Tag Archives: cultures

Research on Well-being and Aging: Comparison between U.S. and Japan

We have only begun to look at the evidence, but it appears that different aspects of well-being matter for health in different ways depending on the cultural context where people reside

Source: blogs.plos.org


Well-being in the West is formulated more in terms of the individual and how he or she may feel about how they’re doing in life.


In the East, well-being is much more about the self embedded within social relationships; for example, how well you’re doing in meeting your obligations to others.


In the U.S., self-report tools ask people to report on their levels of positive and negative affect. Usually the two types of affect tend to be inversely correlated. Emotions are strongly related to people’s health in the U.S.: those with more positive and less negative affect report better health. This is true even when we look at more objective health criteria, like stress hormones, or other biological risk factors.


That is not true in Japan. Both affects tend to be more moderately reported. That is, there is no cultural prescription for feeling mostly positive emotion and not feeling much negative. In Japan there’s nothing wrong with feeling negative emotion; it’s not viewed as something amiss that possibly needs to be fixed in therapy


In the West, the core objective is to get people out of the experience of negative emotion – whether it’s anxiety or depression. The way that well-being tries to do that is to get patients to focus on their experiences of well-being by keeping daily diaries of positive experience.


In Japan therapy is designed to treat distressed or maladjusted people, but the focus is not on fixing emotions. In fact, they are viewed as beyond the person’s control. Emotions come and go and people do not control them. They may be positive or negative, and you can observe them, but it’s not worth your time to try to fix them. What you can fix is what you do. So the therapy tries to get people to shift into thinking not so much about how they feel, but what they are doing.

See on Scoop.itGreat Life Coaching

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 ? 

See on Scoop.itInternational Career

Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


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 ?














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

Related articles: 



The Dangers Of Slang For Non-Native Language Speakers


I have had interesting discussions with linguists and intercultural coaches after publishing an article,  “You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors”,. The debate was mainly around  words and cultural context.

The most recurrent question was:  Is it the cultural context or environment that impacts the way we attribute meaning to words and then produces thoughts that trigger certain behaviors ? or is it actually the language itself that makes us think and react in a certain way ? I would say both based on differences between regional variations of the main language such as English spoken in UK or American English or Spanish from Spain and South America.

Nobody really found a satisfactory answer as there are too many factors involved in a communication process including personal preferences. However some interesting comments highlighted the differences between native speakers and non native speakers.

I just experienced something quite typical for a non-native English speaker. I use a “curating” tool:  “ScoopIt” that helps compile different articles and blogs organized by specific topics. You can use ScoopIt to automatically quote an article in a WordPress blog then make your own comments, edit text, add images or links to additional resources.

For my previous post I found an article from “Fast Company” about networking and I kept the original title without feeling that something was wrong. One word I did not know sounded “soft” slang to me. The initial title was Yes, It’s Possible To “Network” Without Being A Scumbag … Yes, I know now, that is a really, really BAD wordProbably you were shocked to read that in my blog ! Hopefully I have an American friend who is also a regular reader of my articles who suggested that it was maybe a word I would never use in my language, especially in writing  (Thanks Barbara !). So I look at the translation for this word in French and I felt it was disgusting, obscene and vulgar. Yet when I read the title again in English I do not feel that bad, the word doesn’t trigger any emotional reaction that probably native speakers learned when they were little boys and girls watching the faces of their parents and other adults with a horrified look after they said it.

So English might be the most common language in the business world but I guess few people learn slang and profanity in their English as Second Language (ESL) classes. In every cases I would recommend to learn some slang and other swearing words to understand fully a conversation between natives but would not use them especially in writing.

Back to language and behaviors, many expats report that they behave differently when they think with words from their mother tongue or think and speak using their second language, unlike true bilingual people who learned two language simultaneously. It is clear that emotions and feelings linked to a sound or a word are learned very early in the development stage of babies and young children. It is also true that people who are exposed to technical and international  business English feel much at ease in a professional environment than some native language speakers who do not know specific jargon and didn’t learned leadership skills in English for example

How about You ?

Can you share examples of foreign words you used that were inappropriate ?

What was the reaction of people around you ?

Culture Is Like A Mayonnaise

Culture Is Like A Mayonnaise

The popular ‘Iceberg model’ of culture developed by Selfridge and Sokolik, 1975,  identifies a visible area consisting of behavior or clothing or symbols and artifacts of some form and a level of values or an invisible level.

Recently Milton J. Bennett, Director of Intercultural Development Research institute, suggested to remove this metaphor from the vocabulary of intercultural professionals in his blog Culture is not like an iceberg. Personally I like the iceberg metaphor but the Interculturalist Christian Höferle thinks too that it is a bit too simplistic and offers some interesting suggestions in his blog :Wanted: A 21st century metaphor to explain culture

Mayonnaise I came up with the idea of “mayonnaise”, a water in oil emulsion, to represent culture. What you first see in a good mayonnaise is a homogeneous yellowish cream. But in fact if you look at it under a microscope, it is made of small drops of water with different sizes and shapes dispersed in a homogeneous oil phase. If you include oil too fast then the 2 liquids separate. If you pour and whisk oil slowly, the water drops get smaller and the preparation becomes thick and stable.


