Hands on guidelines for shipping crews to understand their foreign crew members in a cultural perspective

Although there are both opportunities and challenges regarding multicultural crews within shipping, the importance of increasing cross-cultural awareness (CCA) among crew members and the personnel ashore is undeniable. Alongside improved education and training it is important that (future) seafarers have access to information about CCA in case it is not possible for them to receive proper training (Horck, 2010). This should be pragmatic information which is directly available and can help seafarers make a start in understanding cross-cultural relationships and how this can influence working and living conditions on board.

Therefore, for this deliverable a booklet has been developed, ‘Roadmap towards understanding your fellow crew members in a cultural perspective’ which provides both basic theoretical knowledge about cultural differences and the role of communication in CCA, along with exercises that are aimed at direct practical application of the theory. Crew members should be able to go through the roadmap individually and have access to the booklet anywhere, at any time. However, the booklet can also be discussed in group meetings with fellow crew members.

The booklet has been developed with the specific needs and circumstances of the seafarer in mind and it incorporates the experiences of CCA activities and cross-cultural training in other fields (management and education). Key concepts included in the booklet are:

  • Communication - both verbal and non-verbal communication should be understood before somebody is able to increase his/her CCA.
  • Understanding the key dimensions in cultural differences - being able to recognize possible differences and to understand that cultural background influences these differences.
  • Learning skills to adapt and understand other cultures, instead of learning basic facts about a certain culture. The latter method is at risk of further increasing stereotyping.
  • Self-awareness – creating awareness of ones’ own behaviour and prejudices and how others are categorizing ones’ own culture. Being able to explore, listen and discuss issues with crew members is essential in this process. However the degree of success depends on how open-minded the crew members are.

The booklet has been evaluated by ex, current and future seafarers. Forty six respondents provided feedback on the different aspects of the booklet and this led to several adjustments. Both the content and the format of the booklet received feedback and some of the advised changes were implemented, such as, including an additional exercise, excluding information in relation to cultural schemas, shortening of the text throughout the booklet and improving the explanation on how to use the booklet.

Finally, the booklet can either be distributed to seafarers themselves by the use of social media, or it can be distributed to ship management companies, crew managers and captains in order for them to distribute it to their crew.


Download the document here.