Tag Archives: Culture Shock

Three tips for Expat Women

by Margarita

About a year ago I created “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide (available for FREE download here) and recently I thought — why not create a series of short, 1-3 minutes videos, on A to Z Tips for Expat women?

Why women?

When I interviewed 20+ expat women on their challenges while living abroad, I learned that many of these women share very similar challenges and struggles.  Now, of course, it’s very possible that those challenges are also common among expat men — and if that’s the case, I hope these videos will also be helpful for them!

So here are the first three of the series:

Tip 1 — A is for Attention

Tip 2 — B is for Beginning

Tip 3 — C is for Connection

More videos are coming up soon!  Meanwhile this is the last week to enroll into our Expat Women Academy — a program that offers strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.  JOIN US!

Introducing Turkey

Turkey is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in Turkey”.  In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers on some of the most interesting tidbits on Turkey.
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Lale Gerger in her own words: “My mother is American and my father is Turkish and I was truly brought up with both cultures.  I lived in Turkey during my elementary school years but then relocated back to Turkey in my 20s and stayed for another 11 years.  I was the first single person to ever adopt in Turkey and had to change legislation during the 5 year process.  Aside from living in both Turkey and the United States, I’ve also had the opportunity to live in Kuwait, England and Mexico.”
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Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog): What would be 1 to 3 tips you would give to someone who is moving to Turkey?
Lale:
1.  Turks are very friendly – take advantage of that and try to get to know the locals.
2.  Be patient; things can become bureaucratic in every day situations such as at a bank or even the post office!  Don’t forget that relationships are key in Turkey so try to befriend someone at places you visit often, it will make your life easier.
3. Be open and realistic; as with living in any country – there will be challenges and adjustments needed – as long as you can remain open to new experiences, you will have a wonderful time!
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GCC Blog: What was the funniest cultural misunderstanding you’ve experienced in Turkey?
Lale: I was fairly lucky in that since I’m half Turkish and I spoke Turkish when I relocated to Turkey in my 20s.  After graduating from UCLA’s Theatre department, I relocated to Turkey and was fortunate enough to land a faculty member position at Hacettepe University’s Theatre Dept.  One day, as I was trying to be friendly and making small talk with the head of the department, I asked, “So what have you done in the Theatre?”  In Turkish there is a formal and informal ways to say “you” – I, of course, mistakenly used the informal manner and to top it off, it turns out that he was not only the head of the theatre department but was one of the most famous actors in Turkey.  I, essentially, asked the Turkish Laurence Olivier what he did and in an informal manner at that!  Once I realized my mistake, I tried to apologize & use the more formal manner with him but he would not allow it; I think it was probably refreshing for him…
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GCC Blog: What’s the most popular proverb and why?
Lale: Proverbs are used consistently in every day life.  One of the more popular ones is: Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır.
Literal Translation: A cup of coffee commits to forty years of friendship.
Meaning:  Used to remind that friendships should not be taken lightly.  It also is quite telling of how the culture values relationships.
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GCC Blog: What do you love about that country?
Lale: Everything!
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GCC Blog: What do you dislike about that country?
Lale: Daily life is much more difficult – doing every day chores can become a real chore due to lack of well-developed systems. 
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The full course on “Living and Working in Turkey”, co-authored by Lale is available 24/7 at the online Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Academy for self- or assisted study.  Download it here.

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.

Tips on relocating to the UK

Guest Post by John T Paolucci

Note: Some of these tips are specific to the US expats but most will apply to all.

I have recently spent three years in London…. I think the challenges you will face are very different depending on your stage in life.  If you have school age kids then you will have schooling etc issues. I didn’t have school age kids so I can’t provide much insight from that perspective. But here are some of the things you can expect and some tips on what to do before you start your assignment…

