This segment draws upon the work of David A. Livermore’s on Cultural Intelligence[1]. In this section, we will address the idea of cultural intelligence. Similar to IQ or EQ (emotional intelligence), cultural intelligence (CQ) is a way to measure our ability to interact effectively in another culture. We will introduce each of the four components of CQ: knowledge, interpretation, perseverance, and behavior.  



Knowledge CQ refers to our understanding about cross-cultural issues and differences. It is more than knowing the history or mastering the do’s and don’ts of a particular culture. It is about understanding the overarching distinctions that exist between cultures. This includes such concepts as time, value for the individual versus the community, conflict resolution, etc. 


Things to Learn: 

Note: This information will be unique to each refugee’s place of origin. World Relief will provide information on each culture. Topics include:  


• Recent history of host culture 

• Government structures 

• Religious practices 

• General cultural dynamics and how they apply to the specific culture you are engaging  

  • Current issues 

  • Time orientation: Do people tend to value punctuality and efficiency, or are they more event-oriented? 

  • Relationship to the community: Is more emphasis placed on the individual or the community? 

  • Power distance 

  • Do leaders receive great formal respect? 

  • Are leaders distant, unlikely to socialize with their followers? 

  • Do superiors expect that their subordinates not question them? 

  • On the other hand, are followers more likely to address leaders as peers, able to ask      questions of superiors and contribute to decision-making? 

  • Conflict resolution: Do they address conflict directly, through a mediator, or do they avoid conflict altogether? 


Deepening your knowledge of the culture and place your partnered refugee is coming from sets a foundation for conversation. It also sends a message that their culture and history is important to you. 



Simply knowing about cultural differences is dangerous. This knowledge can easily lead to stereotyping or the false sense of being an expert. Interpretive CQ is the degree to which we are aware of the differences we know about and how we interpret them when we interact with the other culture. As we decipher what we are experiencing, we must be aware of our own assumptions, and we should try to discover what assumptions our partnered refugee may have. 


Things to ponder: 

  • What assumptions and/or questions do I have about the culture of my partnered refugee? 

  • In what ways can I learn about the assumptions arriving families may have about the world and about my culture? 

  • How might I be able to identify with my partnered refugee’s assumptions? 

  • How will I intentionally have an open mind when viewing situations in this new context? 



Perseverance CQ refers to our level of interest, drive, and motivation to adapt cross-culturally.  For instance, the first couple of times you visit your new refugee friend and experience their hospitality, you may find it new, exciting, and be very appreciative.  After your seventh large meal, you may find yourself dreading the next visit.  You like the family, but why do they always want to sit and eat so much?  Perseverance is being honest with yourself about the drive, interest, and motivation – even when they are low.  

How to Persevere: 

Think about why you first wanted to be a volunteer. Then think about the things that annoy you as a volunteer.  How do the two reconcile?  Talk to a World Relief staff or a longer-term volunteer about how they navigated these issues. It is also helpful to take time to reflect on what you genuinely love and are learning from your partnered refugee’s culture and values.  



Flowing out of perseverance CQ, behavioral CQ is the extent to which we change our verbal and nonverbal actions when interacting cross-culturally. 

Task: Decide how you as a volunteer will intentionally adjust your behavior while engaging with refugees.  


Things to ponder: 

  • Are there area that I need to exercise more patience and understanding?  

  • Are there areas that I need to have better boundaries in order to honor my personality and cultural values?  

  • What are behaviors and customs that I can adopt in order to show respect and care for my partnered refugee and their culture? 



Remember as a volunteer, you do not need to be an expert.  However, being a learner of Cultural Intelligence on a journey towards friendship will be essential for mutual growth.  World Relief is here to walk with you to give resources and support. 

[1] Livermore, D.A. (2006). Serving with eyes wide open: Doing short-term missions with cultural intelligence.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.