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.

Expats "get the best of both worlds"

When English people move abroad, almost half (46 percent) miss traditional dishes such as bangers and mash and black pudding.

More than a third (37 percent) miss their favourite TV programmes, such as Only Fools and Horses, according to a major new survey of expats by BUPA International.

But surprisingly, in spite of craving familiar foods and TV programmes, the majority of English expats say they are actually happier abroad.

Findings from research by the world's largest expat health insurer show that three in four English expats now call their new country "home", while a third say they feel healthier since moving abroad, thanks to better weather and an improved quality of life.

Ninety-three percent of the English surveyed also said they would recommend the expatriate life to others, with over half declaring that "they get the best of both worlds".

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Expat Life in Malaysia

Christopher Boyd says sitting in your 50th floor office, mobile phone in hand, reading about the problems of tigers eating the local livestock is but one of the many contrasts which makes life in Malaysia a long journey of discovery.



I am a long-term expat in Malaysia, having been here since 1974. My nationality is British, but I have permanent residence in Malaysia. By profession I am a Chartered Surveyor and a partner in Regroup, which is a firm of property valuers and agents. My wife is Malaysian and runs a nursery school.

Malaysia: Malaysia for the expatriate was once regarded as the "poor cousin" ranking well below Hong Kong and Singapore in importance and amenities. Increasingly it is the regional location of choice for foreign companies. Expats seldom have much problem settling in, and many plan to return here in retirement.

It is useful to think of Malaysia as really being three countries - the very cosmopolitan Klang Valley surrounding the capital Kuala Lumpur has every facet of a big city with modern buildings, hotels, parks and traffic jams.

Never very far away is the exotic countryside with its mountain ranges, endless plantations, jungle and coral beaches. Then, across the South China Sea, are the states which make up East Malaysia.

Read more> C. Boyd 

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UAE is top world expat destination

The United Arab Emirates is the world’s top destination for expatriates in terms of personal taxation, according to a new study.

Mercer’s ‘Worldwide Individual Tax Comparator Report’, a global survey of expatriate hotspots, looks at tax and benefits systems across 32 countries, focusing on personal tax structures, average salaries and marital status. Data from the survey is used by multinationals to structure pay packages for their expatriate and local market employees.

For single managers, the UAE has the most attractive tax environment according to the percentage of net income available, the survey finds. The country earns its no. 1 ranking by not assessing income tax, with social security contributions amounting to just 5% of a local employee’s gross salary.

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Technology for global mobility programmes

The use of information technology within human resource (HR) management has increased greatly during recent years, with most organisations now using technology to some extent in their management of HR.

Some believe that HR practitioners have become more focused on adding strategic value within an organisation and becoming a business partner to line managers. A number of authors have suggested that technology may be used within HR to facilitate this shift in the role of the HR function, including Edward Lawler and Susan Mohrman in their 2003 Human Resource Planning article, 'HR as a Strategic Partner: What Does it Take to Make it Happen,' and Samir Shrivastava and James Shaw in their 2003 Human Resource Management article, 'Liberating HR through Technology.' However, HR functions also have been under pressure to reduce costs and make efficiency savings, sometimes achieved by outsourcing parts of the function, but often through streamlining the transactional aspects of the work by means of call centres, self-service, and a greater use of new technology.

Read more> Expatica 
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Working as an expat in France

Just getting set up in your new French office? Nerve-wracking, isn't it? Here are some tips from Expatica's Culture Coach Nathalie Kleinschmit to make sure you get off to a good start and read the signals correctly in your new environment.

Let's see if you recognise yourself in Jason's tale of his stay at his multinational company's head office in Paris:

“When I got to the front desk, they told me I had to wait because they hadn’t received my badge yet. Twenty minutes went by before my manager arrived to authorize my entrance. He then walked me to my new office and and told me that a meeting was scheduled with the team at 3pm that afternoon and that, until then, I could read through the files.

