Intercultural Word of the Week! “Tartle

Intercultural Word of the Week!
“Tartle” -This is a very useful Scottish word to have to hand when attending a large conference such as EuRA Munich 2019 #eura2019 as it refers to the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name… A Scots speaker will tell you that such a hesitation is not to be embarrassed it is simply a tartle!

InterCultural Word of the Week! Komorebi 木漏れ日

Dom Tidey EuRA C.O.O.

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The Japanese have an extraordinary connection to nature and have developed a wonderful vocabulary to describe it.  The incorporation of the natural environment into the man-made world is a fundamental part of the aesthetic of the country, from the practice of Ikebana to the concept of the Zen Garden.  Komorebi is broken into the interpretation of three characters; 木 means tree, 漏 means escape, 日 is sun.  Komorebi is the interplay between the light of the sun and leaves and the ground, a curtain of light seen in the forest. 

Naturnaher Buchenwald, Sonnenstrahlen brechen durch Morgennebel

Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

Mobility Toolkit – Handling Customer Reviews…

Dom Tidey EuRA C.O.O.

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We live in a world of constant reviews.  The online landscape has changed the way we seek out services, products and experiences by giving us almost unlimited access to the “customer review”.  For us as consumers this can be a great advantage.  Who doesn’t check Tripadvisor or before choosing s a hotel?  We will frequently base our choices on other people’s opinions and comments.  But great though this is for us when in the consumer role, when we’re the service provider the same frustration that hoteliers must feel when unfairly reviewed will get to us too. 

yelpIn this new world of consumer led choosing, the adman has become less important than the armchair critic with a mobile device.  There is a brilliant episode of the underrated satirical cartoon South Park where everyone is addicted to the restaurant review site Yelp, culminating in all the restauranteurs closing their businesses down due to the stress, devastating all the reviewers who no longer had anywhere to go for supper!  In real life, Yelp then sued the makers of South Park for $10million for loss of reputation and restaurants across the country banned Yelpers from dining in their establishments!

In the relocation industry customer feedback is just as important as it is in any service industry and EuRA members have the process built into their service delivery systems.  Our members holding the EuRA Global Quality Seal are required to seek two levels of feedback, one from the actual assignee and one from the client company.  So two levels of the interaction the supplier has with the customer mean that all bases are covered!  The comments from the assignee as to the quality of the service they received during the customer facing time are added to the client company’s view of the overall process to produce a comprehensive report that is used in several ways.  When it comes to contact renewal and the relocation piece being put out to RFP (tender), these scores will form a large part of retaining and winning business.  They are also used to highlight how issues were resolved and in the case of escalations, what processes were in place to promote customer satisfaction.

Where the Destination Service Provider (DSP) is working in the third party supply chain, the client company review becomes the one they must seek from the Relocation Management Company (RMC).  If you’re new to relocation, this third party supply model is very common in many countries.  In this case the actual client company (let’s call them Great Pharmaceuticals or GP) with a large globally mobile workforce, decide they want a single point of contact for managing these people.  They put the contract out to RFP to the large RMC’s (of which there are many!) and depending on a complex matrix of factors including price, they choose an RMC to manage all their international and domestic moves. The RMC is not an actual relocation provider, they are mobility managers and use a network of on-the-ground partners to handle all their work.  These on-the-ground partners are DSP’s and will work with the employees of GP.  So the DSP must seek customer reviews from the GP employee and from the RMC, but not from the global mobility function in GP.  That would be done by the RMC, on their performance.

In most cases RMC’s lead the feedback process themselves, using their own customer satisfaction systems to contact and assess the feedback from the assignee.  It’s at this point that the DSP comes up against the Tripadvisor type of uncontrollable review.

There are many factors which will impact on how people will review a service from a DSP, but I’d like to concentrate on just one, culture.  As I’ve highlighted in other blogs, when we move to a new culture we are heavily impacted by the dimensions and characteristics that culture inhabits.  So in the context of a review, let’s look at a move from Japan to the USA.  Japan is a culture which scores very highly on the dimension of high and low context.  A high context culture is one where relationships build slowly, based on trust.  Verbal messages are indirect and disagreements are taken as highly personal.  The USA on the other hand is a low context culture where non verbal cues are not that important but what is said, is very.  Disagreements are accepted and are not seen as personal but as part of the journey of getting to know people.  So the Japanese family seeing their first house on the GP move to the HQ in Denver, will not tell the relo professional if they dislike it.  In fact they will match the relocation consultants enthusiasm for the wonderful location, the backyard pool and the spacious kitchen, while the couple are thinking the house is too far from the school, they would prefer a hot tub to a pool and the kitchen is not suitable for the type of foods they like to prepare.  This will remain personal and won’t be disclosed until the review, when they will score the service lower as a result of their seeing many unsuitable properties.  To tell the consultant they don’t like the house would cause him or her to lose face, and this is seen as an incredibly insulting thing to do for a Japanese person.  To an American, it’s just part of getting the client what they want, and is not seen as in any way critical.  If anything it’s seen as helpful to get the very best outcome.  

