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The Home of Blogs for Culture Vultures

Podolski suffering football culture shock

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Culture shock is often referred to as the experience an exptriate or tourist travelling to a new country goes through. As Arsene Wenger has demonstrated, culture shock happens in many ways.

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Lineker, the prostrating Footballers and Cultural Sensitivity

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Gary Lineker is facing criticism for his live comments on Al Jazeera that were seen to be offensive to Muslims.

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Three-steps: Understanding Culture when Marketing to the Hispanic and Latino community

Three-steps: Understanding Culture when Marketing to the Hispanic and Latino community

Did you know that the buying power of Hispanic consumers has increased  by 212%, to $1.5 trillian this decade (2010 -2020)? Hispanic now account for 1/6 of American consumers, making this community a valuable prospect. However, understanding the culture and potential cultural differences of these communities can make or break your marketing campaign.

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German and Afghan military go all out on Cultural Sensitivity

German and Afghan military go all out on Cultural Sensitivity

News round-up! See why German soldiers are receiving cultural sensitivity training and how Amazon conquered China. All news hot off the press!

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33 Tips on Working in Multicultural Teams

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Do you work in a culturally diverse team?

Well, we know very well that sometimes cultural differences can cause some challenges.

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HR Directors, Basil Fawlty and Cultural Training

HR Directors, Basil Fawlty and Cultural Training


Some recent findings by The London School of English show language and cultural training are still not getting the attention they deserve within companies today.In fact, the spirit of Basil Fawlty seems to live on within some British businesses!

Despite the Government pinning hopes on UK PLC exporting, it brings into question whether UK companies are thinking globally and making the effort to understand their target cultures, or whether they are instead relying on the rest of the world to think and act like them?

The findings suggest that, "UK-based businesses could be risking international growth by failing to invest in cross-cultural and communications training."

The results spwan from research carried out that questioned 100 HR directors on their attitudes towards communication skills and their approach to training.

These centenary research results show a shocking lacking of regard for our international business partners,” says Timothy Blake, Chief Executive of the London School of English. “The Brits may be reluctant to learn other languages, but this research suggests that we are not even prepared to invest in understanding the cultures they work with."

Headline findings in the report include:

•    98% of HR Directors believed their non-native English speakers should communicate effectively in English.
•    Although 67% of those questioned believed that it was “very important” for business people to have a good cultural understanding of their trading partners; only 23% would offer training.
•    Only 4% believed the “Basil Fawlty” approach of speaking “more loudly” would be effective in communicating with non-native English speakers.

Worrying stuff isnt it?

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New Zealand teachers to improve knowledge of Maori culture


New Zealand Education Minster, Pita Sharples, has launched a new initiative ‘Tataiako’ that aims to help teachers to improve their understanding of Maori culture. The resource, which acts as a set of guidelines, enables teachers to reflect on their past cultural sensitivity, to assess their existing knowledge,  and also to take responsibility for improving their cultural awareness for the future.

The important aspect of this particular programme is that it looks to establish a long-term reflexive attitude within the teaching commuity. The stress is not to enforce rules or test teachers, but instead to encourage them to contemplate upon their own experiences and behaviour throughout their careers.

New Zealand is popular with tourists from all over the world and is famous for accommodating and welcoming their needs. However, as with every country, it is vital that it considers the cultural integration of its own citizens before true pluralism can be achieved. It is not about a short-term activity-based integration or homogenizing of migrant communities, it is about the existing people of New Zealand having respect for the cultures of their own islands.

“Engaging in respectful working relationships with Maori students and their families” (quoted from: New Zealand news platform ‘Stuff’) is a key point taken from the new guidelines. It extends from the classroom discussion and integrity of cultural awareness to broader social integration of different communities within New Zealand (school) life. A further three guidelines outline “sincerity and respect towards Maori beliefs, language and culture”, taking responsibility for the learning of Maori students and the deliberate recognition of Maori student’s heritage as the core competancies for teachers to work for.

The main need is to understand the importance of identity to Maori students and their communities. Without understanding the unique perspectives of these children and young adults, you cannot fully engage in understanding how school and learning can and will come across to them.

Statistical evidence over the past decade has shown that students from a Maori background are falling behind those children from other ethnic groups. Improving cultural awareness will not only improve the continuity of Maori childrens’ lives, but will also make it easier for communication to exist between schools and Maori communities on the issue of education.

Finally, from the development of more culturally aware and skillful teachers should come the formulation a of more respectful, united and happy student population.

Online Cultural Competence Training 

Cultural Competence Training is a key way for individuals from any culture to gain the skills needed to navigate diverse cultures with confidence and credibility.  Our online Cultural Competence eLearning training course has been developed by cultural experts for business professionals.  It is jam packed full of essential strategies and techniques and will help international business professionals boost their performance and outputs in cross cultural interactions. 

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Expat Tips - Moving to China

Expat Tips - Moving to China

 

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Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

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Before we explain the Michigan Fish Test, take a look at the picture for a few seconds.

Now look away and describe what you have just seen...

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Australia culturally tolerant

Australia culturally tolerant

 

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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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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review

The Middle East Unveiled: A Review



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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Milkman shows ultimate Cross-Cultural Customer Service

Milkman shows ultimate Cross-Cultural Customer Service

 

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Expats Children Third Culture Kids

Gone are the days when extended families lived within a few miles of each other. Ease of travel and global working have facilited a world in which children are increasingly likely to grow up in countries outside of their parent's passport cultures. These children are known as third culture kids (TCKs).

Not only are the number of third culture kids increasing, but the cultural complexity and relevance of their experience and the adult TCKs (ATCKs) they become, is also growing.

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American Graduates Finding Jobs in China

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With unemployment soaring in the USA, students graduating from American universities are more likely than ever to try their hand at gaining employment in Shanghai and Beijing. 

Joshua Arjuna Stephens, a 2007 graduate of Wesleyan University, works in Beijing for XPD Media, which makes online games.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China’s surging economy, the challenges of immersing oneself into the Chinese culture, learning a well sought after language and bypassing some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.  Critically, individuals moving to China from the USA, find they have far more spending power due to China's lower living costs. This is a great pull for recent graduates with student debts to repay. 

 

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China is top expat destination


The annual Global Relocation Trends report, from  Brookfield Global Relocation Services, reports that China is the top expat destination followed by the U.S., UK, Singapore and Switzerland. 

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Review: Yanks in Blighty

Donna Marsh is a business woman and cultural awareness trainer specialising in many fields. Over her 30 year professional career she has visited more than 140 countries. As a strue globe-trotter this has given her a great insight into the field of intercultural communication, awareness and skills.

Now this experience has translated itself into a new publication entitled "Yanks in Blighty". As the title suggests the book is aimed at Americans moving, working or living in the UK who are looking for a better understanding of their new environment and the natives.

Review:

Having readthe book we are pleased to offer a glowing review and thoroughly recommend it to our readers. The one major factor that sticks out in the book is how much ground is covered in terms of topics. Donna leaves no stones unturned in her examination of what the UK is, where it is and how it is. We are given quick, informative facts on subjects such as the present situation the country is in, the Royal Family, government, the cultural diversity of the population, language, transport, housing, health care and of course the weather. In short this book contains probably everything anyone would ever need when moving to the country.

As well as the fantastic details, the book also offers the reader answers to questions they were probably thinking but most authors never thought to answer. Although it may sound trivial, knowing how a washing machine works, how the rubbish (or should I say trash?) is collected and when the sales start are all little things people really do need to know.

The book wins in a lot of ways due to its focus. As it is targetted at Americans specifically wanting to understand the UK it allows the author the luxury on concentrating on what they want to know and specific areas of concern for Americans (rather than some other nationality).

Excerpt:

"As a rule, the British are likely to overlook or at least keep silent about most social behaviour that they do not approve of. Queue jumping a notable exception."

Where to buy?

You can buy the book by clicking the link below to Amazon or at any decent online bookstore. The ISBN is 978-1-906710-37-8.

If you're American and what to know more about UK culture, then why not couple this book with our great online UK Cultural Awareness eLearning course?  Jam packed with practical advice, tips and strategies, this online course is a must for American professionals working in the UK or with British colleagues. 

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Cross Culture 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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New Expat Website

Allo' Expat Sdn Bhd, a Malaysia headquartered online publisher and  www.AlloExpat.com.. Launched eight years ago, with now more than 40,000 visitors daily, AlloExpat.com is becoming the preferred online media for advertisers in the "expat industry" around the world.

