Category Archives: Expat Lifestyle
Mountain View

As I have mentioned in this post, my mother could not find yeast during the early days of the pandemic. Her village in Southern Germany had a yeast shortage. We didn’t have a shortage of anything here in Zurich, neither toilet paper nor yeast, even though demand for both was higher than in “normal” times. My mother likes baking, but I felt she needed to bake even more during these times. 

I went to SPAR and bought five packets of dry yeast. The man at the post office laughed when I told him what was in the small parcel—my second delivery since the beginning of our lockdown. The price of the stamps was higher than the value of the goods, but hey, this was the only thing I could do for my family from here. I was so happy that I could help them with a small gesture. This year, I did not order anything online for Easter: I used my social media skills to locate the flower shop in my mother’s village, and we actually talked on the phone (I know, bizarre…). Once she understood my relationship with the village’s eldest woman (my grandma), I think she completely trusted me, and I trusted her. We agreed to her delivering flowers that I would pay via bank transfer. No credit card, no contract, just trust, and five minutes of small talk. She understood that this gesture was important to me. I only live about two hours away from my family, but I might as well live in Cochin or Costa Rica.

I’m an accidental “expat.” I didn’t really think of myself as an expat since I’ve lived the closest to home for the last 11 years. Coronavirus “expatriated” me. I’ve worked with expats most of my professional life, lived abroad, and been on international assignments. I’m an expert in Global Mobility, but it took a virus to make it hard to return to my passport country. 

I feel your pain and your stress. We are all experiencing varying levels of emotional and mental turmoil. There is no solution to the root causes of that anxiety, but we need to maintain our mental health like we do our physical. The World Health Organization, correctly anticipating that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more it would impact mental health, has spent the last couple of years publishing support and guides for people to follow. I have been following them, and they have proven helpful in centering me and giving me better control of my mental health.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

Take some slow breaths, inhaling through your nose, then slowly exhaling through your mouth. 

Slow breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress because it signals to your brain to relax your body.

Connect with others

Keep in regular contact with people close to you and talk to them. Talking to people you trust can help. Tell them how you are feeling and share any concerns, or discuss everyday things.

Keep to a healthy routine

The emphasis here is on both healthy and routine. That means not using alcohol and drugs to deal with fear, anxiety, boredom, and social isolation.

Instead, focus on establishing consistent sleeping patterns, maintaining personal hygiene, eating regularly and having healthy food, and improving time management to include exercise, work, and personal time.

One thing that works for me is to take regular breaks from on-screen activities and go offline.

Be kind to yourself and others

We are human and thus not immune to doubt and anxiety. Don’t expect too much of yourself on days that are more difficult than others. Instead, accept that some days, you may be more productive than others.

One way to practice self-kindness is to reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed, especially news from your home country. Limit news to fixed times in the day and listen only to trusted sources. 

If you can help yourself and have the capacity for it, helping others can be good for you too. If you can, offer support to people in the expat community who may need it. Because as expats, we have learned to be resilient, we have survived previous crises, and we have managed to turn our lives around in the oddest situations. But now, we are not so sure anymore. When will this pandemic end? And how will we live when we get out of it? Which part of the world still feels safe? Will our children ever be able to catch up on the school lessons they have missed? 

I miss having offline workshops and what I love about this retreat is that we can be offline most of the time and connect with our inner creators again. We can work on our relationships with people who are important to us. We can build a community of people who help each other (irrespective of their cultural or religious background but based on shared values and deep love for people).

Like we need yeast to bake bread, we need energy and love to work and live with people around us. We might think that we can just stay at home and send our avatars to work, but who would we then be? 

We need to get dressed in nice clothes, have a commute to work and a distance between “work” and “leisure.” Otherwise, we lose our fire and inspiration, and lose touch with our inner creator. I look forward to hearing from you!

I wish all of us to support each other in communities, and I’m convinced that an OFFLINE RETREAT will most certainly create miracles despite the wonders of technology. Because of the travel situation and insecurities around the world, I have decided to offer the RockMeRetreat in Switzerland at the Ilanz monastery. I have been on a retreat there before, and it’s a humble, yet quiet and comfortable place, and the sisters are extremely warmhearted and welcoming, and the mountain view is just amazing.

We will offer the RockMeRetreat from 17 to 23 November 2022.

I hope you will join us in Ilanz. I will be happy to set up a meeting with you to discuss your participation. 

Richard Harvell, a Bestselling Author and Publisher and Diccon Bewes, also very famous author of “SwissWatching” and other books about living in Switzerland as a foreigner contacted us to announce this great pilot project they are conducting. They will hold an all-inclusive cultural integration retreat weekend in Bellinzona on 17-19 June and thought Global People Transitions might have exactly the right candidates to benefit from this exciting experience!

Cultural integration has been proven crucial to the success of an expat’s assignment, but it has often been overlooked. This kind of crash course (it’s not a course really, rather a touristy weekend where you also learn lots!) allows the participants to learn about their new setting in an informal and enjoyable way. This transition period (from the moment you decide to accept the assignment, to the preparation, to settling in your new place and job) is stressful enough; this weekend is designed to help you ease in and be ready to bounce back. Employers will also benefit from this retreat: having better integrated and less stressed employees, prepared to become more efficient faster can only be positive. Switzerland has long struggled with this challenge, and Richard and Diccon are here to make change happen!

Registration is now open here.

https://www.immerse-swiss.com/bellinzona

The Expert Guide to Your Life in Switzerland (trailer)

Resources and further readings

NewInZurich

Looking at the whole family in the expatriation process

Our epic blog posts

Global TV Talk Show with Ed Cohen:

Interview with Ed Cohen on Minority Expats

Rise of Women

Picture this scenario: a leading multinational company needs to select somebody with the right skills to establish their first overseas division and they have two equally strong candidates. Alice just got married and, in their best intentions but without consulting her, leadership decides that she would not like to go on assignment as she is likely to be starting a family. The opportunity is therefore offered to George. 

What do Alice and George think twelve months later? 

Alice and her husband wanted to get the wedding out of the way so that she could pursue her dream of going on an international assignment. She was shocked about not even being consulted. But it all worked out for her in the end: she is now working overseas for one of their competitors and is very happy in her role.

For George, the company’s decision really came at the worst time. His wife and he were about to tell their families about their first baby. But he still said “yes” to the opportunity and eventually convinced her wife to try that out. However, it was very tough on her and she ended up being sick through the whole pregnancy. When the baby was born, she had no support network. This situation also impacted his performance which was much lower than back home. For this reason, the company decided to bring him back. 

I bet it’s not the first time you are faced with this scenario. Wrong assumptions and stereotypes are in fact one of the reasons for which women continue to be highly under-represented within the expat population

However, there are a few positive sides that make the rise of women in Global Mobility look somewhat brighter than some time ago. Take policy and awareness for example. In 2011, only 12% of CEOs saw poor retention of female talent as a key business challenge, and only 11% were planning policy changes to attract and retain more female workers (PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey). Yet, just a few years later, 64% of CEOs worldwide confirm that they finally have a diversity strategy and 13% of them are planning to adopt one over the next 12 months (PwC, 2016a).

What’s to Celebrate?

When we look at data, it’s important to break it down. If it’s true that the percentage of expat women swings between  just 14%  and 25% (Mercer, 2017; PwC, 2016a; PwC, 2016b), we cannot bypass the significant differences between regions and industry sectors. For example, while expat women in the energy and high tech sectors are only 8-11%, the percentage for the life science sector is 23%. Companies in the service and retail sectors also generally tend to have a higher percentage of women expats. 

Other research (Communicaid, 2017) provides an even more optimistic picture, showing us how the proportion of expat women grew slowly but steadily from 1980s onwards.          

And always on the bright side, among those employees who have already had an international experience, 47% of the female and 53% of the male respondents confirmed they had completed more than one international assignment. In addition, based on their most recent international experience, 84% of women said that they would repeat a similar experience, and 93% state that they would recommend an international assignment to a colleague (PwC, 2016a). 

Last but not least, 73% of women working in Financial Services believe that they have equal opportunities than men to undertake international assignments at their current workplace (PwC, 2016b). This percentage is encouraging in comparison with the 50% of women taking part in the previous year’s millennial survey who believe that promotion is biased towards men (PwC, 2015).

Even with something to celebrate, we shall keep in mind that these variations don’t change the overall conclusions: we are still decades away from seeing this percentage rising to 50%. Predictions show that, in the best case scenario, this will be reached only around 2050 (Mercer, 2017) 

How can you benefit from having a more expat women ? 

