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.

Why India is Becoming a Top Expat Destination

Why India is Becoming a Top Expat Destination

As a cross cultural training consultancy, we have a great insight into the countries which rate highly as expat destinations and it seems that India is certainly viewed highly as a popular ‘go to’ country at the moment....especially with Americans. The numbers now moving to India for work is phenomenal.

Why is India so popular for American Expatriates?

Trade deals are a key reason.  The US is India’s key second biggest trading partner after China whilst India is the US’s eleventh largest trading partner.  The strength of mutual trading makes for a pretty strong relationship between the two countries and clearly generates considerable relocation opportunities for both parties. India is also one of the fastest growing global economies which makes it more likely that investments in this part of the world are likely to do well.

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World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
In 2001, the UN General Assembly declared May 21st to the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development due to UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in the same year. This day is dedicated to enhance our understanding of values of cultural divergence and raise awareness for cultural differences for a better collaboration around the world.
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DVDs on Cultural Awareness When Working Abroad

DVDs on Cultural Awareness When Working Abroad

Are you going on a business trip and wondering about the cultural etiquette of the country? Are you working with international counterparts from a specific country and encountering some issues related to communication, relationship building or management?  

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The Link Between Cultural Conflicts and Workplace Creativity

The Link Between Cultural Conflicts and Workplace Creativity
Conflicts are never beneficial for a working environment – cultural conflicts are one of many challenges that need to be avoided at all costs. A recent study, however, revealed that avoiding cultural clashes in the workplace does not only result in a more peaceful environment, but can aid the creative process within companies as well.
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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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Milkman shows ultimate Cross-Cultural Customer Service



"Cemcho bhai, harisani, ano chokra kabar?"

That is Gujarati for: "Hello brother, how are you? Any news about your son?"

Not too unusual as the start of a conversation in the heart of the Asian community in Blackburn, apart from the fact that the words are being spoken by a 69-year-old white, English-born milkman.

John Mather, aka Jimmy, has been doing the rounds in this north-west town for the past 50 years. And as he has gone from door-to-door in the town's large Asian community, he has become almost fluent in Gujarati.

"When I first started the rounds here there were only a handful of Asian families, about eight or 10, in the London Road, Whalley St and Altom St areas," says Jimmy.

But as more arrived on the foreign shores from Kenya and Malawi, Jimmy's ability to go beyond delivering just milk - and procure the sorts of foods they couldn't pick up in the local supermarket - put him in greater demand.

"They wanted natural yoghurt, ghee, goats and chickens, the type of things they were used to back home. I'd gone to the dairies here and they said that there wasn't the demand, but they couldn't have been more wrong."

Read more > BBC
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Milkman shows ultimate Cross-Cultural Customer Service



"Cemcho bhai, harisani, ano chokra kabar?"

That is Gujarati for: "Hello brother, how are you? Any news about your son?"

Not too unusual as the start of a conversation in the heart of the Asian community in Blackburn, apart from the fact that the words are being spoken by a 69-year-old white, English-born milkman.

John Mather, aka Jimmy, has been doing the rounds in this north-west town for the past 50 years. And as he has gone from door-to-door in the town's large Asian community, he has become almost fluent in Gujarati.

"When I first started the rounds here there were only a handful of Asian families, about eight or 10, in the London Road, Whalley St and Altom St areas," says Jimmy.

But as more arrived on the foreign shores from Kenya and Malawi, Jimmy's ability to go beyond delivering just milk - and procure the sorts of foods they couldn't pick up in the local supermarket - put him in greater demand.

"They wanted natural yoghurt, ghee, goats and chickens, the type of things they were used to back home. I'd gone to the dairies here and they said that there wasn't the demand, but they couldn't have been more wrong."

Read more > BBC
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Stereotyping and Cross-Cultural Communication



As more or more people from different backgrounds, countries, cultures and religions immigrate to foreign lands, those countries become an intercultural melting pot. In order for the native people and the immigrant population to blend and create a thriving and successful atmosphere both sides need to develop some sort of intercultural tolerance and understanding of the differences that may exist between them. An example of poor intercultural understanding, or one based simply on stereotypes, is offered by the town of Herouxville in Quebec, Canada.

A declaration issued by the town in January 2007, which was designed to inform immigrants, “that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here [i.e. Herouxville]“. It then went on to state that the immigrant population would therefore have to refrain from their cultural norms and activities such as to “kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them, etc.”

Read more > Global Utah Weekly
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Stereotyping and Cross-Cultural Communication



As more or more people from different backgrounds, countries, cultures and religions immigrate to foreign lands, those countries become an intercultural melting pot. In order for the native people and the immigrant population to blend and create a thriving and successful atmosphere both sides need to develop some sort of intercultural tolerance and understanding of the differences that may exist between them. An example of poor intercultural understanding, or one based simply on stereotypes, is offered by the town of Herouxville in Quebec, Canada.

A declaration issued by the town in January 2007, which was designed to inform immigrants, “that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here [i.e. Herouxville]“. It then went on to state that the immigrant population would therefore have to refrain from their cultural norms and activities such as to “kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them, etc.”

Read more > Global Utah Weekly
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New DVD - Cross Cultural Communication & Customer Service

We have today added a new DVD title to their library of cross cultural communication training DVDs.



Cross-Cultural Communication and Customer Service

In Part 1, service representative Valerie receives a call from Lois, a customer from another culture. Valerie speaks quickly and uses slang, frustrating Lois. Valerie is impatient with Lois’ accent and English, and belittles her, despite the fact that Lois has taken the time to learn Valerie’s language. Valerie insults Lois, and loses a customer.

