Posts Tagged With: culture

2016 – A short review

The year of 2016 has been a year full of surprises ! Good one but also bad ones!

I would like to have a thought for those we have lost this year, they have brought us joy and happiness, have been great examples for me and will be dearly missed. That was one of the worst part of my year 2016, but as we say, life goes one, and we need to deal with grief and move on.

2016 was also very surprising, Britain has voted to leave th EU and follow through with Brexit, Donal Trump was elected the president of the United States of America, and the conflict in Syria doesn´t seem to come to an end and many civilians, especially children are dying. All of us have been shocked, there is no doubt about it, and have dealt with these events in their own way. Racism has risen quite strongly as well unfortunately, for those of us living in the UK but also throughout the world, it felt like a betrayal, but at the end of the day, we are living in the UK and even if we believe it is not the right thing to do, to leave the EU, we accept the decision of our hosts and will make sure that we continue to contribute to the UK economy.

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 One thing which is clear is that all of this is pointing to a much bigger problem, acceptance of one another, respect of one another and problems on a much larger scale.

I don´t know if some of you have felt the same, but work has been more scarce this year, already it started declining when the announcement of the referendum here in the UK was made, but it seems that globally, we are going through a tough phase. There are always tough phases, and that is what enables us to think outside of the box, look at things from a different perspective, reflect ! I took the opportunity to do a course in nutrition for example to help coach people to live a healthier life, this kind of follows what I do as a whole, helping people adapt, live a purposeful life and a happy life wherever they are in the world.

I am positive that 2017 will bring new ventures, projects and will be richer in projects than 2016 was, hopefully cultural consciousness will become a topic of interest to all, and most importantly in politics, at work and in daily life. And hopefully we won´t lose loved ones too, we know it is part of life but that is a very tough one.

So to resume, a not so great year, finishing on a positive though, and looking ahead to a new year where people will take interest in one another, resolve conflicts and hopefully more cultural consciousness and acceptance in the world. 2017 will be about building bridges !

Thank you and wishing you all a lovely holiday,

Please share you reflections with us.

 

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Travel, a way to reconnect with yourself

After a long wait, I have finally found the time to travel back to South East Asia and Australia to visit friends and family. I really missed traveling, that said when one works it is not always easy to take time out and venture on such a long trip, but this year was about reconnecting, so Singapore and Australia here I come.

On my way to Australia I stopped for a few days in Singapore. I used to live there for about a year and a half 8 years ago, and my goodness does the city change. It is so fascinating when you come back to identify the changes, observe the people and walk through the streets you used to walk through with fresh eyes and new perspectives.

I wasn´t in Singapore for long so I could not visit everyone but one thing which is always fantastic for me and so close to my heart is to meet up with my great local friends that always take time out to spend time with me and continue teaching me about Singaporean culture. I cannot thank them enough for this, and to be honest it is such a treat and honour, I really hope some of you have such great friends that never cease to teach you about their culture !

My Singapore stop was thus reconnecting with friends, with my previous life here and to be honest I really felt like a Singaporean, there is something about having lived in a city that makes you a part of it, such a wonderful feeling. My two days in Singapore were done and I was now flying to Sydney where my sister was waiting for me.

I stayed in Sydney and surroundings for about two weeks and a half, and in these two weeks and a half I ventured out every day with my camera under my arm to discover new areas, new sites and new perspectives. I had been in Australia in 1999 and in 2009 and everytime I go back i always feel this positive energy from nature and being so close to the ocean. Very invigorating and resourcing. This time around I was privileged to be invited in my sister´s boyfriend family´s house, i got to spend two days in an Australian home and it was amazing. I learned more about the culture, about the family dynamics but also how people perceive life and that again provided me with new perspectives and ways of looking at life and the world which is very important for my learning but also teaching in the intercultural field.

After my two weeks and a half away i felt re-energised, revitalized and full of new ideas which I hope I can share with my clients, colleagues, friends and family.

The moral of this story is that traveling does open up our minds more and even if you have lived or visited a place before, you always find and discover something new when you come back and your roots and belonging to that one culture you left a few years back continues to grow when you come back and resync with your past experiences.

PS.: If you like the pictures you see they are available on: http://chameleonpictures.zenfolio.com/  – you can find more pictures of other destinations under all photographs: http://chameleonpictures.zenfolio.com/f583482853

And if you need any support as an expatriate, repatriate or global nomad, feel free to contact us: http://www.be-a-chameleon.com, thank you

 

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How to have a successful expatriation

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Being told that you are going to be relocated to a new country may not be easy especially if you were not expecting it !

By training expatriates coming to the UK, I have seen that many were happy but also many entered the UK already with a culture shock ! Why is that ?

The problem with relocations is that we either get hooked on them and look forward to moving to the next place after 3 years or we can get attached to the current country we are in and do not wish to leave.

In the latter case, so if we settled well in the country we are currently in, enjoy the culture and the country it feels alarming to move to a new one. We have to go through the process once again, we need to settle in, learn about the  new culture, leave our friends and family behind once again, and we are getting a little tired. This is one side of the culture shock we may be going through. Another aspect of the culture would be that we have already been in the new country and have experienced very bad things there which have stuck to our minds and hinder us from moving in a positive light ! This happens to some of us, and it is not a good state to be in as we shut ourselves down, duck our heads and just wait for the next assignment to come !

How do we deal with these issues if we are already in culture shock when we arrive to our new country ?

The best is to start afresh, bad experiences happen, and sometimes they are lessons life throw´s at us, we just need to see past them, and perceive them as a lesson rather than a constant which will happen again. The best is to reflect on what happened previously or why it is one is in shock ! If you are in shock because you didn´t want to move, make sure you surround yourself with positive people as these people will show you the beautiful side of your new location and will lift up your spirits ! Because if you surround yourself with people who think the same way then your culture shock will most probably last the entire duration of your assignment and make your life miserable !

So the point is, when in shock, try to identify why it is that you are in that state:  if it is because of a bad experience, try to study this experience and put it into perspective. Once you have identified what is causing your shock, try to see what you could do to reduce it ! Meet new people, surround yourself with positive people, talk to your colleagues, your family, find a coach or a trainer with whom you can discuss it !

Once you have overcome this stage, you will be ready for an exiting time in your assignment, you will enjoy life more, your work and your new country !

Once last thing would be to keep fit, find a routine so that your mind doesn´t wonder off too much, as the mind is our worst enemy in culture shock cases !

 

All the best of luck, and if you need any help, or have examples, feel free to share or contact us !

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Reconnecting with a culture you have left

I came back to Madrid after about 8 years. I had spent the best year of my life there studying for a master and making great friends from Latin America which I am visiting on this journey !

I have to say after one day in Madrid I found my inner madrilene again and walked around Madrid on auto pilot remembering the good days and nights that I have had in this amazing city !!

Nothing has really changed except for some places I used to go that closed, but just a minority of them !!

When we have been an expat in a country we always take a part of that country s culture with us ! And I realized it even more this time ! It just took me half a day to become madrilene again !!

Please share if you have had similar experiences !!!

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Cultural Consciousness Workshop, 22nd June 2013 in London

Dear All,

It is with great pleasure that we would like to announce the launch of our Cultural Consciousness workshop in London on Saturday 22nd June 2013 from 9:30 to 16:30.

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Click here to view the Flyer

Cultural Consciousness: communicate effectively across cultures

  • Do you work internationally with international clients, in intercultural teams?
  • Do you coach international leaders?

We communicate daily with people from different cultures whether it is in our work or in our private life. And sometimes we may find it hard to communicate and do business with them.

Why is that?

We are shaped by our own culture in how perceive the world and how we communicate. We all see the world through different lenses and the Cultural Consciousness workshop is here to help you identify how you perceive the world and provide you with the tools that will enable you to succeed in the global arena.

Why Cultural Consciousness?

“Real adaptation comes from within and starts with understanding who we are”

Being culturally conscious means understanding where we come from and how we see the world. Identifying who we are gives us the opportunity to open our mind to differences and thus be more open to different perspectives and ways of communicating.

