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.

I procrastinated on this article for too long but today is the day where I need to write it. Why? Because I almost fell into the trap, the trap of self-exploitation, self-damage and nearly ruined myself in the process. I was wondering for a while why many female entrepreneurs and freelancers allow themselves to work for little money or even free. I came across seven reasons that I want to share with you. I’m hoping for a discussion on how we can avoid exploiting ourselves as female entrepreneurs

If you are the partner or husband of a female entrepreneur maybe you also want to know how you can support her.

Here are seven reasons why you are not making enough money

1) Your basic needs are met

Guess what, if you are having a roof above your head and food on the table you are privileged. If you can openly express your concerns you live in a great country. Still, how will you pay for your old-age pension? What if something happens to your partner and your savings are eaten up too quickly?

2) You are wealthy

You were born with a silver spoon or your parents already gave you an inheritance that won’t make you worry about your bank account anymore. You can actually work for free and volunteer for good causes because you are a princess. Well, congratulations! Maybe you could consider helping other women get their business off the ground.

3) Imposture Syndrome

You think deep down inside that you do not deserve to be paid adequately for your work and that everything you have achieved so far happened by luck or by an alignment of the stars. You are worried that one day you will be called out an imposture.

4) Fear of Competition

You keep your prices low, because you feel that there are hundreds of other women in the canton of Zurich or around the globe with a similar skill set and with similar profiles. You are working in a space where competition is high because you have not found your niche. Your brand is not recognizable and you are not even proud of yourself.

5) You are not clear about your potential clients

You have not defined your client group narrow enough and you think you can work for everyone and with everyone. Potential clients don’t feel that they are in the right place because they are not sure you can cater to their specific issues.

6) You lack tech skills

You don’t understand digital and social media marketing and you are worried about putting yourself out there because it could create actual work for you. You are afraid of using the Internet, your name and photo because of scammers, stalkers and robots.

7) You don’t have a network

You rely too much on tech, digital and social media marketing and potential clients are used to freebies and free-everything. You cannot get out of a place where everything is thrown at potential clients for free into a space where clients are prepared to pay for your products and services. You lack a good offline network and former clients who are willing to give a reference for you.

How can you solve this issue for yourself? As a first step, I would suggest to have a chat with me so we can discuss what is really blocking you from success.

Cheers

Angie Weinberger


Temperatures are at summer highs, soccer champions are keeping us busy in bars and before you know it we will have reached the summer hole. From Mid July to Mid August Switzerland seems to fall asleep. Recruiting dies down.

Nobody is around to take interviews and your chances of finding a job over the summer holidays are next to zero. If you haven’t signed a contract by now, I bet you won’t sign one within the next four weeks. Yes, I will invite you to a burger if you prove me wrong.

With the start of international and Swiss school holidays, you notice fewer people in the trains and motivation to work is generally a bit lower than usual. This is the time to take overtime compensation, to go home at decent hours and to get out of the country for a while. It’s also time to jump into a lake near you every evening after work.

If you are looking for a job right now you probably feel that you are late. AND the most common reaction I see from clients is to stop all efforts over the summer. This is counter-productive. You could still use this time for your job search by doing these six important steps for finding a job in Switzerland (and maybe elsewhere too.)

1) Finalize your brand

My advice is that you finalize your personal branding. You need to have your three professional “labels” ready and I want to see them on LinkedIn (below your name). You should know how you will introduce yourself to a recruiter. You should write a story that explains why you chose the profession you currently have, what you like about it and where your next step will take you.

You should also have your personal business cards printed, have your headshot taken and a decent email ID. You might also want to revisit why a personal brand is important and how it links to your seven work principles.

2) Build more personalized professional relationships

Summer is a good time to build new relationships and catch up with your current contacts. Most busy people might feel less pressure than normal. Encourage them to enjoy the nice weather and spend time outside. Why don’t you take them for an ice cream in the sunshine after work? Why don’t you request an early morning walk by the lake combined with a cold coffee? Or you could offer to take over their recycling runs as you have enough time on your hands at the moment for half an hour of them sharing career tips with you. A personalized request is key here.

3) Develop a weekly practice for meeting your contacts

Set yourself a weekly practice for meeting at least one contact. Ask them if they can introduce you to three more professional contacts in your field. If you have doubts about meeting your contacts you probably have not written down your purpose yet. Write down your purpose and add a weekly practice to your RockMe! App.

4) Enjoy the holiday with your family

This is also the best time to be away from Zurich if you are looking for a job. You will probably not miss much and in emergencies, companies could also interview you by phone or Skype in your holiday home. I would advise that you charge your batteries and get out of the city for a minimum of two weeks. Your children and partner/ spouse will probably love it that you have time for them.

5) Book your online exploratory coaching session and join the next HireMe! Group

Commit yourself to a schedule by working with us. The next HireMe! Group after the summer break starts on 24 August 2018. Book it now and get started. If you want to speak to me you can book an online exploratory session now. This will kick-start your job search and I can share more tips with you.

6) Practice German and prepare for the B1-Exam

You have now been in Switzerland long enough and should be on a conversational German level. Ensure that you have a B1-Exam in your pocket (and your application file). While the summer is a great time to enjoy your time off it can also have rainy days. Join Heike Reinhart for a trial class and work on your German at the pool or beach in July and August.

I look forward to talking to you over the summer in person or online.

Angie Weinberger

 

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I am available for online coaching with the special summer deal of CHF 397 (incl. VAT) for the exploratory session of 1.5 hours (instead of 525 CHF + VAT).

We define your goals for the next 9 to 12 months. We come up with a learning plan and weekly practices. I will monitor your progress on a weekly basis in our RockMe! App.
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Want to hack the Swiss job market and find a job faster?

Join our next HireMe! Group starting 24 Aug 2018.

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