1 – You will Facilitate Better Assignment Selection with a Broader Talent Pool 

One of the main mobility cost drivers is related to the limited choice of candidates ready for assignments. By inviting more women to the club, you create more options for your company and indirectly to control costs better. The more good candidates you have, the better will your selection be and the higher the chances that you don’t have to sell an incredibly overpriced assignment package.

2 – You will Record a Higher Assignment Success Rate

The When Women Thrive report highlights that women are perceived to have unique skills that are particularly relevant for expatriation, including flexibility and adaptability (39% vs. 20% who say men have those strengths); inclusive team management (43% vs. 20%); and emotional intelligence (24% vs. 5%.). In short, women tend to build cultural bridges better than men and work in a more sustainable manner.

3 – You will not only Attract, but also Retain Talent

Female demand for international mobility has never been higher than now, with 71% of female millennials wanting to work outside their home country during their careers. Also, 64% of all women interviewed said that international opportunities were critical in attracting them as well as keeping them with an employer (PwC, 2016).

If you want to be successful in attracting and retaining female employees, you need to have a talent brand with international experience as a core element of your employee talent proposition. 

Are you not yet convinced that more expat women provide a huge added value to your company?  In our previous post, we give other proofs of how a more diverse expat population makes you a more profitable and valuable company. 

Seven Obstacles to the Rise of Women in Global Mobility

1 – Strategy

Like the majority of international organizations, you too might be currently challenged with a lack of alignment between Diversity & Inclusion and Global Mobility. This is a crucial issue that you should be working to solve as soon as possible. When goals and data are discussed with Senior Management, Global Mobility Managers need to have a seat at the table. 

2 – Policy

Many Global Mobility policies have originally been developed for male assignees with children and a “trailing” spouse. It’s 2020 and this needs to change. Make sure your policy addresses the issues of expat women and new types of families – single parents for example (the vast majority of them being female), or same-sex couples.

3 – Nomination Process

As we mentioned in our previous post as well, too many times there is still a lack of transparency over who is assigned and why. Companies often don’t have a clear view of those employees who would be willing to be internationally mobile. And like in Alice’s and George’s stories, unconscious bias still plays a considerable (yet invisible) role in the selection of the right candidates. Because of the prevalence of stereotypes that associate women with family, female employees are usually not  even asked even if they would be willing to consider. 

I’ve been there personally as well. 

And if you want to take a small journey into the world of the unconsciously biased HR world, have a look at this insightful article on gender decoding. 

4 –  Non-Diverse Host Locations 

This is probably not such a big issue (apart from a few very critical war zones and dangerous locations). The issue, instead, is the assumption that expat women won’t be accepted because of the fixed gender roles men and women have in the host location. As a matter of fact, expat women in India have automatically a higher status than local women. And in some Muslim cultures, as long as you wear a ring implying that you are married, you can be seen as highly respectable and you will be treated accordingly. 

5 – Representation

While Global Mobility Managers are often female, women don’t benefit from the same representation rate at the upper levels. This means that Senior Leaders and Executives in Global Mobility are mainly men. As a consequence, there is an issue of lack of awareness at Senior Management level, and this is especially true in traditionally conservative countries.

6 – Lack of Visible Assignment Opportunities for Women

65% of female employees (PwC, 2016a) are still unhappy with the little transparency of their companies over the availability of opportunities for overseas assignments. 

It’s time that you make opportunities readily accessible to all, including underrepresented talent groups!

7  –  Lack of Human Touch 

The lack of Human Touch and/or previous bad Expat Experiences might stop women from actively seeking opportunities for international exposure.

In fact, teams are often too busy focusing on the many operational aspects of the mobility program and fail to design a human-centric Global Mobility program for their expat population. 

If you haven’t started yet, do it now. Talk openly about diversity in your policies and encourage internal discussion on this topic. Communicate about role models and success stories.

Six Potential Solutions  for a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Mobility Program 

1- Set Clear Diversity and Inclusion Goals  for Global Mobility

Global Mobility and Diversity and Inclusion teams need to set realistic yet challenging goals for increasing the number of female assignees AND female department heads in Global Mobility. According to KPMG (2018), only 41% of the organizations surveyed had clear D&I objectives in place. Without specific targets nothing will change! 

