The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

When in Saudi, Do Not Dab

When in Saudi, Do Not Dab

A word of warning for anyone travelling to Saudi Arabia - stay well away from any dabbing. The move could see you spending some time in jail.

Abdullah al-Shahrani, a Saudi entertainer, was recently detained by Saudi authorities after dabbing during a concert in the city of Taif.

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Culture Shock & Employee Relocation

Culture Shock & Employee Relocation

A delegation from the financial services sector recently visited Brussels in an effort to drive forward a post-Brexit deal for the industry.

If they fail, it may become necessary for financial service businesses in the UK to relocate key staff to other sites in Europe to enable the continuation of current services.

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Brexodus - Managing Employee Relocation After Brexit

Brexodus - Managing Employee Relocation After Brexit

London business leaders visited Brussels last  week in a bid to push for a financial services deal following Brexit. 

If the EU pursues plans to move Euro Clearing services back into the EU zone, then London may potentially lose its status as the European financial hub. 

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UK Getting Cheaper for Expatriate Relocation Packages

UK Getting Cheaper for Expatriate Relocation Packages

Traditionally one of the more expensive destinations to send expatriate staff, a survey has found that the UK is now becoming cheaper for foreign companies.


The MyExpatriate Market Pay survey (published annually by ECA International) states that for the past few years the fall in the value of UK Sterling has meant that for companies outside the country, operating mainly in USD, sending resources to Britain has become around 11% cheaper.

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The Female Expatriate Experience of Relocating to the Middle East

The Female Expatriate Experience of Relocating to the Middle East

Working with relocating expats is great.  Not only do we get to share some of the pre-move buzz with relocating families, but we also get to hear the post arrival updates and share a little of the settling in excitement.  

Although an exciting time of change and opportunity, the preparation and lead up to relocation can be extremely stressful – particularly if the whole family are moving.  Anxieties vary widely, and depend on factors such as the target country, the presence of accompanying family members, the type of role being performed upon arrival and the degree to which an individual has travelled in in the past.  

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Where is the Most Expensive Destination for Expatriates?

Where is the Most Expensive Destination for Expatriates?

Since relocation training forms such a significant part of the work undertaken by us here at Commisceo, it’s essential that we keep up to date with global changes and their impacts on all things ‘expatriate’.

Mercer, is just one of our trusted ‘go to’ experts.  As consultants in the fields of talent, investments and health, their annual Cost of Living surveys are a must read for companies engaged in the relocation of their employees. 

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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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The Relocation Industry and Historical Context

The Relocation Industry and Historical Context

Mention the ‘relocation industry’ as conversation fodder at a dinner party and your guests will probably panic that you’re planning to expose them really dry conversation pieces such as Cost of Living Allowances, Trailing Spouses, Expat Taxation, Bridging Allowances etc

In actual fact, the relocation industry is an exciting one and not deserving of the stifled yawns that might otherwise be elicited when mentioned.

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Top Expat Relocation Concerns

Top Expat Relocation Concerns

Post-Brexit, Relocation of Resources is Top Priority

Price Waterhouse Cooper predicts that as many as 70,000 British employees will relocate to alternative European locations between now and 2020 following the vite to Brexit vote. This is not counting the thousands of non-British that could also leave.

We are already seeing signs and it is slowly becoming a reality for a number of employees. As a number of companies seek to retain access to European skills, initiatives and pan EU licensing & tax arrangements, relocation of key staff has become central to their contingency planning.

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Where Will UK-based Businesses Go post-Brexit?

Where Will UK-based Businesses Go post-Brexit?

Will we see a business brain drain?

Britain’s impending exit from the EU has rallied a host of cries from its European brethren, encouraging businesses to continue accessing European skills and resources by relocating elsewhere.

These rallying calls have been heard.  Whilst some UK based internationals wait to see the EU exit deal, others are charging ahead with the steam and energy of a power boosted intercity train; reviewing both the landscape and their options, should they choose to exit.  