AlloExpat.com is addressing a permanently increasing expatriate community worldwide. With communities throughout the five continents, over 170 users' nationalities, 145 countries covered, AlloExpat.com has not only become the leading expatriate one-stop information centre, but it also succeeds in becoming the meeting point between the expat communities audience and professional expatriate service providers in various fields such as relocation services, cultural difference, real-estate, insurance and financial planning, leisure, lifestyle, etc...

Through an efficient and very affordable online advertising space offer and a number of dedicated advertisement packages under its "Expat Best" recommended section, AlloExpat.com provides its advertisers with the right expatriate exposure. Advertisers can also direct their ad campaign nationally, regionally and even globally under one unique website.

"Targeting a permanently moving multicultural customer target is a challenge by itself. Expat families and individuals are very hard to spot and understand for most media specialists, mostly due to the diversity of the expatriate audience itself: Where are they? What is their favourite hangout, magazine, spending habits? Furthermore, at the difference of the usual more expensive expatriate's printing media, AlloExpat.com enables advertisers to interact directly with their audience and get the necessary instant feedback and market feel they really need. With the growing numbers of AlloExpat.com advertisers and the everyday feedback we receive from all of them we are able to continuously develop and improve our advertising platform to serve them better," said co-founder and Public Relations Director Theresa Giovagnoli.

Read more > Press Release

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Businesses Failing to Provide Cultural Training



Leading research and workplace innovation company, Career Innovation (Ci) has today published the results of its latest study, Cross-Cultural Development Conversations.

Carried out across 45 leading companies worldwide, the new study has found that although organisations are aware of the need to skill up their leaders to manage the cross-cultural workforce, few have acted to make this a reality.

At a time when the pace and scale of globalisation has never been higher, competition for the best talent remains intense. The effectiveness of development conversations in organisations is known to play a significant role in engaging and retaining key talent. Factoring in the complexity of a diverse and dispersed workforce makes it even tougher to ensure that these conversations are at their most effective.

According to the 45 organisations interviewed (Sept-Nov 08), the business importance of working effectively across cultures is high and rising. Most are already operating complex organizations across multiple regions and almost all (91%) indicated they expect cultural diversity in their organisations to increase over the next 3-5 years, with nearly 50% expecting a “significant increase”.

The study revealed three top factors that impact cross-cultural development conversations:

1) The directness of communication style
2) Language differences – especially when people are not communicating in their first language
3) The need to establish high levels of trust across cultures, in order for development conversations to be effective

Differences between Asian and Western cultures were consistently reported as a particular challenge by respondents with 50% of organisations reporting this as an issue.

Companies identified many key employee development processes that are impacted by these cultural hurdles. For example, 60% of organisations said that coaching relationships can be much tougher to establish in some cultures than in others. Giving feedback can also present challenges, with one company finding that its Chinese employees quit after receiving challenging feedback.

“This issue has a big impact on global organisations”, says Ci’s founder Jonathan Winter. “Although they are increasingly aware of the need to encourage meaningful dialogue with employees about their careers and development, only a few have really taken on board the additional complexities overlaid by the cross-cultural dimension. Left unresolved the cross-cultural conversation gap hits the bottom line in a way companies can ill afford in today’s tough times.”

Organisations who are placing the strongest focus on building their employees’ cross-cultural competence report significant benefits including improved attraction and retention rates.

Following on from this study and Ci’s previous Conversation Gap research, Ci will be developing its existing career tools and approaches to encourage more leaders to develop cross-cultural thinking as part of their everyday style. Winter offers an example of how this will be incorporated, “Our Engaging Conversations multi-rater tool is already helping mangers around the world improve their staff dialogue skills and habits. We’re going to take that to the next stage and incorporate the cross-cultural dimension”.

Online Cultural Competence Training

If you would like to equip your staff with these essential skills, then why not purchase an organisational licence to our great Online Cultural Competence Training programme?  Jam packed with essential cultural strategies and insights, this course will ensure your employees perform with credibility and confidence; avoiding common cross cultural pitfalls and harnessing the benefits of cross cultural interactions. 

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