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4 Must-Have Intercultural Competencies for the 21st Century

4 Must-Have Intercultural Competencies for the 21st Century

One of the main characteristics of the 21st century is that of a multicultural society that requires intercultural competencies for social cohesion. People of all different origins and cultures move towards more developed or safer parts of the world. They seek better opportunities and options for themselves and their families that they cannot find otherwise in their current social contexts.

In other words, we are talking about the phenomenon of migration. It is not something new as migratory processes were a key feature of modernity. But this phenomenon has grown into a complex and critical topic of discussion spurred further by international conflicts, inequality, and globalization.

However, living away from home in a foreign country proves to be quite the challenge. Simultaneously, the possibilities for multicultural dialogue are increased, and thus, intercultural competencies are critical for effective communication.

Why intercultural competencies are important

But the fact that the world is now closer than ever does not mean that it does not come with its own drawbacks. On the one hand, we are getting more used to interacting with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, but there is more room to grow the much-needed cultural understanding. But on the other, there are also cases of hostility against migrants as not everyone appreciates this “cultural enrichment.”

But as different parts of the world have become melting pots of civilizations and cultures, hostility only creates additional problems and delays in human rights development. Thus, to navigate this heavily intertwined world, it is crucial to have intercultural competencies. According to the Council of Europe:

“Intercultural competency is the ability to mobilize and implement relevant psychological resources to provide an appropriate and effective response to the demands, challenges, and opportunities presented by intercultural situations.”

In simpler words, intercultural competencies are the skills required for effective communication with people from different cultural backgrounds. As such, prejudices and conflicts are reduced, allowing peaceful coexistence in society.

Value human diversity

One of the main intercultural competencies of a person living in a multicultural society is to value cultural diversity. The world we live in is a lot bigger than the tiny corner of the earth that we live in. That is why it is essential to understand that there are countless other cultures different from ours, and by no means any lesser. This could mean having prominent external characteristics or subtler ones like the religious believes of a person. In any case, cultural diversity makes living unique as individuals, or even whole groups of people are the colors to an otherwise blank canvas.

Understanding the world

In our daily interactions with our friends, colleagues, or family, we are always careful to avoid tensions and maintain healthy relationships. One way to do this is by not doing something you know beforehand they would be annoyed by it. But it is easy to do that with the people close to us as we know them well. The same principle has to also be applied to our interactions with people with different cultural backgrounds. We need to keep an open mind and interest ourselves in knowing what other cultures like or consider offensive. Thus, understanding the world around us is an intercultural competency that helps us build relationships and avoid conflicts in our daily interactions.


Respect is vital in all our social encounters and especially in intercultural dialogue. It could also make the difference between engaging or not in a conversation with someone different from ourselves. Respect should be a given as everyone in this world is born equal. There are cases that people might feel threatened by specific cultural groups for good or bad reasons, and that’s how prejudices are born. But we need to think critically and understand that our past experiences do not necessarily make a rule. Therefore, respect should always be a given in all of our interactions with others.

Flexibility and adaptability

We must be flexible and adaptive in all our social interactions, especially if they take place in an intercultural setting. As much as we should understand and appreciate our differences, we should also try to find some common and overlapping space. For that reason, showing flexibility and adaptability in a new cultural setting will make us more approachable by others. Cultures are not stale but are constantly undergoing changes one way or another. Therefore, we should reduce our cultural barriers and show that there is a willingness to work together and create an inclusive society with a new identity.


In a globalized and heavily polarized world, it is critical that we possess intercultural competencies that will help us bridge cultural gaps. The world has become smaller due to international travel and different cultures need to be able to co-exist peacefully. The above competencies are just some of the qualities that citizens of the world need to exhibit to live together and enjoy the benefits of a pluralistic society.

TOGETHER | Towards a Cultural Understanding of The Other

The TOGETHER Erasmus+ project understands the importance of intercultural communication and the advantages of a culturally diverse society. For this reason, the project wants to bridge the differences between people, boost cultural understanding, and increase cohesion in European communities to face everyday challenges together.

Starting from the local level, the consortium targets local actors to train and promote our shared values while cultivating the critical principles of intercultural dialogue. This mission is vital as racial tensions are on the rise in the culturally diverse societies that we live in.

Institute of Entrepreneurship Development (iED) is an experienced partner in European projects with vast experience with Social Inclusion European projects from various European Programmes. If you want a strong ally on Social Inclusion for your consortium, we can’t wait to make you our partner.

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