The intercultural encounter is challenging on an emotional level, a cognitive level and a behavioral level (Ward et al., 2001). This seems true particularly when it comes to intercultural friendship. Nonetheless, if successful, intercultural friendship can play a beneficial social role. It was suggested that “nothing can be more helpful in changing misunderstandings and prejudices than building friendships with those viewed as ‘other’ ” (Peterson, 2007, p. 81). Intercultural friendships were found to improve interracial and intercultural attitudes (Aberson et al., 2004). For immigrants, intercultural friendships may actually become a bridge to acculturation (Akhtar, 2009)
For a friendship to develop, some level of trust is required. There are cultural differences as regarding trust. Within a given culture there may be agreement on what or whom to trust, but as a result of different value systems both the meaning of trust and what and whom to trust varies as a function of culture (Choi & Kim, 2004), social group (Devos et al., 2002), and between democracies and non-democracies (Jamal, 2007). As a result, in intercultural relations there may be diverging expectations concerning intentions and behaviors, which are likely to reduce mutual trust (cf. Gibson & Manuel, 2003). Likewise, in intercultural friendship, building and keeping trust may be difficult.
A study on Japanese students in Australia found four factors that influenced the development of intercultural friendship: 1) frequent contact, 2) similarity of personal characteristics and age, 3) self-disclosure, and 4) receptivity of other nationals (Kudo & Simkin, 2003). Another study found four factors that influence the development of intercultural friendship, namely 1) targeted socializing, 2) cultural similarities, 3) cultural differences, and 4) prior intercultural experience. Additionally, it was found that issues of communication can both enable and hinder the development of intercultural friendships (Sias et al., 2008). It looks as if the factors found in both studies are partially complementary and partially overlapping.