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.

Bilingual Business @ Home

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

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

2011 Census Translation Costs

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

Australia culturally tolerant

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

Australia culturally tolerant

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

Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?

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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Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?

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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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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When convenience overtakes competence in translation

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

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

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

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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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review

The Middle East Unveiled: A Review



As someone in the intercultural field, a Muslim and having spent many years living, working and travelling throughout the Arab world, I am always keen to scrutinize literature aimed at business professionals seeking to improve their knowledge of the region. Donna Marsh’s “The Middle East Unveiled” is a recent edition to such literature.
With an experience of the region spanning some 30 years, Donna worked within sales, marketing and new business development across the region. Today she acts as a trainer and consultant advising companies on how to work more effectively in the region.
The major positive of the book is summed up in the title’s sub-heading, ‘a cultural and practical guide for all western business professionals’. The topics covered are very comprehensive. Ranging from the usual business practicalities and etiquette to safety and security through to what to do at the weekend. One could suggest that the author was over ambitious in the range of subjects covered however the informal and succinct writing style help the reader get straight to the point thus lightening the experience. The format of the book further allows the reader to ‘dip’ into topics rather than having to wrestle with long chapters.
I find chapters on Islam intriguing. It is not uncommon for “Western” authors to misrepresent the religion, fuel expat stereotypes or simply offer their gloss of a highly complex and colourful religion. Donna however has managed to tackle a sensitive topic with an impressive amount of clarity, accuracy and balance. The key, it appears, is her straight-talking approach to the topic and a deep appreciation of what the religion actually says on certain matters plus the various practices across the region. In short the section gives anyone a great introduction to Islam and Muslims, increasing awareness and therefore reducing the ‘fear factor’.
Any review would not be a review without some nitpicking. Two major factors stand out for me when looking for the negatives of the book.
People love case studies, anecdotes and the like when it comes to cultural information. It gives people real life examples, context and a way of applying information to situations. Each chapter could have done with an anecdote from the author’s library of experiences to help readers along the journey. This neatly brings me on to my second point.
As a woman, such anecdotes would have had even greater impact. Donna’s advantage with this book was her gender. At a time when we are fed stories of stonings, burqas, forced marriages and honour killings this was an opportunity for a woman to bring across her story of the Arab world. Women in business tend to shy away from the region; a real and honest assessment of a Western woman’s role in the Arab world could have had a great impact on this perception. Although the book does cover topics around gender differences in a useful manner, that little bit extra in terms of a woman’s viewpoint would have meant added value to the reader.
In conclusion, Donna has successfully managed to encapsulate her knowledge and experiences in this great little publication. It is current, comprehensive and most importantly useful. A ‘must-have’ for anyone looking to better their understanding of working in the region.
By Neil Payne, Kwintessential Ltd

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UK Immigration Laws bad for Business says Legal Sector

UK Immigration Laws bad for Business says Legal Sector



Government Introduction of the Immigration Cap
The UK legal sector have recently complained about the new restrictions in UK immigration law.  The changes to law have been well publicized and can be viewed by the public and all interested parties at the UK Border Agency’s website (see below).  These laws and rules represent a continual and politically complex change.  The laws have been in development since at least 2007.  The UK Border Agency also offers a fresh perspective on these in that it has been in existence only since 2008.  The new agency oversees all customs, migration and border issues related to the greater British public.

Why the Government Has Installed the Cap
The government has issued the “cap” as it pledged to do when it formed the new coalition government in 2010.  In effect, when the old government was voted out of office, the new government made itself responsible in holding up its pledges.  One of these pledges concerned immigration reform.  Immigration reform might have been seen as a necessary evil due to the increase in the migrant worker population.  The UK population is increasing and is expected to reach 70 million by calendar year 2030.  It appears that the government has taken on the task of immigration reform as a means of population control.

Impact on UK Business and the Legal Sector
The impact of the new government regulations will have deep and lasting impact on the UK business and legal sectors.  One reason for this is pure economics.  The new standards set forth by the government require that the points needed by migrants be increased from some 80 to 95 points or so.  Most of the points are assigned to the level of income for the migrant worker.  In order to meet 80 points of the requirements, the highly skilled migrant worker must have an income of £150,000 or greater!  This imposes a rather high salary requirement on the legal and other business sectors.  If for example a migrant legal employee is offered a mere £25,000 to work in the sector – that means they will only be furnished with only 5 points in the new immigration system of rules.

Immigration is Vital to UK International Competitiveness
Immigration is of vital importance to the UK in order to maintain its international competitiveness.  By attracting people from other countries and cultures the UK makes itself and internationally attractive place for business. The UK has language, cultural and pratical skills by the very nature of bring in foreign workers. Not many other countries in the world reflect the same mix of business and culture savvy as the UK. The legal sector is well within its right to see the immigration cap as bad for business and bad for the UK.
Other sectors that will feel the pinch include education. Those seeking an education in the country may find themselves limited to seeking it outside of the UK.  As has been pointed out by the BBC news article (“A-Level Results 2010: A* Grade Boosts New Exams Record”), it is becoming very challenging to find even a position at a university.  This may create a prejudice against the UK education and migration systems in the international community.

References

1)    Highly Skilled Workers, Investors and Entrepreneurs – The UK Border Agency’s Web Page (Link: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier1/)

2)    Immigration Limit for Tier 1 (General) Of The Points-Based System Web Page (Link: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsfragments/27-intro-limit-for-t1-pbs)

3)    Media Information of the UK Border Agency (Link: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-and-updates/media-information/)

4)    Immigration Law Web Page of the UK Border Agency (Link: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/)

5)    ‘Immigration Cap Will “Strangle” City Law Firms, Chancery Warns’, Law Society Gazette, Monday, August 23, 2010 by James Dean (Link: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/immigration-cap-will-strangle-city-law-firms-chancery-lane-warns-0)

6)    Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC-59, June 2010 (Link to pdf: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/statementsofchanges/2010/hc59.pdf?view=Binary)

7)    EU: Policy, Internal Migrants, Migration News,  July 2010, Volume 17 Number 3 (Link: http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=3617_0_4_0)

8)    “A-Level Results 2010: A* Grade Boosts New Exams Record”. 19 August 2010, BBC News (Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11012369)
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Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs

Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs
The police in Portsmouth have taken an interesting approach to communicating with non-English speaking shoppers. As part of an initiative by Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc),  translation packs are being given to large stores, with some going to police patrol cars used around the city centre too.

The packs contain 13 cards, each carrying phrases in a foreign language and their English translation. Languages include Turkish, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French and Farsi. The cards can be used in situations where a foreigner needs help or is suspected of a crime in a store.

Although its a shame the cards are being used within the context of criminal activity it does demonstrate the understanding that simple actions such as phrases does make a difference. Wouldn't it be nice if staff could also get translation cards with simple greetings instead though?

Read more > Translation packs
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Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs

Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs
The police in Portsmouth have taken an interesting approach to communicating with non-English speaking shoppers. As part of an initiative by Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc),  translation packs are being given to large stores, with some going to police patrol cars used around the city centre too.

The packs contain 13 cards, each carrying phrases in a foreign language and their English translation. Languages include Turkish, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French and Farsi. The cards can be used in situations where a foreigner needs help or is suspected of a crime in a store.

Although its a shame the cards are being used within the context of criminal activity it does demonstrate the understanding that simple actions such as phrases does make a difference. Wouldn't it be nice if staff could also get translation cards with simple greetings instead though?

Read more > Translation packs
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Milkman shows ultimate Cross-Cultural Customer Service

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

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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Intercultural training materials for migrant workers

Intercultural training materials for migrant workers



On a construction site near the future Olympic village in east London, more than half of the workforce is Asian, about a third Central and Eastern European (including a large contingent of Bulgarians) and about 10% British.

In the canteen Sikhs sit with Sikhs, Lithuanians with Lithuanians and Brits with Brits. Communication is severely limited and it's not just language. Improving communication between communities at work is a major issue. Countries across the EU are experiencing the challenge of integrating migrant workers into their workplaces.

Now an EU iniative, the European Intercultural Workplace (EIW), addresses this challenge. Started by Dublin City University, the three-year project has a budget of $1.48m. It is one of the largest in the Leonardo da Vinci scheme, the EU mechanism for funding vocational education initiatives, and is part of the EU's current Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

The EIW involves vocational training centres and universities in 10 countries: Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Britain. Each partner has produced a national situation report, drawing together migrant workers' views on integration plus details of how employers and governments respond. There are also case studies looking at local sectors such as construction, retail and education.

A series of booklets explore intercultural issues on a transnational level with analysis of smaller-sized businesses, healthcare and education workplaces across Europe. A fourth booklet, Overview of Legislation, explains the legal situation in different countries. These reports are all available from the project website.

The data collected is impressive, but what will be of practical benefit to those working in intercultural communication – often starved of suitable teaching resources – are the EIW project's workplace educational training materials. These are available as a DVD/print package called Europe at Work.

The materials have been written and produced by the UK project team, led by Professor Emeritus Jack Lonergan of the University of Westminster. They have followed a critical incident methodology which presents scenarios on DVD and follow-up materials that promote discussion of possible solutions rather than providing a single answer.

"The scenarios have been scripted to focus on one specific issue which allows easy transfer to many similar situations. They have been filmed nowhere but apply anywhere," says Professor Lonergan.

One unit is called Appearance and reflects the issue of Muslim women wearing the veil at work. Seema, a Muslim accounts clerk, is selected for promotion by her human resources manager, Miss Tate. However, Miss Tate advises Seema that wearing a headscarf, or hijab, will not be appropriate in her more senior role. The scene plays out with Seema and Miss Tate's discussion.

Fourteen units, with accompanying print materials, deal with many areas of miscommunication at work between migrant and host-country workers. Most deal with the relations between bosses and staff concerning gender, religion, authority, time, race, qualifications and relationships.

Others deal with language issues such as failure to communicate, or being at a disadvantage because of language difficulties. One scene deals with body language. A young man is from a culture where he does not look elders in the eye out of respect for authority; he is suspected of dishonesty by a policeman because of his body language – his "shifty" manner.

The DVD scenarios make no recommendations and indeed come to no conclusions. It is for the work group to identify the issues, discuss possible solutions and come to an agreement.

The training manual supports the DVD scenario by helping viewers identify and understand the issues at stake and by inviting them to form their own opinions and discuss them with colleagues. An important part of each unit is the "What if... ?" scenes where students are taken through a series of situations and asked how they would deal with them. The accompanying best practice section suggests possible solutions that might be employed to resolve each situation.

Britain has a long history of migrants in the workplace, and therefore has experiences and expertise to share, but the EIW materials seek a wider perspective. Solutions found in Britain are not necessarily exportable and some issues may be dealt with more successfully elsewhere.

There is another spin off. Because of the immediacy of the issues, the naturalistic language and the subtitles in eight languages, the materials can also be used in language schools and colleges wanting workplace-based materials.

Original article from The Guardian
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