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Report Intercultural Competence Training with Anna Lassonczyk

On 20th April 2021, the project team of FHWS 3IN greeted Anna Lassoncyk, an Intercultural Competence Coach, as their guest for the day. The project FHWS 3IN works towards Inclusion, Integration and Involvement and plans to establish a European university. Therefore, not only FHWS students were invited to join the workshop, but also students from partner universities of the 3IN Alliance. Especially now, the virtual meeting room was perfect, as nearly twenty participants from Spain, Romania, Norway and Germany were able to join the meeting without any inconveniences. The coach Anna Lassonczyk joined from her childhood home in Poland, where she lived until she was 19. Afterwards, she moved to Germany and studied Language, Culture and Business at the University of Passau. Now, she works as an Intercultural Competence Coach for international companies and supports their employees with valuable knowledge on international interaction. This was also the topic of the workshop she held at FHWS on Tuesday afternoon.

She started off by introducing herself and reciting some memorable personal experiences during her studies in Germany, a foreign country she had to adapt to. Of course, even Ms. Lassonczyk could not navigate through all the difficulties without making mistakes. However, these mistakes motivated her even more to learn about foreign cultures and their customs and traditions. As a coach, it is her mission to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Therefore, she taught all the participants useful tips and tricks concerning international exchange. The first phenomenon she described was the culture shock. Nothing new to most of the participants at first sight, though many were surprised to find out that most people suffer two culture shocks: One big shock after the arrival in the foreign country and a second shock once their back in their home country, as it also takes some time to re-adapt to old habits and accept that not everything has changed and developed during their absence. She emphasised that she, as a coach, also prepares the spouses of employees staying in foreign countries for the duration of their time alone at home, as the ones left behind are often the reason for employees to end their stay abroad early.

The next big topic of the workshop was Richard D. Lewis’ model of culture. According to his model, every country in the world can be assigned a colour that represents most of the cultures’ character traits. Blue countries, such as Germany, Finland and Switzerland (type: linear-active) fit descriptions such as data-oriented, love facts and laws, plan everything and individual whereas the other extreme, red countries (Type: multi-active), can be described as emotional, loyal, dialogue- and family-oriented. Red countries are mostly located in Latin- and South America. The third type of countries are yellow countries (Type: reactive). They are known to be polite and intuitive and value collective harmony, courtesy, network and common obligations. Great examples are China, Vietnam and Japan. Ms. Lassonczyk explained that there are also countries coloured in green, violet or orange, that are mixtures of different culture types. Additionally, she underlined that there are, of course, personal and regional exceptions that are not represented in the model. The model of Lewis is of great importance when it comes to international relations and negotiations as employees can prepare themselves for their stay abroad according to the map. If prepared correctly, it should not be surprising for Germans travelling to Brazil for business that the trip might not include a lot of business talk and is more about getting to know each other on a personal level.

Afterwards, Ms. Lassonczyk presented another great way for comparing cultures when she talked about peaches and coconuts. In this case, it had nothing to do with taste but more with the consistency of the fruits. Coconuts have a hard outside and are soft on the inside whereas peaches are constructed the other way around. Like this, experts can easily compare two countries. However, one country does not always represent the same fruit as it all depends on perspective and the country it is compared to.

The last topic was dedicated to communication and business relations. Germans, for instance, are mostly interested in the business they are making and do not put a lot of effort into a private relationship in business-related subjects. Other countries value the relationship itself and want to establish trust by building it up during private activities. Even the way of communicating can be very different in countries around the world. Blue, linear-active countries love a direct way of communicating and do not hesitate to express criticism. This behaviour comes across as rude in many multi-active, red countries. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to prepare their international staff for business negotiations in foreign countries in order for them to be successful and long-lasting.

The three-hour workshop went by in no time and all the participants claimed to have acquired new knowledge on foreign cultures during the event. Ms. Lassonczyk’s open and sociable personality encouraged everyone to actively participate and enabled intercultural exchange between the participants. Of course, no one became and expert on intercultural communication just yet, but one thing is certain: Every participant made a step in the right direction - towards a better intercultural understanding.