The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

When I'm not hanging out in the beautiful sunshine of Africa, you will find me here sharing content about culture - you'll soon see why I'm called the Culture Vulture.

Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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Expat Tips - Moving to China



When people decide that they want to move country with their work it can sometimes be a challenging time (especially if they are taking their family with them).
However if you are looking to move to somewhere like China then it can be even more demanding and it is very likely that if you do not prepare before you go, then you will find that you might experience some kind of culture shock when you are there.
If you are soon to become an expat in China then here are a few tips to help you deal with the culture shock.
o    If you have the time and the budget (and if your company will let you go) then it is always worth spending a little time booking a research trip to the area where you will be living. This is a really good way to get to grips with the area of China where you will be staying and the different way that the Chinese, that will be local to you, do things.
o    Cross cultural training is a great way to give yourself an added advantage (so make sure you grab it with both hands if your company gives you access to this).
o    Think about the area of China where you will be staying. If you are going to be living in one of the major cities then you might find that you will have access to some western products. If however you think you are going to be living in a more remote area of China then you will either have to take some essentials with you or learn to do without.
Living is China can be an incredible cultural experience but to truly make the most of it you have to make sure that you are prepared for the differences to the culture in the UK.

For more tips visit Expatriate Relocation Guides

...
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Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

The Michigan Fish Test provides a great view into a person’s psyche and is also a great way to see their perception of the world and culture around them. You see, not everyone looks at their position within the world and within their own culture in the same way. It all depends on how your culture nurtures you, as this will have a very clear impact on your perception of the world around you.

The Michigan Fish Test is an image that was developed to test a person’s view of the world. It is an image that is made up from an underwater scene, with larger fish and smaller fish in a watery environment complete with bubbles and seaweed.



The test was put forward to two groups of people; one group from America and the other group from Japan. The study was interesting as the comments that came back from each group were strikingly different. The participants were asked to look at the Michigan Fish Test image for around 5 seconds and were then asked to comment on what it was they remembered from the picture. The answers provided an insight into the difference in culture between the two countries. The American group tended to only notice the larger fish and dismissed the peripheral images whilst the Japanese group tended to look at the image as more of a whole and commented on the environment as well as the characters.

Furthermore, when the image was changed slightly the Japanese group were able to point out the changes, whereas most of the American group were unable to do so.

The study showed that an individual’s perception of the world around them and of the people and things that they shared the world with was as a direct result of the way in which the world was positioned around them.
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Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

The Michigan Fish Test provides a great view into a person’s psyche and is also a great way to see their perception of the world and culture around them. You see, not everyone looks at their position within the world and within their own culture in the same way. It all depends on how your culture nurtures you, as this will have a very clear impact on your perception of the world around you.

The Michigan Fish Test is an image that was developed to test a person’s view of the world. It is an image that is made up from an underwater scene, with larger fish and smaller fish in a watery environment complete with bubbles and seaweed.



The test was put forward to two groups of people; one group from America and the other group from Japan. The study was interesting as the comments that came back from each group were strikingly different. The participants were asked to look at the Michigan Fish Test image for around 5 seconds and were then asked to comment on what it was they remembered from the picture. The answers provided an insight into the difference in culture between the two countries. The American group tended to only notice the larger fish and dismissed the peripheral images whilst the Japanese group tended to look at the image as more of a whole and commented on the environment as well as the characters.

Furthermore, when the image was changed slightly the Japanese group were able to point out the changes, whereas most of the American group were unable to do so.