It is very common for DSP’s to get negative reviews when as far as they were concerned, everything went swimmingly!  So understanding the cultural implications of service delivery really helps to get high customer satisfaction ratings.  Many DSP’s working with international assignees will have consultants on their books from many cultures just so they can match the cultural expectations of the family.  This is of course not just to get good reviews, it’s a central part of the immense skills of relocation providers.  Where they don’t have a cultural match for a client, training becomes immensely important and here at EuRA, we will be providing free to access online intercultural training as part of our Managing International Mobility certification during 2019.  

Day2-285Customer reviews are huge benchmarking of quality, but it’s important to remember that they can’t be the absolute measure. Here at EuRA after our conference, we  send out a comprehensive event evaluation.  It’s always surprising to see that we get exactly opposing views for the same thing!  This year in Dubrovnik we received the following comments on our Sundown Welcome Reception;

“Beautiful venue and great food, well staffed”

“I didn’t like the food and the service was slow”

Sometimes you just have to say “What can you do”!?

Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services and has 500+ members in 95 countries. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

InterCultural Word of the Week! Noon-chi 눈치

Dom Tidey EuRA C.O.O.

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This is a great Korean expression, particularly pertinent to the relocation industry!  Noon-chi is the ability to be in tune with someone else’s feelings and emotions so as to gauge and give the appropriate reaction to a situation.  A person is sad to have very good noon-chi if they have empathy and the ability to read non verbal and verbal clues.  Bad noon-chi would be a person with few interpersonal skills and a lack of tact. 

Noon chi

Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

IAM 56th Annual Conference – Monuments, Memories, Milestones

The 56th annual International Association of Movers Conference has just taken place in Washington DC.  EuRA CEO Tad Zurlinden and COO Dom Tidey have been invited as special guests for the past two years and it’s been a great opportunity to build a relationship with the organisation and its members.  Many other EuRA members attend this event as it is the largest and most prestigious in the household goods calendar.  Held in the absolutely vast Gaylord Convention Centre in National Harbor Maryland, the event was host to over 1500 delegates.  The venue was incredible and as conference organisers ourselves, dwarfs the capacities we’re able to use in Europe.  The main ballroom was set up to host a banquet breakfast for every delegate and the exhibition space hosted 150 stands.  But get this, that was less than one third of the capacity of the venues convention spaces!


For Terry Head the 56th convention marks his last as President and CEO of the association.  Terry took the leadership of what was the the Household Goods Forwarders Association of America in 1997 and over the past 21 years has moulded the organisation into the global powerhouse it is today.  The conference theme was very fittingly, Monuments (we were in DC the national capital after all) Memories and Milestones and there have certainly been some of those!

Under Terry’s impressive leadership the association has grown and matured to provide its members with an enviable raft of services and expertise.  Initiatives such as RRP, the Receivable Protection Programme give the IAM membership the peace of mind to know that should another member cease trading while owing money across the network, IAM has the resources to step in and cover unpaid invoices.  The fantastic IMX Mobility Exchange hooks the members together across the globe not just with each other in terms of a totally validated professional listing, but with mobility providers in all sectors and locations.

Terry’s work with IAM will be handed to Charles “Chuck” White.  Over the past 5 years Terry, Chuck and the Executive Board have implemented a detailed succession plan to keep the association firmly on track so a seamless transition of leadership can take place.  We are delighted that both Chuck and Terry will join us in Munich in April and we are also very excited about the prospect of our two organisations collaborating on new projects.  We are looking at ways to use the IMX Mobility Exchange as a platform that could benefit EuRA Members and also at ways in which we could work together on research and professional development.

One of the things that has changed over the past two decades that I’ve been involved in mobility is the increase in collaboration with industry partners across the world.  We are definitely stronger together working in collaboration for the benefit of all our members.  Working with IAM, CERC, WERC, IMA, and of course our European partners in ABRA, ARP, SARA and SNPRM makes so much sense!

