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.

Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

The Michigan Fish Test provides a great view into a person’s psyche and is also a great way to see their perception of the world and culture around them. You see, not everyone looks at their position within the world and within their own culture in the same way. It all depends on how your culture nurtures you, as this will have a very clear impact on your perception of the world around you.

The Michigan Fish Test is an image that was developed to test a person’s view of the world. It is an image that is made up from an underwater scene, with larger fish and smaller fish in a watery environment complete with bubbles and seaweed.



The test was put forward to two groups of people; one group from America and the other group from Japan. The study was interesting as the comments that came back from each group were strikingly different. The participants were asked to look at the Michigan Fish Test image for around 5 seconds and were then asked to comment on what it was they remembered from the picture. The answers provided an insight into the difference in culture between the two countries. The American group tended to only notice the larger fish and dismissed the peripheral images whilst the Japanese group tended to look at the image as more of a whole and commented on the environment as well as the characters.

Furthermore, when the image was changed slightly the Japanese group were able to point out the changes, whereas most of the American group were unable to do so.

The study showed that an individual’s perception of the world around them and of the people and things that they shared the world with was as a direct result of the way in which the world was positioned around them.
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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Australia culturally tolerant



A survey by ‘The Challenging Racism Project’ has revealed some encouraging results about the condition of racial relations in Australia. The lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, said that the results have shown that “Australia is in fact a very tolerant country...but [that] there is a problem with racism [within some areas]”.
In general most people were revealed to be both supportive of and comfortable with the growing levels of multiculturalism. 12,500 people were surveyed over the past decade with 90 percent revealing they supported cultural diversity and nearly 80 percent reporting that they felt comfortable in the company of people from different cultural backgrounds. These findings were also fairly generalisable across all of Australia, supporting the view that the country is adapting well to an increasingly ethnically mobile world.
However, despite the general consensus that multiculturalism is a condition to be welcomed, the vast majority (84 percent) of respondents did state that they believed racial prejudice still existed in Australia. More alarmingly of these respondents 50 percent believed that certain cultural groups did not “fit in” to Australian society.  Could this reveal that an unconscious level of prejudice is still present in the Australian population despite their claims to be culturally-tolerant?
When the researchers looked further into racial prejudice they discovered that the factors most likely to affect tolerance were age, gender, educational level and linguistic abilities. From these factors older Australian-born men who lacked a formal education and only spoke English tended to be the most ‘racist’ group. As an area New South Wales proved to be the most prejudice, in comparison with other states, with the Strathfield region containing the highest levels of racism (in terms of reported insecurity to cultural differences and the figures of reported everyday racism).
As a case study within this area Strathfield is an interesting region; this is because it contains both higher levels of racism and a relatively diverse population. Prof. Dunn explained this paradox as being “not because people there are more racist…[but] because there’s more diversity”. Yet he also countered this generalized claim by stating that “ a person of non-Anglo background is actually less likely to experience racism in [those] places of diversity than if they were in places of less diversity”. Furthermore the survey evidence from other suburbs such as Ashfield and Burwood, which are also culturally diverse, showed no increased level of racial discomfort or discriminative acts.
In general there does appear to be some pattern between prejudice in an area and its level of diversity, but this is in no way a concrete causal relationship. The research raises the point that racism is often highly specific to small areas within a region, so within New South Wales the Far North and Central West achieved good levels of tolerance. Further to this Prof. Dunn also highlights that “longer histories of cultural diversity” and “local programmes confronting racism” play their part in affecting the levels of tolerance found in a region.
Overall, the message remains a positive one; Prof. Dunn hopes that the specific pockets of information regarding certain demographics and areas will help improve local racial strategies as well as wider national policy.
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Australia culturally tolerant