In Part 2, Valerie approaches the same situation differently, adapting to the customer’s unique needs. Valerie speaks slowly, clearly, and properly. When Lois uses unfamiliar words, Valerie seeks to reframe to understand her. Despite being challenged by the communication difficulties, Valerie takes personal responsibility, finds a solution, and ultimately triumphs with yet another happy customer.

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Organisations Failing in Cross Cultural Up-Skilling



Leading research and workplace innovation company, Career Innovation (Ci) has today published the results of its latest study, Cross-Cultural Development Conversations.

Carried out across 45 leading companies worldwide, the new study has found that although organisations are aware of the need to skill up their leaders to manage the cross-cultural workforce, few have acted to make this a reality.

At a time when the pace and scale of globalisation has never been higher, competition for the best talent remains intense. The effectiveness of development conversations in organisations is known to play a significant role in engaging and retaining key talent. Factoring in the complexity of a diverse and dispersed workforce makes it even tougher to ensure that these conversations are at their most effective.

According to the 45 organisations interviewed (Sept-Nov 08), the business importance of working effectively across cultures is high and rising. Most are already operating complex organizations across multiple regions and almost all (91%) indicated they expect cultural diversity in their organisations to increase over the next 3-5 years, with nearly 50% expecting a “significant increase”.

The study revealed three top factors that impact cross-cultural development conversations:

The directness of communication style
Language differences – especially when people are not communicating in their first language
The need to establish high levels of trust across cultures, in order for development conversations to be effective

Differences between Asian and Western cultures were consistently reported as a particular challenge by respondents with 50% of organisations reporting this as an issue.

Companies identified many key employee development processes that are impacted by these cultural hurdles. For example, 60% of organisations said that coaching relationships can be much tougher to establish in some cultures than in others. Giving feedback can also present challenges, with one company finding that its Chinese employees quit after receiving challenging feedback.

“This issue has a big impact on global organisations”, says Ci’s founder Jonathan Winter. “Although they are increasingly aware of the need to encourage meaningful dialogue with employees about their careers and development, only a few have really taken on board the additional complexities overlaid by the cross-cultural dimension. Left unresolved the cross-cultural conversation gap hits the bottom line in a way companies can ill afford in today’s tough times.”

Organisations who are placing the strongest focus on building their employees’ cross-cultural competence report significant benefits including improved attraction and retention rates.

Following on from this study and Ci’s previous Conversation Gap research, Ci will be developing its existing career tools and approaches to encourage more leaders to develop cross-cultural thinking as part of their everyday style. Winter offers an example of how this will be incorporated, “Our Engaging Conversations multi-rater tool is already helping mangers around the world improve their staff dialogue skills and habits. We’re going to take that to the next stage and incorporate the cross-cultural dimension”.

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Cross Cultural Interviews


culture in interviews


At this moment in time, the increase in cross border human traffic has meant that companies are no longer dealing with a homogenous native community from which they recruit their staff. Companies are now facing cross cultural challenges in how they recruit, manage and develop a multi-cultural staff. One area of note where HR and management are finding difficulties is in the interview room.

With companies recruiting from a pool of candidates from different nationalities, cultures and faiths the cross cultural interview is an area that must be analysed properly if recruiters wish to capitalize on the potential available to them. This is necessary to ensure that candidates in cross cultural interviews are not discriminated against through misperceptions and poor judgements.

Read more: Cross Cultural Interviews 
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Muslims, Ramadan and the Workplace – a Guide for HR

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week. Millions of people from Morocco to Malaysia will fast everyday from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. Among these will be significant numbers of Muslims working in offices in Europe and North America where Ramadan slips past unnoticed. This lack of awareness can and does cause inconvenience, stress and unhappiness to practicing Muslims in the workplace. Commisceo Global, a leading cross cultural communication training provider, has released a free guide for employers with Muslim staff to help them better understand the month and what it means to Islam’s adherents.

Depending on the sighting of the moon, the Islamic world will once again begin their annual exercise in spiritual and physical cleansing through fasting and other religious exercises next week. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia where the majority of the population will be fasting, the social cycle changes to accommodate people’s needs. Work may start later due to people praying late into the night, it will certainly finish earlier to allow people to prepare for iftar (breaking of the fast) and the general pace of life drops down a couple of gears, especially for the important last 10 nights.

However, in Europe and North America the pace of life continues as normal. Although many Muslims will be going through the same rigours as people in Syria or Singapore, Ramadan can be that little bit tougher. This is mainly down to the lack of cultural awareness within businesses nowadays. Although people may know who a Muslim is they may not appreciate what a Muslim does. Unawareness of aspects of the religion such as food & drink, interaction between genders, moral obligations, prayers and holidays is widespread.

As a result there are always stories of Muslims being invited to business lunches, not being provided with time or space to break their fasts at sunset or expected to work on the Eid holiday following Ramadan.

“We know of Muslims working in organisations that had no idea what Ramadan was and what it entails. Stories include buffets being set up next to someone’s desk at work who was fasting, a manager insisting on a Muslim colleague attending a working lunch and adequate time not being given at the time to break the fast to drink and eat properly,” explains Commisceo's Managing Director, Neil Payne.

Respecting cultural diversity in the workplace is simply best practice. If staff feel that they are being taken care of and understood on a personal level, a business will experience greater retention, morale and ultimately productivity.

In order to provide businesses with access to timely cultural knowledge on Muslims, Islam and the month of Ramadan, Coomisceo have released a free downloadable file that offers employers a summary of the main issues. These include looking at what Ramadan is, what it means to Muslims, the impact it has on their daily lives for a month and how in turn this impacts their working lives.


“The future is culturally diverse and if we are all to have a successful future, then cultural awareness is critical,” adds Payne.

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