Intercultural fluency is becoming a sought-after skill in business. The term “intercultural fluency” does not only mean communicating with other countries, but also communicating with those within a country that have a different culture.
“Intercultural fluency is increasingly becoming a must-have for firms seeking to stay profitable in this highly competitive global environment,” president of the International Business Association, Lilian Alexandrova, said.
The IBA is one of organizations on campus that gives students the chance to think globally. Alexandrova said the growing amount of international trade is making businesses large and small reevaluate how they do business. Even if a company doesn’t have an international presence, some part of the business will deal with foreign affairs.
Illinois State University career development graduate assistant Valerija Gercar said that while it may seem daunting, intercultural fluency isn’t a hard skill to develop.
“It is never too late to start developing your intercultural fluency skills,” Gercar said “It is as simple as getting to know people with a different cultural background or learning a greeting in a different language.“
Alexandrova said the best way to develop intercultural fluency is to get out of one's comfort zone and be willing to learn.
“You should never walk into a country, state or even city and expect others to change for you,” she said. “They have their way of life and you are the outsider to their world, so you have to be open to that change.”
While the term “intercultural” makes one think of traveling the world and learning new languages, there’s plenty of culture to get absorbed in right on campus. Every major has its own culture and characteristics. Clubs and friend groups all have their own cultures as well.
“People think you need to cross a border to have new cultural experiences, but you really just need to interact with someone with a perspective on life that is different from your own,” Alexandrova added.
She explained she will often go to different spots on campus to observe the changes in culture between buildings. Despite the proximity of the buildings, the differences in students within can be striking.
“If I walk into the Airport Lounge, the hangout spot for most fine arts majors, I find myself surrounded by laidback students with colorful hair and lots of scarves,” Alexandrova said. “This directly contrasts with the khakis, polos, boat shoes and fast walking that can be seen in the COB.”
Alexandrova continued to say that besides being immersed into a culture, a part of intercultural fluency is an ability to adapt to the culture as well.
Different parts of culture aren’t necessarily wrong, just different. A big part of intercultural fluency is being able to have an open mind and accommodate those from other cultures.