Monthly Archives: October 2009

Legally Abroad or Experiencing Law Enforcement When Overseas

I got my very first traffic violation ticket yesterday.  Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe I am a law-abiding driver (well…most of the time anyway), but the irony of the fact that my first citation happened in my own country didn’t escape me.  How did I manage to get in trouble in a country where I know the rules while I never did in other countries where I was not so sure of the rules?

It’s a good question and maybe the answer to it lies in “paying close attention” even in places we think we know.  But that’s not the point of this post.  My interaction with the police officer and my ticket experience got me thinking about our worldwide experience with police.  Having lived in many countries I’ve had my share of interactions with law enforcement (although not always about traffic violations).  What is the difference between these kinds of interactions at home and abroad?

Maya Angelou once said that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  And I find that this is especially true for me when I deal with the law enforcement.  I understand that it’s not their job to make you feel good, but can they at least not make you feel awful?

I cannot claim to have experienced dealing with the police in every country of the world and I am sure there are plenty of downright horrible experiences out there.  And there are also good experiences — I’ve had a few myself.  So what has been your experience where you are living now?  And how does it compare to your home country?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

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

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave your assumptions at home

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings: Got one?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

To tip or not to tip…is that a cultural question?

A couple of weeks back I left a 36% tip at a restaurant.  Not intentionally.  I just didn’t notice they had already included an 18%  tip and I added my 18% to that.  I only noticed my mistake several days later when going through the receipts.  Sigh.

That was a lesson for me.  And not only in reading paperwork before I sign it, but also in cultural habits and cultural conditioning.  Now that I once again live in the US, I am becoming more and more inclined to tip…everyone and everywhere.  I tip the waiter, I tip the valet, I tip my hairdresser, and I tip my dog’s groomer…the list can go on and on.  Tipping is now a responsibility, not a good gesture.  And I am quickly beginning to feel imprisoned by it.


Because for those of us, who are used to a different “culture” of tipping — either because we’ve lived overseas for a long time or have been brought up in another country — the tipping is still a choice.  One can still forego a tip if the service was bad and not feel horrible after the fact for days.  When you move to the US, that choice is taken away.  You must tip.  Or you’ll rot in hell of “cheapskates” forever.

So much it is a “must” for most Americans, that the tipping question has become one of our first questions before we travel somewhere.  “How much do we tip?” we ask our friends or contacts nervously.  My experience with answers is usually the same.  “It doesn’t matter,” my friends say, “if you like the service you tip what you want.”  No expectation, no counting percentages, no agonizing.  How liberating.

The restaurant where I left a 36% tip happens to be in the part of the United States that receives a lot of international tourism.  They include the tip because they know that foreigners are not “imprisoned” by the “tip culture” of the US and so, unless they count the tips in, they may not get them.  Smart thinking on their part.  Not too smart on mine.

I read my receipts a lot more carefully now.  And I’ve noticed that here many restaurants include the tip.  I think I prefer it that way.  It leaves out the guesswork of how much to tip — and it liberates me from worrying, if I have tipped enough.

What about you?  What is your cultural experience with tipping?

The people who read this post also read:

What makes repatriation difficult?

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave Your Assumptions At Home

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 2 — Pay Attention

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

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

Whenever I give a presentation on Culture Shock, I try not to speak a lot at the participants.  Instead I allow them to share and, as we discuss what Culture Shock means to them, we discover how different each Culture Shock experience is for everyone.

However, if you read the research available out there on Culture Shock, you’ll discover, that most of it presents the phenomenon of Culture Shock as something that consists of five (5) stages.  And so when people look at this definition, they immediately begin to try to figure out what “stage” they are at and what awaits them in the future.  And while this process may offer some comfort and may show you that you are not alone, it’s not ideal.  Because not everyone goes through all the stages, not everyone goes in order the stages are presented, and not everyone can identify with these stages.

So instead of pigeonholing people into the stages and figuring out where each person is and how we can help him/her there, I take a different approach.  I encourage participants in my presentations to look at our experiences in another culture not through the lens of “stages” but rather through the lens of “perspectives”.

When we go through life, we find ourselves constantly changing perspectives.  In any one-day we can go through “frustrated”, “elated”, “sad”, “creative” and many other perspectives.  These perspectives color the way we look at the world around us and they also either empower or dis-empower us.

The same with Culture Shock.  When we move to a foreign place, we may find ourselves in a perspective of “curiosity” or perspective of “hate” or perspective of “longing for home”.  Any one of those can be a section of your Culture Shock journey, almost like those stages are.  Except that there is one thing you can do with perspectives that you cannot do with stages.  You can change perspectives at will.

That’s right.  If you are stuck in a perspective that’s not working for you, you are free to change it and choose another one — one that would be more empowering.  How?  There is a great exercise for that, but it would take too much space to describe it here.  You can read about it, though, in my Culture Shock book or you can join us for one of the Culture Shock Webinars and learn there.

So, what perspective are you in?  And what perspective would you like to be in?

UPDATE: Following this post I received many queries about my method of managing Culture Shock.  That’s why I decided to offer my innovative THREE STEPS TO MANAGING CULTURE SHOCK AND MAKING TRANSITIONS EASIER presentation over the web.

It was a great success! Read the testimonials here. If you didn’t have the chance to participate in the webinar, but would like to learn this great system of managing Culture Shock, you can either download an E-book or an on-line course here.

People who enjoyed this post also read:

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings…Got One?

Seven Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

A Different Take on Expatriate Motivation

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!