2 –  Allow for More Flexibility by Having Different Assignment Types 

New types of assignments and flexibility are making things easier for women and employees with family responsibilities to go on assignment. As I reiterate in The Global Mobility Workbook, Global Mobility should not systematically be synonymous with traditional Long-Term Assignment. In fact, even if those remain the most preferred assignment type by both genders, women favour 6-to-12 months’ assignments more than men (37% vs 29%). The same can be said for assignments shorter than three months (10% vs 5%) as well as frequent business travels (36% vs 32%) (PwC, 2016a).

3 – Identify and Understand What the Real Barriers are 

Do you actually know what the real barriers to inclusive mobility are for your workforce and organizations? If you’ve never measured in which way your current policies hinder women’s mobility, it’s time you act NOW.  Stop simply assuming the barriers to gender inclusiveness and understand better where the actual issues lay. That’s why I recommend intercultural training for all Global Mobility Managers.

4 – Give More Visibility to Female Role Models

While 68% of men feel that there are enough male role models of successful expats in their organization, only 48% of women feel the same about female role models (PwC, 2016b). This impacts negatively the wider female talent pool of companies and their Global Mobility programs.  If you want to help fill the gap, take active measures to drive awareness of the positive experiences of successful expat women within your organizations. 

At page 24 of this PwC report you can read a short and inspiring testimonial of a Tax Partner and Expat Woman role model. 

5 – Use More Gender-inclusive Language 

Too often Global Mobility policies still refer to their globally mobile workforce with masculine pronouns. At the same time, they would make you assume that Expat or “trailing” Spouses should be female. Well, it’s 2020 and this is not anymore the case. If you want to make your program more inclusive, start from how you address your talent. The UN has recently published new very helpful guidelines that can definitely be useful for your policies too.

6 – Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Culture

It is absolutely critical for your company to move away from the restrictive gender stigmas of the past if you wish to unlock your full global workforce potential. Your ultimate challenge is to create a culture where all your employees are on board with diversity and recognize how valuable this is.

Our message is clear: Global Mobility strategies that do not fully include women will simply not deliver to their full potential.

How we can Help you

If it all makes sense to you but you don’t know where to start from, this is why we’re here. Here are four ideas on how we can help you.

  1. We deconstruct your expat nomination process and review your existing policies for inclusiveness.
  2. We improve the language you use in communication to make them gender-inclusive and we also help you sprinkle them with “Human Touch”.
  3. We conduct an analysis of your Expat Experience and identify unveiled barriers for female expats and their spouses.
  4. We facilitate transition workshops with expat women in the host country, and prepare female candidates for potential expat assignments through our exclusive 1:1 Executive coaching program RockMe!

PS: I want to tell you two more things.

Are you looking for a board member mandate in Switzerland? Have a look at VRMandat and Stitungsratsmandat and check how they can support you.

Look up the above links also if you’re trying to expand your board of directors.

Resources

Read the insights of the 4th edition of the Advance and HSG Gender Intelligence Report.

https://stiftungsratsmandat.com/de/

https://www.vrmandat.com/en/

https://dorothydalton.com/2016/03/11/gender-de-coding-and-job-adverts/

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20160929-where-are-all-the-expat-women 

http://www.internationalhradviser.com/storage/downloads/Gender%20Bias%20in%20Global%20Mobility%20Developing%20Female%20Leaders%20PwC.pdf 

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/global-hr/pages/women-expatriate-workforce.aspx 

References 

KPMG. (2018). Inclusion and Diversity in Global Mobility. KPMG. https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle.pdf

Meier, O. (2019). The path to diversity. Mercer. https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/insights/article/the-path-to-diversity-women-on-assignment

PwC. (2015). Female millennials in financial services: Strategies for a new era of talent. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/financial-services/publications/assets/pwc-female-millennial-report-v2.pdf

PwC. (2016a). Modern Mobility: Moving women with purpose. PwC. 

https://www.pwc.com/gr/en/publications/assets/modern-mobility-moving-women-with-purpose.pdf

PwC. (2016b). Women of the world: Aligning gender diversity and international mobility in financial services. Pwc.

https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/financial-services/assets/women-of-the-world.pdf 

This is a good example of Women in Global Mobility
Riikka Virtanen Schwitter speaking during the EY “Future of Mobility” event (February 2020)

GUEST POST BY NABEHA LATIF

From a Punny Remark to a Household Media Channel
Ever since Twitter hit the internet in 2006, it evolved from a punny remark about your meal snaps to an integral part of online communication as a whole. With its simple ideology and a tweet (message) consistent with a set amount of characters, you witness an ever-growing set of to-the-point remarks and comments alike.

