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What makes a person multicultural?

Who is multicultural?

Although we’ve been using the term ‘multicultural’ to describe culturally diverse teams, it’s also possible for the term ‘multicultural’ to describe individuals.

There are three aspects to being a multicultural person:

  • Knowledge: being familiar with the deep aspects of multiple cultures (eg norms and beliefs, not just surface-level aspects).
  • Identification: having multiple cultural identities (eg German and Turkish), or identifying with a hybrid culture (eg Chinese-Indonesian).
  • Internalisation: being deeply influenced by more than one culture, in terms of your own values, beliefs and assumptions.

It’s becoming more and more common for teams to include multicultural individuals.

Who is considered a multicultural individual?

Multicultural individuals include migrants, refugees and their descendants. They can also include people who have become multicultural through a prolonged, immersive experience in another culture (eg expatriates, international students, couples in intercultural relationships).

Being multicultural typically means possessing certain skills and qualities. And this can make multicultural individuals useful in multicultural teams – if you can recognise the benefits they bring.

In the next steps, we will take you through some of the latest research on multicultural individuals and help you to discover what they can bring to multicultural teams.

Your task

Do you think you are multicultural? Explain why, with reference to the three criteria of knowledge, identification and internalisation.

Have you worked with multicultural individuals in teams before?

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Harnessing Cultural Diversity: Effective Team Leadership in the Workplace

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