Author Archives: Stephanie Feeney

Guest post by Lucie Koch

Lucie Koch has joined Global People Transitions for an internship and will be sharing her internship experiences in a regular blog journal.

I have been in Zürich for a few weeks now and I am starting to adjust to swiss city life. I am amazed every day by how cosmopolitan Zürich is with all the languages heard in the tram. It’s wonderful.

In my last blog post, I wrote about how entry into professional life was one kind of culture shock. I have started to adapt to the professional and swiss cultural frame. Working for Global People Transitions is a very interesting experience, especially since I get to be involved in very diverse tasks, from administrative paperwork to exciting business development projects. I am discovering how many gearwheels must be activated and maintained for the business machine to work properly.

While I expected to have to adjust to professional culture, I wasn’t quite prepared for the general culture shock that I experienced in Switzerland. As a child who grew up in France with parents from the cantons of Zurich and Luzern, and many family ties in Switzerland, I have been exposed to Swiss culture throughout my upbringing. I spent a few holidays in Switzerland when I was younger and identified quite strongly as Swiss. But then this month, I found myself suddenly confronted with cultural and structural enigmas: What is the deal with these expensive trash bags? Why do people eat so early? I also found myself confused about how to greet new people properly – do I offer a handshake? Should I do the ‘bise’ (kiss)? – which resulted in some awkward moments of hesitation and embarrassed smiles. It turns out, I might be more French than I thought.

These experiences made me think about the topic of mixed cultural identities, especially in the case of expatriation and specifically about the children of expatriates who grow up abroad.

Indeed, when you grow up in a country as a foreigner, especially in an area of low cultural diversity as it is the case for the French countryside where I grew up, the Swiss identity makes one stand out, especially for children. You don’t understand the other kids’ popular culture references and you speak another language with your family. The scarcity of Swiss items like cervela, landjäger, and swiss chips or mayonnaise turn them into ‘precious’ objects for the expat parents and to expat children, they appear as relics of Swiss-ness that you get to share once every other month in a kind of family tradition.

In the end, as a ‘born-expat’, one gets a reflected image of the parent’s culture. Indeed, a born-expat’s understanding of the ‘culture-of-origin’ is imagined (through the information absorbed from the media, short stays in the country or from the family’s opinions and stories) and not experienced. Therefore, young expats born abroad have an incomplete picture of a culture with which they strongly identify. The resulting culture shock, when the born-expat realizes how different reality is, can be very difficult, especially since it touches the perception of one’s own identity.

Children of expatriates are a very interesting focus of study when it comes to intercultural competence and how culture affects one’s identity and life. We are quite aware of how being an expatriate family is complicated logistically, emotionally and mentally on all members during the first years of immigration or how tricky it can be to raise children in a country in which we are not completely familiar with the education system. It is however important to consider that expat-children may face identity struggles when they grow up and to actively address the issues of identity and nationality during the upbringing.

Have you experienced any issues related to identity as an expat? Do you know a good way to address the question of identity with expat children?

I hope you enjoyed the read, I’ll write again next month.

Until then, have a great day!

Lucie

Lucie Koch is intern at Global People Transitions since April 2017. She is about to graduate from an Intercultural Management Master study, which led her to study in Dijon, France, a city she was already familiar with and in unfamiliar Finland (for one semester). Previously, she studied one year at Durham university (UK) as part of a Bachelor Erasmus Mobility program. She was born in 1994 to Swiss expat couple in France. She grew up in the French countryside, around horses. She’s a self confessed introvert, fascinated by different languages, cultures, science (especially astronomy and biology) and philosophy. She also likes to spend time drawing, painting or in cinemas.

 

 

Guest post by Lucie Koch

Lucie Koch has joined Global People Transitions for an internship and will be sharing her internship experiences in a regular blog journal. 

While I have driven all the way up to the North of England during my last bachelor year with only six months of countryside driving experience (let me assure you, the stress was intense), I, and it seems to be the case for many young people of my age, have never felt as anxious and simultaneously excited at the prospect of starting my professional career.

My internship at Global People Transitions  started a little more than one month ago and, for now, I still have one foot in the academic system and the other one in the professional system. Knowing that I am about to step out of the apparently safe bubble of the academic world is becoming more real every day. However, I know that this apprehension is a globally experienced side-effect of change and I am going to be fine.

This said, the professional discovery experience is an exciting (and scary) experience, especially when starting in an international or foreign company, or when considering how young Europeans of my generation have been reminded for years about the high unemployment rates and economic crisis. Writing about my experience may help students about to take their first step in the professional world to feel less stressed about the change and professionals understand the young interns.

