Tag Archives: expats
Yvonne Herrmann-Teubel

Guest post by Yvonne Herrmann-Teubel, Chief German Instructor at German Language School

After having studied the German language for many years, Mark Twain stated the following:

“A dog is “der Hund”; a woman is “die Frau”; a horse is “das Pferd”; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is “des Hundes”; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why he is “dem Hund.” Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why he is “den Hunden.” But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him- what then? Why they’ll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he’ll think he’s an entire international dog-show all in his own person. I don’t like dogs, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like that- I wouldn’t even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it’s just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the’s and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn’t recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it’s goodbye cat. That’s about the amount of it. “

In other words, the question „Why should I learn German? “  is quite legitimate. German is not an easy language to learn and after having opened the first page of a German grammar book your first reaction might be to close it again immediately and to hide it somewhere so you do not have to open it again.  Furthermore, German is just one of the official languages in Switzerland and if you already speak Italian or/and French you may ask yourself the same question again: „Why should I learn German? “.

Looking at the list of the most spoken languages you can see that there are 378.2 million speakers of English (as the first language) worldwide in 2017 in contrast to only 130.0 million German speakers (as mother or second language). Apart from that, Switzerland is full of people knowing and speaking English quite well or even perfectly.

1) Meeting the local authorities

However, once you have to go to the immigration office (Migrationsamt), want to sign a contract for a house or buy a car, it can become quite an obstacle of not knowing how to speak German. Although it is only one of the official languages in Switzerland, it is spoken by approx. 63% of the Swiss.

2) Improve your job chances

If you are looking for a job in Switzerland and you already know German your chances of getting a job are much higher.

3) Applying for the C-permit

The same goes for the application of permanent residency (C-permit). It helps if you can show that you are at least at A2-level, especially when you are applying as a third-country national. But not only there is it helpful to know some German. Coming from a foreign country you already experienced how useful it is to know the language of the country because it is the key to the new culture that you are going to live in for some time.

4) Helping yourself and your children adjust to the country

Language is also your entrance ticket for integration into the Swiss culture. In addition to this, it is your chance to build up your own Swiss professional and personal network, to challenge your brain, to learn something new and to broaden your horizons. And, last but not least, if your children are going to a local school all the communications with the school will mostly be in German.

5) Learning German can be fun

There are, apart from many hidden grammar books, a lot of other ways to learn German. A lot of Apps will help you learn German in a way that might be new to you on the one hand but very effective on the other hand. There are uncountable videos, podcasts and other programmes that can be used for free on the Internet. And if this is not something of your taste then there is also a wide offer of language schools willing to help you with your German.

So, the question that we should ask ourselves is not „Why should I learn German? “  but rather „Why should I not learn German? “.

 

Yvonne Herrmann-TeubelYvonne Herrmann-Teubel believes that everyone saying German is too hard to learn has just not found the right strategy yet. After having worked as a teacher of German as a foreign language in Leipzig, Lisbon, and São Paulo, she moved to Zurich where she is teaching Expats from all over the world in German and preparing students for their IB German and/or other language exams. She is also working as an author. Her business, the German Language School, is open to anyone who wants to learn more about a German dog and its four cases.

 

Hiking and writing

Hiking and writing are similar. You start with a regular writing practice and move on to more elaborate content afterward. One of the challenges of the writing process is that we are not always in the mood. Well, I’d like to compare it to hiking. Maybe you are not always in the mood for hiking either, but when you have been outside even for just half an hour and you moved your body, breathed fresh air you will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after your hike, your muscles are warm, your brain works better and you can handle more stress.

With writing it is similar. Once I completed my early morning writing I feel a lot more accomplished and ready to tackle the day. Mostly those pages are random. They are not worth reading again. They sometimes just list lose ideas and connect the associations in my head. Often I express a wish or two for the next day.

I stood on the Uetliberg (that’s the house mountain of Zurich) when I noticed that sometimes we walk up a mountain without knowing where the top is. We have no clarity how far the top is and what the top will look like.

We are not sure, what we will find there. For example, I expected there to be a restaurant but I did not expect it to be so full that I would walk out again right away without even considering a bio-break. Or I did not expect a water fountain up there where I could fill my water bottle, which was helpful.

If you consider your first year on an international assignment to be an uphill hike which takes your breath away and makes your heart pound faster than a “Geigerzaehler”, then you probably cannot wait to reach the top.

