More to read

What is culture, actually?

That is not so easy to answer.

Everyone has a feeling for what his or her culture is. Very often "culture" is equated with "national cultures". I have written on my website that I base my offers on the dynamic concept of culture. In my work as a coach and trainer, "culture" differs from what is often understood by it in everyday life: culture is created, not alone, but by a group of people, together and in an ongoing process.

The Boundaries of Culture are Drawn and are Changeabel

The boundaries of a culture are not fixed, but are also drawn anew again and again, with sometimes overlapping, unclear and blurred lines, so they are co-constructed. For example, there could be a female and male culture or a rural and an urban culture, a culture of youth, an organizational culture, a departmental culture, etc. It is therefore always the question, in which context culture is relevant at the specific moment of communication with the specific people and how it affects everyone concerned. There is a huge potential in this basic assumption: we can consciously help shape culture.

Belonging to Culture is negotiated jointly

The dynamic concept of culture is based on the assumption that people belong not only to one (national) culture of origin but to several subcultures and that, depending on the situation, one or the other level will be more important. For example, two tennis players meeting could completely eclipse the fact that one of them is Indian, female and urban and the other person is Chinese-British, from London and young. And there is huge potential in this basic assumption: We can consciously co-decide which side of our cultural identity we want to put in the foreground, and which side of our counterpart's cultural identity we prefer to perceive or emphasize.

What effects does the dynamic concept of culture have on training and coaching?

In short, it means first of all that all information from different disciplines is selected and presented in such a way that it increases the ability to create a "common culture" with the counterpart.

Above all, this means that business etiquette, a list of do's and don'ts, and information about the country are not very important. The main reason? That list will never be long enough and you wouldn’t be able to learn it by heart, anyway. It is unfortunately also true that "knowing" does not necessarily mean "doing".

Furthermore, there are no simple recipes for dealing with people who come from a different cultural area. The only thing that applies here also applies to communication in general: Communication is always fruitful when two people can act constructively with each other in a way that suits the context, personality and situation.

So why bother with intercultural communication at all? Instead of a list of do's and dont's, I offer you and understanding of the basic principles of intercultural communication based on a dynamic concept of culture. This will enable you to adapt them flexibly to yourself and your context and to communicate with your colleagues and in your private life in a goal-oriented way.

Perhaps a short example: Many inquiries I receive from the German side are about understanding the caste system in order to better understand the irritating behaviour of Indian colleagues. As laudable as the fact is that behind the question there may be a little bit of curiosity about Indian history and society, this knowledge is not particularly helpful. In fact, it can be rather the opposite.

How this issue can be resolved, how knowledge can be differentiated, and how irritating behaviour can be understood differently is the content of intercultural training.

What is Intercultural Competence and Communication?

We are shaped by our environment

Intercultural communication is a topic which I pursue since 1992. Be it through studying and teaching languages, politeness standards, or communication styles. These different facets of communication add to intercultural communication skills and simultanously to one's own intercultural competence. One relevant part of it is recognizing how one's own cultural imprint works and not to consider it as the (only) worldwide valid standard. This also includes the understanding that one's own imprint leads to many patterns of perception and evaluation. (keyword Unconscious Bias). And with this you inevitably better understand other people and find it easier adapt your own communication style appropriate in a given situation.

Limits and Potentials of “mere” Interculturality

Diving into the topic of Interculturality might lead a misunderstanding though. You might think that “understanding” suffices for having not problems anymore – which is a good hope but not always a realistic one. Conflict Transformation skills are always helpful, and also developing the art to assiss whether, to which extent and exactly in which way cultural aspects are crucial for a given issue.

This “know-how” has the potential for all who grew up with more the one culture to assess and place one´s own feelings better and navigate them. What is missing if you merely take an intercultural perspective is all that comes with understanding how deep societal power structures impact day to day life.

The most Relvant Intercultural Facets in Communication

Which intercultural communication types are relevant in psychotherapy and coaching?

Direct or indirect type?

To me, there are two types of communication: one type communicates more directly and clearly states what they need and want. The other type communicates more indirectly, putting things delicately and in a roundabout way.

In research on specific cultural regions, different cultures are assigned these communicative preferences. Perhaps a small side note to differentiate: many women find that men communicate much more directly - and yes, there is research on this, but that would be gender-specific psychotherapy or coaching.

Most people are unaware how these cultural influences impact them. They only become consciously aware that certain behaviour is very disturbing and hurtful, and "what is appropriate for us" may differ from "what is appropriate for them". And the reactions to these perceptions occur following the patterns learned and practiced since childhood.

Understanding and dealing with the needs of the other type of communicator is the be-all and end-all of intercultural issues. This is because these experiences have an impact on both teamwork and conflict behaviour in couples, and even on self-esteem when people do not really feel understood.

Family feelings

In addition, in some cultural areas you grow up with different ideas of family and individuality. My main focus in this work is to feel the effects without asking "inquisitorial" questions, or to ask appropriate questions at the appropriate moments.

The individuation process is simply very different for individuals in minority cultures than for people who have grown up in the majority culture as members of an individualistic society.

In many cases, these culture-specific experiences effect self-expression, decision-making processes, leadership issues and team competencies. Understanding the family context, the effect on self-esteem and personal decision-making to me are among the key topics in intercultural support, both in coaching and in therapy.

Why is a focus so important?

Focus: The benefits of focusing in coaching and consulting

In order to explain the benefits of having a focus and being able to focus in coaching and consulting, I need to give you a bit of background. When we live our daily lives, we concentrate on our tasks or our plans more or less consciously. In doing so, we may very often follow routines, patterns and behaviours that we have learned and that have proven their worth. Most of the time these behaviours are underpinned by decisions that are based on assessments and prejudices in a positive sense and that make us function "efficiently". And, as I said, most of this happens unconsciously.


When clients approach me, they do so because they want to change - in other words, they want to change their routines and patterns because they no longer fit their needs or wishes.

They want to experience more satisfaction in their work or private life, or they want to learn something new, master a new challenge, change harmful behaviour and so on. What they all have in common is that they come to me with a problem focus at first. In coaching and also in consulting it is important to take this problem focus seriously and to transform it into a solution focus.


The following approach has proven to be successful: I start to work with them to align the focus of problems with currently unrecognized strengths that they bring with them, or even possible new solutions. This is done by asking questions: For example, “How have you dealt with similar situations in the past?” I may also help you look ahead and work out a future solution. Very often focusing on strengths in itself brings great relief and enables you to change your own behaviour in the long term.


Sometimes, however, you may have several sides that are in conflict, which does not allow you to realise the first draft of a new behaviour or achieve "reasonable" goals. My favourite examples are giving up smoking or achieving a good work-life balance. Many people will quickly come up with great ideas about what they should change - but they don't follow through because it is not as easy as it sounds.


My offers are aimed at self-payers. Please contact me, we will find a good solution.

Herseler Straße 18
53117 Bonn

 0228 - 90 27 83 33