This glossary gathers the main definitions to know in order to develop your cultural skills.

The patterns of daily life learned by a group of people, consciously or unconsciously. These patterns may be found in language, prevailing practices, arts, customs, food, religion, vacation celebrations, love habits, clothing, and more.

Cultural Competence
The ability to collaborate effectively with all cultures, and to successfully navigate a multicultural society.

Cultural Diversity
The inclusion and acceptance of the unique worldviews, customs, norms, behavior patterns, and traditions of many groups of people.

Cultural Myopia
The belief that one’s culture is appropriate for all situations and relevant to all other individuals.

Cultural Sensitivity
Basic and overt respect for, and appreciation of, diverse cultures that may differ from your own.


The process of acquiring a second culture. It is not assimilation, which is the integration of another culture.

Adaptation (ability to)
Etymologically, the word “adaptation” comes from the Latin ad aptare which means “to make fit”, “to bring together”. In everyday language, to adapt is to be in harmony with the circumstances, the environment. Adaptation requires an ability to negotiate, to let go, to reshape our ideas, our actions, to soften, to leave or to take.

A belief that states that no one can know if God exists without physical evidence. It is not a religion.

A person whose native language is different from that of the country in which he or she lives.

Hostility and discrimination against Jews.

Any person who is a native of the 22 Arab countries or who claims descent from the Arab world. Not all countries in the Middle East are Arabs. Not all Arabs are Muslims, many are Christians, and not all Muslims are Arabs, most Muslims live in other places including Asia, Indonesia, Africa and North America, etc. Do not use “race” as a synonym.

A person who has no apparent sex or genitalia. In common parlance, may refer to a person who is not sexually attracted to others.

Asylum Seeker
Any person who has filed an application for asylum with OFPRA, whose case is being processed.

The belief that God does not exist. A person who denies the existence of God. This is not a religion.

The caregiver unconsciously adopts an avoidance behaviour in order not to be confronted with a difficult situation. As a result, the patient experiences a feeling of exclusion and loneliness.


Conscious or subconscious preference that interferes with impartial judgment.

Proficiency in two languages.

Hindi word for the decoration worn between the eyebrows by some Asian women.

Biological sex
The physiological and anatomical characteristics of masculinity and/or femininity.


A person who is attracted to both sexes, women and men.

Only used for people who have completely lost their sight. Many people who are “legally blind” have partial vision. Use “visually impaired” or “person with low vision”.

An East and Central Asian religion that developed from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, which claims that suffering is inherent in life and that a person can be freed from it through mental and moral purification.


A dialect spoken in Canton Province and Hong Kong by many 19th century immigrants to the United States and still spoken in many Chinese-American communities today.

Usually refers to the “Roman Catholic” Church, however may also refer to other Catholic Christian denominations such as the “Eastern Orthodox” churches.

Used as a synonym for a white person; derived from the erroneous notion that the Caucasus Mountains are the origin of Indo-Europeans. Formerly used to refer to one of the geographical types of human beings including people from Europe, Africa, and India characterized by tall stature, straight or wavy hair, etc. Roughly referred to as the “white race” although it includes many peoples with darker skin color; this term is not generally considered to be an anthropological term

A person from China, or the written language of China and Taiwan. The spoken language is “Mandarin”. Not to be used as a synonym for “Chinese-American”.

Born out of a separatist sect of Judaism about 2000 years ago. Both religions share the same history up to the time of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in original sin and think that Jesus died in the place of humanity to save human beings from sin. They believe that heaven exists and that those who repent of their sins will join God in heaven.

Cognitive Impairment
A disability that affects learning and similar brain functions. Avoid “mentally retarded” by using disability-specific terms whenever possible.

Congenital disability
Disability from birth or born with a disability. Do not use “congenital anomalies”.


Used to describe a person with total or profound hearing loss. Many people have only a mild or partial hearing loss. Use “hard of hearing,” “partially deaf,” or “people with hearing problems.” Do not use “deaf and dumb”.

Communication that creates multiple perspectives. People may not come to an agreement, however the goal is to be safe, respectful and have a greater understanding of the situation.

General term for functional limitations. “Person with a disability” or “less able person” is preferable. Do not use victim of, has, diagnosed with or affected by.

Action based on prejudice by a member of a dominant group against a member of a subordinate group. These actions are used to harm a group’s opportunities, confidence, accreditation and ability to perform in society.

The condition of being different or having differences. Differences among people in age, class, ethnicity, gender, health, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientation, religion, physical proportions, educational level, work and function, personality, and other human differences.

A migrant who is being transferred to another European country, where his or her fingerprints have been recorded for the first time in Europe. The term comes from the Dublin Regulation, a decried 2013 text that organizes the management of asylum applications on a European scale.


A person who leaves his or her country of origin to reside in a foreign country.

Concept or expression that places Europe as the center of the world. Systemic oppression based on the preference of European culture over others. Refers to a judgment and attitude that devalues and even condemns ways of thinking and living that are different from one’s own. Therefore, the person with an ethnocentric attitude considers his or her culture to be dominant and imposes his or her way of thinking and acting. In medicine, the caregiver focuses on his or her own culture and imposes it on the patient. This attitude does not allow the patient to adhere to the care and leads to difficulties in the care process.

Qualitative research methodology exploring, from a dual ethnographic and nursing perspective, the meaning, expression, regularities, function and structuring of health and care within a cultural group. The aim of this methodology is to discover the diversity of care practices in a cultural group, to identify the consequences of certain behaviors on health and to build the clinical reasoning of caregivers in order to design individualized care projects.

Psychological approach that takes into account the social affiliations of the people being treated in order to understand complex situations related to their life course.

