Tag Archives: Business

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?

Societal cultural differences – where does the influence come from?

I took a trip to Canada during this summer vacation and even though I only spent a total of six days and only visited two cities (Montreal and Quebec city), I was struck just by how different two neighboring countries can be from each other.  A couple of examples:

  • In Canada whenever we bought anything we were asked if we want a bag.  In the US, no one asks you – they simply pile your purchases into as many bags as they can and sometimes you need to point out to them that you don’t need that many bags.
  • In Canada, when buying coffee in a café you are asked “for here” or “to go” and if it is “for here” you are served in a ceramic cup. In the US, it’s always a disposable sippy cup and if you want ceramic, you have to ask them yourself.
  • We drove through quite a few rural areas in the province of Quebec and hardly saw any churches.  The minute we crossed into the US, there were as many churches as there were fast food restaurants.

Now, I am not passing any judgments here, but it makes for a curious inquiry – how can two countries that are geographically and historically (we are not talking about Russia and Finland that are neighbors but have had a very different historical course in the past couple of centuries) so close be so different?  What are the major influences that create these differences in societal cultures?

Your thoughts?

Introducing the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in the UK” In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers on some of the most interesting tidbits on the UK.

Louise Wiles is from England, thinks of herself as British but has been living abroad for much of the last fifteen years. Currently she lives in Lisbon with her husband and two daughters. From there she runs her business Success Abroad Coaching, providing support for accompanying partners during their relocation process; helping them to create successful portable lives and careers abroad.

Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog):  What would be 1 to 3 tips you’d give to someone who is moving to the UK?

Louise:

1.  Recognise the diversity:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of four distinct countries and it is important to remember this. People from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are proud of their national identities and cultural origins which differ from those of the English. Remember, people who live in the UK are not all English!

In addition to this cultural mix two hundred different nationalities are represented in the UK with over ten percent of the population having been born outside of the UK. The extent to which visitors are exposed to this cultural mix will depend on where they are located in the UK. However once you move into the smaller cities, towns and rural areas you will find the population less diverse in its origin and more identifiably British.

2. Reserved but not unfriendly:

Generally people from the Southern England are said to be more reserved and less friendly than those from Northern England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. As a big “softie southerner myself” (softie because life is said to be easier in the south) I take exception to this but grudgingly admit it holds some truth.

As an individualistic culture, the British especially the English can seem very self orientated and not overly friendly. People often have a wide number of acquaintances and a small number of very close friends. Bear this in mind – people will be happy to chat, go out for drinks after work but beyond this it may take time for them to include you in their more immediate circle of friends and home life.

3.  Humour:

Ah yes, the great British sense of humour and it is hugely refreshing for us Brits, but often simply puzzling for foreigners. We are a nation that can and does enjoy laughing at ourselves. We take ourselves quite lightly and sarcasm is a regular work place feature. Intense situations may be lightened by a bit of humour, which can seem wholly inappropriate to the foreigner.

4.  Language:

The main language spoken in the UK is English, although sometimes you may be hard-pressed to recognise it as such! There are big regional differences from the perspective of accent and colloquial phrases. You will be challenged as you learn English especially if you travel the country widely. However, sadly Brits speak very few other languages fluently and so if you want to survive and thrive in the UK you must learn to speak English well.

GCC Blog:  What do you love about the UK?

Louise:  I love the beautiful UK countryside, the pubs, the friendliness (generally), the humour, the entertainment options, the shopping, the food (yes really!), the summer sporting events and sometimes the weather.

GCC Blog:  What do you dislike about living in the UK?

Louise:  Lets start with the obvious – the weather! Having just been in the UK for a week and having had three days of solid rain I have been reminded about how restricting and frustrating the UK weather can be. However the rain is what makes the UK countryside so green and beautiful, so of course there is an upside!

Traffic jams and congestion on the roads and railways making long and tedious commutes is one of the more unattractive aspects of life especially around London and other major cities. Expense is another life in the UK does not come cheaply. Be prepared, do your research carefully and plan for a high cost of living.

