cultural values. Think of culture like an iceberg — you can only see a small portion of it above the water, but the largest part is hidden under the water. Grouping students by nationality can help them understand themselves as well as one another.

Remember, throughout the class discussion and activities, you should not bring up the incident that caused the initial conflict or the students who were involved in it.

Cross Cultural

You will have to judge at this point whether you will have to further address the conflict through a combined discussion with the involved individuals. If this is necessary, schedule a time completely separate from class for the three of you to sit and talk together.

Cross-Cultural Communication and Conflicts- UCLAN 2013

During this discussion, you should take the role as facilitator of the discussion. For this reason, we are sharing our knowledge chest with you, to improve and enlarge intercultural communication practice, awareness, and education.

You do not have to panic the next time a cultural clash storms its way into your classroom.

We promise you that our case studies, which are now also yours, will delight, entertain, teach, and amaze you. It will reinforce or change the way you see intercultural communication practice, and how it can be part of your life today.

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    Hidden Values

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