Intercultural communication in India

In the past few weeks I travelled to India with six students of about 16/ 17 years. In collaboration with a foundation and a Christian school there, the students did research on the water quality in a number of slums, among other things. After analysing this in a laboratory, they provide advice on purification methods and information. It goes without saying that this was an intensive project, not only because of the research they did but also because of the complete new situation of communication. It is not easy to prepare pupils to such an experience. It is like preparing for a trip to another planet, because the differences are enormous.

India is so totally different from the Netherlands (and big parts of Europe) that there are only basic similarities: people are born, people die; people eat, people engage in traffic, people dress. The same, but completely different. During a few preparation meetings, I paid attention to various definitions of culture, culture and communication and the D-MIS model. Subsequently, I had compiled an article for the students, compiled an article with the insights of Prof. Shadid (“Foundations of Intercultural Communication”) and Prof. dr. David Pinto. In the book “Intercultural communication, culture and conflict management” he gives numerous practical examples of how to deal with uncomfortable situations, in which (large) cultural differences between the conversation partners are a disturbing factor for effective communication. How do you take an open and learning approach to this? (How) can you learn intercultural sensitivity? Do you have to let go of your own culture for that? Or just put it into perspective? And how do you do that with religious rituals? Participate in everything for half the time? Or guard your own boundary? And how then without roaring the other person?

The intensity of Indian society makes a continuous appeal to all senses. That makes it practically impossible to define a single situation of communication and to reduce it to a number of sentences that represent something of everything that is involved in that communication at that moment. Yet I have the students a.h.v. challenged some learning goals to get started. The preliminary results are extremely valuable. More about that in a subsequent article.

This contribution is from A.C.M. Klippel, geography teacher and coordinator Internationalization, CSG Prince Maurits