#5: “Intracultural, Intercultural, Cross-Cultural, and International Communication: What’s the Difference?”

I guess I could use a little help here…

I’m not sure if the sources that I used for today’s blog post are all that credible. My topic “Learning how to use intra/cross cultural conversations as a tool to solve problems” is not easy to search online. I’m sure the information is out there, but I’m not asking the right questions. A source that I’m sharing today is from a blog post, “Intracultural, Intercultural, Cross-Cultural, and International Communication: What’s the Difference?” by Igor Ristic. It describes the differences between intracultural, intercultural, cross-cultural, and international communication. Here is how the author describes the four different kinds of communication mentioned above. The descriptions come from the textbook Intercultural Competence by Myron Lustig and Jolene Koester.

Intracultural Communication
For this term, note the ‘intra’ as compared to the ‘inter’ I will discuss below. Intracultural communication describes communication between at least two people who are from the same culture or have culturally similar backgrounds. So, a conversation between two American citizens who both grew up on the farms of Georgia would be intracultural because they will essentially have the same background and cultural orientations.

Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication describes communication between at least two people who are different in significant ways culturally. For instance, a conversation between a man who grew up in Nepal and a woman who grew up in Micronesia would probably be an intercultural conversation because we could study how the different cultural backgrounds of the two people affect their communication strategies towards each other.

Cross-Cultural communication IS NOT the same thing as intercultural communication. While intercultural communication deals with the interaction between at least two people, cross-cultural communication describes the comparison of communication styles across cultures. For instance, a paper about what happens when a Moroccan man speaks with a Hawaiian woman would be intercultural, but a paper comparing the communication patterns of people from Morocco with the communication patterns of people from Hawaii would be cross-cultural.

International Communication
This one is similar to intercultural communication because it also describes communication between at least two people who are from different cultures. However, topics concerning international communication don’t really look at how cultural differences affect specific interactions between two people because they are often focused on a larger picture. For instance, international communication might describe how government offices from the U.S. communicate with government offices from Turkey. Furthermore, they may describe communication between individuals who live in different cultures, but have similar experiences (e.g., email communication between friends who both studied together in the U.S. as exchange students but then went back to their own respective countries).

I’m not sure that in my earlier blog posts that I defined “cross cultural” correctly. My hope was/is to describe a way for two or more people from different cultures to communicate with each other in such an effective way that they could then learn to work on and possibly solve problems together. The problem could be the same, like how to get people to want to be active citizens in their communities, but the cultural situation that each person comes from might be totally different. Their goal though would be to somehow share strategies to attempt to solve the problem.  I guess from what I learned from my recent research I should be calling these “intercultural conversations” rather than “cross cultural conversations.”

The conflict that I am having with my topic is that I can’t find examples of young people doing these kinds of conversations and I can’t find any protocols or rules as to how to do the conversations    well over and over again.  I think that I may need to talk to someone that has knowledge about effective communication strategies between groups that are not alike.  How do researchers / scientists communicate with each other around the world about topics that are important to them?  Could I use some of their discussion protocols to make the conversation between middle/high school students from far away more effective.  The last thing that I want to create is a situation where one side is not as engaged as the other side.

Erin Fishell

5 Responses to “#5: “Intracultural, Intercultural, Cross-Cultural, and International Communication: What’s the Difference?”

  • Erin,
    I’m really glad you shared what you’re having trouble with! I may not be able to help with all of it, but I’m sure some of the teacher-mentors will.
    You should give yourself some credit, however. The source you used, while not exactly about your topic, is certainly good background information to have, and you will be able to apply it to your work.
    In terms of further research, I think a good place to start would be the program you are already involved in, the one you mentioned in your previous post, because from your description of it, it exactly fits your topic. Maybe interview the people who run that program. Also, I recommended in a previous comment to look into exchange student programs that already exist, and I think that would be a good source of information. Someone who helps kids live in other countries certainly has knowledge of intracultural communication!
    Also, if you are struggling with this topic, remember to keep an open mind, because you do have the opportunity to switch. That’s not to say you should, but it is always an option!

  • Erin,
    I agree with Greta, I think that it is great that you are sharing about your challenges. Part of the reason why your topic is so interesting is because it is somewhat unique, but it does propose a challenge of trying to find articles and information directed to your topic. I think that you will be able to find people to interview who have information and perspectives to give you, so that won’t be as hard. Like Greta said I think the teacher-mentors will probably be able to help you. I can defiantly understand the frustration of not being able to find the right information. I hope that you will be able to stick with this topic! It is so interesting!
    Good luck,

    • Petra –

      Thank you for your support of my ideas. I am interested in my topic even though i’m struggling to good sources to increase my background knowledge. I will definitely use the program I am already involved in as a resource because there are many wonderful people with different ideas and perspectives.

      Thanks for reading,


  • It’s easy for me to identify with how your are having trouble nailing this down. I have often found that in the early stage of research that is in the least “off the beaten path,” it is a problem of identifying search words and phrases that will hit that vein of gold.

    And here’s the kicker: it may very well be that different scholars mean different things when using the same term. I mean, there is no unifying code that everyone subscribes to.

    I would bet that you’ll noodle and noodle around until you find a scholarly piece of writing that gets at just the right thing. Then you can piggy-back on her/his sources in order to wiggle through the aperture you seek.

    At first, it can be a frustrating hit-or-miss experience, and then — Bingo! — you are off.

    But be forewarned. Once in a while you can find yourself repeatedly at dead ends. If that should be the case, it’s time to make a choice…

  • Hi, I just started a youtube channel on cultural competency. I would more than love to help you out. It’s not always common that different cultures come in close contact with others and have intimate interactions. I happen to have had many experiences with that I would love to share and help! I am a language teacher, a linguist, I have been abroad and been in varying cultural settings. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further! I attached my main youtube channel madartlang but I will start putting videos up on the new one. Just search cultural competency on youtube.

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