The Iceberg Model of Culture

Matthew MacLachlan

18 Jun 2009

In an attempt to explain culture more clearly, many intercultural trainers use the Iceberg Model of Culture when delivering cross-cultural training programmes such as Working Successfully Across Cultures  or Developing Intercultural Competence.

Culture is often compared to an iceberg which has both visible (on the surface) and invisible (below the surface) parts. Elements of culture which we can plainly see, such as food or clothes, are represented by the upper portion of the iceberg. Those elements which are not as obvious such as why someone eats or dresses the way they do are represented by the much larger portion of the iceberg underwater.

Failure to understand and recognise these parts of culture and the layers that compose them, as well as how they influence each other is the main reason misunderstandings occur when doing business internationally.

Intercultural TrainingIceberg2

By participating in a Cultural Awareness Training programme – whether the aim is to develop intercultural competence or provide you with an understanding of a specific culture – you will gain an improved understanding of the cultural clash that can occur in international business as the visible and invisible elements of two cultures come together. Without this understanding, doing business internationally could result in misunderstanding and lost time and money.