 

However, Twitter isn’t only for some fun pastime. It can be utilized as a significant component of managing your business online. So here’s our guide to keeping your business up to the digital standard.

Why Twitter for Business?
There are many motivations to make Twitter a piece of your business’s digital media plan in an undeniably jam-packed online media scene.

Marketing and getting the word out on Twitter is particularly appealing because the platform fights at a surprisingly high level as far as reach is concerned. The complete number of individuals going on Twitter consistently is more than the number of registered accounts!

This implies that you’re not simply getting your content to users when you tweet. Instead, you’re likewise contacting a more extensive crowd who additionally reads Twitter.

The Basics:
Assuming you’re completely new to Twitter, the initial steps are similar whether you’re making a profile for a business or individual use.

 

Whether you already have an account or not, utilizing these tips will keep your basics solid.

 

Creating a Profile

  1. Profile Photo: The profile photo represents your account everywhere on Twitter. It should be recognizable and shouldn’t change too often. Most companies include their logo in their profile image.

  2. Header/Cover Photo: This is where you can share the latest updates in a visually striking format. It is often replaced, unlike the profile picture.

  3. Username: Your @name is the name of your account. It doesn’t change. You can change your display name, but it’s best to set it as your organization’s name and leave it at that.

  4. Bio: Your bio is your brand’s elevator pitch. A concise introduction for your brand, Link your website!

  5. Pinned Tweet: A pinned Tweet is the first piece of content users see when coming across your profile. It isn’t required, but it’s a great place to highlight content.

Twitter Slang/Terminology:
I’m sure we’re all familiar with what a “tweet” is by now, but when it comes to Twitter, that’s only a starter! Here’s some terminology you should understand before heading on in the circle:

 

  1. Hashtag: A word preceded by a # symbol. It acts as a tag to content to categorize or relate to a particular topic.

  2. Mentions: A tweet with the @ symbol followed by a person or brand’s username. This helps you tag people and monitor them to see what others say about you.

  3. Retweet: Sharing someone else’s tweet is known as a retweet.

  4. Quote: Similar to a retweet, but with an added comment about the original tweet.

  5. DMs: Also known as Direct Messages, they are private messages between accounts. If a non-follower contacts you, they will be sent to your requests folder. This can be changed in settings.

  6. Topics: These are headings and tags an account can follow in order to see content related to a subject of interest.

Verification:
Verification on Twitter means having a recognized account by Twitter and being granted a blue tick in front of your username. It’s similar to verifying your account on Instagram.

For a brand, you’ll need to provide your Official Website and Official Email. For a brand celebrity etc., an extra piece of information is required, which will be a form of Official Identification.

How to run your business on Twitter:
Once you’ve nailed down the basics and prepped your account for expansion, consider going through the following tips to grow your business.

  • Create a Marketing Strategy:
    Creating, posting, and monitoring your Tweets is a key aspect of your business. So It’s best to be consistent and orderly about it all. A Twitter marketing strategy will help you bring your brand on track and help you achieve your set goals.

    Your Twitter strategy will tie into your overall Social Media Strategy and should be on your content calendar. Having a global view of your social media marketing will allow you to take advantage of each platform’s specific strengths.

  • Finding a Brand Voice:
    Twitter is covered with the graves of accounts that didn’t think before tweeting. It pays to have your brand’s voice designed for the platform.

    Having a consistent voice on social media makes it simpler to interface with your audience. It likewise assists your brand with standing apart among the organizations battling a portion of the 1.9 billion hours that clients spend on Twitter every month.

  • Use Twitter Lists:
    When you get active on Twitter and your channel begins to top off, Twitter Lists can diminish the clamor by sorting your channel into targeted topics.

 

Making a Twitter List resembles making a timeline that just has content from the accounts you pick.

There is an assortment of topics you should make a List about for your business. You can utilize them to monitor accomplices, contenders, or the accounts that draw in with you the most.

