Author Archives: Angie Weinberger
RockMe! Retreat

This is an attempt at giving guidance out of the box. Many expats take difficult decisions. These decisions are not always to the liking of our partner or children, especially teenagers can be quite difficult when they find out that they have to leave their friends. Having worked in Global Mobility for a long time of my career, I would like to help you bring your family on board earlier in the process.

You might argue now that your partner knew when they married you, that you had an international outlook on your career and that you love the challenge of starting a new job in a new environment. You would argue that this person always loved your sense of accomplishment when you got a challenging job done within two to three years. You will probably also tell me, that your company will not ask you twice and that you basically do not have a choice.

We both know, that married life is not that easy and that the person you married five years ago might have changed while you have changed as well. Your spouse might have career aspirations or is just up for the next promotion.

Once you have children, your global flexibility might be even more challenged. Your kids might not want to move to another country and make new friends. Maybe they already have two native languages and do not feel like learning a third or fourth language.

 

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Expat Hub Rotterdam

 

I read the German textbook “Interkulturelle Kompetenz” (intercultural competence) by Juergen Bolten. While this book has great ideas for intercultural trainers and coaches, as a Global Mobility Expert I was surprised to read, that Bolten claims that we have less international assignments, more commuters, and short-termers today than ever. And I hear that a lot from students in Germany. It seems that academia is convinced that long-term assignments have dropped significantly since the global financial crisis.

Most Global Mobility reports in the last five years showed indeed an increase in short-term assignments and project workers. There are also more “commuters”. We also see more international recruitment on local contracts, but the long-term expat assignment is still prevalent in most international companies. The numbers of long-term assignments are stable in many industries.* We don’t have less international assignment we just have more mobility.

In my view as an interculturalist, you actually need to be on the ground and immerse in the culture in order to perform certain roles. Despite digitalization success in business development, managerial roles and in relationship-oriented cultures comes with deeper business relationships and global competency. In other words: You have to be in the host country if you want to be successful.

A two-year assignment in my experience is generally a bit too ambitious. A three-year assignment is often needed to perform well in a new role in a new country. In reality, a lot of senior managers stay up to five years in the host country on classical expat assignments. (In my book I call those market-driven assignments.)

Any day now you could be asked to go on a three-year assignment to Mombasa or Mumbai. What would you do? How do you come to a decision about an international assignment when taking all aspects into account?

Over the years of working with expats and their spouses, I have seen a lot of bad decision making so this is an attempt to give you guidance while not knowing everything about your personal situation.

Focus on the learning you will gain from the role more than on the financial incentives.

A lot of expats base their decisions largely on package and numbers and forget to understand more about the role and the learning of the assignment experience. Ask yourself what kind of learning you will take away, what will your spouse learn and also how it will develop skills in your children. Have an open discussion about this at the dinner table.

Show your spouse and kids how they will live by taking them on a look-and-see trip.

If you have never lived in Mumbai or Mombasa or Stockholm it is hard to imagine what daily life will be like. Going on a look-and-see-trip still seems to be the most effective way to show your partner and family what will await them in the foreign lands. Expose them to the host language too by watching movies in the original language, explore and discover basic facts about the host country together.

Consider the international assignment as a family adventure and make sure that you are ready.

If you went on a hike to Mount Everest or a challenging world cruise in a sailing boat, you would expect everyone on the trip to be fit and willing to work as a team. Your relationship should be stable, both of you fit and healthy, your children well adapted in school and in general you should have an interest in your host location.

Packing
Packing

Take advantage of all programs such as intercultural training, language classes and spousal assistance programs that your company offers.

Too many times assignees tell me that they did not really know about what their company offers in terms of support. There are a lot of reasons for this and you need to take responsibility when it comes to claiming intercultural training, language classes and spousal assistance programs. If you rely only on the communication you receive from HR or Global Mobility you might miss out on some of these benefits as during your decision-making phase and in preparing for the new role you might not hear all the detailed information. Speak to assignees, who have been in the host location for about a year. They will give you good tips what type of support they received and what they only found out later in the process.

Once you are done with fact-finding, make sure that you listen to all the concerns that your family raises. See if you need further help in addressing some of the concerns. Then once you decide to leave your comfort zone, you will see what a great experience an international assignment can be for your whole family.

If you found this post helpful please share it with your best expat friends. 

Angie Weinberger

PS: If you wish to have a short chat with me you can schedule a 15-minute free call here.

