Monthly Archives: November 2015

Switzerland, Austria and Germany have changed since the 19th century started.  Not only through the Second World War. Globalization changed our way of working. When my generation went to university we wanted to be “international” but I feel that nowadays this isn’t cool anymore.

Regional identity is trendy. You can see this in political movements from Scotland to Barcelona. You see it in the written expression of dialect versus formal “high“ languages in Spain, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.

I am amused that youth enjoys “Volksmusik” (traditional music) more than rock’n’roll and that the “dirndl” had a revival over the last five years. Even I got one and while it’s ok to be conservative our inner “Heidi” needs to grow up.

Chalet in Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reality is diverse and full of color!

Global companies deal with diversity of their clients and staff. Many diversity and inclusion initiatives are run under affirmative action legislation. In the European Union we discuss quotas for women in leadership roles. We want to avoid gender and cultural bias. We talk about age diversity and feel it’s a solution to the war for talents and lack of skilled labor if we ask our senior worker to stay a few years as consultants after their retirement.

When will we discuss diversity of cultural backgrounds and mention religious diversity in a positive sense? 

In Europe we fought for religious freedom since the enlightenment. So why should we think that religious freedom can only be given to us?

We all believe in Equality, Freedom and Brotherhood. Freedom means that you can chose your religion freely and that you can chose not to believe in anything as well.

We have to develop our collective intercultural sensitivity. We have to drop our assumption that our way to live, work and act is the only correct way in the world.

Intercultural researcher Milton Bennett calls this assumption “ethnocentric”. It comes in a development stage of denial, polarization or minimization. If you take a look at the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity by Milton Bennet you will probably notice that our current public discussion and our media are driven by the denial and polarization stage of intercultural sensitivity. The worldview of “Them” versus “Us” is enforced daily. To me this is propaganda and not very advanced.

Have we not learnt from the past I sometimes ask myself? Do we not understand that the refugees in Europe flee the same terror that we despise? How can we dare to even talk of refugees and terror in the same context?

Watch the media closely. They should know better and be more differentiated. Why would you speak of the percentage of Muslims living in a country as an indicator for the risk of terrorism? That would be like saying: “In Italy we have a high percentage of Catholics. That’s why we believe there is a higher risk for rape of our youth.”

You deduct a behavior from a very small percentage of criminals to the majority with only one common denominator called religion. Have we not learnt statistics? Have we not learnt to be differentiated in our world views?

I think we have to be very careful in our judgements. I condemn terrorism and rape too but I do not relate it to religious or cultural background. 

You might be afraid of what you don’t know and don’t understand. Your parents might have taught you not to talk to strangers and to lock the door. So yes, the first time you see someone who looks different you might be surprised, maybe even a little shocked. Once you get to know the person though did you not notice that they deserve your respect and trust?

With refugees at your doorstep it would be so easy to overcome your fear. Take a first step. Speak to a refugee. Or just speak to a person you don’t know who looks different. Smile at a “foreigner”. Be kind to a person who looks sad.

Open your mind to the endless possibilities of human interaction. Open your heart. Open your home.

We are more sensitive to security issues after terrorist attacks such as the Paris attacks of 13 NOV 2015 or after a natural disaster. You can take limited precautions as emergencies come without being planned or expected. That’s why they are called emergencies.

You can take certain actions and these will be helpful in an emergency situation be it a health issue, the death of one of your close relatives, a natural disaster or a terror attack.

Here are my tips on security measures for international business travellers and expats.

airport-519020_640

 

  • Only travel when it is a necessity. Check if meetings can be held via videoconferencing technology instead.
  • Update your personal information on Social Media.
  • Log in and register on the website of the security provider your company works with. If you don’t know the security provider ask your travel manager, HR manager and Global Mobility Team. If none of them knows, ask Risk Management or Corporate Security. This information should be published on your company intranet site. Many companies work with International SOS ISOS and my experience with their support for expats is excellent.
  • Have a business card size overview of emergency numbers in your wallet AND your phone. Carry this card with you at all times. Have your passport, ID, work and residence permit on you.
  • Carry a card with your blood type and allergies or other medical conditions in your wallet.
  • Stay connected to your spouse / life partner and agree regular times for calls when you are traveling.
  • Read the emergency travel alerts provided by your Embassy.
  • Stay connected to other families in the host location. Contact International SOS (“ISOS“) or your security provider immediately when you feel you need to leave the country for health or safety reasons.
  • Have an emergency medical kit with you when you go on a business trip. Most company doctors provide such a kit when you go there to get necessary vaccinations and travel advice. Watch out for health issues after your journey.
  • If you have been in a traumatic situation seek psychological support for yourself and your family members. Your company will provide a contact.
  • As a single female business traveler prioritize safety and request safety rooms in hotels. Travel with recognized taxis and keep away from bars. In male-dominated cultures hire a driver or ask your host to ensure your personal safety.
  • Learn emergency phone numbers in the host country by heart.
  • If you manage a global team establish a call tree in your team and devise a back-up structure for emergencies. Have an emergency data system for a day where you all have to work from home.

We all don’t want to think about emergencies but when we are in such a situation it is important that we can fall back on a program we have learnt. It is important that we know already who to call and where to find the number. If this is helpful for you please share.

Angie Weinberger

PS: I also recommend you read chapter 11 of “The GM Workbook”. If you email me I will send you the chapter.

FAAby Nabeha Latif

Flavia Augusta de Almeida’s dream for “alegria” started when she moved to Switzerland with her family. She had worked with many companies as an architect around the globe. However, it was next to impossible to find a job in Basel where her husband had been hired for a large pharmaceutical company.

Despite her love for architectural design, she decided to work on her own startup “alegria“.

The word “alegria” means happiness. Her company provides children products like crochet vegetable and fruit toys, which help children learn and discover new things.  This startup was crafted with an idea to support working women in Brazil and to spread happiness and love for children.

I asked Flavia about her future plans for alegria.   Her main goal for first year is the growth and marketing of alegria with the objective to grow alegria from a sole proprietorship into a GmbH. She also aims to introduce the alegria play collection into the British Market via stores which promote designer products. She was persistent to focus on the alegria’s giving back company philosophy, which is a model for a more humane centric economy.unnamed

 

Here’s a summary of my interview with Flavia Augusta de Almeida (FAA).

NL: What led to your career change? 

FAA: “Initially my career development was centered around my professional area. It was only towards the end that I opened up to Angela Weinberger and discussed the dream of alegria, and that I was seriously considering pursuing it. Not only I received more information as to where to start from and the fundamentals of setting up my own business in Switzerland, I was also provided with great incentive and positive reinforcement. We had great brain storming sessions regarding the possibility of the company, products, etc. Her enthusiasm was a great source of inspiration and encouragement for me in the development of my startup company.”

NL: What can a client expect to get from working with a career coach such as Angela Weinberger?

FAA: “Aside from the common misconceptions, job coaching is a holistic experience which involves:

1. Evaluation of career goals and prospects for progression in the current cultural and economic market setting, one finds her/himself in.                         Untitled

2. Learning how to highlight one’s professional strengths and use them to the enhancement of their professional development, with the aim of achieving the desired career goals.

3. Learning how to improve one’s weaknesses or areas which require professional improvement/development. Using these areas of professional development as goals towards effective carrier progression.

4. Learn how to network outside your professional realm.

5. Effective use of social media, such as LinkedIn, towards career development and job search.

6. Cultural awareness and its importance in today’s international job market.

7. Professional branding development and how to present yourself in order to achieve desired career goals.

Above all good career coaching offers encouragement and motivation.”

NL: What are the most common misconceptions about career coaching?

FAA: “A lot of us think that career coaching is limited to only CV review and job interview coaching. There’s so much more to it!”

NL: What are the typical sessions like with Angela Weinberger?

FAA: “I started my career development with Angela half way through my career development program and I saw a significant improvement in the structure of the sessions which were very goal oriented. Area(s) of development were identified and worked through during the session at high level. There was a lot of brain storming involved. I then had around two weeks to work on the area(s) to be developed. In this two-week period there was always email communication with Angela, where she would constantly send me articles or material relevant to my career development areas. There was constant email communication between the time we did not meet so my career development progress was continuously moving forward.”

NL: Flavia Augusta de Almeida, Congratulations on having your launched your business and thank you for this interview.

 

Nabeha Latif is a Social Media Marketer and works with Global People Transitions GmbH on a freelance basis.

So what if you had a day where you were really feel „weighted“, where the bulk of your existence weighs on you like a building crashing down. A big building.

There’s that letter from the tax office that you have had anxiety attacks about. The close friend who flips between hopeful and cranky and is a borderline alcoholic. The blood pressure that is too high and should have been watched for about a year. The hair that falls out. The economic situation. The refugee crisis. The helplessness and tears when you read about those children dying on the road. All of this. And your period. And rain.

I’m talking to all of you, not only the ladies but imagine a day where all you want to do is stay in bed. And then you read an email saying that your website has been suspended because once again you did not get the notification that the domain needed to be renewed. Once again neither the email on the system nor your credit card are up to date. The nitty-gritty annoying details of being an entrepreneur with too many ideas and projects to worry about such worldly issues as payment dates, speeding limits, period cycles.

These are the days where I really know why I left the corporate world. Because in the corporate world I would have to drag my lazy ass to my desk, sit there feeling uncomfortable through around ten meetings slash conference calls slash video sessions and finally start to actually get something done at around 5.45 pm. But today, in my life as an entrepreneur I can decide to confront only the dachshunds of my friend and the local neighborhood „Regular Café.

And there while I feel a bit uncomfortable and strange first I find an ashtray from the „Zurich Dolder Grand“ and have to laugh. I laugh because I would never enjoy a rainy day in Zurich that much. I would never sit down and actually write. Listening to Jazz music, not using the WiFi and typing away with a smile on my lips I feel a bit like Carry Bradshaw. Ok, a bulky and enlarged version of Carry. You know I’d like to simplify wardrobe and fitness choices…

It dawns on me that we decide about how we feel all the time.

We decide if we let the rain inside our psyche. I said earlier our “mood dictates our business”. When we feel small our business is small too. When we feel great, we get great clients.

This is not a typical “How to…” post because frankly sometimes I just don’t want to tell you what to do or how to feel. I just would encourage you to review your “feelings” because you might overstress them. I can feel very insecure about the most obnoxious issues such as the fact that my hair was a lot thicker 20 years ago or that I do not write grammatically perfect English. I can stress about having a public appearance weeks ahead of the event and most of the time I worry about someone close to me. I worry about them overburdening themselves, having too many responsibilities, boyfriends, children, debts and kilos. I worry about friend’s emotional states, about my clients being depressed and about loved ones dying.

On a day like today in Brooklyn, I feel at peace with myself though. I know that I work hard to make the world a little better. I know that I have found my purpose of being and that I can only continue to do what I do when I allow myself a break from the world’s issues. When I allow myself occasionally to just have fun and to do whatever I feel like in the moment. This is NYC for me. Enjoy.

Thank you to the 11th Zurich Film Festival for broadening my horizon about Iran and the Dublin process for asylum seekers

I love movies. Especially Bollywood movies. I actually count flight times in Bollywood movies = Zurich –> Delhi direct 3 B’wood movies, Zurich – NYC 2 B’wood-movies and a few TV shows).

Zurich-Film-Festival-02

Picture credit: http://www.newlyswissed.com/

It all started when I went on a project in Bangalore in 2006 where I immersed in this aspect of the Indian culture. Before Bollywood I loved Almodovar, Cohen-Brothers, Tarantino, Weinstein and a recurring themes like James Bond, Starwars, Lord of the Rings. Let’s say I can spend a whole day in a movie theatre and I love the Zurich Film Festival (#ZFF).

I attend the ZFF every year but sometimes I just manage to see one movie and then I am annoyed with myself because we hardly ever get to see such a diversity of films. Before I started my business I made a wish that one day I will be able to afford the time and money to see 10 movies in the ZFF. This year I almost thought I’d miss the whole festival but due to clever re-prioritization and the right kind of friends I managed to watch five movies in three days.

What struck me as a movie aficionado during #ZFF2015 is how easy it is to teach culture through movies. A friend of mine was wondering why I had not responded to messages and I said that what I did there was actually work. Let’s say I did research my way. I am entrepreneur. I can do this.

When did I first notice that movies teach intercultural competence?

Even if Bollywood-movies are full of clichés and a lot of Indians despise them they teach us (Germans for example) a lot about the general mindset. Not only that: Watching Bollywood movies for almost 10 years now has taught me a basic understanding of Hindi and Urdu terms. I only realized when I went to Pakistan last year that I understood some of the conversations in my host family (the Urdu versions).

Movies have influenced our cultural upbringing and globalized our mindsets. In Germany in my generation (Gen X) we were influenced by Hollywood. When I first went to New York City in 1996 it felt rather familiar.

The first show I was allowed to watch after bedtime was “Dallas”. Later I preferred „Beverly Hills 90210“ over „Die Lindenstrasse“. We all watched French, Spanish and Italian movies in our youth. Some of us like Danish cinema. So yes, cultural learning through movies is not a new concept to me. I would love to offer a movie-based intercultural seminar. It’s another wish in my wish book.

What did these five movies teach me?

Let me summarize for you why I thought these movies were improving my intercultural competence.

Jag är Dublin” (I am Dublin)

The first one was a Swedish documentary called “I am Dublin”. I am Dublin is the story of Ahmed, a Somali stuck in the asylum process. He is real and my heart immediately feels motherly instincts. This “boy” has suffered, is traumatized but in a way also tough. He agrees to be filmed and he knows that the camera will save his ass. He gets deported and I am angry. The end of the movie (spoiler alert) is a relief but you and I know that now the real work starts. I know it from close friends. Once they are allowed to stay in Europe the real integration work starts. Improving language skills, finding a job and having a “normal” life. Being a refugee, asylum seeker and temporarily approved resident (ein “Geduldeter”) is a tough lot even in wealthy Europe. So definitely recommended. I was actually ignorant until a few weeks ago. (See other stories on #refugees)

“Un amour de jeunesse”

The second movie was French. Not everyone’s taste but I enjoyed to be able to hear the language, read English translation at the same time as it is again a good chance to practice. The content of the movie was more psychologically valid for me. The culture mix was interesting as the protagonist falls in love with a Norwegian. (I swear he spoke German with no accent). There is also an interesting scene covering Bauhaus, an important part of German architectural culture which unfortunately was overturned by the Nazi-style. (Can you speak of “style” in connection with Nazis?).

“The Risk of Acid Rain”

Then the third film and my main reason to attend the festival was “The Risk of Acid Rain”. This movie was touching and it taught me about Iran. I also noticed that Farsi is completely different from Arabic. I had expected that there would be more similarities but apart from “Salam” I did not recognize anything.

What I thought was interesting was how the main characters in the movie deal with the Sharia police. In our minds here we also probably did not expect that homosexuality would be touched as a topic. It was alluded to twice in the movie. What really was very funny was how the relationship between the three main characters evolved and dissolved again. My Bollywood driven mind wanted to see a “happy family reunion” at the end but the end (again spoiler alert) is more realistic. The movie was banned in Iran because of the homosexuality. You need to look for it and be warned as a “Westerner” to actually recognize it.

ATOMIC_HEART_01

Picture credits: https://zff.com/

“Atomic Heart”

With a break of 24 hours I continued with the Iranian theme. “Atomic Heart” starts out as the Iranian version of a road movie with two young women on a night out and their little adventures. The movie later falls into a surreal narrative where Saddam Hussein and another crazy character dominate the plot. The movie is funny and artistic. It helps in switching perspectives. What I realized there is how limited my knowledge of Teheran really is and again the images in the movie do not match my expectations. Teheran comes across a lot more modern, almost hip.

“Bright Day”

Another break of 24 hours later and now with a certain expectation I saw “Bright Day”, the movie I really wanted to see. I have to say that the movie was shown very late and I was already a bit tired. It touched me emotionally but some of the dialogues were lost on me. This movie was probably the most “realistic” story. In my view it showed a typical issue in a country, where power is abused by those who own money over the poorer employed staff, where those who depend have to obey and are threatened when they want to adhere to their values.

The fight of “good” versus “evil” is exemplified in the person of a taxi driver. The theme is similar to an Indian movie (“Jolly LLP”) and is ultimately about standing up for your values. Interestingly enough looking at this movie I found again, that we Christians have more in common with Muslims than what is often suggested.

I was happy to see that in all three Iranian movies the movie theatres were rather full and the audience was very interested in how life in Iran really is. I am hoping that through entertainment and art we will find more access to each other. At least, movies offer good dinner conversation and having another narrative than the typical individualistic Western-style is worth watching out for.

So how could you set up an intercultural seminar based on movies? Which bias would you need to avoid?