The first challenge I faced was intercultural. Indeed, while I am of Swiss nationality, my ideas about work, are mostly shaped by the French education system and experience through personal relations in France. Therefore, I was quite insecure about the professional culture proper to Switzerland.

Secondly, there is the fact that the Global People Transitions team is very diverse in its cultural backgrounds. However, due to my intercultural experience and interculturality centered studies, it was easy to adapt to this.

The real intercultural shock for me was more about academical vs professional culture. Indeed, the differences in behavior, expectations, jargon and directness, are always a challenge to adapt to, especially in a secondary language. I would argue that it might be harder or at least as hard to adapt to a new ‘working’ culture than to a new national culture, especially in a global environment. It is especially complicated in a digital work team, as one can’t rely on tone and physical expression hints.

Culture Shock Theory, which is used to explain and educate people about the social, physical and emotional challenges which people face during and international mobility, could be used in my case too. Indeed, there is the initial ‘honeymoon’ phase, when one is excited about more autonomy, earning money, meeting new people, moving to a new place. Then come the first stressful situations, negative experiences, the disappointment of big expectations, or the nostalgia of old habits, life and friends can lead to a low (more or less hard depending on everyone’s experience). Adapting to the new environment is essential and it is not limited to a change of country.

However, what I discovered in the first month of my internship, is that there is no need to be anxious and that some intercultural communication failures are bound to happen, may it be because of a nationality difference, a professional culture difference, or even a generational difference. The apprehension is normal but the growth that one gains in the professional experience is worth the harder parts.

I hope that you enjoyed this read!

Write you next month,

Lucie

Lucie Koch - Global People Transitions

Lucie Koch is intern at Global People Transitions since April 2017. She is about to graduate from an Intercultural Management Master study, which led her to study in Dijon, France, a city she was already familiar with and in unfamiliar Finland (for one semester). Previously, she studied one year at Durham university (UK) as part of a Bachelor Erasmus Mobility program. She was born in 1994 to Swiss expat couple in France. She grew up in the French countryside, around horses. She’s a self confessed introvert, fascinated by different languages, cultures, science (especially astronomy and biology) and philosophy. She also likes to spend time drawing, painting or in cinemas.

Guest Post by Kevin Castro

In a survey commissioned last year by Santa Fe Relocation Services and conducted by Circle Research, a contrasting view on global mobility teams was revealed. Graeme Cade, Client Director, Circle Research explains: “Senior executive leadership recognizes the strategic value of the Global Mobility (GM) function for enabling business growth and developing talent to become tomorrow’s leaders. Strikingly, GM professionals themselves are struggling with a lack of confidence and morale – often feeling under-resourced and undervalued.”

You can request a copy of the report by clicking here

While Senior Leadership recognizes the role that GM professionals play in the organization, does it transcend to having real benefits for those supporting the company’s best talents i.e. not feeling under-resourced or undervalued?

Perhaps only for some. As such  GM professionals, how can we further demonstrate value in order to influence how the organization supports/perceives the team? I have listed  four points, which I hope can help you/your teams to increase your value in the organization:

1. Get a Seat at the Table through Partnering in Business and Talent Goals

  • Do you have Joint-Business Planning with your HR & Business Leaders? If none yet, you should start engaging them in order to better understand their goals, focus, and how you can support Talent Strategy. This may lead to an easier path in demonstrating your value to the business as you will get to know how and where to play towards their goals;
  • Does your company do assignee pre-screening, where you determine the suitable candidates for international assignment? If not, this is something that you can explore and introduce. If done right, you avoid the pitfalls of selecting the wrong people.

2. Your Expertise Matters

  • You are the expert, and you should try to demonstrate this frequently. You can do this through sharing GM insights, trends, and how these contribute to business/talent strategy.
  • If the opportunity is available to increase your global mobility expertise through having certification and further studies. GM organizations and consultancy organizations provide certifications/courses, where you can further deepen your mobility knowledge. For example, Global People Transitions offers the FlyMe! Program, a career coaching geared towards Global Mobility Professionals.
  • An academic course to certify you as a “Global Mobility Advisor” is available with Expatise Academy in collaboration with Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

3. Communicate Your Value, Regularly and Consistently

  • Do you consistently communicate what you have achieved, projects you initiated? Ensure that you communicate the things that you do and how you have supported the business.
  • In a study by Cartus in 2016, a global relocation services provider, it found out that 54% of companies lack focus on tracking and reporting on assignments. As such, this will be a focus for 2017.  
  • Hence, it is high time to gather that data (assignment success, costs, the return on investment, assignees feedback, etc.) and have a regular newsletter/blog or presentation at your next strategy/planning meeting.  
  • As my clients always ask, how will I know if the expat assignment is successful? A report should be in order to communicate such info.

