The Cultural Iceberg Analogy


The most dangerous part of the iceberg is the 90% that is below the sea and cannot be seen. Such is the case in culture as well. The norms (which are rules for behavior in specific situations) and values (which identify what should be judged as appropriate, good or bad) are below the surface and drive the behaviors we can see. Not understanding the unobservable is what is problematic for expatriates when dealing in intercultural situations.

Building cultural competence in preparation for an international assignment must go beyond the observable “tip of the iceberg” to help individuals understand the values, behavior and beliefs of the other culture and ensure successful global interactions.

Diane McGreal