A survey by ‘The Challenging Racism Project’ has revealed some encouraging results about the condition of racial relations in Australia. The lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, said that the results have shown that “Australia is in fact a very tolerant country...but [that] there is a problem with racism [within some areas]”.
In general most people were revealed to be both supportive of and comfortable with the growing levels of multiculturalism. 12,500 people were surveyed over the past decade with 90 percent revealing they supported cultural diversity and nearly 80 percent reporting that they felt comfortable in the company of people from different cultural backgrounds. These findings were also fairly generalisable across all of Australia, supporting the view that the country is adapting well to an increasingly ethnically mobile world.
However, despite the general consensus that multiculturalism is a condition to be welcomed, the vast majority (84 percent) of respondents did state that they believed racial prejudice still existed in Australia. More alarmingly of these respondents 50 percent believed that certain cultural groups did not “fit in” to Australian society.  Could this reveal that an unconscious level of prejudice is still present in the Australian population despite their claims to be culturally-tolerant?
When the researchers looked further into racial prejudice they discovered that the factors most likely to affect tolerance were age, gender, educational level and linguistic abilities. From these factors older Australian-born men who lacked a formal education and only spoke English tended to be the most ‘racist’ group. As an area New South Wales proved to be the most prejudice, in comparison with other states, with the Strathfield region containing the highest levels of racism (in terms of reported insecurity to cultural differences and the figures of reported everyday racism).
As a case study within this area Strathfield is an interesting region; this is because it contains both higher levels of racism and a relatively diverse population. Prof. Dunn explained this paradox as being “not because people there are more racist…[but] because there’s more diversity”. Yet he also countered this generalized claim by stating that “ a person of non-Anglo background is actually less likely to experience racism in [those] places of diversity than if they were in places of less diversity”. Furthermore the survey evidence from other suburbs such as Ashfield and Burwood, which are also culturally diverse, showed no increased level of racial discomfort or discriminative acts.
In general there does appear to be some pattern between prejudice in an area and its level of diversity, but this is in no way a concrete causal relationship. The research raises the point that racism is often highly specific to small areas within a region, so within New South Wales the Far North and Central West achieved good levels of tolerance. Further to this Prof. Dunn also highlights that “longer histories of cultural diversity” and “local programmes confronting racism” play their part in affecting the levels of tolerance found in a region.
Overall, the message remains a positive one; Prof. Dunn hopes that the specific pockets of information regarding certain demographics and areas will help improve local racial strategies as well as wider national policy.
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Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?



Life in Britain is becoming more multi-cultural. We hear this view from the media, the government and experts all the time. But what does this ‘culture’ for which we are diversifying actually mean?

Collins English dictionary outlines culture as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action”. Yet when we here about culture, a specific way of life or belief system, why do we nearly always focus on the ‘other’ or the ‘different’. It seems that to be a person of ‘culture’ (beyond the liberal arts definition) you have to belong to a group that has a strongly defined ‘alternative’ lifestyle.

Does this twisting of culture, to mean someone from a strongly valued minority, suggest that the ‘cultured’ among us will be far more understanding towards cultures beyond their own than the rest of us?

Lets take the example of someone having a clearly defined religion. This person of ‘Culture’ attends religious ceremonies, prays in a regular manner, has strong beliefs on morality and family, and is in the minority in our Western increasingly secular society. Will this person be more likely to travel to far-flung regions and investigate cultures such as the Massai tribesman or Tibetan Buddhist monks, than someone with no clearly defined religious, social or political beliefs?

If you are a person with very rigid beliefs and practices surrounding religion or politics or society or ethics then you are deemed ‘of culture’. Therefore is Western Society right in assuming you would be more understanding towards ‘remote cultures’ than say the average ‘Londoner’. You understand what it is like to believe in something very strongly, to have a defined lifestyle that stems from your values of the world. Strong values to strong values, yes?

Another example, this time of the ‘Londoner’. A man, thirty-five, works as an assistant manager in the city, agnostic, drinks in moderation, votes for his favourite candidate regardless of party, has an on-off partner. Our environment tells us that this person is the ‘neutral’, a person without strong religious, social or political beliefs; he cannot be ‘of culture’. Therefore does that mean that he sees our first person as an enigma, a strange mix of inherited ideas, beliefs and values, totally impregnable to him? Surely if he went to the Massai he would boggle at them, he would be confused and disconcerted?

