Posts Tagged With: customs

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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Categories: Intercultural relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

shaking heads, slurping one´s soup – different manners

We all have our own ways of doing things: eating, working, acknowledging our counterpart when he is talking and also our own way of seeing the world

Most of the time, our way of doing things is not shared by others and we have to accept it, because how we do things is not universal and we need to be complacent and understanding towards other ways and view points.

I have two examples of faux pas which I have experienced working in South East Asia.

The first faux pas I came across was whilst we were having a team meeting to discuss our strategy. The team was composed of a Singaporean, an Indian, an Indonesian (who studied in the UK), myself and our German boss. The meeting went very smoothly and all points had been discussed, when all of a sudden, my boss asked my Indian colleague to stop shaking his head.

Now, we are aware that people have different ways of showing they agree or that they are following a topic, and that was how my Indian colleague used to do it and for that matter most Indians. Nobody said a word, we all looked at each other and left the room without any comments as we were truly shocked by what had just happened !

What happened exactly ? There is no real explanation really, we are not in my boss´s head and we don´t know what came through his mind when he addressed my Indian colleague. What might be was that it distracted him and so he lost his patience. There are surely many explanations, but still, we have to remember that what we say can be very intrusive, disrespectful and hurting to others !

Another faux pas I experienced was whilst having dinner with our South East Asian counterparts, we were having dinner and eating soup when one of our counterpart made some noise whilst eating his soup. All my expat friends just stared at him with their mouths wide open with surprise. They didn´t say a thing but the way they looked at our counterpart and their body language led him to stop eating. In Asian cultures what just happened was that my friends made this man lose his face. No wonder we didn´t hear from him anymore.

In Asia the concept of Face is very important, you have to give, earn and receive face. It is a very strong concept and you can do a lot of harm if you make someone lose face and it can cost you your business or friendship.

Therefore, please be aware that we all do things differently, there is no right or wrong way, just differences that we need to accept and not react upon so strongly. Why not try to keep it for ourself and not hurt anybody in the process.

Categories: Faux pas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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