GCC Blog:  What’s the most popular proverb and why?

Louise:  I don’t know what the most popular proverb is statistically but a favourite one from my childhood:

“A Stitch in time saves nine”

Meaning that acting early can save a lot of time later on.

GCC blog: How can the “Living and Working in the UK” course can help expats?

Louise:  I am delighted to have worked together with the Global Coach Center to create this Living and Working in the UK programme. My expatriate experience, my background as a trainer and coach and my in-depth knowledge of the UK, together with Margarita’s unique system to crossing cultures has created a valuable guide to overcoming cross cultural challenges and building a successful life in the UK – please visit the course’s information page for more details!

Working across cultures – difficult or different or both?

How often do you hear similar sentiments expressed by expat managers and team leaders working across cultures:

  • There is zero initiative among my staff. 
  • No one knows how to follow up and deliver on time – I spend half of my week every week requesting things that have been long overdue!
  • All meetings that I have ever attended have been interrupted by at least one cell phone call – and the recipient always took it!
  • Even though I have a separate office (and close the door!), I find myself constantly interrupted by people dropping in to ask me (or tell me) something.
  • A meeting that should last an hour often goes for 3 hours.  It’s so difficult to get people to stay on topic and come to the point.

These examples of frustrations I hear from clients all point to how difficult – and different – it can be to create something together when working with people from diverse cultures.  The words difficult and different represent two different (no pun intended) perspectives of looking at this challenge.

If we look at it from the point of view of “how difficult” it is and nothing else, frustration, hopelessness, and an overwhelming desire to go home drive all of our actions and responses.

If we look at it as “difficult and different” we open up for the possibility of creating out of the difficult by looking at and considering the differences.  How can we create out of what’s different here?

Creating out of the differences requires not only this open-minded perspective but also a good knowledge of where the differences lie — it requires Culture Mastery:

  • What cultural preferences do you and your colleagues differ on?
  • How big/small is the gap?
  • How possible is it for you to adjust your cultural preferences – that is, will it infringe on your values/identity or will it simply be about changing your habits?
  • What cultural alliances can you create to be more effective?

What has been your experience in creating from the different and the difficult?

NEW at the Global Coach Center: Culture Mastery Course (online) that specifically addresses challenges described in the post above.

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: X is for X-Cultural Training

Let’s start by playing a game.  Choose an answer for the question below – an answer either in Column A or Column B – that most accurately describes you.  For each line you can only select an answer in Column A or B, but not both.

What do you find most effective for your style of work?

COLUMN A COLUMN B
Informal schedules and timelines Formal schedules and timelines
Flexible task-list A well organized task-list
Variety of tasks at the same time Completing one task before moving on to the next
Different issues can be discussed at the same time in a meeting Focus on one issue at a time in meetings
Little or no notice on schedule changes Sufficient notice on schedule changes

Sum up your Column A answers.

And now ask a few of your local contacts to do the same.  What’s their sum for Column A?

If you discover that your sum is different from theirs – congratulations!  You’ve just learned where you differ from your counterparts on one of 11 cultural variables (in this example the cultural variable is Time-Focus).

You may ask – and?  So what?  How is that useful?

It’s useful because it’s usually the first step of a cross-cultural training (although trainings can differ in their approach). Cultural variables form part of our cultural blueprint.  The cultural blueprint — derived from influences of our country, our traditions, our religion, our place of work, etc – defines who we are starting from our habits/behaviors/skills/talents and ending with our values/identity/life purpose. When you know where your preferences lie in relation to each cultural variable, you know your own cultural blueprint.

Once you know your own cultural blueprint, you can compare it to the cultural blueprint of people around you – and, thus, understand what’s at the root of the difference between you and them.  That’s step number two.

And step three is to find ways to negotiate the difference for the benefit of all concerned.

Of course cross-cultural training includes a lot more than this.  It also includes information about the country, its history, traditions, and values.   When this information is complemented with the process of negotiating through cultural blueprints, you get both the background information and the course of action you can take to make your adjustment easier.

