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Intercultural Fluency: It is All in the Eyes

Updated: Dec 17, 2021


In an intercultural context, eyes are very important – because what people see initially is what they perceive – from the way you dress and talk, to what you eat or how you eat it, for example.




When integrating in a new culture, whether social or organisational, our first instinct is to win people’s hearts and minds, but we often neglect to think: what about winning the eyes?


I want to quickly talk about a story that has stayed with me to this day:


A few years ago I was waiting in a station and there was a mother with a little child. A homeless man came and sat on one of the seats – however, people discreetly (or so they thought) tried to move away a seat or two from the man, subtly trying to create as much distance as possible.

Despite how nervous and resentful everyone had become, the child was absolutely fascinated by him! He attempted to move toward the homeless man, smiling with glee and tried to say something, while the mother looked on in utter horror.

The homeless man smiled back and attempted to communicate with the child too – at which point, everyone in the station realised: they were dealing with a human being and not just a ‘homeless man’.

Even though there were only five or six people present in the station, within two minutes, the entire atmosphere changed, thanks to the child.


Ideas, thoughts and judgements about another culture are often based on what the eyes see initially. If you would like to explore this topic further and increase your self-awareness to help you combat visual bias and become more compassionate, Eli Shlama is there for you. Sign up for the upcoming event Coaching for Intercultural ExcellenceWelcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.


It was the child that saw something which we all neglected to see initially: a human being behind those eyes.

Despite our prejudices and pre-conceived notions that we may get diseases or infections being in such close proximity to a homeless man, or how we didn’t want to be socially seen with one – the child completely looked past all of that, and proved us all wrong.


Before we knew it, we were all chatting with him, with some of us, including myself, even befriending him. And that was that.


Even people who were not talking to each other and just minding their own business started to socialise and chat up – the atmosphere just lit up and changed I tell you!


This story (and lesson) about how we view others has stayed with me for life.

What we see initially can really impede us from looking past that initial first impression – and I think this is very important to reflect on in the context of understanding and integrating in a culture different from our own.

In intercultural context it is about winning not just the heart and mind but also the eyes

Ideas, thoughts and judgements about another culture are often based on what the eyes see initially.


If you would like to explore this topic further and increase your self-awareness to help you combat visual bias and become more compassionate, Eli Shlama is there for you. Get in touch and we will be very happy to unleash the hidden intercultural power in you.