Culture Shock or Challenge? The Role of Personality as a Determinant of Intercultural Competence

Karen van der Zee, Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides a theoretical basis for the empirical link between traits and intercultural success indicators relying on the A (Affect) B (Behavior) C (Cognition)-model of culture shock. With respect to affect, we argue that intercultural traits can be differentiated according to whether they predispose individuals to be (in-)sensitive to either threat or challenge. Whereas stress-related traits (emotional stability, flexibility) are linked to a lower tendency to perceive an intercultural situation as threatening, social-perceptual traits (social initiative, open-mindedness) may predispose individuals to perceive its challenging aspects and respond with positive affect. As a behavioral consequence, stress-buffering traits may protect against culture shock, whereas social-perceptual traits may facilitate cultural learning. Finally, the ABC-model defines cognitions in terms of associated cultural identity patterns. Whereas stress-related traits may help individuals refrain from sticking to one’s own culture, social-perceptual traits reinforce identification with new culture. Implications for training and development are discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-940
JournalJournal of cross-cultural psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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