Twitter Spaces:
Twitter Spaces is another component that permits you to have live audio discussions with different clients.

 

With Spaces incorporated into the Twitter platform, it’s not difficult to spread the news about your audio sessions. Joining is pretty much as simple as clicking a link in a Tweet.

 

Announcing your Spaces talk with a Tweet allows you to use the span of your current Twitter brand into engagement on Spaces.

Using Ads to Promote:
Twitter’s millions of clients are a major piece of what makes it an alluring platform for brands. In any case, the volume of the content presented on Twitter consistently can likewise imply that your brand’s Tweets become mixed up in the conflict.

Twitter advertising is the response to this issue. You can promote anything from a solitary Tweet to a whole account.

With no base financial plan, there’s a Twitter advertising choice that will assist any brand in getting noticed.

Utilize Advanced Search:
For thousands of Tweets each moment about movies and memes, Twitter’s search bar generally isn’t to the point of observing the content you’re searching for.

 

Twitter’s advance option is an all the more integral asset for filtering through Tweets, with many capacities to assist with advancing your brand.

 

You can look by account notices to observe clients drawing in with you. Commitment channels permit you to track down the most famous Tweets about a topic.

Monitor with Twitter Analytics:
Twitter Analytics is a robust platform that utilizes diagrams and reports to give experiences to your Twitter usage.

 

This instrument gives data on everything from your top Tweet to ad transformation rates.

 

Knowing how to utilize Twitter Analytics gives many advantages to your business. For example, you can use it to decide the days and times your audience is generally dynamic or analyze your ads’ profit from speculation.

Twitter API:
The Twitter API (computerized programming connection point) permits you to cause programs that collaborate straightforwardly with Twitter.

 

There are numerous ways that this instrument can help your business. You can make your own channels to get constant data on just the most essential Tweets or make custom audiences.

 

Not every person with a Twitter account approaches the API. To utilize it, you initially need to apply for a developer account.


Key tips and tricks:
A Tweet is a 280-character fresh slate. It isn’t always simple to know how to impart your brand’s message on Twitter.

 

These tips and tricks will guide you to make Twitter content that gets results.

 

  1. Keep it Concise: Simple, Short, and Clear. That’s how your tweets should be! Remember, you’ve got limited characters.

  2. Keep It Organic: People don’t really talk to brands, do they? So why talk like one! Keep engagement on a high by toning down on the formal end.

  3. Engage with People: If you’re just broadcasting out into the Twitterverse, it’s easy for your audience to tune you out. And you don’t want a passive audience. The more engagement you get, the more visible you are.

  4. CTAs: Good business Twitter use strikes a balance between conversational Tweets and advertorial content. The traditional best practices of ad copy still apply on Twitter. And knowing how to write a good CTA never goes out of style.

  5. Use the Emojis: Emojis help you cut down on long words with little emoticons to help get your points across. Tweets with emojis generate more engagement than those without!

  6. Trending Hashtags: Hashtags cut through the noise of Twitter to get your Tweets seen by people who are interested in a specific topic.

  7. Add Some Visuals: Twitter isn’t a picture-based platform, so that’ll help you cut through the crowd with more visuals paired with a fresh tweet. Tweets that include a visual element (an image or a video) generate more engagement than those that don’t.

  8. Time Your Tweets: Don’t waste your perfectly crafted content by tweeting it when no one’s around to see it. Use Twitter Analytics to track when your Tweets get the most engagement.

  9. Frequency of Tweets: In most cases, it’s best to tweet more than one or two and fewer than three to five times per day. There are several ways to schedule your Tweets so that they come out at the right frequency. Twitter has a built-in scheduling feature to ease your burden.
Expat Experience

Why Building Relationships is Harder for You

Turning into a Swiss Person

I sat on a panel, and I just got as far as saying “I think…” when the other panelist gave her opinion on the matter. She probably didn’t notice that I was trying to say something, but for a moment, I was annoyed and thought, “how rude…”. 

Funnily, many years ago in Germany, this would probably have been okay for me. However, I notice now how I have turned into a “Swiss person”. I also tend not to want to work with Germans who have just arrived in Switzerland because I notice in what they do too many of my own mishaps and small failures back when I was a newbie in Switzerland.