No. It is a myth that our second man has no culture when the truth is he is as much a man of ‘culture’ as our first religious follower. The ‘Neutral’ is not neutral at all. We have just heard a series of inherited views throughout his description, a barrage of cultural information. We know he drinks moderately (believing in a healthy body), he votes politically by candidate (he invests trust in an individual rather than a more holistically-themed party), he has an on-off partner and he is thirty-five (he believes in relationships but doesn’t believe marriage/civil partnership should be rushed). In just three vaguely descriptive statements we have learnt about the intellectual, social and moral views of the Londoner. Just as the ‘cultured’ believes in the family, looks after his soul through prayer and believes in the justice of a God/Gods, the Londoner has a whole stream of cultural beliefs.

What happens then when we introduce our two men to ‘remote cultures’?
The ‘Cultured’ might admire the dedication of the Tibetan monks; or he might protest at their rejection of a God. The ‘Londoner’ might see similarities between the structural order of the Massai tribe and his own CEO-lead company (from Laibon to children); or he might be baffled by their pastoral way of life when he is so used to technological dependency.

We all have our own culture; we all have our own beliefs that develop over our lives. Culture is not exclusive and neither should be understanding.
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Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?



Life in Britain is becoming more multi-cultural. We hear this view from the media, the government and experts all the time. But what does this ‘culture’ for which we are diversifying actually mean?

Collins English dictionary outlines culture as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action”. Yet when we here about culture, a specific way of life or belief system, why do we nearly always focus on the ‘other’ or the ‘different’. It seems that to be a person of ‘culture’ (beyond the liberal arts definition) you have to belong to a group that has a strongly defined ‘alternative’ lifestyle.

Does this twisting of culture, to mean someone from a strongly valued minority, suggest that the ‘cultured’ among us will be far more understanding towards cultures beyond their own than the rest of us?

Lets take the example of someone having a clearly defined religion. This person of ‘Culture’ attends religious ceremonies, prays in a regular manner, has strong beliefs on morality and family, and is in the minority in our Western increasingly secular society. Will this person be more likely to travel to far-flung regions and investigate cultures such as the Massai tribesman or Tibetan Buddhist monks, than someone with no clearly defined religious, social or political beliefs?

If you are a person with very rigid beliefs and practices surrounding religion or politics or society or ethics then you are deemed ‘of culture’. Therefore is Western Society right in assuming you would be more understanding towards ‘remote cultures’ than say the average ‘Londoner’. You understand what it is like to believe in something very strongly, to have a defined lifestyle that stems from your values of the world. Strong values to strong values, yes?

Another example, this time of the ‘Londoner’. A man, thirty-five, works as an assistant manager in the city, agnostic, drinks in moderation, votes for his favourite candidate regardless of party, has an on-off partner. Our environment tells us that this person is the ‘neutral’, a person without strong religious, social or political beliefs; he cannot be ‘of culture’. Therefore does that mean that he sees our first person as an enigma, a strange mix of inherited ideas, beliefs and values, totally impregnable to him? Surely if he went to the Massai he would boggle at them, he would be confused and disconcerted?

No. It is a myth that our second man has no culture when the truth is he is as much a man of ‘culture’ as our first religious follower. The ‘Neutral’ is not neutral at all. We have just heard a series of inherited views throughout his description, a barrage of cultural information. We know he drinks moderately (believing in a healthy body), he votes politically by candidate (he invests trust in an individual rather than a more holistically-themed party), he has an on-off partner and he is thirty-five (he believes in relationships but doesn’t believe marriage/civil partnership should be rushed). In just three vaguely descriptive statements we have learnt about the intellectual, social and moral views of the Londoner. Just as the ‘cultured’ believes in the family, looks after his soul through prayer and believes in the justice of a God/Gods, the Londoner has a whole stream of cultural beliefs.

What happens then when we introduce our two men to ‘remote cultures’?
The ‘Cultured’ might admire the dedication of the Tibetan monks; or he might protest at their rejection of a God. The ‘Londoner’ might see similarities between the structural order of the Massai tribe and his own CEO-lead company (from Laibon to children); or he might be baffled by their pastoral way of life when he is so used to technological dependency.

We all have our own culture; we all have our own beliefs that develop over our lives. Culture is not exclusive and neither should be understanding.
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Culture Shock: from the inside out

Expats often underestimate the challenges of culture shock, and even those who've mastered adaptation are often unprepared for the adjustment the expat bubble itself demands.


