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What is Cross Cultural Training?

What is Cross Cultural Training?

'Culturally aware' professionals have a distinct advantage over their peers.

International businesses increasingly cite Cultural Competence as a core requirement during the recruitment process.


Because culturally competent staff, who understand how to navigate cultural differences, are more productive and successful.

It's a fact.

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Although cross-cultural training is well established within areas such as multinational business,  academia, diplomacy and other areas of public and personal life, the frameworks of cultural training are not necessarily clear to those new to the subject.

To bridge that gap, we have answered some of the more frequently asked questions about cross-cultural training.

1. What is the Definition of Cross-Cultural Training?

No formal definition of 'cross-cultural training' exists, perhaps pointing to its sometimes rather broad interpretations and applications.

However, most attempts to define this field of training agree on similar points; namely that it is any sort of training course that focuses on aspects of culture and cultural differences.

The term 'cross cultural' explicitly refers to any sort of interaction where more than one culture is involved.

Many interpretations see this as relating only to national cultures, for example,  American, Chinese or the UAE, although technically it can refer to any sort of cultural difference, say regional, generational or company culture.

The majority of formal, commercialised cultural training focuses on cross-cultural differences in business, such as etiquette, communication or leadership.

Other cross-cultural training can take place in the public sector, say for those working in/with diverse communities, as well as in the military, NGOs, hospitality and sports.

Simply put, cross-cultural training means any training that helps people overcome cultural challenges in work, or in life, when interacting with others whose culture, values and beliefs we are not fully aware of. 

Professionals in a training course

Everyone needs to understand how culture impacts the workplace. This is especially true if you work for any sort of global organisation or work with a culturally diverse client or customer base.

Learn more about the benefits of cross-cultural training here.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

2. Why is Cross-Cultural Training Important? 

The benefits of cross-cultural training are many:

  • It helps people overcome bias and prejudice, which can otherwise prevent them from making good decisions.
  • It improves communication skills and softer skills such as emotional intelligence.
  • It increases trust between people, which helps break down barriers, seal business deals and get things done.
  • It drives sales by helping business people understand a new market and appreciate how to articulate their pitch.
  • It promotes synergy and drives trusting team relationships which frees people to concentrate on the more important matters.

3. What are Different Approaches to Cross-Cultural Training?

There are many different approaches when it comes to the content, delivery and ethos of cross-cultural training.

This fundamentally comes down to context, i.e. who is the training for, why, when and how?

The training course developed for a group of high flying business leaders in the USA is going to be very different to that of a group of engineers travelling to Nigeria for the first time.

Content can vary considerably between cross-cultural training courses, educators and vendors.

Many incorporate teachings from the likes of academics such as Hofstede, Trompenaars and Hall who each developed their own theories on how and why cultures differ.

This training usually takes the form of looking at ‘the other’, i.e. the rationale being that if we can study and understand ‘their’ behaviour and actions then we can have strategies to deal with them.

Other training may take the opposite approach in stressing that first, one must understand ‘the self’, i.e. why you do what you do (not what others do).

The idea behind this approach is more about realised empathy and developing cultural awareness through emotional intelligence. 

Online culture tutor

Traditionally, cross-cultural training was mainly carried out in a training room. Today, a lot of it takes place online, through webinars and courses.

Click here if you're interested in an eLearning course

Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash

4. Who Needs Cross-Cultural Training?

Who doesn’t?

Seriously, unless you live in a really homogenous country or work in an industry that is very monocultural, you need an element of cultural awareness.

You can read more about this in the following article: Why is Cultural Awareness Important?

5. What are the Different Types of Cross-Cultural Training? 

There are many types and variations of cross-cultural training. Sometimes they come under different names such as Intercultural Training, Cultural Competence, Diversity Training or Cultural awareness.

They can be very close in look, feel and content or can be very different depending on whether they are pre-designed training courses or bespoke solutions.

Generally, cross-cultural training can be divided into two different areas - Country focused vs Skill focused.

  • Country focused training will only look at one (or a few) cultures, i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Turkish. The content will look at specific areas of the culture whether that be etiquette, communication or negotiation.
  • Skill focused training on the other hand is a more generic type of course that looks at areas such as communication, management, persuasion, leadership, negotiation, sales, etc and then addresses cultural differences within that framework. There very well may be country-specific information or there may not, as these courses are more about developing rounded skills as opposed to focusing on one culture. 

culture explorer

Exploring other cultures is essential if you work want to work effectively with diversity.

Click here to explore our free resources

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

6. What are Cross-Cultural Trainers?

A trainer who runs a cross-cultural program will be someone who is an expert in one or many aspects of cross-cultural communication.

They may either be a country expert, i.e. someone who has lived and worked in another country, or a skills expert, i.e. someone with hands-on management, presentation or negotiation experience. 

With a background in business (or the public sector) and formal education in intercultural communication, cross-cultural trainers provide learners with both practical and academic insights into the topic.

Interested in becoming an intercultural trainer

7. How Long Does Cross-Cultural Training Last?

How long is a piece of string? Training can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 3 days. The length of the training is usually determined by budgets, time, the geographical spread of teams and practicality.

The majority of face to face training takes place over the course of a day, although webinars may be delivered in 2-hour chunks. 

 Training session in Malaysia

Activities are an important part of cross-cultural training.

For example, rather than just presenting learners with information, they may be asked to describe 'culture' with an image. From the images used by learners, the trainer would then delve deeper into the topic and affirm key learning points.

Photo by Coach Edwin Indarto on Unsplash

8. How Much Does Cross-Cultural Training Cost?

As above – it all depends on what you want and how you want it.

A simple, off-the-shelf training course will naturally be a lot less than a tailored training course involving meetings, research and design. 

9. Where Do I Find Cross-Cultural Training?

There are providers of cross-cultural training within the private sector as well as sometimes through NGOs, public bodies and government initiatives.

A market study in 2021 predicted the cross-cultural training sector is "anticipated to grow at a significant pace", driven by demand to support employees working in multicultural environments.

It also highlights some of the top global training vendors for such training. Yes, we are one!

Cultural training programs


If you need cross-cultural training for your team or organization, then hop over to our Cross-Cultural Training page for info on how we can help you.

Or, have a look at some examples of our cross-cultural training work.



Take an Online Cross-Cultural Training Course!

If you want to learn more about working across cultures, then you can buy our Cultural Awareness course for only $15!

You can watch the abridged video sample below.

This eLearning course takes you through many of the common themes covered in cross-cultural training such as communication and teamwork.

Visit the course page for more information.


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