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Intercultural Communication for Experts

Due to globalisation, migration and increased connectivity, many societies are characterised by what leading researchers call ‘superdiversity’. In such an environment, there is a multitude of differences between and within groups and communities, making it unpredictable which experiences, values, lifestyles and habits are relevant to individual people.

For professionals trying to find constructive responses to the diversity among their clients, employees, students or colleagues, this situation can be very challenging.  Knowledge and approaches aimed at specific cultures or communities no longer provide viable solutions and can even be counterproductive.

This course is aimed at professionals that are highly invested in working with the intercultural complexity in today’s society and who want to deepen their associated knowledge and competence.

This course has it all, theory (not too much), practice exercises, and great discussion throughout. Arjan's knowledge is both vast and deep.
Peter Novak Professor Emeritus and founder, Strictly Speaking Group


Building on up-to-date academic knowledge of interculturality and diversity, we will discuss relevant theories, studies and models and use them as a source for reflection and intervention. While deeply rooted in theory and research, we will constantly have an eye for practical implications and applications. We will mainly focus on diversity in nationality, ethnicity and religion, yet often in relation to (and relevant to) other dimensions of difference. All sessions will involve an interactive presentation of theory, as well as discussion and exercises.


This professional course is based on an academic course that has been taught at various universities in several countries and is further adapted for professionals and practitioners. It largely follows the book ‘Diversity Competence-Cultures Don’t Meet, People Do’ (co-authored by the facilitator).

For who

Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge and competence in this topic, in relation to for example:

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • Human Resources
  • Internationalisation
  • Migration, integration or multiculturalism
  • Mediation or people of trust
  • Training/coaching/education

By who

Arjan Verdooren is a long-time associate trainer and consultant for KIT Royal Tropical Institute. He has extensive experience with professional training and consultancy for a wide range of organizations. In addition, he has lectured at various universities, including the University of Gothenburg and the HTW University Berlin. He is the co-author (with Edwin Hoffman) of ‘Diversity Competence-Cultures Don’t Meet, People Do’  (Coutinho, 2018).  Arjan specializes in the connection between theory and practice in the fields of Diversity & Inclusion and Intercultural Communication.

What is the content?

The course consists of five online Zoom sessions of 2,5 hours each.

The course is open to participants worldwide and will run in English.

The sessions will have the following topics:

  • Culture and intercultural interaction
  • Values, worldviews and communication styles
  • Identity, power and language
  •  (Non)Verbal Language
  • Ethics and dialogue
  • Communication and the TOPOI model
  • Intercultural learning


  • €650,-  for employees of organisations
  • €525,-  for self-employed individuals
  • €375,-  for students and job seekers

There is an early bird discount of 25 % until June 17th 2024


Bi-weekly sessions from September 2024:

  • September  26th
  • October 10th and 24th
  • November 7th and 21st
  • December 5th and 19th

Time: 13.00-15.30 CET

I have come out of the KIT Institute Intercultural Communication for Experts course feeling that I have gained some truly valuable insights into the topics of identity, intercultural interaction and non-verbal communication. Arjan has been an excellent lecturer, both passionate about the knowledge he imparts and eager to ensure participants are given opportunities to weigh in on the conversation. The sessions are interesting and well-balanced between theory and practice. Would recommend without hesitation.
Rima Labban Professor of Arabic language, literature and civilisation at the University Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3


General approach

Al sessions will take place on zoom and will last 2,5 hours (13.00-15.30 CET). The sessions will contain lecture as well as interactive parts with exercises and discussion in small groups. They build on academic theory and hence will involve discussion of social scientific concepts, ideas and controversies. We aim to present this in an accessible way, with recurrent reflection on practical implications and applications.

The course largely builds on the book ‘Diversity Competence-Cultures Don’t Meet, People Do’ by Edwin Hoffman and Arjan Verdooren, and book chapters can be read before or after the sessions to provide more depth (though this is not mandatory). Additional literature as well as suggestions for reflection or practice between the sessions will also be provided. The course consists of the following sessions and content:

Download the full program in pdf

Culture and intercultural interaction

In this first session, we explore the concept of culture, some of the main controversies
around it as well as different approaches to resolving those. Based on a revised
understanding of culture, we try to come to an understanding of the process and main
challenges of intercultural interaction.


  • A short history of culture as a concept
  • Controversies and problems around ‘culture’
  • Metaphors and revised approaches for culture in ICC
  • Intercultural interaction: from ‘cultural clashes’ to ‘partial unfamiliarity’
  • Intercultural challenges: ethnocentrism and essentialism

Values, worldviews and communication styles

In this session, we explore some of the main aspects of cultural difference and approaches to understanding, comparing and categorizing these. In addition, we reflect on the problems, and pitfalls of these approaches, as well as opportunities to avoid them.


  • Cultural dimension models: possibilities and problems
  • Values, worldviews and logics
  • Communication styles

Identity, power and language

In this session, we discuss how the membership of certain groups as such impact interactions- beyond the cultural repertoires that these groups provide access to. How do the positions of these groups as such, in relation to other groups and to global and societal (power) structures impact the interactions of their members?

And how does language -often inadvertedly- express or activate different perceptions or experiences of identity, (power) relations and group belonging?


  • Social identity theories
  • In- out group mechanisms and perceptions
  • Inter group relations and communication
  • A systemstheoretical approach to communication and language
  • Language positions and language command

(Non) Verbal language

Intercultural interactions can often be impacted as well by factors related to language, both verbally as well as non-verbally. This can become expecially complex when issues of power and status come ino play. In this session, we try to unpack all these aspects that are not particularly related to what is communicated, but how.


  • Language command, and language positions
  • Translation and language transfer
  • Communication styles across groups and individuals
  • Non verbal language (e.g. gestures, physical distance, eye contact)
  • Language and power

Ethics and dialogue

An undervalued aspect of intercultural interactions is that they can lead to ethical challenges and dilemmas, when others’ behaviours or ideas seem in violation with one’s own ethical position or commitment. Often, people feel conflicted between defending universal human rights and needs, and the acknowledgment of differences in experiences, values, and morals. In this session, we discuss different relevant frameworks, ideas and approaches to (intercultural) ethics. This leads us to dialogue as an indispensable tool to inquire into both differences and similarities.


  • Universalism, Relativism and Pluralism
  • Different approaches to identifying universal needs
  • Human Rights and cultural compatibility
  • Dialogue as a tool for intercultural communication

Communication and the TOPOI Model

In this last session, we synthesize many of the discussed insights in the approach of the TOPOI model. This is a practice-theoretical heuristic tool, that focusses on communicative areas in (intercultural) interaction, rather than culture perse. It translates cultural and other factors into identifiable, operational fields of communication. The model then functions as a lens to zoom in on interactions in order to analyze, reflect on and sensitize to differences as they occur in interaction.


  • Backgrounds and main assumptions of the model
  • The different areas: Tongue, Order, Persons, Organization, Intentions
  • Application of the model on case situations
  • Integrating the model into course, programs, training, etc.

Intercultural learning

In this last session, we consider several approaches and theories regarding the process of intercultural learning: how do people learn and become more competent in interacting in culturally diverse environments? We draw both on academic theory and studies, as well as on the experiences with providing intercultural training at the Royal Tropical Institute over the course of several decades.


  • Cultural knowledge versus intercultural competence
  • The measurement of intercultural competences
  • Instrumental versus transformative learning
  • Process based approaches to intercultural learning

The KIT vision on intercultural learning

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