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Cross Cultural Palliative Care



Different cultures and religions deal with the concept of death differently.  The use of medicine and health care varies across different cultures because of the beliefs of their people. Due to varying beliefs across cultures, there is a need for cultural understanding or cultural competence in medicine, especially in palliative care. ‘In medicine, cultural competence means providing health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients.’   The use of cultural competence is especially important in palliative care because people of varying cultures have very different approaches to dealing with death. (Palliative care improves the quality of life for patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease).
An organisation called the Middle East Cancer Consortium (MECC) developed a project in 2005 to raise awareness of palliative care problems faced by its members (United States and the health ministries of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey). The aim of MECC’s project is to find a common ground between these 7 countries’ methods of dealing with palliative care. Part of this project is to give palliative care training to nurses, physicians and social workers which respects the varying spiritual beliefs between the countries involved.
In many hospitals, there are now nurses who are employed because they are of the same religion and cultural background to certain patients. For example Dr. Myriam Weyl Ben-Arush, (head of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Department at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel) has Arabic-speaking nurses and social workers, as well as those who speak Hebrew. This is to ensure that staff can be empathetic to the spiritual needs of their patients.
Taking spiritual belief into account is important when dealing with death because people of different cultures have different beliefs. For example, a Druze family believes in reincarnation and an Arab Christian person believes in Heaven. So perhaps these people will find the idea of death less difficult than someone who does not believe in any kind of life after death.
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Live in new country to challenge your creativity



Recent research published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seems to suggest a truth in the long held notion that living abroad nurtures our creativity. From Byron in Switzerland to Picasso in France, cultural change has historically been seen as the way to broaden the mind and enhance the artistic senses. Now 2009 research headed by William Maddux of INSEAD really has shown that time spent engrossed in a new culture can improve our creative skills- even after we have returned ‘home’.

An initial five studies using MBA students at the Kellogg School of Management, Illinois, showed that both cognitive flexibility and negotiation skills were higher in those participants who had spent time living abroad when compared to a control group who had not. One study to solve the Duncker candle problem (where a candle must be properly attached to a wall without dripping: using a candle, a box of matches and a box of tacks) showed that those with experience living abroad were better positioned to imagine the alternative functions of these familiar objects and thus solve the problem. This could mimick the intuitive skills required when dealing with the changing levels of importance placed upon greetings, etiquette, food or clothing and so on, when living abroad.

Another study involving a mock negotiation of the sale of a gas station demonstrated that those with living abroad experience were able to be much more creative with negotiations (after the sale price had been removed as the dealbreaker). This on a much simpler level replicates the way domestic shopping differs between countries and cultures, buying spices in a Morroccan market is very different from buying clothes in a Parisian boutique.

These two examples easily portray two different skills that are invaluable to most businesses, especially given the difficulties of the current global economic climate. The need for companies to keep innovating to stay competitive makes these skills more important than ever in recruitment, meaning that potential employees with such benefits may find themselves more sought after to fill positions in businesses, especially those operating globally.

The reason for the relationship between creativity and living abroad is not altogether known, but follow-up research with MBA students in France has correlated with the earlier Duncker candle findings. Interestingly, there is no evidence that those who have only traveled abroad either possess these skills or are any better placed than those who travel domestically. This suggests that businesses might therefore benefit more from a system of extended work placements abroad, with employees based in offices in each country, rather than from repeatedly sending employees for short overseas conferences or meetings.

Moreover evidence suggests that recreating or ‘priming’ employees to remember their cultural experiences could even benefit them once they have returned ‘home’. Another follow-up study found that Parisian students were much more able to solve cognitive puzzles when recalling the cultural challenges that faced them living outside of France, when compared to the control group who were told to recall any recreational or everyday challenges they had faced.

Although this research is by no means empirically conclusive it certainly leads the way for further research and potential business initiatives; whilst asserting the message that global interaction is a collective and individual advantage to one’s life. Furthermore it is an asset to the development of modern Psychology in arguing the ‘nurtured’ acquirement of new skills beyond the constraints of Behavourism, as humans psychologically adapt to their environment.
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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review

middle east unveiled



As someone in the intercultural field, a Muslim and having spent many years living, working and travelling throughout the Arab world, I am always keen to scrutinize literature aimed at business professionals seeking to improve their knowledge of the region. Donna Marsh’s “The Middle East Unveiled” is a recent edition to such literature.
With an experience of the region spanning some 30 years, Donna worked within sales, marketing and new business development across the region. Today she acts as a trainer and consultant advising companies on how to work more effectively in the region.
The major positive of the book is summed up in the title’s sub-heading, ‘a cultural and practical guide for all western business professionals’. The topics covered are very comprehensive. Ranging from the usual business practicalities and etiquette to safety and security through to what to do at the weekend. One could suggest that the author was over ambitious in the range of subjects covered however the informal and succinct writing style help the reader get straight to the point thus lightening the experience. The format of the book further allows the reader to ‘dip’ into topics rather than having to wrestle with long chapters.
I find chapters on Islam intriguing. It is not uncommon for “Western” authors to misrepresent the religion, fuel expat stereotypes or simply offer their gloss of a highly complex and colourful religion. Donna however has managed to tackle a sensitive topic with an impressive amount of clarity, accuracy and balance. The key, it appears, is her straight-talking approach to the topic and a deep appreciation of what the religion actually says on certain matters plus the various practices across the region. In short the section gives anyone a great introduction to Islam and Muslims, increasing awareness and therefore reducing the ‘fear factor’.
Any review would not be a review without some nitpicking. Two major factors stand out for me when looking for the negatives of the book.
People love case studies, anecdotes and the like when it comes to cultural information. It gives people real life examples, context and a way of applying information to situations. Each chapter could have done with an anecdote from the author’s library of experiences to help readers along the journey. This neatly brings me on to my second point.
As a woman, such anecdotes would have had even greater impact. Donna’s advantage with this book was her gender. At a time when we are fed stories of stonings, burqas, forced marriages and honour killings this was an opportunity for a woman to bring across her story of the Arab world. Women in business tend to shy away from the region; a real and honest assessment of a Western woman’s role in the Arab world could have had a great impact on this perception. Although the book does cover topics around gender differences in a useful manner, that little bit extra in terms of a woman’s viewpoint would have meant added value to the reader.
In conclusion, Donna has successfully managed to encapsulate her knowledge and experiences in this great little publication. It is current, comprehensive and most importantly useful. A ‘must-have’ for anyone looking to better their understanding of working in the region.
By Neil Payne, Kwintessential Ltd

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"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"



On a day when SwedishAmerican Health System was celebrating attention to quality care, members of its physician resident and nursing staffs were learning how attention to cultural diversity can play into that quality.

Dr. Robert C. Like, professor and director of the Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., spoke today at the hospital’s grand rounds about caring for patients from several ethnic, racial and sociocultural backgrounds as cultural competence in health care becomes more important in treating changing populations.

“A lot of people think of this as PC, or political correctness, run amok,” said Like, who traces his interest in cultural diversity back to hearing stories of his grandparents’ struggles after they immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union and Israel. “I like to think of PC as being personally and professionally caring.

“Doctors will ask ‘Do you expect me to learn about every culture on the planet?’ and the answer is ‘No, it’s not possible,’ but by communicating with each other we can learn.”

The aim, Like said, is elimination of all stereotypes.

Read more > rrstar.com
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"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"



On a day when SwedishAmerican Health System was celebrating attention to quality care, members of its physician resident and nursing staffs were learning how attention to cultural diversity can play into that quality.

Dr. Robert C. Like, professor and director of the Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., spoke today at the hospital’s grand rounds about caring for patients from several ethnic, racial and sociocultural backgrounds as cultural competence in health care becomes more important in treating changing populations.

“A lot of people think of this as PC, or political correctness, run amok,” said Like, who traces his interest in cultural diversity back to hearing stories of his grandparents’ struggles after they immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union and Israel. “I like to think of PC as being personally and professionally caring.

“Doctors will ask ‘Do you expect me to learn about every culture on the planet?’ and the answer is ‘No, it’s not possible,’ but by communicating with each other we can learn.”

The aim, Like said, is elimination of all stereotypes.

Read more > rrstar.com
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Expat Children - Third Culture Kids



In a world where international careers are becoming commonplace, the phenomenon of third culture kids (TCKs) – children who spend a significant portion of their developmental years in a culture outside their parents’ passport culture(s) – is increasing exponentially. Not only is their number increasing, but the cultural complexity and relevance of their experience and the adult TCKs (ATCKs) they become, is also growing.

When Ruth Hill Useem, a sociologist, first coined this term in the 1950s, she spent a year researching expatriates in India. She discovered that folks who came from their home (or first) culture and moved to a host (or second) culture, had, in reality, formed a culture, or lifestyle, different from either the first or second cultures. She called this the third culture and the children who grew up in this lifestyle third culture kids. At that time, most expatriate families had parents from the same culture and they often remained in one host culture while overseas.

This is no longer the case. Take, for example, Brice Royer, the founder of TCKid.com. His father is a half-French/half-Vietnamese UN peacekeeper while his mom is Ethiopian. Brice lived in seven countries before he was eighteen including France, Mayotte, La Reunion, Ethiopia, Egypt, Canada, and England. He writes, “When people ask me ‘Where are you from?,’ I just joke around and say, ‘My mom says I’m from heaven’.” What other answer can he give?

Read more > Telegraph
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Culture and Medical Care



The patient in Room 328 had diabetes and hypertension. But when Va Meng Lee, a Hmong shaman, began the healing process by looping a coiled thread around the patient’s wrist, Mr. Lee’s chief concern was summoning the ailing man’s runaway soul.

“Doctors are good at disease,” Mr. Lee said as he encircled the patient, Chang Teng Thao, a widower from Laos, in an invisible “protective shield” traced in the air with his finger. “The soul is the shaman’s responsibility.”

At Mercy Medical Center in Merced, where roughly four patients a day are Hmong from northern Laos, healing includes more than IV drips, syringes and blood glucose monitors. Because many Hmong rely on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses, the hospital’s new Hmong shaman policy, the country’s first, formally recognizes the cultural role of traditional healers like Mr. Lee, inviting them to perform nine approved ceremonies in the hospital, including “soul calling” and chanting in a soft voice.

The policy and a novel training program to introduce shamans to the principles of Western medicine are part of a national movement to consider patients’ cultural beliefs and values when deciding their medical treatment.

Read more > Mercy Medical Centre
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Cross Culture Kids

cck-kids



I recently attended the 11th annual Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference – an idea which was first planned at a kitchen table in Indianapolis.

That kitchen table belonged to author and Cross-Culture Kid (CCK) expert, Ruth van Reken. The first conference attracted 80 delegates but this year's boasted over 200.

Almost half were first-timers, drawn from a mix of military, corporate, missionary, education and diplomatic backgrounds. Many were in the business of providing relocation services and support to transitioning families. Many were part of those families.

FIGT is always an uplifting experience and this year, though the conference was in Houston, Texas, it was testament to the global reach of the organisation that each of the plenary sessions included one person living in Europe. The three-day conference also offered more than 40 break-out sessions to choose from.

Child psychologist Doug Ota, who heads up a world-leading transitions programme at the American School of The Hague (ASH), opened the conference with a keynote speech focusing on how grief impacts on the lives of those who roam the globe.

"Grief is a messy, backward and forward process," he explained, as he shared his experience of growing up with a Japanese father and British-origin mother in California. He spoke of his loss of identity; the loss of his colleagues, friends, and even his brother, during the 16 years he has lived in the Netherlands with his Dutch wife.

Read more > Telegraph
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Documentary Series on ‘Reverse Migration’


Does the country of your parents’ or grandparents’ birth fascinate you? Would you consider moving there for a better standard of living?

Britain may once have seemed like the land of opportunity, but now, with the downturn in the economy, thousands of British born people are leaving for the promise of a better life where their families came from originally – in countries like India, Africa, China, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

In Bangalore alone, the southern Indian IT city, more than 40,000 Indian IT professionals are estimated to have arrived back from the US and UK to take up work. There are exciting career and business opportunities for people with western education and experience, and there is a growing trend of ‘Reverse Migration’ to many countries from the UK.

Ricochet, the makers of Channel 4's 'No Going Back' and “Super Nanny” are producing a new TV series that follows this trend for a new documentary series.