From the top you expect to have a view and your pace will be easier. You expect to walk along the top plain or you could just hike down. During my last hike I noted a few concepts that helped when I hiked up. I would like to share them with you for your support. Your current challenge could be that you don’t have a job in market you don’t understand or you have started a new role or you don’t know what 2018 will bring to your current role.

Stand at a safe space and look back down

We tend to forget what we have already managed, been through and survived when we only focus on the mountain top. Once in a while allow yourself a break and look back how far you have come already. What helps here is the weekly reflection exercise I recommend in the RockMe! App. You could also just take an A4 sized paper and write down “What is better than one year ago?”. 

You still need to hike at the top

Even when you are at the highest point of the mountain and would like to walk along the plains you still need to keep moving. As a manager you will still need to deal with people’s issues, as a Global Mobility Leader you will still manage special VIP cases, as an Expat Spouse you still have to take care of your partner and children.

You might expect too much of others

Expectations and disappointments are a normal part of human nature. If you want to move away from other people’s expectations and pressures, then you could try to write down and speak out wishes instead. Because with a wish you never know if it will be granted to you. And it’s ok to make a wish related to another person but it’s not okay that you expect anything of another person.

Hiking makes your muscles sore

If you are not a fitness-freak you might feel your muscles for a few days after you hiked the mountain. I also think it is the same when we have achieved an important aim. We often feel the after effects a few months later. Sometimes it is necessary that you remind yourself what you have achieved and you could allow yourself a small celebration too.

I recommend to celebrate with a Bratwurst at the top but that’s just a small instant wish. For your new team management, new project or first year on the international assignment you could celebrate. Invite your spouse, partner or best friend to a weekend treat.

Hike on!

Angie

PS: If you feel you need time out to reflect your experience and work on your next career or life steps in a safe environment, I recommend you enroll in our RockMe! Retreat.

1614536_868176393233507_360610002990611923_oOver the last twenty years in Human Resources I noticed that a lot of international talents were frustrated in the process of moving to another country for work. It was not only because their companies paid them another package than what they expected. It was also because a lot of international assignee underestimated the challenge of moving to another country.

For example expats moving to Switzerland often think it will be easier to find affordable childcare, high-quality apartments and a job for their “trailing” spouse. Most expats believe it will be easy to learn the local language (or they even think we speak English). Most expats believe that they are going to have a great career step after their repatriation.

I have seen a lot of anger when assignees went to another country and when they returned home and did not get that promotion or the role they were hoping for. Regularly, I have clients break out in tears because they feel overwhelmed by the international assignment experience. When I worked in India and when I moved to Switzerland I also shed tears. It was not all “Bollywood” or “Chocolat”.

When I started Global People Transitions GmbH in 2012 I was convinced that an international assignment does not have to be a painful experience. I believed that companies can improve their international assignments. I believed that you can have a great experience when you move to a new country. I believed that you can find work you care about – no matter where you are in the world.

So I wrote a vision statement

“We aspire peace and prosperity for all people! Through global mobility expertise, executive coaching and intercultural training our clients build sustainable relationships across the globe and act as responsible leaders.”

Angela Weinberger,
Global People Transitions – Our Vision 2012

And then I developed experience with coaching

In Global People Transitions we have three major goals.

1) We help international professionals to find work they care about.

2) We help global leaders to drive team performance.

3) We work with Global Mobility Professionals to improve their consulting and communication skills.

How do we do this?

We now have four established programs and can also customize workshops for your specific needs.

How much do we charge for these programs?

We have standard rates and are happy to send you our price list.

Who you get in touch with?

It’s time to introduce myself. In the typical German style I talk business first, then I tell you more about myself. My name is Angie Weinberger. I am the founder, owner and main contact at Global People Transitions GmbH.

Please email to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com for any queries or call me at +41797944896.

What is the Global People Club Sandwich?

We write a blog post about international assignments and expat life for the Global People “Club Sandwich” once a week. You will receive a monthly summary of all posts if sign up to our “Global People Club”.

What is the Global People Club?

The Global People Club is a community of international professionals and former clients of mine who wish to continue the discussion about all topics related to an international career and intercultural communication. You find our group on Facebook and you automatically become a member once you sign up to our Club Sandwich.

How you can write for us

If you would like to write for us please contact me directly.