This is the practice of cutting the clitoris, the only female organ dedicated to pleasure. There are different types of excision.
– Type 1: The clitoris is cut.
– Type 2: The clitoris is cut but also the labia minora.
– Type 3: The clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora are cut. This is often associated with infibulation: a closure of the genitalia leaving only a small hole for the passage of urine.
– Type 4: Any excision that does not fit the previous types.

This practice affects a woman’s body from an aesthetic point of view, but also and above all on the functional level of the external genitalia. (Loss of elasticity of the vulva, important complications during childbirth, pain during menstruation, etc.) The psychological consequences are also important. (Post-traumatic stress, deep fear of having sex, of becoming pregnant, etc.)

Excision is still practiced in African countries such as Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan (this list is not exhaustive). But also in Asia, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Migrant populations may sometimes return to their native countries to perform FGM on young girls.

When migration is not chosen by the migrant person, but on the contrary, it is the consequence of persecution or threats in the country.


A generally religious movement or viewpoint characterized by a return to fundamental principles, strict adherence to those principles, and intolerance of other views.


A man who has (or desires to have) an intimate relationship with an individual of the same sex.

The systematic and planned extermination of an entire nation, political class, country or ethnic group.

Refers to the different roles that men and women play in society. The behavioral, cultural and psychological characteristics typically associated with a person’s biological sex. Generally refers to aspects of life that are shaped by social forces or the meaning society gives to biological differences. Do not use “sex” as a synonym.

Gender identity
Internal sense of gender, which may or may not be the same as birth sex.


Official language of India. Not synonymous with “Hindu”, which is a follower of Hinduism.

The dominant religion in India that emphasizes Dharma, the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence within nature, with its resulting rituals, social observances, mystical reflections and ascetic practices.

Acronym for “human immunodeficiency virus”, a retrovirus identified as the main cause of AIDS. The term “HIV virus” is redundant.

Discomfort, fear, hatred or intolerance of people who are presumed to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

A person who is attracted to individuals of the same sex, both sexually and emotionally.


A person residing in a nation, country, or region other than the one of origin.

Religion founded by the prophet Muhammad, believed to be the last in a long line of holy prophets, preceded by Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Being devoted to the Qur’an, the faithful worship Allah. They respect the earlier prophets, but consider the concept of Jesus’ divinity to be blasphemous. There are two main divisions, the “Sunni” and the “Shiite”.


Holy war waged in the name of Islam as a religious duty. A crusade for a leader or belief.

Founded in 2000 B.C. by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, adheres to the belief in a monotheistic God who leads his people by speaking through the prophets. His word is revealed in the Torah (Old Testament). They believe that a messiah will eventually bring the world into a state of paradise. The term “Jew” can be both religious and ethnic. Jews can be of any nationality.



Woman who is sexually and lovingly attracted to another woman.

Acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”


Official language of China and Taiwan, not a dialect. Refers only to the spoken language. The written language is Chinese.

Excluded, ignored or relegated to the outside of a group, society or community.

Any person who migrates, leaving his or her country for another for political, economic or cultural reasons.

A segment of the population that is not part of the majority due to certain characteristics and is often treated differently.

Synonymous with diversity, it emphasizes the recognition of the importance of all cultures, regardless of their differences. A pluralistic culture that reflects the interests, contributions and values of members of various groups.

A follower of Islam.




Paralysis of the lower body, including the legs.

Used to identify people who are in a relationship, especially for homosexual relationships, however, this term is becoming more common for heterosexual relationships.

A social organization characterized by the supremacy of the father in the family, the legal subordination of women and children, and the tracing of offspring through male lines. Also, a community or society governed by men, perpetuating male dominance.

A culture that incorporates mutual respect, acceptance, teamwork and productivity among diverse people.

Religious denomination, which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, that includes the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Quaker churches. Not appropriate for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons or Eastern Orthodox churches.



Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different nationality/skin color based on the belief that one’s own nationality/skin color is superior. The belief that all members of each nationality/skin color have their own characteristics, abilities or qualities, especially in order to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one or more others.

Rainbow flag
Flag adopted by the homosexual community, composed of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple stripes.

Any person recognized as having “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” according to the Geneva Convention governing this status.

An organized system of beliefs based on certain doctrines of faith or a belief in a supreme being or God. Organized religion suggests how people should live and what beliefs they should accept or reject.

World view, functional vision allowing an individual to give meaning to his or her behaviors (it determines his or her behaviors), to understand reality through his or her own reference system and thus to adapt to it, to define a place for himself or herself. In medicine, the caregiver represents the patient according to his or her own reference system, which may be different from that of the patient.


Based on the law of 1905 in France: society emphasizes the separation of religious organizations and political institutions. Can also mean the principle of separation in the state, civil society and religious society.

Systematic oppression based on gender. The assumption that men are superior to women.

Sexual orientation
Attraction to the same sex, the opposite sex or both. Everyone has a sexual orientation.

Ancient religion indigenous to Japan. Emphasizes belief in spiritual beings and respect for ancestors. Adherents are expected to celebrate their gods or “kami”, support societies in which the kami are patron saints, remain pure and sincere, and enjoy life.

A standardized impression of a person or group that represents an oversimplified opinion, image, attitude or uncritical judgment.


Both a philosophy and a religion. Founded in China in 604 B.C. by Lau-tzu, derived primarily from the Tao Te Ching, which claims that a constantly changing universe follows the Tao or path. Taoism requires people to live simply, spontaneously and in close contact with nature. Meditation allows people to get in touch with the Tao. It has been discouraged since the communist revolution in China, but is growing in Taiwan.

Acceptance and openness to different practices, attitudes and cultures; it does not necessarily mean that people agree on differences.

A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression varies from the sex assigned at birth. The term “transgender” describes transsexuals who wear clothing of the opposite sex, intersex people, and other classifications; sexual orientation should not be assumed.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.