The study showed that an individual’s perception of the world around them and of the people and things that they shared the world with was as a direct result of the way in which the world was positioned around them.
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London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters



In areas such as London where there is large culturally diversity, it seems that hospitals are running up larger than average bills because they are having to employ interpreters so that patients who do not speak the language can understand the medical staff who are treating them.
Recent numbers indicate that around seven hospital trusts in London have run up large bills employing interpreters trying to tackle language barriers. It has sparked fresh outcry across London and the rest of the UK that people who come to England to live need to be able to speak the language.
The London NHS Trust said that its biggest bill was for £2.2million pounds to make sure that patients who did not speak the language had access to interpreters. The figures highlight the problem of immigration and language barriers. Nick de Bois the MP who published the findings said that it was a clear example of the cost to the country that people who do not speak the language can bring.
The survey was based on information from The University College London Hospital Trust which spent £1.6million, Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital paid £1.3million and Great Ormond Street Hospital and Homerton University Hospital  had to pay approximately £1.2million each.
At a time when the country is cutting back on spending it seems an unnecessary expense for London hospitals to be spending their budget on interpreters. However it is also true that hospitals still need to provide proper patient care and when patients are unable to speak the language it seems that the hospitals have no choice but to employ interpreters.
Communication is important when it comes to good hospital care but this is not always easy or cheap as these London hospitals have proved by having to hire interpreters.
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Interpreters "Operating" In Hospitals



People often think that UK doctors are the pillars of UK society who you can trust implicitly, however it seems that the Europe is insisting on chipping away at the confidence that we have in our doctors.

This is due to foreign doctors entering the UK to work. According to recent figures not all doctors that enter the UK are assessed for their competency in the English language and as a result interpreters are being employed by the NHS to make the doctors understood.

European law states that as long as doctors are qualified to work in the UK health service then the General Medical Council are not able to refuse employment based on poor language skills. This has left the UK health service having to seek language interpreters to translate the language for foreign doctors.

Using interpreters creates an extra step in the medical process that allows for human error. If we need to start employing UK interpreters to translate the language for non-native speaking doctors there would be unnecessary bodies in the operating theatre and hospital wards. Interpreters have a difficult job and they can make mistakes due to the nuances of a language and errors are just not an option when you are dealing with lives.

The UK General Medical Council has made a submission to the European Commission which is currently reviewing laws that allow doctors to practice freely across Europe. As there is no standardised medical qualification it means that is it hard to assess doctors that are not from the UK, let alone whether or not doctors are able to speak the language.

The GMC has known of cases where language interpreters have been needed in theatres and of cases when doctors operating on a patient have spoken to co-workers in a language other than English and this left confusion in the operating theatre.
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Bilingual Business @ Home



The benefits of launching operations globally have been well documented. Launching offices in places like India and China has allowed companies like Nestle and Google to harness the benefits of addressing consumers in their own language.
But you don’t have to go abroad to benefit from going bi-lingual. Your operations can stay at home and still significantly increase their consumer base through the use of additional languages.
1.    Cultural Diversity Online
Many countries are culturally diverse today, especially in urban areas, so launching websites that address the multi-lingual roots of your consumers can bring you big business at home. For example the USA has a population of 311 million people, of this number almost 50 million have Hispanic roots. Adopting Spanish-language websites could improve the uptake of internet shopping in this culture-group as they feel that their linguistic needs are being directly addressed. Furthermore on a practical level, roughly 12 million of these people are unable to speak English proficiently meaning that Spanish-language websites are the only way for them to access the web.

2.    Bi-Lingual in-store
However, not all companies want to make the investment in multiple websites, perhaps deciding that the translation output or the cost of personale to run these sites is too high. Some companies such as Home Depot have even found that multiple sites can cause problems where consumers believe they can purchase products in countries like Spain (because the website is in Spanish) whereas the company only currently deliver in the USA. Home Depot’s solution was the facilitation of bi-lingual communication in-store.
Spanish-speaking employees in-store were able to serve the quarter of Hispanic people who don’t speak English and the further fifty percent of Hispanics who, although proficient in English, prefer to communicate in their mother-tongue.

