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.

Boston companies use Cultural Awareness to lure Chinese Tourists

Boston companies use Cultural Awareness to lure Chinese Tourists

As many Chinese tourists only pay a brief visit to the city, local Boston companies are now getting training to increase their appeal to this important group of visitors (and revenue stream).

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Cultural tips on Export to Japan and China

Cultural tips on Export to Japan and China

Do you export? AstraZeneca's Stuart Anderson offers some insights into the importance of understanding and adapting to the local culture in order to maximise success.

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Expat Tips - Moving to China



When people decide that they want to move country with their work it can sometimes be a challenging time (especially if they are taking their family with them).
However if you are looking to move to somewhere like China then it can be even more demanding and it is very likely that if you do not prepare before you go, then you will find that you might experience some kind of culture shock when you are there.
If you are soon to become an expat in China then here are a few tips to help you deal with the culture shock.
o    If you have the time and the budget (and if your company will let you go) then it is always worth spending a little time booking a research trip to the area where you will be living. This is a really good way to get to grips with the area of China where you will be staying and the different way that the Chinese, that will be local to you, do things.
o    Cross cultural training is a great way to give yourself an added advantage (so make sure you grab it with both hands if your company gives you access to this).
o    Think about the area of China where you will be staying. If you are going to be living in one of the major cities then you might find that you will have access to some western products. If however you think you are going to be living in a more remote area of China then you will either have to take some essentials with you or learn to do without.
Living is China can be an incredible cultural experience but to truly make the most of it you have to make sure that you are prepared for the differences to the culture in the UK.

For more tips visit Expatriate Relocation Guides

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When convenience overtakes competence in translation



A “dialogue of the deaf”, that is the way that the Public Defender of Honchian Lin described the quality of translators provided to his client in Haifa, Israel.

During the initial questioning, trial and appeal of Lin for the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Haifa police encountered difficulties in providing an adequate simultaneous translator for his interrogations. They initially canvassed a local Chinese stallholder; as the father of a police employee and someone working near to the station ‘Joe’ was the most convenient choice for the police. However it later emerged not only was Joe untrained for the position but was linguistically unsuitable for the role he had been given.

Lin was arrested in 2006 after a passerby discovered the dismembered body of his girlfriend Michelle Jamias in the street. Joe was brought in to act as a simultaneous translator on the first interrogation of Lin by the police. However Lin was not familiar with the Chinese dialect spoken by Joe (being from rural China where dialects vary) and spoke only a few limited sentences of Hebrew. This resulted in the translation of Lin’s statement being vague and disjointed, lacking accuracy in terms of what had been said and by whom. The evaluation of this evidence by the Supreme Court Justice, Yoram Danziger, has produced the verdict that the initial interview was both “degraded and unclear”

On this evidence the Haifa police seem to have failed Lin’s rights to be able to be treated to a fair judicial process. They failed to ascertain the suitability of Joe’s services in advance and when experiencing interview problems failed to find another translator. Although Lin confessed again in a second interview, he later was able to use the lack of fair translation as support for his claim that he had made a coerced compliant confession. This meant that Lin could claim that the pressure of being unable to communicate his story led to a confession that was obtained forcibly under duress. So not only had the suspect’s rights been violated but also the prosecution faced difficulties in convicting Lin of the crime which additional evidence (beyond his confessions) proved he had committed.

This case shows the pitfalls of inviting foreign workers into your country and then not providing for their basic needs. If a foreign worker falls sick, is accused of a crime or is called to witness then they need to be able to accurately receive and provide information. Does this case suggest that Israel, as an example, is unconcerned with such issues or is it simply the fact that funding is not available to provide for these needs? Either way countries have a responsibility to provide for those they invite in, they should not feel that the economic or other advantages of foreign workers outweighs the rights of these people to be treated as any other citizen.

Even after the Supreme Court Justice’s findings Lin was given a Mandarin translator for his appeal against his conviction, again unable to speak his rural dialect. More evidence that the service of translation and all its relevant nuances should not be overlooked, especially if you actively encourage speakers of other languages into your country.
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Tricky feats of cross-cultural communication


A true story: when a US telecoms giant decided to replace its manager in Thailand several years ago, it chose an ABC - American-born Chinese - in the belief he would be more culturally attuned to doing business in Asia.

He was not shy about telling his colleagues how to behave and one evening berated a couple of European rivals who had been caught engaged in financial shenanigans.

They decided to play a joke on the new arrival. They told their driver to follow him and tell him he was going to be killed. A crude jest, but the young manager was panicked into ringing his head office saying his life was in danger.

The head office told him to stay calm, stick to the business district and take precautions.