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The Stages of Culture Shock

The Stages of Culture Shock

'Culture shock' is used to describe the emotional rollercoaster that someone experiences when living in a new country. Anyone that has worked and lived in a foreign country will experience culture shock of some sort.

Culture shock affects anyone from business personnel and their families, to EFL teachers to sports stars. Recognising culture shock is an important way of being able to deal with it.

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Expat Tips - Moving to China

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).

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It takes two to tango: socialization versus expatriate adjustment

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

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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Live in new country to challenge your creativity

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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Working abroad 'requires translation of qualifications'

Working abroad 'requires translation of qualifications'



Professionals who are looking into the possibility of working abroad need to check that their qualifications "translate" into other countries.

According to expatriate and international lifestyle magazine Shelter Offshore, rules and regulations may also be different overseas, so professionals must ensure they do their research before deciding which country they wish to work in.

Rhiannon Davies, co-founder of Shelter Offshore, said professionals must also consider their own needs before making any firm plans.

She said: "If someone has a desire to live in a given country, they need to look at what businesses could work in that environment."

For example, a professional wanting to try working in Germany would need to carry out research into what type of business is successful in the country and where there may be a gap in the market.

Ms Davies was speaking after recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that there are almost three million full-time self-employed workers in the UK.

Read more > Shelter
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Soft expatriates: Successful expatriation in a nutshell

Soft expatriates: Successful expatriation in a nutshell


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Expat Children - Third Culture Kids

Expat Children - Third Culture Kids



In a world where international careers are becoming commonplace, the phenomenon of third culture kids (TCKs) – children who spend a significant portion of their developmental years in a culture outside their parents’ passport culture(s) – is increasing exponentially. Not only is their number increasing, but the cultural complexity and relevance of their experience and the adult TCKs (ATCKs) they become, is also growing.

When Ruth Hill Useem, a sociologist, first coined this term in the 1950s, she spent a year researching expatriates in India. She discovered that folks who came from their home (or first) culture and moved to a host (or second) culture, had, in reality, formed a culture, or lifestyle, different from either the first or second cultures. She called this the third culture and the children who grew up in this lifestyle third culture kids. At that time, most expatriate families had parents from the same culture and they often remained in one host culture while overseas.

This is no longer the case. Take, for example, Brice Royer, the founder of TCKid.com. His father is a half-French/half-Vietnamese UN peacekeeper while his mom is Ethiopian. Brice lived in seven countries before he was eighteen including France, Mayotte, La Reunion, Ethiopia, Egypt, Canada, and England. He writes, “When people ask me ‘Where are you from?,’ I just joke around and say, ‘My mom says I’m from heaven’.” What other answer can he give?

Read more > Telegraph
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American Graduates Finding Jobs in China

American Graduates Finding Jobs in China
Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.

Joshua Arjuna Stephens, a 2007 graduate of Wesleyan University, works in Beijing for XPD Media, which makes online games.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China’s surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.

“I’ve seen a surge of young people coming to work in China over the last few years,” said Jack Perkowski, founder of Asimco Technologies, one of the largest automotive parts companies in China.

“When I came over to China in 1994, that was the first wave of Americans coming to China,” he said. “These young people are part of this big second wave.”

Read more > China
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China is top expat destination

China is top expat destination



China is the top expat destination followed by the U.S., UK, Singapore and Switzerland, survey reveals.

China is ranked as the top destination for international assignees in the annual Global Relocation Trends report from from Brookfield Global Relocation Services. In second place was the United States followed by the UK, Singapore and Switzerland.

China was also ranked as the top emerging destination followed by India and Russia.

China presents greatest challenges
Paradoxically, China was seen as presenting the greatest challenges to both international assignment managers and assignees due to the difficulty in finding suitable homes and schools, accessing medical care, immigration formalities, tax compliance, communication and knowledge of international regulations, the remoteness of the destinations and increasing costs. India ranked second and Russia third in terms of presenting the greatest relocation challenges.
The survey of 180 multinational firms reveals a significant move by companies to control costs with the number one relocation challenge being the overall cost of assignments, followed by finding suitable candidates and controlling policy exceptions.

Read more > China
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