4. Flexible, Agile and Able to Re-Focus.

  • In previous years, the goal was to ensure that you arrange logistics and meet compliance needs, which are more transactional. In today’s world, the role expands and you are now viewed by the business as a strategic partner not merely as administrators. You should always understand what is important to the business. Today, the focus may be costs, but it might be something else in three months time. Keep your eyes and ears open for this and be agile and flexible.
  • In addition, as practitioners (in-house or outsourced) you should also be aware of trends in terms of mobility practices and service delivery.  You can start by looking at how technology affects the delivery. Do all assignees adapting to these changes, or do we provide omnichannel delivery? What do other companies do?  Such questions might lead you to new service delivery models or enhancement.

I hope these four points will prove to be beneficial for you and will help your team to push more value to the organization. So, don’t forget to get a seat, be the expert, market your value, and be agile & flexible.

I remember a conversation with my previous boss, where he shared with me that HR is a cost-generating function, so it might sometimes receive smaller budgets (e.g. hiring additional headcount, higher bonus, etc.). However, HR’s role has transformed itself from a back-office support function into a more strategic business partner. This principle should also apply on Global Mobility regardless of where it is structured in the company (e.g. HR, Finance, Outsourced, etc.).

In today’s world, Global Mobility Teams will be more valuable than ever!

 

Kevin Castro is a Filipino by birth, who lived in Singapore for almost 8 years and is now residing in Zurich. A Global Mobility Professional, with experience in Mobility Operations, HR Services, Project & Supplier Management, and Customer Service. He is currently learning German and at the same time enjoying cooking & curating travel experiences.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-castro-37010a49/


Guest Blog by Larissa Hämisegger

I thought I was bad at learning languages.

Back in high school, it was mandatory for us to study French and my grades were pretty bad. I don’t like to learn things by heart, I need to understand the reasons behind something. And that’s actually how we learn languages in school. We learn to understand the grammar of the language. However, all I remember from these 8 years or so of French classes is the struggle I had with studying grammar and words and memorizing the exceptions – and there were a lot of them. Am I able to have a conversation in French now? No!

During high school, I had the opportunity to study abroad one year and I chose Sweden. I thought: they all speak English well, which would make it easier to find friends and a sense of belonging. Of course, it wasn’t. While they do all speak fluent English, conversation amongst Swedes is obviously in Swedish. Real social integration was impossible without being able to understand and speak Swedish. So I took lessons in Swedish but after 10 or so classes I realized it was taking too long to learn something I could actually use. Also, I didn’t want to spend my time with the other exchange students: I wanted to get to know the Swedish life.

So I chose to do the following:

– I had sticky notes all over the apartment with the Swedish words for all the things we had at home.

– I watched Swedish shows with Swedish subtitles.

– I listened carefully whenever I heard people talking – to the sounds, the melody, and tried to understand at least the topic, they were talking about.

– Whenever I heard a word several times I asked what it was or looked it up in the dictionary and since I heard it many times, it stayed in my head easily.

– And since it got dark very early there, I looked through the newspapers and read about what time the sun rises and when it sets.

What happened? After 3 months I had this click moment and I was able to understand most of what people were saying. A month later I was fluent. I applied Swedish as much as I could because my main motivation was to make friends and integrate. The Swedes were impressed and started to click with me because I used all their slang words. Of course, I had those words because I learned what people were talking through reality TV shows and listening to classmates. But it was exactly that, that showed I tried to adapt and didn’t learn the language from a book.

Recently I had a chat with a linguist and then the penny dropped. It is well known that we learn a language faster by listening and imitating and not by studying grammar and vocabulary. We are not bad at learning languages, nor are they too difficult, or our brains too old – we just mostly learn the wrong way.

So here’s what do you need to do to learn a language fast:

– listen attentively and often

– imitate and repeat what you hear

– listen to and read about topics you care about

– practice, practice, practice

– incorporate the language every day

So my suggestion is, get yourself some radio podcasts or, even better, watch tv in (Swiss) German with German subtitles and do that as often as possible. Write down the words you hear often and then translate them. You will not understand much in the beginning, but you will get a feeling for the language, which is more important than anything else. Through hearing the same words and sentence structure over and over again and understanding in what context they are used, you will extend your vocabulary and your grammar. And speak as much as you can with everyone you meet and don’t worry about making a lot of mistakes because nobody cares about this but you.

 

Larissa Hämisegger is Founder of UNUMONDO, a company that supports non-German speakers living in Switzerland to learn (Swiss) German by facilitating real life exchanges and learning opportunities, rather than in the classroom. She combines her background in business management and organizational development with her studies in Yoga and Meditation to find ways for people to find a sense of belonging and connect through language.