The Global Mobility Coach
@angieweinberger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Check KPMG, Mercer and other service providers for data or email me and I will send you the relevant links.

Digital Marketing

by Taylor McKinney

As a solopreneur, you know that no good business can run without a solid digital strategy. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail. With a carefully curated approach, you can anticipate increased sales, new and returning customers, and long-term growth. Here’s what you need to know about creating your digital strategy as a team of one.

Determine your mission

This is the foundation upon which your entire business is run, so consider this one carefully. For example, Patagonia’s mission statement isn’t just about selling outdoor clothing and gear, but to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Ask yourself what’s at the heart of your business and what made you pursue it in the first place? These core values will be echoed and maximized in all parts of your brand and marketing, so make sure it’s authentic and something you’re proud of. It should be about more than revenue, but how you’re planning to make your place in the world and make the lives of your customers better or easier, no matter how small the scale. Look to bigger companies for influence if necessary, and especially these inspiring mission statements.

Identify Your Goals and Measure Them

Key Performance Indicators and targets goals—it’s all business-speak for the most important part of growing your business, which is identifying where you want to be and tracking your performance to get there.

If you’re just starting out, choose “stretch goals” or achievements that won’t be easy, but are still realistic. Make sure they’re quantifiable and able to be tracked, whether it’s getting 100 email subscriptions or 500 followers on social media.

If you’re already in the business, consider increasing your lead generation by 25% or to increase time on page by 20% in the next month. Google Analytics and other web analytics tools are great to help measure your conversions, social media analytics will track your engagement. Content marketing software can measure the success of your content marketing.

Develop Audience Personas

A successful business speaks the language of their customers or buyers. And just like with the mission statement example, chances are you have an idea of who’s using your services or buying your products, but why settle for a roundabout guess when you can use data to find out the nitty-gritty of who they are and what they need?

To start with, record all the demographic information of your customers. To find out how they best like to engage, determine how they find and interact with your content through Google Analytics. If you don’t have access to this information, add form fields or surveys to your site to capture all pertinent data. You can even determine trends and personas through feedback and communication via your social media sites. These persona templates will help you get started.

Strategize with SEO—and Update it Frequently

You’ve put countless hours into your content creation and overall marketing strategy—and it’ll all be for naught if no one sees it. If you’re just starting out here, make a list of themes or topics that are most relevant to your brand—both descriptions of your product or services, as well as possible blog topics—and conduct keyword research (both short and long tail) via Google Keyword Planner to see what terms you should be targeting in your page structure, as well as anchor text, meta description, h2 tags, and titles, etc.

You’ll also want to initiate a link building plan to get backlinks, so reach out to relevant sites and offer to write content for them in exchange for a link back to your site. Once you’ve optimized your site and all associated content and marketing materials, continue to monitor your progress, as well as that of any direct competitors.

The best part is that this digital marketing plan is scalable, no matter how many people you add, or how many moving parts you add to your vision. These steps are a solid core of the business plan to help you stay ahead of the curve, keep ahead of digital marketing trends, and fully achieve your business goals.

Taylor McKinney is a Marketing Specialist at TrustRadius, which has become the most trusted website for B2B software reviews. When she is not writing about the latest tools and small business trends she is enjoying Austin’s beautiful scenery with her family.

I stood in the traffic jam at the entrance of Zurich. It was a Sunday night and a lot of people seem to either have returned from the holidays or from their weekend homes. I had been in Germany to see my family and I noticed that on the left lane cars were moving a lot faster but I did not dare to change lanes for a while. At least fifteen minutes I followed the masses in slow track.

After a while, I thought I’d give it a try and despite all the cars coming at the faster speed I found a hole and could change lanes. Then I noticed that the traffic jam was not for the cars moving into the city. All the cars on my lanes had a different direction and did not manage to enter the lane on the right side.

When I finally was in the flow again and reached my target a little later than expected and noticed that we often do exactly that in life and profession too. We stay in a lane because we are scared to change, we follow people who have a different target than us and while we think about what to do lifetime and quality runs through our fingers.

We get stuck in thinking about change, in being annoyed at ourselves for not changing until we have invested too much to quit the lane.

I realized yesterday that once I overcame my fear, an opportunity came up. Other drivers also needed a bit of encouragement to change lanes, so you let them in and support their choice. It took a truck driver about ten attempts before anyone would give him a chance, but he (or she) persisted.

