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Cultural Awareness, Sensitivity and Competence

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1271 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Cultural Awareness, Sensitivity and Competence

Cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence are similar in various ways but have specific differences. They focus on offering beneficial information regarding other cultures with an aim of enhancing integration, diversity, and communication.  However, the three terms have varying meanings and roles.

Cultural awareness entails understanding the existing cultural differences as well as cultural perceptions, values, and beliefs. It helps people understand the difference between them and others from other cultures, particularly regarding values and attitudes. It explains why people behave in a certain way and see the world differently (Loue, Wilson-Delfosse & Limbach, 2015). In addition, it helps people understand why folks from a given culture interact and value certain things in a particular way.

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On the contrary, cultural sensitivity refers to being aware that cultural similarities and differences exist between people without linking them a value either wrong or right, negative or positive, worse or better (Loue, Wilson-Delfosse & Limbach, 2015). This means that cultural sensitivity is the awareness that different cultures are not the same. It entails the recognition that one’s culture is not superior to others (Loue, Wilson-Delfosse & Limbach, 2015). Cultural sensitivity entails the acceptance, knowledge, and awareness of other cultures. It enables workers and travelers to interact and navigate a different culture. Therefore, it becomes possible for one to perceive things from the perception of others from a different culture. The understanding promotes business interactions because it enhances success and competitiveness, particularly when working with people from diverse cultures.

On the other hand, cultural competence entails the ability to interact in an effective manner with people from diverse cultures. Interacting effectively ensures that the needs of people from all cultures are addressed. It is all about the actions and will to enhance understanding between people and be open and respectful to varying cultural perspectives. It aims at improving cultural security and opportunity equality (Repo, Vahlberg, Salminen, Papadopoulos & Leino-Kilpi, 2017). Unlike cultural awareness and sensitivity, cultural competence is based on the understanding of each other’s attitudes and expectations, thus, improve people’s knowledge. Cultural competence is more than just being respectful of the represented cultures; thus, it is more than cultural awareness and knowledge of values and customs (Conway-Klaassen & Maness, 2017).  It improves the ability to communicate, interact and understand people across cultures. Correspondingly, cultural competence involves the development of positive attitudes towards cultural differences, being aware of one’s own world view, developing skills for interaction across cultures and communication, and gaining a better world view and knowledge of different cultural practices (Conway-Klaassen & Maness, 2017).

Although cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence differ in various ways, they all aim at improving cultural interactions and competence. They help understand why people from different cultures have varying perceptions, behaviors, and attitudes (Smith, 2017). They also promote principles of fairness, equality, social justice and respect for diversity.

Cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence tend to complement each other towards helping individuals interact well and eliminate conflict among people with diverse backgrounds. For instance, for one to become culturally competent, it is important to gain awareness of the cultural behavior and background, thus, becoming sensitive to the existing cultural differences (Loue, Wilson-Delfosse & Limbach, 2015). Therefore, the three concepts are similar because they aim at the provision of information regarding other cultures. They encourage people to eliminate biases existing in their cultures, thus, promoting humans to serve their fellow individuals in the most effective manner.

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Cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and cultural competence enable organization and support the diversification of the workforce (Alizadeh & Chavan, 2016). As managers become more aware of the existing cultural behaviors and beliefs, they make better decisions that enable everyone to feel motivated. The awareness means that managers can make every effort to provide an environment that favors all the workers without bias or discrimination (Alizadeh & Chavan, 2016). Cultural sensitivity enables managers to realize that the culture of some workers is different and must be considered during the decision-making process. In a multi-cultural organization, managers must provide an environment that does not affect the interest of certain individuals. For instance, in case workers from certain cultures do not eat pork meat, managers should provide an alternate meal to them (Alizadeh & Chavan, 2016). Being aware and sensitive enables managers to become competent, thus, interacting in an effective way with every one of the employees’ cultural backgrounds. The three concepts not only improve the working environment but also promote communication and positive interactions. In a health care organization, the three concepts enable health practitioners to understand the needs of their clients and offer services that are in line with their cultural expectations. Being concerned about the cultural understandings allow practitioners to motivate their patients and create an environment that supports open communication.

Cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence are similar in the sense that they all promote cultural tolerance and cross-cultural competence. The three concepts play important roles in facilitating people with different cultures to relate well and understand each other. For instance, cultural sensitiveness capacitates people to realize that all cultures are not the same. Therefore, to live well and eliminate bias, it is important to ensure that cultural needs are satisfied.


  • Conway-Klaassen, J., & Maness, L. (2017). Critical conversations: cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competency. Clinical Laboratory Science, 30(1), 34-37.
  • Alizadeh, S., & Chavan, M. (2016). Cultural competence dimensions and outcomes: a systematic review of the literature. Health & social care in the community, 24(6), e117-e130.
  • Smith, L. S. (2017). Cultural competence: A guide for nursing students. Nursing2018, 47(10), 18-20.
  • Shen, Z. (2015). Cultural competence models and cultural competence assessment instruments in nursing: a literature review. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 26(3), 308-321.
  • Repo, H., Vahlberg, T., Salminen, L., Papadopoulos, I., & Leino-Kilpi, H. (2017). The cultural competence of graduating nursing students. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 28(1), 98-107.
  • Loue, S., Wilson-Delfosse, A., & Limbach, K. (2015). Identifying gaps in the cultural competence/sensitivity components of an undergraduate medical school curriculum: a needs assessment. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17(5), 1412-1419.


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