Intercultural competencies

Intercultural competencies iconIntercultural competencies are skills, knowledge and attributes that are valuable in culturally diverse environments. 

You can use intercultural competencies abroad (during an international experience) or while working within your own country (in any workplace).

We've identified four intercultural competencies that can help you become a strong global citizen:

Intercultural motivation

Intercultural motivation means that you are curious about new surroundings and cultures and actively seek out learning opportunities.

You demonstrate this competency when you:

  • welcome the opportunity to learn more about the geography and culture of where you live, work and study
  • take initiative to explore your environment
  • actively network with people from different cultures
  • take interest in current events locally and globally
  • engage with people in your employer organization and community
  • network with diverse communities and organizations
  • recognize your intercultural capabilities and seek areas to improve

Intercultural knowledge

Intercultural knowledge means that you have a good understanding of how cultures are similar or different.

You demonstrate this competency when you:

  • recognize and respect cultural diversity
  • learn appropriate, effective ways to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds
  • know how to be diplomatic and sensitive to the dynamics of a culturally diverse workplace
  • understand how to communicate with people who speak or write a different language
  • know how to be adept in a new environment
  • understand ways to cope with constant change
  • learn phrases in a new language, or learn a new language

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking means that you use your knowledge and understanding of different cultures to plan effective intercultural interactions.

You demonstrate this competency when you:

  • are conscious of your assumptions relating to cultural issues and question them at all times
  • think about how you can take initiative to learn from co-workers from different cultural backgrounds
  • plan how to pursue networking opportunities with people with culturally diverse backgrounds
  • consider new strategies during each cultural encounter
  • check for opportunities for cultural growth
  • consider how your area of study is applicable in a global context

Appropriate behaviour

Appropriate behaviour means that you demonstrate flexibility in your interactions and are able to recognize and adapt to cultural nuances in the workplace and beyond.

You demonstrate this competency when you:

  • display a positive attitude towards change and new environments
  • recognize and adapt to cultural differences in communication
  • change your verbal and nonverbal behaviours according to different situations
  • demonstrate that you can acknowledge the human, interpersonal and technical sides of a problem
  • show flexibility and explore possible solutions in an innovative and creative way

Download: The four intercultural competencies (UVic's intercultural competencies are based on the cultural intelligence (CQ) model created by the Cultural Intelligence Center).

Put these in action: See understanding and using competencies to learn how to use, measure and describe your competencies.

Upcoming workshops

Please check the Co-op and Career portal event calendar for upcoming workshops related to intercultural competencies.

Lessons to help develop your intercultural competencies

We’ve put together a lesson series to help you connect effectively with people from diverse cultures, experiences and communities. 

  1. Diversity and Inclusion: This lesson introduces students to culture and cultural values, cultural intelligence and UVic’s intercultural competency framework. It is included in the Introduction to Professional Practice (IPP) course that all students complete before their first work term.

  2. Take Flight with Co-op – Preparing for Your Work Term Abroad: Designed for students embarking on an international work term and delivered online. You'll read about the country you are going to, anticipate cultural challenges you may encounter and learn how to plan for success in that cultural context. 

  3. Drive to Intercultural Effectiveness: For students returning from international experiences. You'll discuss cultural challenges you encountered, the cultural values inherent in these challenges, how you used your intercultural competencies to navigate these challenges, and how to articulate the intercultural competencies you gained when searching for jobs in future. 

  4. Succeeding in your Canadian Job Search: For international students. International students in Canada may be used to different job search strategies and workplace culture than those common in Canada. This workshop discusses these differences, and how to use your intercultural competencies to succeed in your Canadian job search and in Canadian workplaces.

If you are not in the co-op program and would like to access any of these lessons, please contact

Are you an international student?

See our online resources for how to succeed in the Canadian workplace!