This workshop will give you practical tools that will enable you to excel in international business and help reduce your stress and anxieties towards the unknown enabling you to become more comfortable around different cultures and succeed in your business or in your team.

“Amazing experience, super useful, full of practical tools,

never thought I could get so much in just one day“

(Marie Claire, expat Singapore)

The workshop will take place on Saturday 22nd June 2013 from 9:30 to 16:30 in London at the following venue:

Evolve Wellness Center

10 Kendrick Mews

SW7 3HG London (closest tube station is South Kensington)

The fee for this one day workshop will be GBP 130.

There is a special offer if you come with a colleague:  GBP 200 for two.

Book your place now as there are limited spaces – contact us at info@be-a-chameleon.com to book your space

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Being culturally aware is not only about others but also about ourself !

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When working internationally, managers and organizations focus on their business partners and clients. What are their needs, their demands, and how can these be met ?

Meeting the customer´s demand and providing excellent customer service is of utmost importance in today´s global and competitive business world.

Being aware of cultural differences through leading intercultural teams, working with business partners from other countries and doing business on a global scale is of the essence. Many organizations are aware of the need to be culturally aware, however do they take the right steps to achieve this awareness ?

Many businesses and mostly SMEs fail on the international scene as they lack the know how and awareness, training their managers and leaders would be a strategic advantage that could secure them further business abroad.

Business failure starts already with the communication: how do the managers communicate with their business partners and customers ? Then it is about customs: what is important for my customer ? Relationship or business ? How do I introduce myself ? How do I speak about business if we are at a social event ? How should I interact ? What kind of question may I ask ?

And when working in intercultural teams: how do I need to communicate with my fellow team members ? What is acceptable behaviour ? How do I provide feedback to my colleagues ? How can I bring my team to work more harmoniously to increase its performance ?

As we can see all these questions are about behaviour and how we should behave towards others. When doing business internationally it is of course the most important thing and this is what is taught in cultural awareness trainings: how to do business internationally.

An aspect which we, at be-a-chameleon, take into consideration, is the individual taking the cultural awareness training (which we call Cultural Consciousness). Additionally to providing him/her with know how about how to adapt and communicate better across cultures, we look at how he/she perceives these changes and tools and how these affect him/her. In our training we make sure that you learn to adapt without changing who you are, we give you tools and know how, however before that we seek to understand how you perceive the world and what your values and beliefs are because we are aware that certain situations may bring you out of your comfort zone. So understanding what your comfort zone is, we can help you go beyond it and make sure that in your next intercultural experiences you will be more comfortable and confident.

We will be providing a Cultural Consciousness training mid-June 2013 in London, please feel free to contact us for further details at info@be-a-chameleon.com, and watch this space as we will post more information this month.

 

 

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Leaving your country to live abroad – provided by our guest blogger Ozchameleon

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More than three years ago I decided to leave Europe to go and have a career change by studying a Master degree in Australia! The initial plan was to study for a year and return to Europe after. As you can imagine, like many foreigners here, I fell in love with that country, the nature, the laid back environment (not always easy but learnt a lot) and the life I created for myself!

One has to admit, that my personal journey has not always been an easy one but it has enriched me with experience, resilience and many funny stories to tell!

Before the start of my journey, whilst still in Europe, I was quite organised for a change as this time, I read about the country I was going to (Australia), made research to find out more about the culture etc. This was important for me as I did travel a lot and loved discovering new places and cultures but this time, I knew I was going to live there for a while and was very curious of this foreign land on the other side of the world, Down Under!

As an anecdote, what stuck around until now was the interesting fact a document said about Aussies: apparently, Australians often make jokes about their friends and one should not get offended if they do it to you! To be honest, this is true! One should not take one´s self too seriously as life is beautiful and simple!

Adapting to the culture – Australian Lifestyle

My first intercultural shock was the Aussie accent! Being used to the American and British one, I was just having difficulties understanding them especially when they used slang! Since, I´ve adapted myself and find it shocking when going back to England as I´m not used to hearing that accent anymore.

