1.1 Introduction to Culture Quotient (CQ):
Do you know what CQ stands for? Chances are, it is a term unfamiliar to many of us. CQ, or Cultural Quotient, is a person’s ability to effectively interact with people of different cultures. Cultural quotient allows us to recognize cultural differences through knowledge and mindfulness, and lets us behave appropriately when facing people from other cultures . Why, people may ask, is CQ so important? Whether in workplaces or in schools, the importance of CQ in our everyday life is becoming more evident with the wave of globalization. People, especially students, get many more chances to interact with people from afar. During these interactions, people do not necessarily believe in or follow all the same traditions and cultures. Thus, inadequate knowledge about other cultures will make a person seem uncultured in front of foreigners. Consequently, this may lead a person to interact poorly or even break taboos that others may have. The awkward result may be that person ends up grossly offending people from other cultures. This is the place where CQ comes into play and its importance is shown.
Case Study 1.1:
Bill Miller, a top American salesman from a major information technology manufacturing firm, heads to Mexico City to discuss a business deal. However, in the next few days of his arrival, his Mexican hosts show minimum interests in the business deal but want to engage Bill in entertainment (e.g. golf, sightseeing) and social activities. Bill becomes impatient in his haste to secure the business deal, and this is reflected through his tone. Eventually, the business deal falls apart.
The truth of the matter is that both hail from different cultural backgrounds and styles of behavior. The Mexicans believe in building business relationships and establishing the basis for many years’ worth of deals rather than just one, thus they wanted to spend more time to understand Bill and his company. On the other hand, Bill only wanted to get the deal to be quickly done with. This divergence in cultural mentality led to a strained relationship that could possibly impede a deal from being clinched.
Case Study 1.2:
An American student shares a dormitory room with a Thai student. Both have similar interests and are able to interact with each other. Then, after a few weeks, the Thai applies for transfer to another room. The American is surprised and upset, only to find out that it was his noisiness, untidiness and presence of many visitors that prompted this transfer. One key learning point is that the Thai had chosen to keep any grievances to himself instead of raising them, while the American preferred to rely on feedbacks for any changes. This cultural difference in communication was what caused the relationship between the Thai and American to be strained.
1.2 Definition of Culture Quotient:
Firstly, the term “Culture” is defined as “A set of traditions, belief systems, and behaviours.” Culture, as such, is affected by many factors such as history, politics, social infrastructure and the dominant religion of a country. Thus, culture will evolve and change when either the factors mentioned fluctuate, or if cultural exchanges occur with other cultures. For one, the traditional Chinese tea ceremony was adapted into the Japanese culture and is now called “Chanoyu”. It was a popular way of relaxation amongst the Japanese in the mid-fifteenth century.
When we talk about CQ, there is another “C” that we cannot possibly ignore. This “C” is the “C” in Cultural Intelligence. Although referring to the same thing, Cultural Intelligence is “the ability to cope with national, corporate and vocational cultures. CQ is the ability to make sense of unfamiliar contexts and then blend in.”  They have also described three sources of exhibiting Cultural Intelligence:
- The Head / Cognitive: The knowledge of other cultures required to prepare a person for future interactions with people from other cultures
- The Body / Physical: The body language exhibited when interacting with people from other cultures.
- The Heart / Emotional/motivational: Keeping emotions under control when adapting to a new culture.
These three are the fundamental sources where a person’s cultural intelligence is displayed. We can see that for us to accept another culture, we have to be prepared not only mentally and physically, but emotionally as well. Thus, in order to develop our cultural intelligence, we have to be cautious in the areas mentioned.
Also, we have come up with a new perspective of what is cultural intelligence:
“Cultural Intelligence is the ability that allows a person to acknowledge and recognize different traits of foreign cultures. It is the ability that allows us to fluently relate to a culture and understand about the people living with that culture”
1.3 Why Cultural Quotient?
Besides the more known quotients, such as Intelligence Quotient (IQ), CQ is becoming more relevant in our lives with globalization. In the past, there was a general lack of cultural, information and exchange of ideas. Each country kept mostly to themselves, except through wars. People in the past interacted mostly with those who shared the same cultures and beliefs. However, after the world was opened through globalization, this restriction was broken.
As compared to the past, the people of today face many other cultures with different ways of life. If we do not understand each other, it may lead to disastrous conclusions or unhappy experiences with people from other cultures. Do you know that in India, offering your left hand for a handshake is considered an insult? Indians believe that the left hand is for toilet-related functions, so it will be inappropriate for anyone to use his or her left hand for handshakes. However, a person with low Cultural Intelligence may not understand this and so be seen as discourteous to the Indians. This example displays the usefulness and need for cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence will be the key factor that allows for effective communication and social networking with groups of people from diverse cultures. For students, a good CQ is essential to prepare them for the multi-cultural society of today and to allow them to achieve higher standards through socializing effectively with people from foreign cultures.
1.4 Comparison of cultural quotient with other quotient[s]:
Here are some of the important quotients in practice nowadays: