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.

Expats "get the best of both worlds"

When English people move abroad, almost half (46 percent) miss traditional dishes such as bangers and mash and black pudding.

More than a third (37 percent) miss their favourite TV programmes, such as Only Fools and Horses, according to a major new survey of expats by BUPA International.

But surprisingly, in spite of craving familiar foods and TV programmes, the majority of English expats say they are actually happier abroad.

Findings from research by the world's largest expat health insurer show that three in four English expats now call their new country "home", while a third say they feel healthier since moving abroad, thanks to better weather and an improved quality of life.

Ninety-three percent of the English surveyed also said they would recommend the expatriate life to others, with over half declaring that "they get the best of both worlds".

Read more> Expatriate
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Expat Life in Malaysia

Christopher Boyd says sitting in your 50th floor office, mobile phone in hand, reading about the problems of tigers eating the local livestock is but one of the many contrasts which makes life in Malaysia a long journey of discovery.



I am a long-term expat in Malaysia, having been here since 1974. My nationality is British, but I have permanent residence in Malaysia. By profession I am a Chartered Surveyor and a partner in Regroup, which is a firm of property valuers and agents. My wife is Malaysian and runs a nursery school.

Malaysia: Malaysia for the expatriate was once regarded as the "poor cousin" ranking well below Hong Kong and Singapore in importance and amenities. Increasingly it is the regional location of choice for foreign companies. Expats seldom have much problem settling in, and many plan to return here in retirement.

It is useful to think of Malaysia as really being three countries - the very cosmopolitan Klang Valley surrounding the capital Kuala Lumpur has every facet of a big city with modern buildings, hotels, parks and traffic jams.

Never very far away is the exotic countryside with its mountain ranges, endless plantations, jungle and coral beaches. Then, across the South China Sea, are the states which make up East Malaysia.

Read more> C. Boyd 

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UAE is top world expat destination

The United Arab Emirates is the world’s top destination for expatriates in terms of personal taxation, according to a new study.

Mercer’s ‘Worldwide Individual Tax Comparator Report’, a global survey of expatriate hotspots, looks at tax and benefits systems across 32 countries, focusing on personal tax structures, average salaries and marital status. Data from the survey is used by multinationals to structure pay packages for their expatriate and local market employees.

For single managers, the UAE has the most attractive tax environment according to the percentage of net income available, the survey finds. The country earns its no. 1 ranking by not assessing income tax, with social security contributions amounting to just 5% of a local employee’s gross salary.

Read more> UAE 
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Working as an expat in France

Just getting set up in your new French office? Nerve-wracking, isn't it? Here are some tips from Expatica's Culture Coach Nathalie Kleinschmit to make sure you get off to a good start and read the signals correctly in your new environment.

Let's see if you recognise yourself in Jason's tale of his stay at his multinational company's head office in Paris:

“When I got to the front desk, they told me I had to wait because they hadn’t received my badge yet. Twenty minutes went by before my manager arrived to authorize my entrance. He then walked me to my new office and and told me that a meeting was scheduled with the team at 3pm that afternoon and that, until then, I could read through the files.

I had my own laptop but couldn’t get the Internet connection to work. For the next few hours, I could see people walking by peering into my office but not a single person came in to introduce themselves to me. I went to get a coffee and discovered that the machine wasn’t coin-operated and that I needed a card. For lunch, I had already eaten in the cafeteria on previous trips and had a voucher so I was able to get a platter together. But I remember feeling quite alone and wondering if I was ever going to fit in.

Read more > Expatica
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Expat Life in Mexico

The North American Free Trade Agreement (Weintraub, 2004) and lower labour costs in Mexico have caused many US companies to move their operations south of the border.  While the majority of the workers in the US-owned plants are Mexican, some of the employees are US workers on temporary expat assignments.

expat life in mexico


While not randomly selected from a large pool of expat workers, my ten interviewees did hold a variety of jobs.  Several of them were managers and engineers.  Others in the group included a US Air Force officer, an HR representative, a Director of Research and Development, and a missionary.  Two were female and eight were male.  For the vast majority of the group this was their first expat assignment and they considered the assignment a means of advancing their careers and providing their families with a rich cultural experience.  Half of the workers said that they would be interested in doing another expat assignment in the future.

Read more: Expatica 
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An expat's view on intercultural communication

Portuguese expat Elizabet Fernandes enjoys the international atmosphere in her multilingual EU company, but finds that people get 'lost in translation’ and inherit one another's linguistic mistakes.

Lost in translation

English is the current working language but too often people ‘get lost in translation’ because the level and the knowledge of language amongst us varies from person to person. We also inherit each other’s linguistic mistakes and end up speaking a kind of ‘Euro-English’. I like to speak as many languages as possible so I prefer to speak Spanish, French or Italian depending on the nationality of my colleagues. Besides, with this job I can also use and develop my skills as a translator and that’s perfect.

Unfortunately it’s too hard to use Dutch on a daily basis as the Dutch immediately respond in English to foreigners even to Flemish people!

Culture games

Although Eurojust is a very multicultural environment it is still not very intercultural. My colleagues often don’t understand each other or tend to ‘over-react’. I have been fighting for intercultural training because it helps you to realise that different people (from different cultures) may react differently in similar situations and to respect that. I followed this training myself in Portugal so I know the impact and the benefits.

Read more: Holland 
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Family matters on expat assignment

In today’s digitalised, globalised world, where the words:  ‘cost-effective solutions’ and ‘bottom-line’ are a common language shared across the corporate spectrum.  Finally, issues of families and family support, so long concealed and little discussed within the corporate arena are now enjoying a renaissance.

The focus on maintaining a healthy ‘work/life balance’ is fuelling recognition amongst corporations that revenue is not the dominant factor in achieving the long-term goals of increased productivity and profitability.

Read more: Expats 
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Culture still a major factor in expat failure

The Cartus Emerging Trends in Global Mobility: Policies & Practices Survey shows that an accelerated shift from long-term to short-term international relocation assignments is expected by the end of 2009. China's popularity as a destination is growing the fastest when compared with the U.S., Great Britain and India.

Cartus, a global mobility management and workforce development consultant, conducted the survey with 184 respondents from companies in 25 major industry segments. The organizations surveyed represent more than 83,000 assignees and have headquarters in 19 different nations.

Cartus also identified why these international assignments fail, regardless of being on a short-term basis. The top three reasons were family adjustment, at 71%; assignee personal style, at 48%; and cultural differences, at 40%.

This is easily remedied with intercultural and language training, which more companies are offering. The survey shows that intercultural training was offered by 55% of companies in 2007, versus the 28% offered in 2004. Meanwhile, 58% of companies offered language services for families, an increase from 30% in 2004.

Read more: Cartus 
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The Expat Checklist

Research and Markets has announced the addition of “The Expat Checklist” to their offering.

The Expat Checklist is a practical and simple guide to items that should be considered in an expatriate agreement, including hints on developing a successful expatriate agreement.

"Kudos to the Expat Checklist! This checklist was really the only thing I found on the web that discussed all the upfront issues and gotcha's to watch out for in negotiating my expat contract. This definitely helped me to think of a few things I would've forgotten until it was too late. It was very helpful!" - Expatriate in Geneva

The Expat Checklist is based upon the experience of the author - a sales and marketing executive with an International MBA. It includes input from other expatriates, and most importantly benefits from the mistakes the author and others made during various expatriate agreement negotiations. The author's own expatriate experience was ultimately successful, despite an acquisition by a competitor and resulting lay-offs during the assignment. His expatriate agreement was the key to that successful experience.

Read more: Checklist 
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