The other shock as a French individual was the fashion in Australia! It is an easygoing country and people live a simple and practical life but ´oh God´, the French fashion police would stop them then and now me if they saw us/me that way… To draw the picture, being a city near the beach and being quite relaxed compared to European cities, you see men in suits wearing flip-flops or like they say here ´thongs´, and business women in a smart dress wearing sneakers!!! Let me tell you that now I don´t care anymore what people think as I discovered the comfort of wearing these shoes to go to work instead of those beautiful but now painful heels that get caught in the holes in the street or on escalators when going to take the train or in a shopping centre!

Some French friends of mine can´t believe I´m actually doing that! How could I? As I tell them… power of adaptation 😉

Friendships in Australia

So I arrived in Australia and apart from the little shocks you cannot find in books, I decided to follow the lifestyle and move into a flatshare. It was an amazing experience as I met great people and managed to have a circle of friends, which since have evolved but this is life.

As such, I found the Australian culture in terms of friendship quite similar to the Americans. It is quite easy to speak to some of them but it takes a while until it actually becomes a friendship. Not knowing this, you could easily be deceived thinking you’ve established a great friendship but then at the end, you realise it took you actually two years to find out more about the individual who then starts to introduce you to their closer circle of friends and family. I must admit that the people I have encountered are in general very independent and live their life as they feel and keep it simple, which is a good balance and a cultural shock when you are not used to that but more to closer friendships.

To summarise, in order to adapt, I simply absorbed what I read, observed the human interaction in different settings to get my own understanding, analysed and replicated what felt aligned with my own self. It worked perfectly well and this is a process my family and I have gone through for as long as I have lived, which makes it pretty integrated and unconscious by now.

Other Culture shock  – at a funeral

A member of my Australian partner family unfortunately died unexpectedly. It was quite a tough experience for him in these particular circumstances.

The funeral was quickly organised and arranged by his aunts through a funeral service (all funerals are organised through here). The ceremony and cremation were done on that particular funeral home premises.

After the service, the shocking part of the story was that it was suggested by a member to go with who desired to an RSL Club (Returned and Services League); which is a place where you have a pub, a sitting area, some TVs to watch sports and a gaming room (casino and bingo room).

Coming from Europe where you usually go to church, then to a state or church cemetery and then go to a family members house or a restaurant for lunch, it was a shock to me! We did talk after the lunch with my partner and I told him about my perspective and what had shocked me. He seemed not to be that shocked as it was usual to do it the way it was done. He appreciated my concerns and did realise that indeed, different cultures and different families here in Australia did it differently but he realised that the family values and expression of emotions was quite different for him and most Australians.

For more information on any of the stories or any comments you would like to make about a similar or different experience, please feel free to leave a message J

Enjoy!

Yours,  Ozchameleon

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What is being culturally aware ?

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Being culturally aware is the capacity to switch from one way of seeing the world to another.

It is the capability to understand what is going on around us in a business or team meeting, understanding that differences are there and that the way I see the world may be different from the way my counterpart may see it.

To become culturally aware there are three steps which we reflect in our new training which will come out in 2013 (Cultural Consciousness). The three steps are as follows:

1. Knowing who you are and where you come from

Knowing who you are, including your personality type and where you come from, i.e. your cultural background, is the first step to pinpointing the way you see the world. Once you understand what is important to you in terms of values and beliefs and what your biases are, hence what triggers you and what makes you react in a way that may compromise a business deal or team work, enables you to see past your biases and values because you are consciously aware that these are the points that may affect your behaviour.

2. Being open to differences

Being conscious of who you are and where you come from now gives you the opportunity to reflect on differences. How do people see the world? What is their perception of time, how do they communicate, what would trigger them to refuse to do business with me ? Throughout your business and personal life you will come across people from different walks of life that will see the world differently and the best thing to do when meeting these people is taking notes about what is different about them: what makes them tick, what are their preferences, what are their values and beliefs, how do they make business? This second step is very important as it will emphasize your ability to analyse what is happening around you and embrace differences.

3. Learn from those who are different

As mentioned in point 2, taking notes of differences that you come across can be a valuable exercise especially since it will give you the power to switch from one way of thinking/ seeing the world to another. You will feel more at ease in different situations and your stress and anxiety levels will drop significantly giving you the opportunity to work across cultures and communicate well with people from different cultures.

