Tag Archives: International Partnerships

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.

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.

Introducing the USA

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

Jennifer Kumar, cross-cultural coach, is the co-creator of two cross-cultural training programs: “Chasing the American Dream: From Take Off to Landing” a comprehensive pre-departure preparatory course for students planning to study in US and “Living and Working in USA” – an online multi-media cross-cultural course for those planning to live, work and study in America.

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

Jennifer For short or long stays in United States of America, there are a few etiquette rules that will be helpful for a wide variety of situations. These tips have been selected based on some of the cross-cultural misunderstandings I have coached foreigners adjusting to American culture in.

  • Tipping

There are many service professionals in USA who require to be tipped. Not leaving a tip will be offensive and is rarely if ever done even by Americans. A 15% tip is given to wait staff at restaurants that serve you at your table, restaurant home delivery drivers, hairdressers, barbers and taxi drivers. If the service was exemplary, leave 20%, if it could have been better leave 10% and if it was horrible leave two cents (two pennies). This communicates you have not forgot to tip, but that the service was pathetic. Tips are calculated based on the total of the bill before tax is added. Check your bill as some restaurants add in gratuity. In such cases, additional tips can be left if the service was exceptional. For other service professionals like bell hops, coat check attendants and valet parking attendants ask your trusted American friend as this can vary from place to place.

  • Greetings

Generally, when passing strangers on the street, someone will smile and ask “How are you?” Greetings may be more common in smaller towns than big cities. Americans do not expect long answers to this. An answer of “Fine, and you?” suffices. Don’t forget to smile. It will put Americans at ease. Some Americans feel uncomfortable if a greeting is without a smile and may ask, “Is everything alright?” If this happens, one can answer, trying to smile, “Yes, I am thinking about what I have to do today. I hope I can finish it all!” Attaching such an answer to work, Americans will understand the upset or stressed look on your face and generally will not ask more probing questions.

  • Eating Out

If your American friends or coworkers ask you to join them for lunch or dinner, assume you will pay your own bill. This is called ‘going Dutch,’ and is quite common. Unless the person inviting you insists on paying (even after you politely refuse and attempt to pay for yourself); you will pay for yourself and your own tips. Expecting your American colleague to pay for you may make them think you like them romantically; especially if you are the opposite sex; which must be avoided at all costs, especially if the person asking you to join is your coworker.

These three tips can be encountered any day whether an expat worker, international student or trailing spouse trying to fit in and socialize in American culture. If you’d like to learn more about American professional, on-the-job etiquette, social and cultural etiquette look into the course “Living and Working in USA”; a multimedia cross-cultural training with video, podcasts, worksheets and self-introspective activities. This course is designed to expose you to various elements of American culture and compare your cultural traits to those of Americans to understand how you will be able to fit in and make the best impression.

 

 

 

A cultural blunder in one of the world’s most international sites – what was Facebook thinking?!

We all heard of cultural gaffes that either hurt business partnerships, slow them down or completely undermine them.  Classic textbook examples tell us about cultural faux pas during meetings, cultural mistakes in advertising design, and cultural errors in negotiations.  All companies go through this experience at least once in their international business deals and apparently Facebook isn’t an exception (although, in all honesty, I didn’t expect the site that brought together people from so many different countries and walks of life to be so clueless when it comes to cultural sensitivity).

A couple of days ago, I saw the following announcement from Facebook Russia:  Всем, кто ожидает прибавления в семействе – теперь вы можете сообщить об этом вашим друзьям на Facebook. Cделать это можно в настройках профиля, во вкладке “Друзья и семья” в предлагаемом списке членов семьи нужно выбрать вариант “будущий член семьи: ребенок”, ввести имя ребенка, если оно уже выбрано, и предполагаемую дату рождения. Эта информация появится на вкладке “Семья” на левой панели вашего профиля.”

Translation:

“For all of you who are expecting an addition in the family – you can now let your friends know about it on Facebook. Go to your profile and in the “Friends and Family” choose the optionl “future member of the family: a child”, enter the name of the child if it is already selected, and the anticipated date of birth. This information will appear under “Family” on the left sidebar of your profile.”

My jaw dropped when I saw that.  And I didn’t really have to read the already accumulated comments from more than 60 people to know how this one is going to land. In a country where superstitions run high, people just don’t share their impending family additions with many – let alone with the whole Facebook world.

What were you thinking, Facebook?

Introducing QATAR

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

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a writer and educator who has lived in Qatar since 2005. A scholar of literature, she has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her work has been published in AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, and Qatar Explorer. She has been a guest on Expat Radio, and was the host for two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio. She is the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine published by Vodafone Qatar. Currently Mohana is working on a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and a novel based in Qatar. She believes words can help us understand ourselves and others. Catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

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

Mohana:

  • Be prepared for heat for 4 months of the year (May – August)
  • Ramadan is a time when restuarants are closed during the day and most shops; plan ahead and avoid driving on the roads at peak times
  • Make the effort to get outside of your ex-pat work/compound bubble to meet new people

GCC Blog:  What was the funniest cultural misunderstanding you’ve experienced in Qatar?

Mohana:  People often think that the five pressed together fingers — which is a symbol to wait — is an insult or rude gesture.

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

Mohana:  There are so many Arabic proverbs but one of my favorites is “one hand cannot clap” meaning that teamwork is important.

GCC Blog:  What do you love about Qatar?

Mohana: Qatar is booming and everyone from Hillary Clinton to Wycleaf Jean has come through Doha in the last five years that I’ve been here.

GCC Blog:  What do you dislike about living in Qatar?

Mohana:  The pressures of living in a city that is still being built (new buildings, new roads, the sounds of construction) can sometimes be frustrating.

On June 9, 2011 Global Coach Center and Mohana hosted a free teleclass on “Culture Tips for Qatar”.  Please listen to the recording here.

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)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: S is for SUPPORT

The importance of having a support network in place during a major change in life cannot be overstated.  Whether you are changing jobs, going through transition in your relationships, creating a new business, or moving half way around the world to a place where no one speaks your language – support is as essential as breathing.

Humans for the most part are social animals and we draw our energy from those who surround us.  At times of difficulties and stress it helps us to have a shoulder to either cry on or lean on.  Expats who move on a regular basis know that without this shoulder – either from your spouse/partner, your parents, your dear friends, your coach – those moves would have been much, much harder.

What kind of support network to you have in place now?

How does it support you?  And how does it not support you?

How would you like for it to support you?

One of the support structures that I always recommend is a coach.  While your family, friends, and parents can be an amazing source of support, a coach can also become your champion and your source of accountability.  Ever tried expatriate coaching?  If not, consider giving it a chance.

If individual coaching isn’t something for you at this time, join 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.  Register for it here.

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

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, 7 Habits of a Happy Expat and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

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)!