Category Archives: Cross-Cultural

Are two heads from different cultures better than two heads from one culture?

When I arrived to Spain I didn’t really know or plan which way my coaching business would go. I knew that my international clients would keep finding me through internet, but I wasn’t sure what direction my practice would take in my new home. Would I be offering workshops? Giving presentations? Doing group coaching? Or working with clients individually?

With all these unanswered questions in the back of my mind, I decided to leave the decisions to the Universe and the field open to experimentation. You never know what life is going to offer you, right? Trying to push and control things never really worked for me and I always ended up disappointed and uninspired.

Days into this “non-plan” I made a new friend – a friend, who is also a coach but a coach from a different country and with a different training. And then I met another new friend. We got together for coffees and lunches and what do you know? A new, exciting idea began to take root and now the three of us are working together to develop it. Because of our different cultures, different backgrounds, and different trainings we come to this idea from three (or more!) different directions – a perfect recipe for both learning lots from each other and creating something fresh. It’s like fusion cuisine at its very best!

What about you? If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner who’s had to move her/his business to another country – what has been your experience in putting your efforts together with people from different places and walks of life?

Diversity=Creativity!

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Moving to China? Tips for success.

Guest post by Jon Fields, co-creator of the “Living and Working in China” cross-cultural course

“I am moving to China!”

People from around the world are increasingly finding themselves
uttering these words.  As China has emerged as the most important
growth market in the world people from around the globe are flocking
to cities like Beijing and Shanghai in search of opportunities.

Currently there are between 3 and 4 million foreigners living in
China; Shanghai is home to more than 300,000 expats from 119 countries
and regions and the population is expected to reach 800,000 over the
next ten years.For business people considering a move to the Middle Kingdom, and
companies posting people to China, what are the ingredients that make
up a successful expat move to China?Here are my 6 Difference Makers in Successful Expat Postings to China.
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1)       Bring Something That’s Not Already Available

A foreigner coming to China takes away a Chinese person’s job or
promotion, and the money spent on expat packages could employ office
floors full of Chinese staff.    Chinese workers know this all too
well.  While the majority still see the necessity for some expats in a
multinational’s China operation, they expect the foreigner to be

highly proficient in something that fills in a gap in the
organization.  Simply having worked as a middle manager at
headquarters will not impress the team and will not gain their
confidence, respect and build the rapport needed to successfully
manage Chinese staff.  Therefore, expats should be chosen first on
their professional skill and how they will contribute to the specific
goals of the China organization, and they should be informed in
advance what those are.
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2)      Come to China for the Right Reasons

Many people see China as an adventure, and in many ways it is, but expats looking for personal fulfillment over the companies’ goals are not good fits for success in China.   Most of the time there is only a small number of people in a company who both possess the right qualifications and a willingness to move to China.  As a result, often those people who are the most enthusiastic about going are the ones that get the job, regardless of their true motivation.    Classic types include late career managers looking to find the fountain of youth (and frequently a much younger wife); unseasoned managers who end up
focusing mainly on exotic travel and rowdy socializing; or the
do-nothing “I’m just here for the money” bosses who can turn into cancer for a China organization.  Companies should always delve deeply into a candidate’s reasons and motivations about going to China before making any decisions.

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3)      Have an Stable Family and/or Emotional LifeChina is a stressful place to live.  The market is ultra competitive
and fast changing.  Cities are crowded and polluted.  The language and
culture can seem impenetrable.  And there is no let-up.  These strains
push even the most stable people and families to their limits.   For
this reason, China postings can lead to serious marital and personal
problems for the wrong person.  It is critical that both partners in
the marriage (and children), all feel right about the move and want to
experience China as a couple or as a family.  If the father is working
and the wife and kids stay behind the walls of a expat only compound,
they are not experiencing China together.  Companies should take the
step to talk to the family about the move and consider especially the
spouse’s plans to stay busy and positive while living in China.
One of the ways to help expats and their families determine if they will be happy in China is offer them a full course on living and working in China before they make their decision.  This way they can self-select themselves out and save the company headaches and lost revenue of an early return.  “Living and Working in China” online course is available for self-study and self-assessment through the Global Coach Center Academy for Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Education — and has been  co-authored by yours truly.
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4) Understand the Power of Diplomacy