I had my own laptop but couldn’t get the Internet connection to work. For the next few hours, I could see people walking by peering into my office but not a single person came in to introduce themselves to me. I went to get a coffee and discovered that the machine wasn’t coin-operated and that I needed a card. For lunch, I had already eaten in the cafeteria on previous trips and had a voucher so I was able to get a platter together. But I remember feeling quite alone and wondering if I was ever going to fit in.

Read more > Expatica
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An expatriate child's view of Saudi Arabia

 

With all the attention given to the Middle East today, it is important that the Western public receives a complete picture in order that their opinions and sentiment toward Arabs and their homeland’s is a responsible one.

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Expat Life in Mexico

Expat Life in Mexico
The North American Free Trade Agreement (Weintraub, 2004) and lower labour costs in Mexico have caused many US companies to move their operations south of the border.  While the majority of the workers in the US-owned plants are Mexican, some of the employees are US workers on temporary expat assignments.


While not randomly selected from a large pool of expat workers, my ten interviewees did hold a variety of jobs.  Several of them were managers and engineers.  Others in the group included a US Air Force officer, an HR representative, a Director of Research and Development, and a missionary.  Two were female and eight were male.  For the vast majority of the group this was their first expat assignment and they considered the assignment a means of advancing their careers and providing their families with a rich cultural experience.  Half of the workers said that they would be interested in doing another expat assignment in the future.

Read more: Expatica 
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International assignments - six steps to success

In the book, “The World is Flat,” By Thomas L. Friedman, the author famously writes, “‘Honey,’ I confided, ‘I think the world is flat.’”

With the onslaught of rapid globalisation, high-quality executive mobility has become more critical than ever for the success of many US companies. Nevertheless, many companies continue to struggle to make their international assignments effective.

A well-developed global mobility program must cover a comprehensive range of complex issues, such as housing, children’s education, and income taxes. In addition, many companies now are investing in family counselling and in cultural and language training with good results. These issues offer many opportunities for continual improvement and, fortunately, experts and service providers now are available to help.

However, while these are important issues for success, in the end, these issues deal with administrative policy, process, and financial costs. They do not address the effectiveness of the assignment. Global mobility programs—and the managers responsible for them—must be aligned with the overall business goals.

Read more: Success Abroad 
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An expat's view on intercultural communication

Portuguese expat Elizabet Fernandes enjoys the international atmosphere in her multilingual EU company, but finds that people get 'lost in translation’ and inherit one another's linguistic mistakes.

Lost in translation

English is the current working language but too often people ‘get lost in translation’ because the level and the knowledge of language amongst us varies from person to person. We also inherit each other’s linguistic mistakes and end up speaking a kind of ‘Euro-English’. I like to speak as many languages as possible so I prefer to speak Spanish, French or Italian depending on the nationality of my colleagues. Besides, with this job I can also use and develop my skills as a translator and that’s perfect.

Unfortunately it’s too hard to use Dutch on a daily basis as the Dutch immediately respond in English to foreigners even to Flemish people!

Culture games

Although Eurojust is a very multicultural environment it is still not very intercultural. My colleagues often don’t understand each other or tend to ‘over-react’. I have been fighting for intercultural training because it helps you to realise that different people (from different cultures) may react differently in similar situations and to respect that. I followed this training myself in Portugal so I know the impact and the benefits.

Read more: Holland 
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The perfect expat?

Changes in the world economy have made many companies change their businesses in an international context. Expatriates are used to share the knowledge from their country and make these businesses a success. Expatriates cost a lot of money, and because of this it is necessary to know who is and who isn’t suited to work abroad. Research has been done to which personality characteristics are important for a good performance by an expatriate, but does this theoretical background suit the reality?

At first four variables used in this research are four of the ‘Big Five personality dimensions’ (Costa & McCrae, 1992): extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Extraversion can be seen in two different dimensions: ambition and social capability. There are different intra individual factors that can be indicative for the emotional stability of a worker. Examples of these are concern, being depressed, anger, embarrassment, emotionality, anxiety and insecurity. Examples of characteristics following agreeableness are courtesy, flexibility, reliability, helping others, soft-heartedness and tolerance. Conscientiousness can be described with thoroughness, responsibility, being organised and the quality of plans.

Read more: Expats 
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Family matters on expat assignment

In today’s digitalised, globalised world, where the words:  ‘cost-effective solutions’ and ‘bottom-line’ are a common language shared across the corporate spectrum.  Finally, issues of families and family support, so long concealed and little discussed within the corporate arena are now enjoying a renaissance.

The focus on maintaining a healthy ‘work/life balance’ is fuelling recognition amongst corporations that revenue is not the dominant factor in achieving the long-term goals of increased productivity and profitability.

Read more: Expats 
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Localisation of expats problematic

Localisation of expatriates is problematic for employers, says ORC Worldwide's 2007 Survey on International Localisation Policies & Practices for Expatriates.

According to the report, 48 percent of the participants have seen an increase in the use of localisation over the past two years, yet the practice remains tricky.

Obstacles faced by employers when localising – that is, phasing out or removing expatriate assignment terms and conditions – include retirement plans, consistency in developing local pay packages, management preference for individual negotiations, establishing an acceptable local salary in low-salary countries, and employee requests for continuance of coverage for international schools and health care.

Read more: Expatriates 
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Trend to shorter-term international relocation assignments

According to a new survey from Cartus, the premier provider of global mobility management and workforce development solutions, an accelerated shift from long-term to short-term international relocation assignments is expected during the next two years.

The Cartus Emerging Trends in Global Mobility: Policies & Practices Survey also revealed that international assignment volume has grown and is expected to increase in the future. The study also found that the number of assignment destinations is surging. Respondents named 51 different countries in their list of top three destination locations, a 76 percent increase over 2004. The United States continued as the most common destination for relocation assignments, but China overtook the UK for second place while Germany replaced Singapore for fourth place. China is expected to take over the top spot within the next two years, according to the survey.

Read more: Cartus 
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The Expat Checklist

Research and Markets has announced the addition of “The Expat Checklist” to their offering.

The Expat Checklist is a practical and simple guide to items that should be considered in an expatriate agreement, including hints on developing a successful expatriate agreement.

"Kudos to the Expat Checklist! This checklist was really the only thing I found on the web that discussed all the upfront issues and gotcha's to watch out for in negotiating my expat contract. This definitely helped me to think of a few things I would've forgotten until it was too late. It was very helpful!" - Expatriate in Geneva

The Expat Checklist is based upon the experience of the author - a sales and marketing executive with an International MBA. It includes input from other expatriates, and most importantly benefits from the mistakes the author and others made during various expatriate agreement negotiations. The author's own expatriate experience was ultimately successful, despite an acquisition by a competitor and resulting lay-offs during the assignment. His expatriate agreement was the key to that successful experience.

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France allows family members to work during an expatriate assignment

France is the latest country to allow family members of skilled international staff to work during an assignment. The changes, which apply to intra-group transfers and a new category for `competences and talents', were part of the 2006 Immigration and Integration Law, implemented in May 2007.

The change is applauded by Permits Foundation, which promotes open work permits for the spouses and partners of international staff worldwide.

Read more: France 
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Expatriate Life in Mexico

 

 

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How to Manage your International Staff

After an eight year steady decline, international job assignments are on the rise. According to the 11th Annual Global Relocation Trends Survey, conducted by GMAC Global Relocation Services, 47 percent of companies questioned for this year's survey reported an increase in the size of their current expatriate population, compared to 31 percent in 2004. Fifty-four percent of companies anticipate additional growth in the coming year.

Thanks to the increased ease of communication, business divisions and product manufacture now easily span several countries, said John Pfeiffer, managing director of AIRINC Europe. "People are naturally going to have to move around in different countries and the need for people to be [globally] exposed is high," Pfeiffer said.

Read more: Expatica 
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