Having lived here in Zurich for over ten years now, I prefer to run my life Swiss-style. Despite considering myself open and tolerant, I still mess up intercultural communication. I’m not always understood, and sometimes I’m just wrong. I recently had a long discussion about left and right, and I know I have a weakness there. In the end, I found out that I muddled up left and right (again!).

Sometimes “Global English” also makes it worse: A bunch of non-native speakers trying to communicate in their second language can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary emotions.

Here are eight reasons that might make it harder for you to build professional relationships right now. And I don’t think that the pandemic is the main reason.

Eight Reasons

  1. You are shy, introverted, or not convinced that you are good enough to deserve success. Many partners suffer from the “impostor syndrome,” a psychological state of mind where people doubt their own accomplishments or consider themselves frauds just about to be exposed, especially if their career-driving partner just got another promotion in another country.
  2. You are embarrassed and ashamed of being “unemployed”. This is especially hard in a society where most of your self-worth is driven by your career and how busy you are.
  3. You come from a home culture where achievement is overly emphasized. In this cultures ascription is considered an unfair privilege while at the same time you are blindsided by the fact that you had an ascribed status in your home turf.  Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner associated the achievement dimension with protestant work ethic and belief. 
  4. You underestimate the cultural and value diversity in Switzerland. Even if Switzerland is the home of Zwingli and Calvin, there are catholic cantons where status, just like in the protestant cantons, is often equated with a family name, wealth, and how many generations you have already been a member of this society. So, there is still a strong ascription component that is not so obvious to outsiders. You don’t recognize that you have been in the out-group until you join the “Circle of Trust.”
  5. You are unaware of how you come across in person and assume that your style and behavior are “normal.” For example, you have not yet learned to read the cultural cues that hint that you might be too pushy or rude. A typical example in Switzerland is that newbies tend to overstretch a time commitment. In a society that runs on the clock and is a role model of the sequential time approach according to E.T. Hall’s time dimensions, not respecting this often creates a lot of stress for the other person.
  6. You are sending messages to mark your status in your home turf, such as the “Dr.” title in Germany. Or hint at your seniority by name-dropping the influential VIPs you used to hang out with. Still, this is either not understood or considered boasting, narcissistic, and merely annoying in Switzerland. (You could even exaggerate your qualifications and background, for all we know!)
  7. You interrupt your counterpart because you feel that they are slow. The Swiss tend to speak slower than many other Europeans, but they don’t like to be interrupted in their thought process as they are used to having a voice and being asked for their opinion on everything.
  8. You come from a high-context culture and you feel like you don’t know how to address a “stranger”  adequately.  You don’t know how to phrase your requests (your “ask”) to them, and they don’t understand you at all.

Relationship Segmentation Can Be a Barrier

Over the years of running my own business and projects, I often noticed that all the tools I tested to maintain a strategic approach to networking failed miserably with the extensive network that I’ve built over my professional life. 

So, I decided to let go of “strategy” and follow my gut and memory. I realized that the best idea is not to worry too much about “contact segmentation.” We Germans love the word “Begriffsabgrenzung”, so we also do this to our social life (“Bekannter, Kollege, Freund, Verwandter, Familie, Partner, Ehepartner…”). It’s a step-by-step approach, showing how much you trust the other person.

The same segmentation exists in Switzerland, but there are “false friends”( e.g., the word “Kollege” means “Work Colleague” in High German and “Friend” in Swiss German). In Switzerland and Germany, the informal ways of addressing a person with “Du” have different meanings.

Without intercultural training, a German manager will behave like a bull in a china shop in Switzerland – completely unintentionally. Hence, working with German managers in the “honeymoon phase” is a lot of work for the trainer or coach. I prefer to work with you when you are beyond the honeymoon phase, and you understand that you might not function in Switzerland like you are used to.

A Fluid Approach

My colleagues have become friends over the years, and some of my best friends from my university days or early career are colleagues or clients now. Some of my team members have become family, and some of my family members work in the same field or closely related ones. And some friends will never pay you while others will insist on giving back. The world is colorful, and so are people.

While saying this, I don’t want to imply that you have to like everybody you work with or network with. However, it’s another atmosphere for collaboration and innovation when you can fully trust the other person, and know in your head and heart that this person would never talk badly about you behind your back and would not spill your secrets with your competitors. 

