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Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are

Avoid costly mistakes and faux pas when traveling abroad with this course that helps anyone-businesspersons, tourists, and more-navigate other cultures.
Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 81.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of my favorite classes Dr. Livermore was engaging and knowledgeable. He also included a lot of personal stories which made his class very relatable. I would recommend this program for anyone that wants to improve their interactions and relationships with global business partners as well as fellow earth citizens. I feel much more prepared for my next international trip.
Date published: 2024-03-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Uneven I can't help but be of two minds about this course. The first half of the course I would recommend highly. The descriptions of "dimensions" of cultural intelligence ("spectra" would be a better word) are fascinating. I would have liked to see how these different dimensions related to one another. Were there patterns, were being high in X also meant being high in Y, for example? Or examples of how being high in A and low in B might express itself culturally? Nonetheless, even without these correlations, this was useful stuff. It's the other half, though, the "cultural clusters", that gave me pause. The description of the German culture I recognized, mostly. The Confucian cluster matched what I knew well, too, and was done quite coherently. Some of the other descriptions, though, seemed like a grab-bag, and overlooked what seemed to me, as a historian, large features. (How can one spend a whole lecture on India and discuss the influence of something so central as caste on Indian history and society in two sentences?) Some of the descriptions of each cluster were too vague, or non-unique. A cluster might be characterized by the fact that various groups in the cluster would unite against intruders and their cultures. Or a cluster has common features, but nonetheless features amazing diversity. Can you guess which part of the world these characterizations describe? Perhaps (like another reviewer) I was most surprised by his description of an Eurasian cluster, which included Poland, Greece, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. This raised an eyebrow, not least because we are talking about cultures with Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, and Buddhist influences as a single group. The cultural legacy of having been migratory tribes was mentioned - though Poles stopped migrating roughly 1,000 years before the Mongolians have. One has the impression that this cluster was what was left over after having drawn all of the other clusters, and so the description, trying to unify them all, was forced. I would have liked to have seen much more of the historical origins as foundations of these cultural areas. (This would have resulted in different and I think more useful boundaries. Put Poland and Hungary in with Germany and Austria, in light of their common Catholicism and feudal histories, for example, rather than with Mongolia. Separate Central Asia and Balkan Europe from each other. Maybe even combine Spain and Portugal with Latin America, rather than group them with France and Italy.) I would also have liked to have seen much more about how all of the combinations of dimensions were reflected in each culture. This would have been better than the more anecdotal (and I suspect hurried) rendering of each cluster. Perhaps a 36-unit course, doing clusters each with a bit more depth would be the solution. Summing up: I think the first half of the course (and the last lecture, actually) is excellent. But the cluster boundaries and descriptions which make up the second half of the course I found less convincing.
Date published: 2023-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have taken a number of excellent Great Courses over the past few years, but this has been by far the best. Fascinating and practical, this outstanding course is taught with humble respect for cultures world wide. It will enlighten and equip you with the knowledge, skills and appreciation for positive cross-cultural interactions.
Date published: 2023-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye Opening course Thank you so much for this content. I may feel landlocked in Canada for now, but I so appreciate a lesson in Cultural Intelligence to even navigate my very culturally diverse home. .
Date published: 2023-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really good I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this course but I learned so much. I have been to Europe and Japan and I found what our professor had to tell us so worthwhile. I would have liked more about this subject for a female traveler but yes, it's good and woth my time.
Date published: 2022-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye-Opening and Mind-Expanding Dr. David Livermore’s excellent and engaging course has stimulated more personal reflection and more lively discussions with family members and friends than any other series of lectures among over 100 I’ve studied from The Teaching Company. His main focus, best described by this course’s subtitle (Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are), is an important one, replete with insights that can further interpersonal harmony and even encourage world peace. Businesspersons in the global economy and international travellers will surely benefit from Dr. Livermore’s substantial course content, and so will anybody who simply wants to improve effective communication with the varied individual personalities encountered in their home communities. The professor makes especially relevant use of examples from his personal experiences in multiple countries. He has a knack for expressing sensitive information frankly, yet respectfully, neither dodging elephant-in-the-room topics, nor pulling punches when describing how and why conflicts can arise over cultural differences. Up until a few years ago, reviewers on this website were provided with several 1–5 scales by which to rate component parts of each course. If I still had that option, I would fine-tune my present assessment, rating some aspects as good, with 4 stars out of 5. For example, I felt that acronyms and academic terminology were slightly overused by Dr. Livermore, particularly as this course’s guidebook lacks a glossary. Additionally, though the questions the professor raised often had the highly thought-provoking quality of Socratic questions, some of the answers cited from social science research were less than convincing. While a great deal was taught about the attitudes, way of life, and values that provide fascinating background for each given culture’s customs, I would have appreciated learning a lengthier list of specific customs, too. I wish to re-emphasize that this course’s “final grade” is Excellent, 5 out of 5, and I do heartily recommend it as extremely important, vital for well-informed citizens, including those who aspire to the ideal of world-citizenship.
Date published: 2022-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Excellent course. Probably could do a similar course just for the US and cultural differences based upon areas of the country
Date published: 2022-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Travel Knowledge The course should become a part of a senior high school curriculum, for it teaches one how to conduct themselves respectfully in various countries.
Date published: 2022-01-02
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When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The concept of cultural adaptation is hardly new, but in our increasingly globalized world, the need for cross-cultural understanding has never been more essential to our success in life, both personally and professionally. Yet how can we possibly adapt to all the cultures surrounding us? And is adaptation always the best approach? In Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are, you'll learn how the values held by cultures around the world influence behavior so you can successfully accomplish your objectives, no matter what the cultural context. Taught by Professor David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center, these 24 eye-opening lectures address dynamics and customs related to working, socializing, dining, and marriage and family-all the areas necessary to help you function with a greater level of respect and effectiveness wherever you go.