Of course companies can then expand their delivery or offices worldwide in response to the demand for their multiple lingual sites. Companies like Best Buy, NutriSystem, AFLAC and Vonage have all made moves to service their culturally and linguistically diverse consumer base.
So if you haven’t the money or just don’t want to make the move to global offices or delivery at the moment you can still benefit from making your company bi-lingual. Whether online or in-store people respond better when they feel their custom is appreciated; so bi-lingual could not only encourage people to use your services but also ensure they continue to come back to you in the future.
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
Continue reading
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
Continue reading
1216 Hits

Australia culturally tolerant



A survey by ‘The Challenging Racism Project’ has revealed some encouraging results about the condition of racial relations in Australia. The lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, said that the results have shown that “Australia is in fact a very tolerant country...but [that] there is a problem with racism [within some areas]”.
In general most people were revealed to be both supportive of and comfortable with the growing levels of multiculturalism. 12,500 people were surveyed over the past decade with 90 percent revealing they supported cultural diversity and nearly 80 percent reporting that they felt comfortable in the company of people from different cultural backgrounds. These findings were also fairly generalisable across all of Australia, supporting the view that the country is adapting well to an increasingly ethnically mobile world.
However, despite the general consensus that multiculturalism is a condition to be welcomed, the vast majority (84 percent) of respondents did state that they believed racial prejudice still existed in Australia. More alarmingly of these respondents 50 percent believed that certain cultural groups did not “fit in” to Australian society.  Could this reveal that an unconscious level of prejudice is still present in the Australian population despite their claims to be culturally-tolerant?
When the researchers looked further into racial prejudice they discovered that the factors most likely to affect tolerance were age, gender, educational level and linguistic abilities. From these factors older Australian-born men who lacked a formal education and only spoke English tended to be the most ‘racist’ group. As an area New South Wales proved to be the most prejudice, in comparison with other states, with the Strathfield region containing the highest levels of racism (in terms of reported insecurity to cultural differences and the figures of reported everyday racism).
As a case study within this area Strathfield is an interesting region; this is because it contains both higher levels of racism and a relatively diverse population. Prof. Dunn explained this paradox as being “not because people there are more racist…[but] because there’s more diversity”. Yet he also countered this generalized claim by stating that “ a person of non-Anglo background is actually less likely to experience racism in [those] places of diversity than if they were in places of less diversity”. Furthermore the survey evidence from other suburbs such as Ashfield and Burwood, which are also culturally diverse, showed no increased level of racial discomfort or discriminative acts.
In general there does appear to be some pattern between prejudice in an area and its level of diversity, but this is in no way a concrete causal relationship. The research raises the point that racism is often highly specific to small areas within a region, so within New South Wales the Far North and Central West achieved good levels of tolerance. Further to this Prof. Dunn also highlights that “longer histories of cultural diversity” and “local programmes confronting racism” play their part in affecting the levels of tolerance found in a region.
Overall, the message remains a positive one; Prof. Dunn hopes that the specific pockets of information regarding certain demographics and areas will help improve local racial strategies as well as wider national policy.
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Australia culturally tolerant



A survey by ‘The Challenging Racism Project’ has revealed some encouraging results about the condition of racial relations in Australia. The lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, said that the results have shown that “Australia is in fact a very tolerant country...but [that] there is a problem with racism [within some areas]”.
In general most people were revealed to be both supportive of and comfortable with the growing levels of multiculturalism. 12,500 people were surveyed over the past decade with 90 percent revealing they supported cultural diversity and nearly 80 percent reporting that they felt comfortable in the company of people from different cultural backgrounds. These findings were also fairly generalisable across all of Australia, supporting the view that the country is adapting well to an increasingly ethnically mobile world.
However, despite the general consensus that multiculturalism is a condition to be welcomed, the vast majority (84 percent) of respondents did state that they believed racial prejudice still existed in Australia. More alarmingly of these respondents 50 percent believed that certain cultural groups did not “fit in” to Australian society.  Could this reveal that an unconscious level of prejudice is still present in the Australian population despite their claims to be culturally-tolerant?
When the researchers looked further into racial prejudice they discovered that the factors most likely to affect tolerance were age, gender, educational level and linguistic abilities. From these factors older Australian-born men who lacked a formal education and only spoke English tended to be the most ‘racist’ group. As an area New South Wales proved to be the most prejudice, in comparison with other states, with the Strathfield region containing the highest levels of racism (in terms of reported insecurity to cultural differences and the figures of reported everyday racism).
As a case study within this area Strathfield is an interesting region; this is because it contains both higher levels of racism and a relatively diverse population. Prof. Dunn explained this paradox as being “not because people there are more racist…[but] because there’s more diversity”. Yet he also countered this generalized claim by stating that “ a person of non-Anglo background is actually less likely to experience racism in [those] places of diversity than if they were in places of less diversity”. Furthermore the survey evidence from other suburbs such as Ashfield and Burwood, which are also culturally diverse, showed no increased level of racial discomfort or discriminative acts.
In general there does appear to be some pattern between prejudice in an area and its level of diversity, but this is in no way a concrete causal relationship. The research raises the point that racism is often highly specific to small areas within a region, so within New South Wales the Far North and Central West achieved good levels of tolerance. Further to this Prof. Dunn also highlights that “longer histories of cultural diversity” and “local programmes confronting racism” play their part in affecting the levels of tolerance found in a region.
Overall, the message remains a positive one; Prof. Dunn hopes that the specific pockets of information regarding certain demographics and areas will help improve local racial strategies as well as wider national policy.
Continue reading
1330 Hits

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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2418 Hits

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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1484 Hits

It takes two to tango: socialization versus expatriate adjustment



Whereas traditional views considered the expatriate the sole actor in his/her adjustment process; recent literature suggests an important role for host country nationals in the expatriate adjustment process. It seems that socialization tactics of the organization and the information-seeking process of the individual have been overlooked as factors in the success of expatriates. As well, expatriates will also experience socialization in the host country national culture. This distinction between socialization in organization and host country national culture is essential. Because incoming expatriates are new organizational members, it is likely that boundaries between organizational and national culture will not always be recognized as such.
Socialization in this context can be defined as the process by which an individual fits in or becomes adjusted to a new role in the organization and learns the content of information necessary for adjustment to this new role. Socialization is, therefore, essentially a learning process and has been described as an expatriate coping strategy (Stahl and Caligiuri, 2005). Six socialization dimensions can be distinguished: politics, performance proficiency, language, people, history and organizational goals/values. Lueke and Svyantek (2000) suggested that combining knowledge gained through research on both socialization and information seeking processes is essential in gaining an understanding of expatriate turnover. Their suggestion is supported by research confirming that the use of these socialization tactics would affect job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. Overall, financial costs of expatriate turnover/failure have been estimated between $2 and $2.5 billion in recent research. Post-entry socialization experiences then may affect expatriates’ experience of fit and value in the new organization.
Consistent with the general nature of socialization described above, Florkowski and Fogel (1999) link perceived acceptance of expatriates in the new organization to host socialization efforts. Socialization is dependent on two players, the host country nationals and the expatriates themselves. Discordant behaviour by either party can disrupt the socialization process. It appears that expatriates at times display behaviours that are unhelpful to their own adjustment process. American expatriates who attempted to avoid resocialization (socializing to a new environment) have been found to experience conflicting internal and external demands. They were unable to communicate effectively with host country nationals and less satisfied with their situation.
Best practice in socialization strategies can assist relocating staff members in achieving their new fit to both the organization and a new community. However, expatriate motivation is key in achieving this fit and, at the same time, reducing expatriate turnover.
Information and feedback seeking, relationship building, negotiation of job changes and positive framing are suitable tactics for proactive socialization. Positive framing, which in contrast with the other techniques does not involve interactions with others, is a personal technique whereby individuals change their understanding of a situation by explicitly controlling the cognitive frame they put on the situation. Relationship building and positive framing were found to have positive effects on expatriate adjustment.
Findings in literature suggest that one size fits all approaches to socialization may not be effective. In order to benefit from the possible positive outcomes related to diversity at the workplace organizations should individualize their socialization tactics within, in particular, collectivistic organizational cultures. Collectivistic cultures tend to favour ingroups and behave according to values and norms within these ingroups. Organizational culture can be defined as the underlying values, beliefs, and principles that serve as a foundation for the organization’s management system, as well as the set of management practices and behaviours that both exemplify and reinforce those principles. This definition emphasizes the role of unique organizational context in socialization processes. Individualized socialization tactics therefore may provide tailored solutions for the individual, which may also increase the efficiency of the learning process as it would build on established skills and knowledge.
In summary, deliberate socialization is clearly related to expatriate adjustment and turnover and requires participation of host country nationals. It takes two to tango!

Dr. B.J.L. van den Anker received his PhD in Business and Management from the International Graduate School of Business of the University of South Australia. Dr. van den Anker hails from the Netherlands and has extensive experience living and working in SE Asia. His (I)HRM and cross-cultural consultancy assignments focus primarily on western-Asian contexts. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Florkowski, G.W. and Fogel, D.S. (1999). Expatriate adjustment and commitment: the role of host-unit treatment. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 10 (5), 783– 807.

Lueke, S.B. and Svyantek, D.J. (2000). Organizational socialization in the host country: The missing link in reducing expatriate turnover. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 8(4), 380-400.

Stahl, G.K. and Caligiuri, P. (2005). The effectiveness of expatriate coping strategies: the moderating role of cultural distance, position level, and time on the international assignment. Journal of Applied Psychology. 90(4), 603-615.
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Culture Shock: from the inside out

Expats often underestimate the challenges of culture shock, and even those who've mastered adaptation are often unprepared for the adjustment the expat bubble itself demands.


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When convenience overtakes competence in translation



A “dialogue of the deaf”, that is the way that the Public Defender of Honchian Lin described the quality of translators provided to his client in Haifa, Israel.

During the initial questioning, trial and appeal of Lin for the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Haifa police encountered difficulties in providing an adequate simultaneous translator for his interrogations. They initially canvassed a local Chinese stallholder; as the father of a police employee and someone working near to the station ‘Joe’ was the most convenient choice for the police. However it later emerged not only was Joe untrained for the position but was linguistically unsuitable for the role he had been given.

Lin was arrested in 2006 after a passerby discovered the dismembered body of his girlfriend Michelle Jamias in the street. Joe was brought in to act as a simultaneous translator on the first interrogation of Lin by the police. However Lin was not familiar with the Chinese dialect spoken by Joe (being from rural China where dialects vary) and spoke only a few limited sentences of Hebrew. This resulted in the translation of Lin’s statement being vague and disjointed, lacking accuracy in terms of what had been said and by whom. The evaluation of this evidence by the Supreme Court Justice, Yoram Danziger, has produced the verdict that the initial interview was both “degraded and unclear”

On this evidence the Haifa police seem to have failed Lin’s rights to be able to be treated to a fair judicial process. They failed to ascertain the suitability of Joe’s services in advance and when experiencing interview problems failed to find another translator. Although Lin confessed again in a second interview, he later was able to use the lack of fair translation as support for his claim that he had made a coerced compliant confession. This meant that Lin could claim that the pressure of being unable to communicate his story led to a confession that was obtained forcibly under duress. So not only had the suspect’s rights been violated but also the prosecution faced difficulties in convicting Lin of the crime which additional evidence (beyond his confessions) proved he had committed.

This case shows the pitfalls of inviting foreign workers into your country and then not providing for their basic needs. If a foreign worker falls sick, is accused of a crime or is called to witness then they need to be able to accurately receive and provide information. Does this case suggest that Israel, as an example, is unconcerned with such issues or is it simply the fact that funding is not available to provide for these needs? Either way countries have a responsibility to provide for those they invite in, they should not feel that the economic or other advantages of foreign workers outweighs the rights of these people to be treated as any other citizen.

Even after the Supreme Court Justice’s findings Lin was given a Mandarin translator for his appeal against his conviction, again unable to speak his rural dialect. More evidence that the service of translation and all its relevant nuances should not be overlooked, especially if you actively encourage speakers of other languages into your country.
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Cross Cultural Palliative Care



Different cultures and religions deal with the concept of death differently.  The use of medicine and health care varies across different cultures because of the beliefs of their people. Due to varying beliefs across cultures, there is a need for cultural understanding or cultural competence in medicine, especially in palliative care. ‘In medicine, cultural competence means providing health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients.’   The use of cultural competence is especially important in palliative care because people of varying cultures have very different approaches to dealing with death. (Palliative care improves the quality of life for patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease).
An organisation called the Middle East Cancer Consortium (MECC) developed a project in 2005 to raise awareness of palliative care problems faced by its members (United States and the health ministries of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey). The aim of MECC’s project is to find a common ground between these 7 countries’ methods of dealing with palliative care. Part of this project is to give palliative care training to nurses, physicians and social workers which respects the varying spiritual beliefs between the countries involved.
In many hospitals, there are now nurses who are employed because they are of the same religion and cultural background to certain patients. For example Dr. Myriam Weyl Ben-Arush, (head of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Department at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel) has Arabic-speaking nurses and social workers, as well as those who speak Hebrew. This is to ensure that staff can be empathetic to the spiritual needs of their patients.
Taking spiritual belief into account is important when dealing with death because people of different cultures have different beliefs. For example, a Druze family believes in reincarnation and an Arab Christian person believes in Heaven. So perhaps these people will find the idea of death less difficult than someone who does not believe in any kind of life after death.
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Live in new country to challenge your creativity



Recent research published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seems to suggest a truth in the long held notion that living abroad nurtures our creativity. From Byron in Switzerland to Picasso in France, cultural change has historically been seen as the way to broaden the mind and enhance the artistic senses. Now 2009 research headed by William Maddux of INSEAD really has shown that time spent engrossed in a new culture can improve our creative skills- even after we have returned ‘home’.

An initial five studies using MBA students at the Kellogg School of Management, Illinois, showed that both cognitive flexibility and negotiation skills were higher in those participants who had spent time living abroad when compared to a control group who had not. One study to solve the Duncker candle problem (where a candle must be properly attached to a wall without dripping: using a candle, a box of matches and a box of tacks) showed that those with experience living abroad were better positioned to imagine the alternative functions of these familiar objects and thus solve the problem. This could mimick the intuitive skills required when dealing with the changing levels of importance placed upon greetings, etiquette, food or clothing and so on, when living abroad.

Another study involving a mock negotiation of the sale of a gas station demonstrated that those with living abroad experience were able to be much more creative with negotiations (after the sale price had been removed as the dealbreaker). This on a much simpler level replicates the way domestic shopping differs between countries and cultures, buying spices in a Morroccan market is very different from buying clothes in a Parisian boutique.

These two examples easily portray two different skills that are invaluable to most businesses, especially given the difficulties of the current global economic climate. The need for companies to keep innovating to stay competitive makes these skills more important than ever in recruitment, meaning that potential employees with such benefits may find themselves more sought after to fill positions in businesses, especially those operating globally.

The reason for the relationship between creativity and living abroad is not altogether known, but follow-up research with MBA students in France has correlated with the earlier Duncker candle findings. Interestingly, there is no evidence that those who have only traveled abroad either possess these skills or are any better placed than those who travel domestically. This suggests that businesses might therefore benefit more from a system of extended work placements abroad, with employees based in offices in each country, rather than from repeatedly sending employees for short overseas conferences or meetings.

Moreover evidence suggests that recreating or ‘priming’ employees to remember their cultural experiences could even benefit them once they have returned ‘home’. Another follow-up study found that Parisian students were much more able to solve cognitive puzzles when recalling the cultural challenges that faced them living outside of France, when compared to the control group who were told to recall any recreational or everyday challenges they had faced.

Although this research is by no means empirically conclusive it certainly leads the way for further research and potential business initiatives; whilst asserting the message that global interaction is a collective and individual advantage to one’s life. Furthermore it is an asset to the development of modern Psychology in arguing the ‘nurtured’ acquirement of new skills beyond the constraints of Behavourism, as humans psychologically adapt to their environment.
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Language Aptitude Tests for Foreign Doctors


With the well publicized case of Dr Daniel Ubani earlier this year has come the question as to how many other EU GPs practicing in the UK are ‘lost in translation’. Dr Ubani had “unlawfully killed” UK patient David Gray in 2008 after mistakenly giving him a large overdose of diamorphine.

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