Tag Archives: international

An American in France

There have been quite a few famous Americans (and other expats) in history that decided to either settle or live in France for long periods of time.  Today many follow their example and in this blog post we interview Michael Barrett, an American who is now living in France.

Global Coach Center (GCC): How long have you lived in France and how did you come to live there?

Michael: I’ve lived in France now over four years in a row but longer than that over my lifetime. I lived in Paris as a baby and toddler for three years as my father worked here on assignment. My family always had an interest in France so it influenced my decision to study the language and culture in middle school, high school and then in college. My first trip back to France was with the French club of my high school in 2003. During my sophomore year (2nd year) at the University of Notre Dame, I studied abroad in Angers, France 2004-2005, where I lived with a French family, studied in French, traveled and made friends from all over the world. It motivated me to come back.

I followed that with an internship at Sciences Po Paris in 2006, and then after graduating in 2007, I moved to Lyon to be an English assistant. I met my French girlfriend there, pursued graduate studies in communications in Grenoble for two years, during which I worked at AmCham France. In July 2010 I was hired as a Digital Project Manager at New BBDO Paris, and advertising agency. I’ve been here ever since, and I also manage the site Americanexpatinfrance, write for several websites and am involved with the expatriate community while keeping a close group of French friends. I plan on applying for dual citizenship soon.

GCC: What do you love most about living in France?

Michael: My girlfriend, my French friends, the rich culture and gastronomy and history, the diversity of the regions and their characteristics… close proximity to other European countries. A generally balanced approach to life and work…their healthcare system –although it’s not perfect.

GCC: What frustrates you?

Michael: Generalizations about America and its culture, strikes, lack of convenience here (the US is a culture of convenience)…although I’ve gradually come to accept these cultural differences with the traditional French shrug of the shoulders. Every country has its own pros and cons.

GCC: What would you have liked to know that you didn’t before coming to live in France?

Michael: To know how to (try to) master the inner workings of the French civil service bureaucracy and its paperwork, implicit messages (not explicit) and assumptions that you know everything if you don’t ask a question. But I’ve learned how to manage that, too.

GCC: What are three tips you can give people planning to move to France?

Michael:

  • Learn the language and about the culture as well, as this will not only enrich you but also show a genuine willingness on your part to the French that you’re making an effort and reaching out.
  • On a related note, be open-minded. This is not America, and there will be some culture shock and things and approaches that are done differently. They have a different perspective here on many things, so approach it with curiosity and don’t be afraid to have friendly debate with French coworkers and friends (make French friends), as long as it’s not on taboo subjects (money, religion) – those are for closer friends usually.
  • Take a look at practical matters in detail – education, healthcare, taxes, driving regulations, housing – hopefully your employer or organization can help you with these matters. Better to be well prepared than land here and figure out as you go along. That can add to frustration. I’d be happy to advise on questions or refer you to an expert in a field that I don’t master as well. 

About Michael: Michael Barrett is a 26 year-old American with roots in Chicago and Washington D.C. working as Project Manager at New BBDO Paris, a PR firm in Paris. He writes a must-read blog for expats called American Expat in France.

Global Coach Center recently launched an online cross-cultural course — “Living and Working in France” which:

  • provides you with a foundation of what France is all about;
  • through the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ helps you understand the gap between your way of thinking and the French way of thinking;
  • provides extensive tools to negotiate the difference; and
  • blends cross-cultural information with a coaching approach to understanding and becoming successful in any culture.

Download the “Living and Working in France” 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.
_______
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.

Expatriate vs Immigrant – what’s the difference?

by Margarita

Recently an interesting discussion took place on the Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Success Facebook page – when do we consider ourselves expats and when are we immigrants?  So I’ve decided to try to explore it and I thought we’d start with a dictionary definition.  According to Miriam-Webster:

  • the word “Expatriate” is actually a verb or an adjective and means someone “living in a foreign land”.
  • the word “Immigrant” is a noun and means “a person who comes to a country to take permanent residence”.

If we go only by these definitions above, I see one major distinction that sets them apart.  Immigrants have an intention to stay – whereas for the expatriates this intention isn’t mentioned and isn’t clear.

Put another way, immigrants may have a larger emotional commitment to their new place of residence – and, thus, their approach to making it is different.  If expatriates know that they can always leave and they know it coming into the country already – how much effort will they try to put into… (a) finding ways to belong; (b) creating connections, (c) absorbing new ways of being, (d) making life-long friends, etc, etc, etc?