David Livermore

I've always been fascinated by cultures. So it was a joy to share some of that fascination along with my research in 'Customs of the World'. Cultural intelligence is an ongoing journey for all of us, myself included.


Cultural Intelligence Center

Dr. David Livermore is president and partner at the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan, and a Visiting Scholar at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Before leading the Cultural Intelligence Center, he spent 20 years in leadership positions with a variety of nonprofit organizations around the world and taught at several universities. Professor Livermore completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University, where he studied international education and sociology. In addition, he has two master’s degrees and two bachelor’s degrees and is renowned for his research on cultural intelligence (CQ) and global effectiveness. Professor Livermore has worked in more than 100 countries across the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. He averages 35 international speaking engagements annually, addressing an estimated 7,500 leaders per year. He also serves on several nonprofit boards. As a thought leader in CQ and global leadership, Professor Livermore is the author of several best-selling and award-winning books, including The Cultural Intelligence Difference, Leading with Cultural Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence, and Serving with Eyes Wide Open. He has been interviewed and referenced by major news sources, including The Atlantic, CBS News, The Christian Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Christianity Today, The Economist, Forbes, NBC, The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

By This Professor

Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are
Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are


Culture Matters

01: Culture Matters

What is culture? How do you know whether you can attribute a person's behavior to culture or personality? Why are business executives increasingly paying attention to the realities of cultural differences? Start to answer these questions as you explore why virtually every aspect of our lives is shaped by culture.

33 min
Developing Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

02: Developing Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

According to research, there are recurring characteristics that exist among those who can be described as culturally intelligent. Examine these capabilities, then learn a variety of ways to enhance your own cultural intelligence. Consider the potential benefits of improving your CQ, from being a better global citizen to increasing your earning power....

28 min
Identity-Individualist versus Collectivist

03: Identity-Individualist versus Collectivist

Begin your exploration of the 10 cultural value dimensions most useful when comparing cultures. As you contrast individualist and collectivist societies, learn how these differences shape personal behavior and society in countries such as the United States, China, and India, then get helpful tips for working with people from each background....

29 min
Authority-Low versus High Power Distance

04: Authority-Low versus High Power Distance

Power distance-the degree to which members of a society are comfortable with inequality in power, influence, and wealth-is one of the most significant value orientations that shape behavior. Identify cultures and settings with high and low power distance indexes and learn how you can use an understanding of this dynamic to avoid misunderstandings or awkward situations....

30 min
Risk-Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance

05: Risk-Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance

Your tolerance for risk and the degree to which you believe people should develop contingency plans is not only a reflection of your personality, it's also a product of your cultural background. Compare behavior between high and low uncertainty-avoidant cultures, and conclude with tips for interacting with people from both....

30 min
Achievement-Cooperative versus Competitive

06: Achievement-Cooperative versus Competitive

The degree to which a society emphasizes the importance of nurturing, collaborative behavior over achieving results varies widely and can cause confusion, particularly for business travelers. Look at countries and personalities at each end of the cooperative-competitive spectrum, and learn why the most lively groups, organizations, and work teams include people from both orientations....

30 min
Time-Punctuality versus Relationships

07: Time-Punctuality versus Relationships

There is perhaps no cultural difference that people relate to more than the stewardship of time. Learn how researchers account for these variations, and see how a culture's tendency to be "polychronic," or have a long-term orientation, correlates with punctuality being a low priority. Conclude with practical suggestions for dealing with people who may not share your view of time....

29 min
Communication-Direct versus Indirect

08: Communication-Direct versus Indirect

Do you appreciate people who "shoot straight" or do you find that communication style overly direct? The culture in which you were raised has a lot to do with your answer. Differentiate between high-context cultures such as that of Liberia, where much is left open to interpretation, and low-context cultures such as in Holland, where little is taken for granted....

30 min
Lifestyle-Being versus Doing

09: Lifestyle-Being versus Doing

Return to the topic of how we relate to time, but shift your focus to contrasts between "being" and "doing" cultures and ways you can effectively relate to people whose orientation differs from yours. Consider how our environment shapes this value and can even create variations within a culture-as in differences between New Yorkers and Midwesterners....