Four 2nd or 3rd generation British families will be given the opportunity to 'road test' a new life in the country of their parents or grandparents for several months, to find out about jobs, schools and housing. They might like it so much; they decide they want to stay.

If you and your family are thinking about making such a move, or have always wanted to find out what life would be like where your parents or grandparents come from; then please contact us on the following:

Call: 01273 224 816
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: www.Ricochet.co.uk

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2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees


globally mobile expatriates


The number of employees on international assignments has doubled over the last three years as part of the continuing trends towards globalisation, forcing employers to rethink their benefits provision.

Mercer’s 2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees found that 47% of firms have increased deployment of staff on traditional expatriate assignments, and 38% had increased numbers of staff on 'nomadic' assignments.

It found that the growing expatriate culture has led 86% of respondents to consider their benefits package for expatriate staff as a medium or high business priority, with only 26% of organisations admitting to having no overarching policy for providing expatriate benefits.

Robert Lockley, principal in Mercer’s international business, said: “Establishing an international policy is essential to stay competitive, maintain geographical consistency and control costs. Even against a backdrop of economic uncertainty there is still competition for the best talent. Companies that are lax in this area will loose out.”

In terms of benefits on offer, the majority (68%) of companies surveyed keep their expatriates in host or home country retirement schemes. However, 32 percent of companies offer international retirement plans - an increase from 23 percent in 2005. Close to three-quarters (73 percent) of companies with an international plan restrict eligibility to certain expatriates who cannot be kept in the home or host plan.

Read more > Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees
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Cross-cultural competence

Cross-cultural competence (3C), another term for inter-cultural competence, has generated its own share of contradictory and confusing definitions, due to the wide variety of academic approaches and professional fields attempting to achieve it for their own ends. One author identified no fewer than eleven different terms with some equivalence to 3C: cultural savvy, astuteness, appreciation, literacy or fluency, adaptability, terrain, expertise, competency, awareness, intelligence, and understanding (Selmeski, 2007).

Organizations from fields as diverse as business, health care, government security and developmental aid agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations have all sought to leverage 3C in one guise or another, often with poor results due to a lack of rigorous study of the phenomenon and reliance on “common sense” approaches based on the culture developing the 3C models in the first place (Selmeski, 2007).

The U.S. Army Research Institute, which is currently engaged in a study of the phenomenon, defines 3C as: “A set of cognitive, behavioral, and affective/motivational components that enable individuals to adapt effectively in intercultural environments” (Abbe et al., 2007). Cross-cultural competence does not operate in a vacuum, however. One theoretical construct posits that 3C, language proficiency, and regional knowledge are distinct skills that are inextricably linked, but to varying degrees depending on the context in which they are employed. In educational settings, Bloom’s affective and cognitive taxonomies (Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia, 1973) serve as an effective framework to describe the overlap area between the three disciplines: at the receiving and knowledge levels 3C can operate with near independence from language proficiency or regional knowledge, but as one approaches the internalizing and evaluation levels the required overlap area approaches totality.

Read more > Multi-National Multi-Cultural Collaboration 
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Corporate support for the Third Culture Kid (TCK)

The good news is that organisations can provide services that facilitate successful adjustments. The cost of sending an employee and family on international assignment is substantial. For a minimal additional investment, corporations can provide pre- and post-assignment cross-cultural development programmes that reduce the stress of the move and meet the family’s needs. Specifically, such programmes help the family to understand the leaving process, the new culture(s), how to conduct themselves (socially, in business, and in daily life) more effectively in the new location, and how to manage culture shock and adjustment.

Cross-cultural programmes offer knowledge and support to the third-culture child. Many relocation companies contribute to the family’s international success by offering packages and programmes to the new assignee and family.

It is up to employers to promote the value of this to employees and their families, and to encourage them to make time for the training in the hectic schedule of an overseas move.

The employer’s organisation needs to support all the family members through the adjustment phase, which can take up to 18 months. The follow-through and tracking after the move is very important. Counselling services, coaching, mentoring, and, ultimately, a repatriation programme are other valuable options for third-culture children and their families.

Read more > TCK 
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