  • Looking for housing can be very frustrating, expectations are key here. Do as much research before you get there so you will not be shocked by the differences between your home in the US and the house or apartment wherever you are going.
  •  Understand the culture…. I was responsible for 13 countries when I was there and visiting and listening is very important … Every country was different even though it was “one” company they all had their own customs and way of doing business. The one common theme was not trying to force anything but to get their buy in and understanding of the issues at hand. Being an American is not a hindrance; JUST don’t be the UGLY American.
  • Understand the TAX ramifications of your assignment, there are various ways ( tax status in the UK depends on length of assignment) that you can be assigned overseas which have different tax issues, find out the one which works best for you and work it out in advance of your move. Who is going to do your taxes, will the company pay for the tax service, (it can cost around $5k a year — remember you have to file local and US taxes), tax years are different so you may be back in the US and still have to file overseas.
  •  Have an exit strategy, what happens when your assignment ends…. Who pays for the move if you were assigned from a US firm do you have a position when you return… Be careful on this one, I know of many people who were assigned overseas from a job they had with a company in the US and when the assignment was up had no position to come home to.
  •  Spouse… getting a work VISA is difficult for a spouse…Volunteer work is an option.
  •  Fitting in, making friends..etc We were lucky because we were in an English speaking country, so we made friends at work and where we lived…Joining local EXPAT clubs is helpful and fun. You can find them on the web by searching on expat clubs. They had lots of events and it was nice to get together with people in the same situation as you.
  • Trips home— they can be expensive, some companies will allow you to make x trips a year, get that worked out before you commit.
  •  You don’t really need a car it’s cheaper to use public transit or hire a car when you need to. If you do decide to get a car remember you will need to get an international driving license. You can get it in the US by showing your US license, filling out some forms and getting some passport pictures and paying a small fee ( I think it was around $15 – $25).
  •  Medical insurance… most countries in the EU have socialized medical care, but companies also offer private insurance. I would suggest getting the private insurance if you can. The local medical is not bad for normal well care but more likely will not be what you are used to here in the US. For any major issue you will need private insurance or come home for treatment.
  •  If you have a home in the US, do you sell it, rent it or have someone mind it for you while you are overseas. We kept our home because we knew we would be back in 2-3 years and a local company managed it for us… It is not expensive. Cost about $100 per month.
  • On a fun side … ENJOY your time there, most holidays are on Fridays and Monday so you get many four day weekends and vacations are very liberal 35+ days….Take the time to see the sights…

From Global Coach Center Academy: we now offer a full cross-cultural course on “Living and Working in the UK” – it’s available online 24/7 and will tell you not only about the culture of the UK but will also allow you to assess your cultural gaps with the majority of people in the UK and prepare to navigate the differences.  Download and additional information is available here.

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.

 

 

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.

The low point of a Culture Shock experience – judging the other

In our day-to-day life we often pass judgments on other people without even noticing that we do.  We judge and we compare ourselves to others.  We compare achievements; we compare appearance; we compare education and intellect; we even compare social behavior and social acceptance.  Remember Susan Boyle?  Remember how everyone judged her by what she looked like, by what romantic experience she had (or didn’t have), and by the dream she dared to have (in her age and with her looks!).

It’s similar with cultures.  We judge each new culture and its people from the point of view of how it compares to our own.  That especially becomes true if are in the grips of Culture Shock and nothing is going right.  However, each comparison is ultimately an illusion – an illusion that creates either a superiority or inferiority complex.  Both these complexes contribute to misunderstandings between people; prevent them from truly knowing each other, and make it this much harder to build bridges and friendships.  If you judge someone to be better than you, how easy is it going to be for you to establish the connection?  Or, if you judge that person to be worse than you, would you even want to make a connection?  The process of judging doesn’t only make you feel bad, but it also robs you of an opportunity to open your mind and soul to an experience that can change your life.  It stops you from enjoying new things from an “uncluttered” — from judgments — perspective.

Being in judgment is one of the horsemen of apocalypse as identified by Dr. John Gottman in his research on successful marriages  and in his book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.  Gottman says that allowing this horseman to run rampant and allowing it to persist in a marriage pretty much dooms the marriage.   It’s similar with cultures.  If you keep judging a culture and its people, you’ll never “make friends” with it/them and, thus, you’ll never adjust enough to live a happy life there.

So stay judgment-free.  Consider everyone and everything as it comes into your life – new, exciting, and full of possibilities to explore.

And if you need any help with this and with Culture Shock, have a look at our Culture Shock Tool Kit E-book where we offer 3 tips on how to manage Culture Shock (some tips are based on Dr. Gottman’s research).  Available in English, Russian, Spanish, and French!