Category Archives: global mobility

Is Expatriation an Addiction?


The last few decades has seen more and more people taking up a corporate expatriate posting, with all of the benefits and challenges an expatriation can bring.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.communicaid.com

After 25 years of expatriation, experiencing very different cultures such as Japan, United States or Russia,  I think I fit very well with the definition of an enthusiastic expatriate in this interesting article published by Communicaid : I feel comfortable almost anywhere.

I consider myself a successful “serial” expatriate and I think the following characteristics are very important :

1-Curiosity with a thirst for experiencing “otherness”

2 Humility with willingness to learn different ways of thinking

3-A strong family with high resilience and an adventurous spirit

4- Deep knowledge about who you are,  your strengths, weaknesses

5-Creativity and flexible attitude toward new challenges

6- Not afraid to step out of your comfort zone

7-Future oriented mindset

If expatriation is an addiction then by definition it means you can’t stop moving even if it would be reasonable to settle down. Sometimes this is called the  “Three Year Syndrome”: some expats, get bored, after 3 years, especially if they have no other job than being an expat partner and did not blend with the local culture by establishing a network of local friends.

There is another reason why some expats move so often: with the globalization and the development of virtual teams, with some exceptions, there is no need to have long term expats once the knowledge transfer has been done. There is also more and more people who work abroad  who are not sent by big multinational companies but hired locally. The problem is then to find ways to keep a job until you can retire.  Most of the time those people are forced to move to other countries where they can transfer their unique skills.

What type of expat are you ?

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Related Articles:

An expat child has many layers of influence – Your Expat Child


Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory This was mentioned in Rianne Cornelisse’s paper about how expat children adapt when returning home. What is the theory of Bronfenbrenner all about? In this model the child is the centre of its own system. The layers are built from the inside out. The first layer … Read More on expatchild.com

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The Expat Child blog written by Carole Hallett Mobbs has great resources to rise children abroad and she is also a consultant for expats and their children

Here a selection about multilingualism:   http://expatchild.com/?s=raising+multilingual

 

Why employers value intercultural skills


New research shows that employers around the world value staff who understand the role of culture at work. Source: www.britishcouncil.org

What do employers understand by ‘intercultural skills ?

  1.  Ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints.
  2.  Respect for others’ and ‘adapting to different cultural settings
  3.  Accepting cultural differences
  4.  Speaking foreign languages
  5.  Open to new ideas and ways of thinking

 How do employers evaluate job candidates for intercultural skills?

  1. Strong communication throughout the interview and selection process
  2. The ability to speak foreign languages
  3. Demonstration of cultural sensitivity in the interview
  4. Experience studying overseas
  5. Experience working overseas

 What Is Your Company Doing To Develop Intercultural Skills ? 

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Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


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I found the question in this article very interesting:   Is It Racist to Ask People Where They’re From?
As an expat, I am asked all the time where are you really from ?  and I usually have different answers for different audiences. However to many expats, they don’t feel comfortable with this question especially if they have been living in a foreign country for quite a long time and interpret the question as obviously you are not from there, you are different.
After 25 years of expatriation, I still have some mixed feelings about this question but sometimes it is good to feel different and not from “here”.  Being a French in France is actually harder for me than living abroad, I don’t know anything about popular TV shows or the secret lives of French politicians and I have often a very different view on sensitive questions as I am living on the “other side”.
When I lived in Japan in the 90s I obviously did not look Japanese and I have been asked frequently where I was from, but at that time, being French and saying I was from Paris, were magic words and I was very well treated both at work and with perfect strangers in the streets. I was kind of “exotic” there. However Caucasians were better treated than non-Japanese Asians, especially Chinese, Koreans or Filipinos.
In the US, when I lived in New York City and 8 months pregnant, strangers were giving me a “god bless you” very often, then we had the 9/11 dramatic events and my son was born 12 days later. However I got unpleasant remarks when I said I was French because at that time the French president and the government refused to send troops to Baghdad as if I had anything to do with this decision.
Altogether I had a very positive experience in NYC. I also lived in Atlanta and we were very well-integrated partly because of my son being at the Atlanta International School but generally speaking, Atlanta is a very international city. However I was shocked to see that nothing really changed since Martin Luther King Jr, I saw a lot of segregation between African-Americans and White Americans. Each community including Latin American people had their own neighborhood with very strict boundaries. I then realized that America was far from being a melting pot !
Then we spent one year in New Jersey and it was painful to have in the neighborhood listing “the French” instead of our family name.
Now we live in Russia, I don’t have any specific problems with racism, the “where are you from? ” is still there since my Russian is pretty basic but unlike the stereotypes, I find Russians very courteous with men giving their seats to women in the Metro for example. But here again even for wealthy expatriates,  it is better to be a Caucasian than having a dark skin color.

How do you feel about being asked : where are you really from ?

Related Article:  Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

What Does Interculturality Mean ?


 

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A number of studies on the development of intercultural skills and competences have shown that first-hand experience of ‘otherness’ and even sojourns in a foreign country are not sufficient conditions to foster interculturality.

Both study abroad and intercultural education literature state that, in addition to experience, intercultural learning needs reflection and analysis, and that immersion in a different culture does not in itself reduce stereotypical perceptions of otherness.

Interculturality does not mean comparing two or more countries, nor learning to adapt to a specific ‘national culture’.

Rather, the concept implies, for example:

  • Understanding how different types of identities (eg gender, age, racial, ethnic, national, geographical, historical, linguistic) impact on communication with others
  • Interpreting what people say about their culture as evidence of what they wish others to see about themselves, rather than as the ‘truth’ about a particular culture
  • Exploring the role of power in dominant discourses (media, political, institutional) and reflect on how these discourses affect the way we perceive people from other backgrounds.

Read Full article : Mobility is not a value in itself: intercultural education resources for mobile students – European Association for International Education

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Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


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Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotal from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals from different race, ethnicity, religion and gender with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

Related Articles:

International Commuters: Understanding the Benefits and Challenges | Expatriatus


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International assignments  are getting shorter and the number of international commuters is increasing. Do you think it is beneficial on the long run for both the employees and employers ?

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Not living in the same country with your family is detrimental for learning fully about the culture. Local employees may also treat you as an outsider, not really part of the team as you can’t share social events involving partners or children.

Each family situation is different but if you embrace expatriation as a great way to grow then I prefer to do it with the whole family. However I understand that sometimes other considerations such as schooling system or health care or dangerous locations may give no choice but commuting, I think this situation should be exceptional and not exceed 1 year.

I am not surprised that long-distance commuters have 40 percent higher risk of separation compared to other people who already have 50 percent chance to get divorced in most countries nowadays.

And yes the tax filing can become a nightmare and a costly exercise, especially for US residents and citizen

See on blog.iese.edu

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