Everyone is different of course and I am not stating that temporary assignment expats don’t have the commitment to create the best life they can in their new country.  Yet, I think, the knowledge that they can always leave creates a degree of comfort that “if it doesn’t work, it’s okay because three years from now I am leaving anyway.”  Immigrants don’t have that luxury.

What do you think?

 

And in case you are interested, we just unveiled our #Re-Discovery #Re-Create #Re-Join Workbook and Guide based on a recent workshop that offered strategies and tools for women embarking on the re-discovery journey. First 30 people who download this guide will get a free one-0n-one coaching session! To find out more and to download, visit here.

 

Why Study Abroad?

Guest post by Anthony Garcia

Study abroad is an experience that can greatly enrich any student’s education. Like any opportunity, however, it is important to make sure that you get the most out of it. If you are traveling solo for research, or in a group of students from your university, it is up to you to make sure your trip is the best it can be. Determining what you want out of your study abroad trip and considering cost and location can help you do just that.

Not only does studying abroad make it significantly easier to learn a foreign language and gain fluency, but travel will immerse students in the culture of their location, broadening their horizons and teaching them in ways that a classroom setting cannot. The benefits of study abroad are long-lasting and widely-recognized. In 2006, the U.S. Senate published a resolution to support study abroad programs in the U.S. educational system, citing the need for a larger population of globally-aware American citizens. Time abroad helps students make connections outside their comfort zone, improving cultural awareness and independence. Practically, students who travel learn the leadership skills vital to success.

So long as the location and program are appropriate to the individual person, study abroad can benefit those who are in college, high school, or even younger. Deciding which study abroad program is right takes some investigation.

First, it’s important to make sure you are working with a reputable company. Those run by colleges and universities are typically a safe bet, while there are many privately-owned companies that specialize in sending students abroad. Another option is to enroll directly in a school overseas, but that takes more research and may not be possible in all locations.

Whatever company or organization you decide to work with, make sure you do the research thoroughly ahead of time. The company should hold up well to scrutiny and be able to answer any and all questions you have. They should be exceptionally knowledgeable about the countries they send students to and should be able to help you apply for a passport and student visas. The company should also direct you to any health precautions you should take before leaving, such as vaccinations and travel insurance.

Once you’ve found a company or program you want to work with, it’s time to decide where you want to go and why. What do you want to study? Art, politics, science, history, languages? Would you be more comfortable in an urban area or can you handle being in the country? How long do you want to be gone? What can you afford to do?

It is also important to consider the history of the place. Cultural and political history can give you a host of possibilities for study, but it may also place some challenges on studying abroad. These challenges can be positive ones, such as language and cultural differences, but learning about those differences will help you be comfortable once you get to your destination. Staying open to learning new aspects of history and global issues will also help you make the best of your trip overseas.

There are many scholarships and grants available to students for studying abroad, but they may not cover everything, including the costs of passports, visas, transportation, and food. If you can afford a set program cost on your own, you need to double-check what it will cover and budget accordingly. Costs will depend on where you go and how long you stay, but talking to other students who have been on the planned trip can help you get an idea of what extra money you might need.

No matter what it might cost you or what hoops you have to jump through, the benefits of studying abroad are well worth it. Both tangible and intangible, these benefits will last students a lifetime. Studying abroad is a truly enriching experience for any student.

About Anthony: Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.  He also writes for Online Graduate Programs.

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.

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.

 

 

A little bit of crazy

Last week many of us were saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and a visionary of epic proportions.  Some may agree and some may disagree about the ways he lived his life and the ways he did business – and, yet, the majority of us probably agrees on one thing.  Steve Jobs was different.

Listen to this never-shown Apple commercial that he narrated and pay careful attention to the words:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Why do I bring this up?  Because I think that those of us who choose to live outside of our home countries – outside of the familiar, the comfortable, and the known – are a little bit crazy, somewhat rebels, and to some degree troublemakers.

Our willingness and our drive to leave the habitual and to embark on an adventure that will test the whole of our beings can elicit admiration or hostility.

Our return always feels like it puts us right into the category of the round pegs in the square holes.

Our ability to understand and communicate between cultures makes us the connecting link between peoples divided by borders, currencies, economies, and wars – and that puts us right up there with all those others that want to change the world.

What do you think?  Do expats have a little bit of crazy reserved for geniuses?  How inspirational do you find this in your life?

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.