These three points are the important points we focus on in our training as being aware of who you are, others are different from you and embracing differences will be a long-term investment (training wise but also personally) as it will take you on a journey of self-reflection and self discovery.

Do feel free to contact us if you would like to find out more on our Cultural Consciousness training which will start beginning of 2013.

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The power of listening

Whether in personal life, at work or in a business setting, one cannot communicate unless one listens.

We think that listening is easy and that we do it everyday, indeed we do, but what is it that we register when we have a discussion with friends, partner, colleagues or potential clients ? Do we really understand what the person we have in front of us,on the phone or on a virtual conference is telling us?
There are many factors that can hinder active listening, these can be:  a noisy surrounding, a bad telephone or virtual line, multi-tasking (some may agree and others disagree), the language barrier, our personal bias toward the discussion, our personal preference and many more, I am sure you can come up with other distracting factors.

The biggest mistake we do when we communicate with others is that because they speak the same language we assume will understand each other ! unfortunately it is not always the case as we can speak the same language but if we speak with someone who´s native tongue is not the one used we may lose a vital point and that may lead into miscommunication or even conflict.

 
When we say we can be biased by our personal preferences it can be true. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and focused so much on what you wanted to say and wanted to sell that you completely lost the message of your counterpart? This can be fatal in business, indeed what we want to achieve in business is good relationships and a contract. How do you want to have a contract if your customer thinks and feels that you do not listen to him and thus do not understand his needs ?

 
This happens also in teams, because there are many members, one has to be able to listen and get what every member has to say and how they want to proceed. If one member feels left out, the worst case scenario would be that he isolates him/herself and may create group noise. Such a distraction could be fatal to the productivity of your team.

So how can we improve our  listening skills ? how can we master the power of listening ?

First identify what your personal preferences are, if you like to talk a lot, work on developing your listening skills by reducing the amount of information you deliver, and open yourself to your counterpart. Ask questions that will help you understand his/ her needs better, practice active listening by reformulating what you have heard and making sure that you are on the same wave length.

 
Second, if you are speaking to a non native speaker, ask questions, reformulate your questions if you feel that you were not understood, repeat what you have heard, observe the body language (a smile may signal that you are on the right track). Indeed in certain cultures (mostly indirect cultures), half of the message will be transmitted through body language so it is important that you not only listen with your ears, but also with your eyes.

Lastly, you can practice at home with your partner or your friends, ask them for feedback, see if you have gotten their message, see if you understand what it is they want and if they have gotten their point across. This will enable you to be more in tune with your business partners (and team members) and make them feel understood and especially show them that you know what they need and can provide them with the product/ service that best suits them and their expectations.

 

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It´s the little things that make the difference !

Yesterday I met a young Irish banker in London from Credit Suisse.

He explained to me that he travelled a lot around Europe to meet his customers and then asked me what I did. I told him I was a cross-cultural consultant and that I helped business people and companies to understand cultural differences and enable to communicate more effectively across cultures.

He said he found that really interesting and relevant and suggested his bank have such trainings. He said they needed it because first of all, what he does is mainly customer service and that in the past he had lost many deals because of possibly not having understood his customer´s needs and culture ! He also emphasized that understanding a different culture would enable him to have a better connection with his customers and show them that it´s the little things that make the difference in their relationship.

I was very pleased as he was very aware that showing his customers that he understood how to communicate with them and knew a little about their culture could give him the opportunity to close a deal.

Another issue he raised was language, he said that here in the UK and Northern Ireland focus was only made on speaking English because it is the language that is spoken accross the world so why learn a new one?  He found that it was a little of a handicap as he would like to show his customers that he speaks a little of their language.

So the point here is indeed, cultural awareness is a plus when doing business internationally, knowing about your customer´s culture can open you doors and increase your success in business. And second, of course, learning a second or third language could be an advantage as a different connection (more intimate) would be built with your counterpart as language and culture shape the way we think. If we understand how our customer´s language is spoken and works we can connect with them and have successful business.

Categories: Intercultural relations | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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