Cultural Intelligence (CQ) refers to a person's capability to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity. It is particularly important in a country like Australia where around 1 in 2 Australians were either born abroad or have at least one parent abroad.
Awareness of different cultural norms, values and attitudes is typically seen as the best method to increase cultural intelligence. Unfortunately, cultural awareness classes have a tendency to homogenise cultures leading to inter-group stereotype formation. For example, in 2013 VisitBritain ( the taxpayer-funded body that promotes the UK overseas) devised a list of dos and don’ts for the tourist industry. These recommendations included being aware that Germans are demanding and Australians are sarcastic. In response, Visit Britain was accused of proliferating racial stereotypes.
In defence of Visit Britain, it is very difficult to consider cultural diversity without being accused of stereotyping and/or offending people. One problem is that in every culture, some individuals will want to be individually defined while others will want to be culturally defined. The individuals who want to be seen as individuals will be offended by any cultural definition, while the individuals who want to be culturally defined will be offended if there is no awareness of cultural identities. A second problem is that the positive myths that individuals have of their cultures are not always consistent with the experiences people from other cultures have had with their cultures. For example, many people who have had intellectual discussions with Australians would have found a high probability of sarcasm entering the debate. Even though sarcasm may be very common in Australia, few Australians would celebrate sarcasm as a defining Australian cultural trait because it is almost universally recognised as being negative. Instead, they would prefer something like egalitarianism be used to define Australians. Therefore, they may ironically react to Visit Britain's stereotype with a criticism that it is another example of British intellect at its finest - unaware that they are being sarcastic.
Because of the problems associated with cultural diversity, many Australians have taken the easy option of just ignoring it in favour of treating everyone the same and/or ignoring any aspect of a foreign culture that is inconsistent with their values. Although this has been a successful method to help realise social harmony, the cost has been cultural ignorance.
The comparisons on this site identify certain patterns and approaches that distinguish a large number of Australians from a large number of people in another country. These kinds of patterns have a tendency to give rise to stereotypes that some individuals will embrace and other individuals will reject.
Although offence is a high risk of the considering diversity, ultimately cultures can learn from each other if they refuse to acknowledge each’s differences in ways that can potentially offend themselves or others.