A foreign manager who always sides with headquarters and tells his or
her Chinese staff to “Just do it – that’s what they want back home”
will never develop a loyal or independent team of Chinese staff, which
is the key to long term success.  The Chinese staff looks to expat
managers to work as a bridge between China and the home office,
providing insight and advice in both directions.  That expat must know
when to stand up for the Chinese organization and negotiate hard with headquarters, as well as how to find a way to sell unpopular initiatives to the Chinese staff in a way that doesn’t de-motivate.   So the successful China expat must be a diplomat in the best sense of the word:  a deal maker who tries to understand both sides of an argument and seeks to find a common ground to move things forward for long term sustainable success.    People who have demonstrated ability to work across functional lines and international borders will often find success as expats in China.

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5)  Don’t Bring the “English Only” bias

An English-only expat is the most unlikely person to attempt to learn
a new language when living abroad.  Anyone who has studied a foreign
language knows attempting to converse with native speakers is a
humbling experience, but even small successes in foreign language
communication are thrilling and reward all the hard work.  People who
only speak English and consider foreign language “unnecessary” are
frequently more likely to be narrow minded in other areas of expat life, and demonstrate either a lack of respect or indifference for the country they have chosen to live in.  It’s not that the expat needs to speak fluent Chinese!  The point is that posting any bi or multi-lingual person to China is more likely to have a person with the right cultural outlook for expat life, and they are more likely to pick up some Chinese as well.

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(6) Learn about China before you come
If you company is providing you with cross-cultural training, make sure you take advantage of it.  If they are not or if you are coming independently, make sure to take our online course on “Living and Working in China” before you arrive.

Sharing the moment

by Margarita

These are the kinds of moments that help keep the stress and frustrations of being  a solopreneur at bay and I just had to share it with those of you who are not members of the LinkedIn group where this was posted!

I announced the upcoming Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ licensing/certification and received an amazing testimonial in a comment from one of the previous participants:

“I can’t recommend Margarita’s training enough! I’ve done it and regardless of all my experience and knowledge, it gave me a different insight into how to approach my training programmes. Relevant, pertinant, interactive, useful, and enriching. Margarita was a great facilitator and the other participants really took part and shared. Personally, since I did her training I have reassessed my programme contents and presentation and my clients love it!

No, Margarita didn’t ask me to post this, this is a real feedback…I used a lot of what we discussed in the course just yesterday, for the first time ‘live’ , with MBA students wanting an insight into intercultural management. I was able to demystify the theories, make it relevant and apply it to their professional lives. Must have done a good job because I’ve been invited back! Thanks M! (Helen Le Port of HLP Training)

Thank you, Helen!

So if you are a solopreneur and sometimes feel that it’s always uphill and never downhill — think of these moments and remember them!

If you want to use the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process ™ with your clients, the next licensing/certification is taking place on December 1 & 8, 2011 via a webinar.  The early registration discount is only until November 24 — so sign up now!

Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

In a recent BNET blog (5 Ways to Foster Innovation) Kimberly Weisul says that:

“Roy Chua, of Harvard, believes that creativity is not necessarily about coming up with something totally new. Instead, he says, “most often it is about connecting ideas to create something different. If you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive ideas that are different.” Chua surveyed a group of media professionals about their social networks, and then asked each to brainstorm about the future of the newspaper industry. A group of outside judges ranked the ideas based on how creative they were, and it turned out those professionals with ore multicultural social networks came up with more creative ideas. Chua conducted a similar experiment with college students, surveying their social networks and asking them to come up with a new advertising campaign for a fruit drink. Those with more contact with different cultures came up with more creative ideas.”

Now we’ve heard before that moving to another country and becoming an expat encourages creativity just for the simple reason of being in a different environment and being exposed to new perspectives.  By the same token, cross-cultural interactions and connections do the same job of exposing us to different perspectives and ideas.  But what’s our role here and who do we have to be to actually become more creative?