What they did not tell him was that they had hired a security firm that uses ex-CIA agents - at some considerable cost - to watch his back.

When the security outfit made its report to the conglomerate a week or so later, it turned out the first-time-in-Asia manager was doing lots of cultural homework - spending every night in at least one bordello. His career wilted.

The conglomerate had made a mistake. The manager may have been competent, but - appearances notwithstanding - showed no special talent or experience for operating in Asia.

Read more > FT.com

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Chinese managers are better than Western counterparts

Western managers are falling behind their Chinese counterparts in education and training, research has warned.

China has the fastest growing global economy and - according to a study by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) - also boasts a highly ambitious, sophisticated and commercially astute management population that poses a challenge to managers and businesses in the West.

The Global Management Challenge, which surveyed 327 managers in the UK, US, France and China, reveals that Chinese managers are underestimated by their Western counterparts and are launching a serious challenge to established Western business and management practices.

Read more > Chinese Managers 
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Punjabi is 4th most spoken language in Canada

Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese, according to an official census.

While English and French are official languages, Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian and Arabic are the most five most widely-spoken non-official languages in the country. Punjabi is also the 4th most spoken language in the Canadian Parliament.

According to the census by Statistics Canada in 2006, the most widely-spoken non-official language is Chinese (2.6 per cent of Canadians). It is followed by Punjabi (0.8 per cent), Spanish (0.7 per cent), Italian (0.6 per cent) and Arabic (0.5 per cent).

Read more > Canada
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Movies to help expats settle in Korea

Three Korean films and a cartoon have been translated for immigrant workers and foreigners married to Koreans here. About 10 immigrants from Southeast Asian countries participated in the translation project to help people settle down in Korea more easily.

Three movies, ``Wolf Daddy,'' ``Stand by Me’’ and ``Walking in the Rainy Day’’ and a cartoon cooking guide were translated into four languages, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese and English. The cartoon contains recipes for various Korean dishes and is already popular among foreign workers.

``My Filipino friends asked me to translate a Korean cartoon and movie into Tagalong and I did the job for almost three months from September last year,’’ said Maria Judids Bublacion, 38. Maria is married to a Korean here. ``It is my pleasure to help them. I hope to get more opportunities to do this kind of job for immigrants here,’’ she added.

Cultural Action (CA), a non-profit civic organization, organized the translation project, which it pursued in cooperation with a cartoon company and the Association of Korea Independent Film & Video funded by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.


Read more > Korea 
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88% of clinical professionals encounter non-English speaking patients

More than 88 percent of America clinical research, healthcare, and medical device industry professionals surveyed encounter non-English speaking patients and subjects on a regular basis. The November 2007 survey, which was conducted by Global Language Solutions (GLS), polled the firm's clients and industry contacts on the types of languages spoken by their patients or research subjects, as well as the one(s) used most often.

GLS, which specializes in translation and interpreting services for the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, was not surprised to find Spanish as the non-English language most commonly cited by respondents; with 90 percent those surveyed who encounter non-English languages listing it as the most common. Other languages listed included French (37 percent), Chinese (25 percent), and Russian (20 percent).

Read more> GLS 
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88% of clinical professionals encounter non-English speaking patients

More than 88 percent of America clinical research, healthcare, and medical device industry professionals surveyed encounter non-English speaking patients and subjects on a regular basis. The November 2007 survey, which was conducted by Global Language Solutions (GLS), polled the firm's clients and industry contacts on the types of languages spoken by their patients or research subjects, as well as the one(s) used most often.

GLS, which specializes in translation and interpreting services for the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, was not surprised to find Spanish as the non-English language most commonly cited by respondents; with 90 percent those surveyed who encounter non-English languages listing it as the most common. Other languages listed included French (37 percent), Chinese (25 percent), and Russian (20 percent).

Read more> GLS 
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Chinese Translations of Ballot Papers a Tricky Proposition

Boston's 2008 presidential primary ballot could read like a bad Chinese menu. There might be "Sticky Rice" in column A, "Virtue Soup" in column B and, in column C, "Upset Stomach."

Those could be choices facing some voters if the names of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Hillary Rodham Clinton were converted into Chinese characters, according to Massachusetts' top election official.

Read more: Ballots 
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Chinese Translations of Ballot Papers a Tricky Proposition

Boston's 2008 presidential primary ballot could read like a bad Chinese menu. There might be "Sticky Rice" in column A, "Virtue Soup" in column B and, in column C, "Upset Stomach."

Those could be choices facing some voters if the names of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Hillary Rodham Clinton were converted into Chinese characters, according to Massachusetts' top election official.

Read more: Ballots 
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