The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

Fewer expats sent abroad



According to the findings of a survey of 180 managers by London-based consultants Brookfield, more than two thirds of the major multinationals are expecting to post fewer employees abroad this year.

Nannette Ritmeester of the Dutch consultancy Expertise in Labour Mobility recognises the picture. She sees two possible responses to the crisis: either send fewer employees abroad, or economise on the facilities for expats, by cutting back on housing allowances or air tickets for trips back home.

However, spokespersons for Shell, Philips and Akzo Nobel are keen to stress that they won’t be skimping on perks for expats.

“They’re set down in the collective labour agreement – they’re agreed beforehand so you can’t change them,” says a Philips spokesperson.

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Working abroad improves your skills



In his  14-year career as an industrial and electrical engineer, Carlos Founaud has worked or done business in Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Germany, Britain, Australia, and Italy before returning to his native Spain.

“I called myself a multicultural interface,” he laughs. “If something broke down, the Spanish way was to focus on the problem—let’s have a look, make a decision, and do it. The Austrian way was to find out who’s guilty. The British way was to open the manuals and find the different procedures for fixing it—and afterward go to the pub.”

Founaud has found that this multicultural approach to problem solving, while maddening at times, has also made him better at his job. Now general managing director of iA Soft Aragón, a Saragossa firm that develops public administration software, he seeks out foreign programmers specifically to challenge the procedural mind-set on his home turf.

Foreign postings often offer more autonomy and responsibility, a faster pace, higher pay, and tax breaks, as well as the adventure of foreign lands and languages. The posts can also improve your skills.

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Execs willing to work abroad in 2009

The majority of executives around the world indicated that they are willing to relocate internationally for job opportunities in today's tumultuous economy, according to Korn/Ferry's latest Executive Quiz. The Executive Quiz released by The Korn/Ferry Institute focused on perceptions about the labor market. The online survey was conducted in September and October, just as volatility in the financial markets elevated concerns surrounding unemployment around the world.


According to the survey findings, 85 percent of respondents said that they expect more job losses in the global labor market in 2009, and 78 percent expected unemployment to rise in Q4 2008.  Given the perceived volatility in the labor market, executives report an extreme willingness to chase job opportunities around the world; a surprising 84 percent of executives say they are willing to consider relocating, with 55 percent willing to move internationally for their next position.

"This is a very dynamic time in the global labor market, and while the overall demand for talent will certainly rise over time, job creation may be in different locations than today's talent pools are clustered,” said Sergio Averbach, President of Korn/Ferry International, South America.  In countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China the world's "fastest growing economies" it's not uncommon to see unemployment temporarily increase as labor supply and demand find a new equilibrium in such geographies and different industries."

The results showed a contradiction when respondents were asked about their own company's hiring plans. Nearly half “ 47 percent“ said their companies were hiring even in the current economic environment. Another 27 percent said their companies were in a hiring freeze. Only 26 percent stated that their company was currently downsizing.

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Language and Culture are issues for midwives

The UK's population is growing. Part of that increase is fuelled by women from other countries having children here.

And as the Local Government Association (LGA), representing 400 councils in England and Wales, outlines to a House of Lords select committee how migration stretches community services, one midwife tells how the changes affect her.

language and culture in the uk


For midwife Jayne Cozens, going to work these days is also becoming something of a geography lesson.

She has worked in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, for 12 years, and her caseloads are containing increasing numbers of foreign nationals from across the globe.

Language and culture are becoming more of an issue, as Mrs Cozens' job becomes ever more multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

"It can be a challenge explaining to a 17-year-old English girl what an amniocentesis is, let alone to a teenager from abroad who doesn't speak the language," she says.

There are cultural issues, too, which midwives must handle in the course of giving their advice to non-UK nationals.

"Chinese families tend to sleep together in the same room and the same bed.

"Children, new baby, mum and dad are all together. It's what they're used to, so you go to a house and there's a couple of mattresses on the floor.

"But our advice in relation to cot death is for women to not sleep with their babies, so if you have the whole family in together then that presents a problem."

Mrs Cozens said that in the course of her work "you do learn a few words" but that this is not enough to clearly explain the full message.

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