 Most people know that water and oil don’t mix together and that you need other ingredients such as emulsifiers to have a stable mixture looking homogeneous from the outside.

 I like to compare droplets of water (coming from egg yolks with some vinegar or mustard) with different shapes and sizes as individuals who share same culture. They are defined as a specific cultural group because they have in common a set of rules, thinking process, behaviors or other cultural norms, that are invisible but highly powerful. In the Mayonnaise metaphor those “invisible” bonds are the emulsifiers, like the lecithin. The oil can represent the most obvious and visible component of the culture: Geography, language for example.

So in short,  culture is not only what you see but you need deep immersion to understand what makes people unique and yet what holds them together by explicit and not so explicit  cultural rules or norms.

How about you ? Do you have a better metaphor to explain culture ?

Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach

This blog has been inspired by an article published  by Rana Sinha How to understand cross-cultural analysis?. I have summarized Rana’s key ideas and added my own sources of information

Origins and Evolution of Cross-cultural Communication.

 Typically anthropologists and social scientists tend to study people and human behavior among exotic tribes and cultures living in far off places rather than do field work among white-collared literate adults in modern cities. Advances in communication and technology and socio-political changes started transforming the modern workplace yet there were no guidelines based on research to help people interact with other people from other cultures. To address this gap arose the discipline of cross-cultural analysis or cross-cultural communication. The main theories of cross-cultural communication draw from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on value differences among cultures. Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede,Fons Trompenaars, Shalom Schwartz

View original post 1,716 more words

The Stigma Of Being An Extrovert

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. photo taken in 1909. (Wikipedia)

I am writing this post as I really feel there is a wrong debate about extroverts versus introverts and their supposed capacity to lead effectively. If you Google the words “extrovert” or “introvert” you get two times more results for “introvert” than for “extrovert”. There is also an overwhelming number of articles supporting the fact that extroverts are bad leaders and introverts their victims.


The introversion or extroversion personality trait, first described by Carl Jung, is used in many psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to describe how individuals respond to various situations. Those tests are supposed to help people understand how they process social information (cognition) and what type of emotions, motivations and behaviors they have under typical social interactions such as work.

Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people and an introvert is energized by being alone.

Are introverts better leaders than extroverts ?

You can find many articles and books with negative bias toward “extroverts“, especially in the U.S., such as Leadership Tip: Hire the Quiet Neurotic, Not the Impressive Extrovert” Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. or The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

Saying that introverts are better than extroverts in leadership seems to me a bit too simplistic and worst, this assumption is not backed by serious studies. in addition, introversion is not necessarily linked to shyness or extroversion does not makes you the center of the party.

According to MBTI, I am an extrovert but although I do get energy and ideas by talking with people, I also like spending time alone without being bored. I am also not comfortable in big parties where I know nobody, I prefer one on one interactions.

Daniel H. Pink, author of  A WHOLE NEW MIND, describes  in a recent article the results of a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management. In the study researchers collected data from sales representatives starting by giving them an often-used personality assessment that measures introversion and extroversion on a 1-to-7 scale, with 1 being most introverted and 7 being most extroverted. Then they tracked their performance over the next three months.

The introverts fared worst; they earned average revenue of $120 per hour. The extroverts performed slightly better, pulling in $125 per hour.

So, according to Daniel Pink, the best sales people are neither strongly introverted nor strongly extroverted, they are “ambiverts”.  

Ambiverts tend to know when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to shut up. 

I am Extrovert but with a low % and I test positive as an Ambivert in Daniel Pinks’ test : http://www.danpink.com/assessment

I also think that best leaders are the ones who have high listening skills and emotional intelligence regardless of being extroverts or introverts.

Personality traits in multicultural teams

American culture is often described as being dominated by extroverts. It is true that compared to other cultures, such as French, Russian or Japanese,  American children are taught at very young age to speak in public, develop self-confidence and believe they can do anything if they adopt a positive and outgoing attitude.

However, it is not clear if culture has a strong influence on personality traits in adults as all cultures seemed to have extroverts and introverts.  Some studies have shown that personality traits have a single normal distribution replicated in each human society, while other researches tend to prove that culture influences socialization patterns, which in turn shapes some of the variance of personality. I believe it is very difficult to draw a clear line between innate and acquired personality traits.

Deloitte Australia had the opportunity to evaluate impact on culture and individual personalities in a  “new” team working on a 3 month project in Australia. The project team consisted of 7 members from Spain (the team leader), Australia, Japan, the United States and Germany (the team members), as well as the client who was from Australia. Intriguingly, it appears that the expectation of

“cultural differences caused team members to become more conscious of their own behaviors and to become more flexible and adaptive. Moreover, cultural diversity provided a unique point of connectivity and enjoyment”


Extrovert leaders are not worse than introvert ones because introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with today’s leadership. Data also show no clear evidence that extroverts are better sale people than introverts.

Personality tests should be used with caution and more as a discussion base to help individuals discover their own behavior and communication style rather than stereotyping and stigmatizing people especially in highly diverse environments.

In multicultural teams, it is not clear if cultural differences are related to the country of origin or to the individual personality, or both, but well managed, cultural diversity can lead to better performance.

Related articles

%d bloggers like this: