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.

Spouse language skills part of revised migrant scheme

Husbands and wives of work visa applicants will have to prove their English language skills under plans unveiled by the government yesterday.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith announced that foreigners applying for spouse visas will have to undergo language tests.

She also said that criminals with unspent convictions will be refused entry, while the age at which people can come to the UK for marriage will be raised from 18 to 21.

The government is revamping the UK's migration system, introducing a tougher, points-based scheme. This will be introduced in five stages over the next 18 months.

Read more> Language

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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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Muhammad & the teddy bear: a case of intercultural incompetence

Muhammad & the teddy bear: a case of intercultural incompetence

Every now and again we get an international story that demonstrates the importance of cultural awareness in the modern age. Examples include the Israeli tourists kissing in a Hindu shrine, the movie poster that offended Buddhists and sparked protests in S.E. Asia or the now infamous Prophet Muhammad Cartoons.

teddy bear sudan

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English is foreign for 40% of primary school kids

English is foreign for 40% of primary school kids
Schools are struggling to cover the cost of providing specialist teachers for thousands of new immigrant pupils, headteachers warned today.




Forty per cent of primary age children in London now speak a language other than English at home and some schools take several new arrivals a week as pupils "appear from nowhere", heads have said.

The National Association of Head Teachers called for schools to be given the "infrastructureî they needed to get pupils whose first language is not English fluent enough to cope with the national curriculum as soon as possible.Read more> Language 
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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.

Read more> UAE 
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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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BA "culture of hostility" against

A British Airways check-in clerk who was suspended for refusing to conceal a small crucifix on a necklace at her post at Heathrow Airport has accused her employers of having a "culture of hostility" to Christianity at an employment tribunal.

When Nadia Eweida was suspended, without pay, in September 2006, she claimed it was her human right to express her faith by having the crucifix on display. She returned to work this February after BA revised its uniform policy.

The case caused a storm and prompted criticism from then prime minister Tony Blair who told British Airways that its attempts to stop staff wearing the crucifix was a waste of energy.

Read more> British Airways 
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Blears urges HR staff to attract more BME workers

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has urged human resources professionals to get out more to attract more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers.

Speaking exclusively to Personneltoday.com, Blears said the role for HR in attracting more BME people into work was to go to the places where different communities live, and encourage them to apply for positions.

Currently, the ethnic minority share of the working age population stands at 9.3% or 3.26 million people, according to 2004 Department for Work and Pensions figures. The latest Office for National Statistic figures (2002-03) state that the employment rate for white people working in the UK is 75.5%, compared to just 57.3% for non-white groups.

Read more> Hazel Blears 
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Blears urges HR staff to attract more BME workers

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has urged human resources professionals to get out more to attract more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers.

Speaking exclusively to Personneltoday.com, Blears said the role for HR in attracting more BME people into work was to go to the places where different communities live, and encourage them to apply for positions.

Currently, the ethnic minority share of the working age population stands at 9.3% or 3.26 million people, according to 2004 Department for Work and Pensions figures. The latest Office for National Statistic figures (2002-03) state that the employment rate for white people working in the UK is 75.5%, compared to just 57.3% for non-white groups.

Read more> Hazel Blears 
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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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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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Blears launches new integration strategy

Blears launches new integration strategy


Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has announced a £50m investment to help local authorities boost integration and the creation of specialist teams to tackle tensions in communities sparked by changing patterns of migration.

The money - up from £2m this year - is to be channelled over three years to groups which promote integration, rather than towards bodies which represent a single ethnic or religious identity. The change in approach is to be accompanied by guidance to local authorities that they should only spend money on translating documents into foreign languages where necessary, and put a much greater emphasis on teaching English.

Read more: Blears 
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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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Cross Cultural Interviews

Cross Cultural Interviews


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

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

Read more: Cross Cultural Interviews 
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Welsh police call for more interpreting funds

A Welsh police authority yesterday called on the Home Office to provide extra funding to meet the spiralling cost of employing interpreters.

The demand came as it was revealed the amount being spent by some Welsh forces on providing translation services has risen by up to 200% in three years.

An influx of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and the Iberian peninsula has been blamed for the a sharp rise in costs for forces across the country.

Last week the Thames Valley Police Authority said the money it spent on interpreters had risen by more than £920,000 in a decade.

Read more: Wales 
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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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"Cultural pinpointing" and the multicultural consumer

The power of ethnic audiences is apparent in everyday life. But inherent risks exist when messaging previously meant for a minority group becomes part of the mainstream.

In its fourth year, the just-released Yankelovich Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study points to the impact of the "commercialization of culture," or repeated use of certain cultural elements to reach broader audiences. In 2004, 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites thought Hispanics were influencing everyone's lifestyle; today, it's 44 percent.

The result may mean less authentic messaging for Hispanics and African Americans, the study reports, if the same marketing strategies are used to reach ethnic consumers. "We're calling it cultural pinpointing. It's about understanding that today there's a lot of borrowing going on from the ethnic marketplace," said Sonya Suarez-Hammond, vice president of multicultural insights for Yankelovich in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Read more: Cultural pinpointing 
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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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