Safe and collaborative environments require “relationship work.” 

Let me know what you are doing today to work on your business relationships.

Attention through Roses

What beautiful sunny weather, we have had the chance to enjoy these last few days! You might, as I do,  make a point of benefiting from the last golden rays of the sun to soak up as much vitamin D as possible before the days become even shorter. Who doesn’t need that energy to accomplish everything that needs to be done, everything you want to do?  You might be in a position right now where either you are worried about losing your job, or you are already looking for a new job (or any kind of work). Maybe you have even been looking for a while already. Perhaps you feel it’s time to update your resume and your job searching skills, just in case. Anyhow, I thought you could use this reminder from my older publication, “The Global Career Workbook,” on how to get a Swiss recruiter’s attention.

Getting a Swiss recruiter’s attention is almost like asking her out on a date. 

When you write a cover letter, you want the other person to like you and find you attractive enough to read your resumé. The cover letter is your appetizer, and the resumé is your main course. If you get to the interview stage, then that’s like having dessert on the first date. And after three interviews, you might get kissed. I mean, you might get the job offer you are longing for.

Don’t spoil the Swiss recruiter’s appetite by presenting the main course in the cover letter.

Imagine you are on your first date, and your counterpart tells you for half an hour how great they are. Rather boring, right? You zoom out of the conversation and wish to run away. The same is true if a recruiter reads your whole resumé already in the cover letter.

What could you do to make the conversation more interesting?

Cover letter writing is an art. With modern technology, applicants often do not see the need to write a cover letter these days, but in my opinion, it is the most artistic part of a good application. Emphatically,  in Switzerland, IT’S A MUST.

Many recruiters want to read it. They would like to see that you made an effort to get that interview. I receive considerable amounts of cover letters, and most of them sound like they were copied from a textbook. Nobody gets excited reading some sort of ‘copy and paste’ write-ups, void of personal touch.  Only the more personal ones gain my attention. They have to be personal, crisp and show me who you are.

Here are rules for fresh cover letters:

  • Use the correct name of the recruiter instead of Sir or Madam. Take out time to research the recruiter’s name. This portrays you as serious. Make sure you also spell the names of references correctly. Be respectful and address recruiters formally.
  • Make the letter appealing and nice-looking by using one font only and adhering to standard letter writing style in the country you are applying to.
  • Speak about the needs of the other party before you speak about yours. This is so important because the prospective job is about what you can bring to the table.
  • Find a personal connection between either you and the company or you and the recruiter. Maybe you use one of their products, or associate positive feelings with the brand because of a personal story.
  • If you copy and paste (which is not a good idea in general), please check that you did not use the wrong company name or contact person. It helps to read the letter out loud.
  • Use active language and complete sentences. When I say active language, I ask you to use more verbs than nouns, avoid passive constructs and keep sentences short.
  • If you are not an English native speaker, check your translation and let a native speaker review your grammar. Most recruiters get irritated when they find grammatical errors in cover letters.
  • Be brief and stick to a maximum of one page. Five paragraphs are sufficient.
  • Add your contact information in the last paragraph, especially your phone number and email ID. Make sure your email sounds respectable, and the name is memorable. Email addresses like ‘sexynancy@gmail.com’ are not acceptable.
  • Avoid slang and casual writing style. You are a professional, so behave like one! Even if you are from Generation Y or Z, remember that this is a letter and not a chat. The person you want to date might be the age of your parents.

Here’s to the sunny weather, boosting your energy to take that next important step: preparing your application file. I hope these tips help you write the best cover letter you can write to catch the Swiss recruiters’ attention, get to the “dessert” stage, and get you the job you are hoping for! 

 

HireMeExpress 2022 – Pre-Workshops for all Club Members

I will teach you insights on 

Workshop No. 1:  Partnering Masters – Building Effective Relationships

Workshop No. 2: Powerful Missions – Having a Voice in a Sea of Noise

Workshop No. 3: Persisting Mindsets – Designing Work to Support a Global Lifestyle

 

All invites will be shared when you sign up on our HireMeExpress list

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Reminder: Sign up here to find out everything you need to know in order to land a job in Switzerland or another market you are not familiar with. We will send you our 19 Fresh Resume Checkpoints and further material such as videos. In case you have any questions you can email us via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.