You have choices every day and you can change lanes a lot easier than you might think. Start small and if you need a little encouragement you join our RockMeRetreat and see me for coaching.

RockMe! Retreat
RockMe! Retreat

Guest post by Lucie Koch

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 the 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 was an intern at Global People Transitions GmbH in Zurich, Switzerland. She graduated 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 a Swiss expat couple in France. She grew up in the French countryside, around horses. She’s a self confessed introvert, fascinated by different languages, cultures, science (especially astronomy and biology) and philosophy. She also likes to spend time drawing, painting or in cinemas.

 

 


Guest post by Brooke Faulkner

An international assignment to Japan is one of the most rewarding achievements you could reach in business. Nothing feels better than to be wanted overseas for your talents and your accomplishments.

However, most of us, unfortunately, have a habit of acting culturally unaware when we visit new places, especially if we don’t have a lot of interaction with diversity within our home country. While that’s a broad generalization, it happens enough for us individually to be aware and check ourselves before traveling overseas.

I want to focus on business in Japan specifically right now because there is a lot of room to do international business with them. According to Alliance Experts, alternative energy, gaming, music, engineering, and healthcare are all fields thriving in that country, as well as ours.

Combining forces can be a really good thing. However, when you enter someone else’s home, you need to be aware and respectful of their way of life.

Careers in project management are highly sought after in the Western world right now, but to be a project manager in Japan requires cultural awareness, good communication skills, and a willingness to learn. For this reason, I want to cover some basics for those of you heading over there soon to manage projects. Stay ahead of the cultural curve so things go smoothly, and you’ll find yourself in a much better situation than if you hadn’t been able to!

Navigating Culture

Workplace culture is very important, and that can be hard to navigate even more so in a new country. The importance of respect transcends cultural differences. However what’s considered respectful and what isn’t changes from place to place.

For this reason, it’s important to know a little bit about Japanese culture before you get to Japan, especially if you, as a team manager, are working with and managing new people.

For some guidance, I pulled some information from E-Diplomats and Business Insider, who point out some cultural differences regarding workplace conduct and respect in Japan. Here are a few notable ones:

  • Business cards are often used the way Americans use handshakes.
  • Group work shows no pride in different members: you’re all in this together.
  • Treat your employees like their work is important, and show as much pride in your work as they do in theirs. Pride in your work and efficiency in the work process are very important. This is roughly translated with the word “shokunin.”

You can check both resources for more information, but workplace respect doesn’t stop at workplace specific differences — not by a long shot.

Communicating Past a Language Barrier

Body language is of the utmost importance when traveling to a new country. This is especially true if there is a language barrier like there probably is if you’re a typical white American. For instance, Japanese culture tends to be less touchy than American culture and values personal space differently. Eye contact and staring are similarly regarded as personal and rude if overdone. Another example that you may have heard of: When you enter someone’s home, always take your shoes off.

Keep in mind that silence is natural and is considered to release tension — as opposed to the U.S., where it builds tension. These things are important because not only should you understand how to communicate effectively with your team but how they’re communicating with you! Read up on Japanese culture so body language and social cues can speak for you when your mouth can’t. Things will go much smoother for you in doing so.

Willingness to Learn

Not to sound too redundant, but the Japanese tend to value learning and education. You won’t know everything going over there for the first time. If you show respect for the different cultural cues and customs, your team members and colleagues will appreciate you.

You may “mess up” here or there, but if your intentions are good and clear, you will hopefully avoid mistakes that are difficult to come back from. It requires an open mind.

You need to understand this because, at the end of the day, some things are just different. The public transit system, the food, the media, the social cues — they all differ due to a different place and culture. But that doesn’t mean these differences are bad or that you’re bad for not knowing them right off the bat. If you’re willing to learn about different cultures and how to respect them, your experience may thank you.

Have you ever worked overseas in Japan? Have you ever managed a team over there? What was your experience like? We’d love to hear about it — please share in the comments below!

Brooke Faulkner
@faulknercreek

About the author:

Brooke Faulkner is a writer in the Pacific Northwest who has conducted business all over the world. You can find more of her writing on Twitter via @faulknercreek

 

Editor’s Note: In my experience, an open mind is helpful, but not enough. Moving into another culture requires focused learning and intercultural coaching too. If you wish to work on your global competency right now you might want to work with our RockMe! App right now.