We offer online cross-cultural trainings based on that model for Russia, China, Germany, Spain, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and Israel through the Global Coach Center Academy (more countries are coming up soon).  If you are interested in contributing to this effort and covering a country, please contact us directly.

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Remember to sign up for the Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired.  BONUS: if you sign up before December 1, 2010, you get FREE access to the “7 Habits of a Happy Expat” online course. Sign up here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: U is for UNDERSTANDING

Understanding and being understood is the base for creating connections. It applies both in situations within your own culture and when you find yourself living and working in a different culture(s).  The latter can often be a trickier undertaking.

Let’s start with being understood.  NLP teaches us that “I don’t know what I said until I know what you heard.”  What it means is that we all listen through different channels and pay attention to different things within what’s being said.  Some may listen with attention directed at people in a story, others with attention to events, yet others with attention to surroundings, so on and so forth.  Ever played a game of telephone when you were a child?  Do you remember how a story changes completely when passed from ear to ear?  That’s because we recount what we hear and we all hear different things.  This fact becomes even more acute in different cultures.  So, when you are communicating across cultures make sure your message is understood the way you intended it to be – and not the way you assumed it to be.  Failure to do so may result in many misunderstandings and sometimes even in ruined relationships.

Now what about our skill of understanding?  Provided we know the language and its nuances (a big if), how do we make sure we understand what’s being said – and what’s being unsaid?  Here I’d like to focus especially on what’s been unsaid.

Almost every time a person speaks – if you listen closely – you can hear the dream(s) that person holds for him/herself.  The dream(s) that express their hopes, wishes, and aspirations – the dreams that give meaning to their lives.  Sometimes they themselves cannot hear those dreams, but your job is to be able to hear them.  Because if you do, you connect with them on a much deeper level, you learn what’s important to them, and that makes you capable of knowing how you can structure your relationship to help them achieve their dreams.

What are your thoughts on understanding and being understood?  And do you have any other U’s to contribute?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Check out our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  Register for it here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Trailing and not Failing: How our relationships can sustain us in expatriation?

As many expatriate spouses do, I gave up my job when we decided to start traveling the world with Foreign Service.   I had a great job — the one that paid well and the one that was interesting — but then my husband got an opportunity that was too good  to pass on.  And so we decided that I can perhaps find something as we move from place to place.

The first country we went to ended up going through the recession less than a year after we got there, so getting a job in my profession in the local economy was not an option.  And that’s when I decided that I needed to re-invent myself.  Instead of looking for professional opportunities every place I landed, I decided to carry a professional “opportunity” with me.  That’s how I came across what I do now and I became an expatriate entrepreneur.

As it is with every type of entrepreneurship, succeeding financially takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.  It also takes working on the computer at night, having odd tasks at odd hours — especially if your clients live in different time zones — and taking some time from the family.  It is not a “9-to-5” kind if job and that’s where spouses and their attitudes come in.

How so?

In various ways.  But here I am going to focus on two: understanding and encouragement.

(1) Understanding. When you forgo a full-time job and choose working out of your home, you pretty much stay at home.  And, for some people, staying at home means that you are responsible for all the home tasks out there — cleaning, cooking, ironing, etc.  If you are working on a business, you probably have just as little (if not less!) time for all the home tasks than you fully-employed spouse does.  Yet you are expected to do them.   This expectation may create guilt on your part and criticism on your spouse’s part.  The same feelings surface when you work at night.  In the end neither your business nor your relationship benefit from them.

(2) Encouragement. We all know making money on an idea takes time.  Time and a lot of work.  So when you spend your mornings and your afternoons and your evenings growing your business, the last thing you want to hear from your spouse is the reference to how your business isn’t really a business but rather a hobby since you have not really made a dime.  Doesn’t do a lot in terms of encouragement, does it?  In fact, those comments often shut you down, even if they are meant as a joke.

What are your thoughts on this?

People who read this post, also read:

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really Just About Going Through the Stages

How to Leave without Regrets

7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.

If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!