There are a couple of traits I think are very useful in taking advantage of your cross-cultural ties when it comes to becoming more creative:

  • Open-mindedness – if we are closed to new perspectives and ideas, no amount of them around us will help;
  • Courage – new things can be scary and taking them on can be even scarier;
  • Curiosity – digging deeper is part of adopting something new.

What do you think?  What other traits can be helpful here?

Want to take advantage of this opportunity to become more creative and productive when working across cultures? We have a couple of openings for executives who want to improve their intercultural competency.  Our individual cross-cultural coaching program is based on Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ — the program that helps people build their cultural competency.  For more details please visit here.

A coach or a trainer? Want to help your clients improve their intercultural competence?  Get licensed to use Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ in the upcoming webinar.

What’s to like and … not to like about the US?

Guest post by Jennifer Kumar

People from all over the world want to visit or move to U.S.A. There are many good things about the US, but also some not-so-good things about the country that is my birthplace that is useful for newcomers to understand to help with adjusting and settling in.

 

Emergencies are Easy to Report

I like that 911 is a well-known three digit phone number that can be utilized for emergencies in most parts of the US. 911 can be used to report fires, medical emergencies, crimes and other emergencies. There is no need to have a long list of hard to remember numbers when 911 can be easily dialed at any time. Once 911 or the emergency number is called, in most areas and cases a police person, ambulance or fire truck can report to the scene within a reasonable amount of time.

Rise of Mega-Grocery Stores

Although I love shopping in mega-grocery stores, I know that with each one that opens, the smaller, inner city mom and pop stores that serve those with limited mobility and finances are run out of business. Those that continue to exist are forced to sell items at higher prices than these mega stores and are also known for carrying more ready-to-eat, processed and frozen foods.  While dairy, frozen and breads are often found at these inner city marts, perishables like vegetables and fruits are a rare find. Unless farmer’s markets are available in cities, people with limited transportation living in inner cities with access to such mini-marts are in deteriorating health. With the high prices found in inner city marts, the residents resign to eating ‘fresh’ fast-food at places like McDonalds which feeds more per dollar than the mini mart, and more than the bus or taxi fare to the mega-groceries and the pain of carrying  home all the groceries on the bus.

Personal Travel is Easy, Public Transportation Can Be Challenging

I like that I can get in my car and drive from ‘sea to shining sea’ in a relatively short period of time due to the good road infrastructure that connects the US. However, I know that in encouraging the use of the personal car, public transportation is in decline. Unless one lives in a major metropolis, finding good public transportation within and between small towns and cities can be challenging. Though there are Greyhound busses and Amtrak trains for long distance rides, they have limited connectivity. Depending on the rider’s final destination, there may not be public transport from the bus or train’s drop off point to the final destination. Keep this in mind while taking ground transportation.

A Multicultural Nation Which is Monolingual

I like that the US is known for attracting people from cultures around the globe. In the US, a person can meet someone from a remote country or a popular country and learn about their culture and traditions. Also, when there are enough people from that country settled in various parts of the USA, we find restaurants, cultural organizations and ethnic stores that anyone can visit to learn more about diverse, global lifestyles. Although I like that Americans are all united by one language- English, I dislike the fact the fact that most Americans do not see a practical need to become fluent in another language. Americans may get forced to learn a second language in school or college or want to do it for fun for brief international travel, but a typical American will not use a language other than English to navigate around 95% of the country.

For newcomers to the USA on business, pleasure or family visits, knowing a little about the benefits and disadvantages of the US and it’s lifestyle will prepare you for what to expect so you can plan around the challenges to have a comfortable stay in the U.S.A.

For a more complete guide to adjusting to life in the US, please check out our cross-cultural course “Living and Working in the US”, co-authored by Jennifer Kimar.

