Category Archives: Global Mobility

When you want to drive in the fast lane and get into a traffic jam on the German autobahn on a Friday afternoon it can feel like a bonding experience among a nation dedicated to the speed of travel. On the radio, the announcer only always referred to the “long traffic jams”. They did not even have the time to mention the shorter ones. It took me seven hours to get from Frankfurt to Zurich, including a break, and alternative options such as train and airplane seemed to be even more complicated.

I’m telling you this because I felt that driving on the German autobahn is a metaphor for our current lives. We rush everywhere and try to squeeze more into every small hole of time. When we get a chance to have a zip of water or eat a good dinner we are still driving in our heads. We already think about the next meeting, presentation or client.zip of water or eat a good dinner we are still driving in our heads. We already think about the next meeting, presentation or client.

With all of our tools, apps, and navigation devices we give up control over our lives. We put it into the hands of technology and robots, and most of us lost touch with what really matters to us. During the drive, my colleague and I had rain, a huge rainbow, a sunset in France with dark clouds over Germany. We had a productive conversation and solved issues of work and life together, and we laughed about the craziness of our modern life.

I was tired and just wanted to get home. When I finally arrived, I had a good chat with a client, who just had a successful interview and when I hung up, I went to the kitchen, made a cup of tea and thought about this drive. Was it worth the pain? Am I feeling clogged with my overflowing task list and more and more passwords, email accounts, and queries from left and right? What helped and what can I learn from this?

 

Persistent Patience and Weekly Reflections

Right now we all move from Monday to Sunday, achieve our most important priorities at work, waste a lot of time trying to sort out tech and admin and then we rush into a weekend full of plans and ideas, and around 5 pm on a Saturday we just want to open a bottle of wine but we still have to run to the shops, wash our clothes, iron them, cook dinner, buy presents, support our children, see our families and so on..wine but we still have to run to the shops, wash our clothes, iron them, cook dinner, buy presents, support our children, see our families and so on.

We could get exhausted and burn out. Many managers do.

If you shift your attention to the beauty you will notice that at the end of the day what matters are the relationships you build, the humans you spend your offline time with and that you cherish the fact that you are alive. When you take note of the five or six-layered rainbow, the painted sunset and the colors of a canola field, then you gain hope. When you remember to breathe and drink sips of water, then you stay hydrated and fresh. When you intentionally give 1€ because the toilet cleaner is a woman and not a machine and she wishes you a good journey and a wonderful weekend, then your heart might beat a bit faster.

And when you are thankful for snuggling next to your hubby and when you know that you make a small difference in another person’s life, then you know that the ride is worth it.

Kind regards,

Angie

Fall is here. The summer days are over. Sunflowers turned brown and you have started to turn on the lights in the morning again. When you get home from work, you don’t want to sit outside anymore as you can feel the chill. Apples are ripe for harvest and the smell of onion pie and early wine hangs in the air. This is how I remember the early fall.

With the fall and the feeling of being back in school again we also want to get back into performance mode. We are inclined to activate our inner driver and work toward the end of Q3 with passion. Over the summer I have been brooding over a new program and further developments for Global People Transitions. One of the recognitions I had is that it is really hard to relax nowadays. It is so easy to fall back into reading emails or to say “I’ll check my emails while I am away.” It is difficult not to be tempted to check social media. I tried it this summer holiday and it felt wonderful. I was reminded of an article Caitlin Krause wrote a while back and I thought I’d dig it out for you.

During the holidays I also tried to maintain my weekly “RockMe!” routines as well as I could. Some of my daily goals only work with a good Internet connection. Some require that I am in Zurich but most of my weekly habits are easy to follow through anywhere. If you are struggling to define those (or if you haven’t even started), I would encourage you to define weekly goals that you can achieve no matter where you are. An example could be a daily walking target, a daily relaxation exercise or keeping your work space and personal space clean of clutter. Even though it’s not spring I would like to share this post with you again.

Let me know how you will set your weekly targets and if you will join RockMe! (until 30 Sept 2017 you can join the group free of charge).

Angie

Kind regards,

What we know can get in our way. This is true with intercultural knowledge too. We tend to assume that everything works exactly as it does in our home culture. And then we experience the opposite.

It could be that a train is not running when we expect one. The definition of „morning“ could be different than “roughly between 7 and 10 am”. Machines for petrol, for parking or for payments could be running in another way than what we are used to. Locks could turn the other way round.

It could be common to have a net price for a meal on the menu, a charge for the cover, a charge to open a bottle and the VAT added at the end of invoice. Maybe the tip is a lot higher or lower than what you are used to.

Crossing cultures you could be confused by words, by language, by habits, and by standards. It could be that your expectation of „normal“ is absurd in the other context. It could happen that you drink water from the tab and it is detrimental to your health.

Intercultural crossings have been as old as Europe. We (Europeans) never had to go far to hear a language that we do not understand. We know the feeling of being in a place where you have a different currency, different plugs, and different rules. We enjoy these little challenges as long as we are tourists. We enjoy our incapabilities in the language. When we have crossed many cultures and lived abroad, we tend to overestimate our intercultural competence. We tend to think that we are good at communicating with people from other cultures. This might be easy on holidays but it could be a challenge when we are managing a global and virtual team.

As managers, we then often ask our team members to follow our cultural dominance. We assume that we create the rules because we were chosen to lead. We assume that we can become irritable and impatient with our staff if they do not „get it“ right away. We assume that we don’t have to change, but the others have to.

Think of your last week.

Did you think to yourself „Why don’t they get it?“. Have you been annoyed or even angry with one of your team members from another culture? Have you said „…this process is not efficient“? These could be signs that you are not yet a global leader and that your intercultural competence has not evolved yet. It could be a sign that you still have a lot to learn in interactions with people in general but especially with people from other cultures.

Tell me what you remember.

Kind regards,

Angela

PS: This post is about a related theme on aggression at work and five methods to reduce aggressive and annoying behavior in the workplace.

 

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.

 

 

Here is an interview @Andreas Wettstein conducted with me via video last week.

Quote Andreas Wettstein “…The first person they need to sell their idea to is themselves…”.

Quote Angie Weinberger “…As an entrepreneur, most of the barriers you have are in your head…”