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“Given the inordinate amount of cost pressure on mobility today, it is somewhat surprising that more companies do not seem to have basic cost management practices in place. Only 62% of respondents indicated that they track costs during an assignment, and even fewer noted that a cost benefit analysis is required at the outset of an assignment. With barely two-thirds of companies actually tracking the basic and most transparent part of their investment in assignments – their cost, it is not surprising that 95% of companies do not measure international assignment ROI.” 

See more at: http://globalmobilitytrends.brookfieldgrs.com/?q=5#/keytrends

Yes, Brookfield. Well researched. I just want to say though: Measuring international assignment ROI is easier said than done. There are a number of reasons.

1) International assignment targets are usually not that well defined.

Usually they are blurry, hard to measure or non-existent. In order to determine ROI a mix of operational indicators would need to be measured regularly (performance on assignment, repatriate retention, business volume driven by expats, savings and improvements through knowledge transfer run by expats, risk reduction through expats, staffing stability and culture transfer from HQ to other areas of the organization). Most of these indicators would need to be transformed into measurable KPIs first. They would need to part of management information systems and we would need to have a clear understanding of what is actually expected of our expats around the world.

2) An international assignment is not only an “investment” by the company.

There should be a business case behind it. BUT: Surprise…many companies have a hard time even differentiating between a developmental assignment and a strategic assignment. Often international assignments are not really thought through. Assignees are sent to “fill a gap”, “to accelerate a process”, “to drive more sales” and “to make them there do everything the way we do it here.” (Ever heard this before?)

3) Decision makers are not involving Global Mobility Professionals enough.

Most managers still think of HR as the troublemakers. Instead of asking Global Mobility Professionals for support in defining assignment targets and setting up a business case, they see this task as an “administrative burden”. So they involve the Global Mobility Professional as late as possible in the process. Just to be sure no one is challenging them. Here assignment sponsors, senior managers could just trust a bit more in the competency of the Global Mobility Professional and ask them for support in defining the international assignment business case.

If you need any help in setting up a structure for measuring ROI, defining the international assignment business case or Global Mobility in general do let us know.

 

Guest post by Martijn Roseboom

Let me start off with introducing myself, I am Martijn Roseboom, 39 years old, married to ‘Bee’, father of a 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy. Since moving to Switzerland I have been a full time stay-at-home dad.

These days most people meet and get married within their social circles. This is the case for us. We met during University where I was studying business economics and my Bee was studying Medicine. I recall discussing for the first time, who would be the breadwinner, as students having some drinks in a bar. When I found out what a doctor is expected to earn and compared this to my own financial prospects, I asked Bee what she planned to do with all of her money. It seemed an awful lot for shopping. The underlying and never questioned assumption underneath was that I would be the breadwinner of the family and take care of all the bills. Bee thought that this was absolutely ridiculous. For me this was one of the core beliefs of what was expected as being a man, and never had imagined otherwise. That was the start of an interesting evening full of (alcohol fueled) heated discussions.

Since leaving University and starting work, we always have been competitive (me mostly) about who would earn the most. In practice we agreed that we would both bring in 50% of the income. When moving abroad for our first international assignment, I had to give up my job and we agreed to combine all our income together. As the ‘trailing spouse’ in Singapore, without a job, I could not do anything without my wife’s signature. This led to the practical situation where I ‘adopted’ my wife’s last name and this was also clearly stated on my credit card and all other bills. This was the ultimate reversal of the concept that I had as a man and being the breadwinner. All of this changed again back to ‘normal’ when I found a job in Singapore. However now that we have moved to Switzerland, I find myself in the same situation, except that this time I at least can use my own last name and can prove this with my credit card.

Whilst it is more common to see that nowadays there are more female breadwinners out there, it is something that remains frowned upon. Whilst on a family level, this is clearly the best way forward for all of us, it is still sometimes challenging. The biggest challenge is the stereotype I have that the man needs to be the breadwinner of the house. This leads to not always appreciating the opportunities it brings. The best thing is being an integral part and see the kids growing up. The only thing I miss is more men in the same situation. It remains socially frowned upon for a married man to ask another woman out for a drink. Even if it is coffee and there are kids running around all over the place. Let’s hope this will be a normal way for dad’s to spend their mornings in the future.

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Martijn Roseboom, President Partner Committee International Dual Career Network (IDCN)

LinkedIn: Martijn Roseboom