 

 

Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

This morning listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) I caught an interview that the Morning Edition host did with an American venture capitalist Bill Frezza.  The conversation centered around job creation and the age-old debate that rages regularly between liberals and conservatives on whether or not taxing the rich affects job creation in a negative way.

What struck me was not the tax question, but rather the view that Bill Frezza held on jobs and on how jobs are actually not beneficial to business.  Jobs is an expense, he said, and creating jobs isn’t the goal of any business.  The goal of a business is making money for the owner and the shareholders as well as satisfying customer demand.  In other words, business owners aren’t supposed to be concerned about the American economy and the state of the country in particular – but simply about how much money they’ll make and how much profit they’ll take in.

Perhaps not quite the view I would relate to, but that’s beside the point.  His pragmatic approach seemed very ego-centric, very “as-long-as-I-make-money-nothing-else-matters”, and very … individualistic, if we want to put a culture dimension on it.  What about the world, I wanted to ask?  What about making sure that your money-making is contributing good to the world and to the society you live in?

It seems that Bill and many like him don’t care very much for that (at least that’s what came through in this interview).  And that makes me wonder – do individualistic societies where “I” is a lot more important than “We” create more ego-centrism and more greed?  Does the US with its very individualistic orientation lead the world in the number of greedy and I-don’t-give-a-f$#@% individuals?

Has this attitude been exported elsewhere? And how is this export thriving in your country?

Cultural Misunderstandings… can you relate?

Guest post by Stephen Milner

Some time ago I found myself working in Bucharest, Romania. It wasn’t that long after the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu and the culture in which I found myself living was very alien to me. McDonalds had not even opened there yet. Thankfully I was working with quite a few British Ex. Pat. who could point me in the right direction in finding my way around.

After being there for a few weeks I’d got myself an apartment near the centre, it had good Metro and Tram links and wasn’t very far away from The Dubliner, The Irish pub in Bucharest. It dawned on me quite early on I needed to get some Laundry done, so I asked some of the Ex. Pat. community where to go. Easy, they said, about 300m past The Dubliner, on the same side of the road was an excellent laundrette.

That evening I set off with my bag of Laundry, and exactly where it had been described was a Laundrette. I went in, and though I didn’t speak Romanian, I had troubled myself to learn one or two words.

“Bună seara,” I announced as I walked in and smiled.

The woman behind the counter replied with a long string of Romainan that meant nothing to me. I smiled again, opened my bag and placed the laundry on the counter. The woman separated all the clothes into differing types, detailing each item in a notebook. When the itemisation was complete the woman began another long string of Romanian. It was clear she wanted something.

I got out my money, and asked her how much. She wagged her finger at me, she didn’t want paying. I explained that I didn’t understand, and more Romanian issued forth. She repeatedly tapped the the notebook, her finger on the price. She must want paying! I couldn’t see the amount written clearly so I took the notebook to turn it round to read it. The woman grabbed the notebook and a wrestling match began over the counter for possession of the notebook.

It was during this tug of war that several thought passed through my mind. The first thought was that most of my clothes were in this woman’s possession, the second thought was that I was in this situation way above my head and finally I vowed that the next time I was going to do something “new” in an unfamiliar culture I would make sure I discussed it with someone from that culture, rather than an Ex. Pat.

Finally I decided to give up. I let go of the book, apologised in my broken Romanian and decided that I would simply leave, and come back tomorrow with one of the Romanians I worked with to explain the situation, and find out what was wrong.

The apology worked a treat. The woman calmed down, and beckoned me back with her arm. She picked up a pen, and pretended to sign the book. And then it dawned on me. I had to sign. In fact, signing for just about everything, I very soon came to realise, is part of the culture in Romania. Thankfully a positive response to a polite apology is also part of the culture as well.

The next day, after everyone had had a good laugh at the situation, I made sure I learned enough about the language and the culture to be polite and respectful to others. Something I never regretted doing.

Stephen Milner is an experienced board director and inspirational leader with energy, enthusiasm and a passion for generating business growth in several functions including IT/IS, e-commerce, logistics, supply chain and retail.  You can reach Stephen through his LinkedIn profile here.