29 min
Rules-Particularist versus Universalist

10: Rules-Particularist versus Universalist

People in North America, western Europe, and Australia tend to be universalists who believe a singular set of rules should apply to everyone regardless of circumstances. Particularists, found in many Asian societies, Latin America, and Russia, believe each situation should be handled individually. See how these dimensions play out in daily life and learn why bribes are expected when you visit part...

29 min
Expressiveness-Neutral versus Affective

11: Expressiveness-Neutral versus Affective

In many cultures, long pauses in conversation are uncomfortable, but in Asia-which has a "neutral" expression culture-it's a sign of respect. Consider how expressiveness is often a product of our cultural and socioeconomic origins, then examine the concept of "face" and get tips for making someone from a face-conscious country feel comfortable....

31 min
Social Norms-Tight versus Loose

12: Social Norms-Tight versus Loose

As the intermingling of cultures and religions increases globally, so too does tension in many societies. Contrast "tight" cultures, where there are rules, norms, and standards for "correct" behavior, with "loose" cultures that have greater "category width" and will tolerate a variety of viewpoints and behaviors....

30 min
Roots of Cultural Differences

13: Roots of Cultural Differences

Cultural value dimensions must be understood within the broader framework of cultural intelligence, or else we stereotype people. Pause at this midpoint of the course to consider deeper questions about why cultures do what they do and how far you can apply these various generalizations. Then get an introduction to the 10 global clusters that you're about to explore in detail....

31 min
Anglo Cultures

14: Anglo Cultures

As you begin your examination of specific locations around the world, explore the currents that flow throughout this geographically dispersed culture with historical ties to the British Empire. Consider what it means to be an "average American" and get a list of do's and don'ts for dealing with people from the Anglo cluster....

29 min
Nordic European Cultures

15: Nordic European Cultures

In Sweden, every employee (grad students included) gets five weeks of paid vacation. Across Scandinavia, dressing prosperously is frowned upon. See how the people of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden live life based on Jante Law-which says people shouldn't see themselves as special or better than anyone else....

28 min
Germanic Cultures

16: Germanic Cultures

German culture emphasizes orderliness, straightforwardness, and loyalty, so it can be easy to interpret its people's behavior as rigid, aloof, and untrusting. Investigate the long history of the German cluster, its way of life, and what we can learn about Germany from its art, literature, and music....

30 min
Eastern European/Central Asian Cultures

17: Eastern European/Central Asian Cultures

Characterized by a tough tenacity forged through centuries of harsh weather, constant movement, and the dominance of other clans and empires, this diverse cluster includes countries such as Russia, Slovenia, Poland, Greece, Kazakhstan, and Albania. Take a closer look at what connects these cultures and the reasons why-despite their having a reputation for hospitality-customer service seems to have...

30 min
Latin European Cultures

18: Latin European Cultures

Why do the French and people from the United States often seem to dislike each other? Find out in this lecture on the culture and dining customs of the Latin European cluster, which includes Italy, Portugal, France, French Switzerland, Belgium, and-although an outlier-Israel. Also get tips for handling catcalls as the locals do when you visit Italy and other countries in which such behavior is com...

29 min
Latin American Cultures

19: Latin American Cultures

Why are you expected to provide your own nurse in some Latin American hospitals? What does it mean to be Latino? Draw distinctions between Latin America and Latin Europe as you investigate common Latin American cultural traits, including the central importance of family, adherence to Roman Catholicism, and a contagious form of optimism....

31 min
Confucian Asian Cultures

20: Confucian Asian Cultures

Etiquette, order, and protocol are important to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures-but so is getting drunk. See why this is especially true in Chinese business culture, where relationships can make or break you, and learn the five key relationships that govern most of life in Confucian cultures. Also, look at where the custom of using chopsticks comes from....

30 min
South Asian Cultures

21: South Asian Cultures

We often think of Asia as having a monolithic culture, but the South Asian cluster has very different characteristics and core cultural values from places such as China, Japan, and Korea. Explore the various foods, religions, languages, ethnic influences, and other aspects of countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Afghanistan....

29 min
Sub-Saharan African Cultures

22: Sub-Saharan African Cultures

Why are Africans so religious? Why are African brides looked upon with such high regard? How big a problem is corruption in Africa, really? Get answers as you examine the diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa's customs, religious and tribal traditions, and lifestyles, as well as its unifying history of colonization and slavery....

29 min
Arab Cultures

23: Arab Cultures

The news often depicts the Arab world as a place filled with conflict and unrest--but is that an accurate portrayal? Learn the Five Pillars of Islam, why you must avoid using your left hand when interacting with others, what it means to be an Arab, and more in this lecture that clears up misconceptions frequently associated Arabic culture.

29 min
Cultural Intelligence for Life

24: Cultural Intelligence for Life

Using the hypothetical situation of traveling to Southeast Asia, learn CQ strategies that help you prepare for and make the most of your trip, whether your destination is in that part of the world or elsewhere. Also, get tips for avoiding jet lag and quickly identifying where the place you'll be visiting falls within each cultural value dimension....

33 min