So conference season continues and we’ll be welcoming EuRA members and friends to our 14th annual US Reception held alongside the Worldwide ERC Conference in Seattle and we’re looking forward to seeing you all!


Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.


InterCultural Word of the Week! L’esprit d’escalier

Dom Tidey EuRA C.O.O.

Read on our websiteGeorgian Stairway with chandelier hanging from  ceiling

This wonderful French phrase describes that incredibly annoying feeling of thinking up the best cutting putdown or the funniest reposte in answer to someone, five minutes too late!  Literally meaning “staircase wit”, the phrase is thought to have been coined by the 18th century philosopher and wordsmith Denis Diderot, chief editor of the Encylopaedie.  He found he could only think of the best responses after walking away from an argument down the stairs (escalier) on the way out. 



Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.

Are you a Polymath? Become a Relocation Consultant!

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As in any industry, in ours there are many many roles.  From corporate HQ designations familiar to any multi national to the on the ground locally based relo pro, there’s a role for pretty much any experience.

But in order to inhabit the role of the on the ground relo pro (and there are many names and titles for this role, but here at EuRA we use the term Relocation Consultant or RC) you need a skill set that would rival most C-Suite execs.

It will come as no surprise that the most sought after experiential background for RC’s is an expat.  Bringing real world knowledge of the issues that face the globally mobile workforce and family is so key to building the relationship that will help establish the assignee and family into the new location.  My families experiences of relocating were not positive.  In the 1970’s well before corporate relocation services were really recognised internationally, we were moved to first the US and then to central America. On arriving in DC we were met by the wife of a colleague of my fathers and that was pretty well all the assistance we had.  On arriving in Belize, we were met by a representative of the British army medical corps and given mosquito medication.  And that was it.  How times have changed!  But it was being on the receiving end of such basic assistance that prompted many founders of destination services providers (DSP) to start their businesses based on the sole premise that they could do it better.

Hiring RC’s within a DSP is the cornerstone of great service.  We can all have the most up to date kit, the best tech, awesome app based tracking and phenomenal quality control (thank you EuRA Global Quality Seal) but without those incredible RC’s and their awe inspiring skill sets, it is worth as of nothing.

multi task

These are the skills DSP’s look for when hiring;

The Social Worker

In depth knowledge of how things work.  How to access healthcare and social welfare is a huge challenge in Europe and being correctly registered is key.  Knowing what expats are entitled to and how they access them takes the skills of a statutory social worker!  If the family need access to socialised medicine, the RC’s social work skills are key.  If the assignee has children, are there benefits available to support child-care? A growing family?  How do they access maternity and post birth community care? Where there is a special educational or health need, in depth knowledge of social systems is vital.  I studied for four year to nee a state registered social worker, focussing on housing and mental health and trust me, this skill set is critical for assignees!

The Psychologist

Relocation is a human service, a people business. Counselling skills are built around three core conditions being fulfilled within the relocation relationship. Empathy is the ability to be able to see things from the point of view of another and working in such a multi cultural industry as ours, this is a huge thing!  Congruence is how we walk beside someone, seeing the journey through their eyes and feeling it from their shoes.  Unconditional positive regard is staying unfailingly supportive of the assignee and family, regardless of how we feel personally.  These are really skills!  When working with someone whose values are not necessarily aligned with ours, unconditional positive regard can be a difficult objective to fulfil.  This is where the RC excels as psychologist.

The Real Estate Broker

Need to see through those online listings?  Need to know whether a 3rd floor walkup in a vibrant location means fabulous brownstone in Brooklyn or decrepit ex local authority block in Hounslow?  RC property knowledge is so so important.  There has been a lot of speculation as to whether disruption on an Uber-like scale might come to the relocation industry.  Certainly IT and AI will change things.  But algorithms are not great at people skills and no amount of trawling Zillow for RightMove or any of the other portals will tell you what an RC can.  Need to live close to the mosque?  There will be large parts of suburban USA where this won’t be possible.  If you want to find out certain public data in the US about residential areas, such as crime stats, real estate listing are often barred from revealing such data.  The RC will know.

The Relationship Counsellor

The acronym RC also applies to relationship counsellor!  The first person to know if the relationship of the newcomer is likely to survive the relocation is the RC!  There are many skills in relationship counselling but the key in our world is pick up on any inner reluctance to the move.  Members tell us frequently how partners will very often sabotage the househunt piece especially, by finding deal breaker faults with every property. Outright arguing between couples is thankfully rare, but where it does happen, how does the RC deal with it?  Is there a duty to feed this back to someone or should confidentiality take precedence?  This is always a tough call and often it will be the RC who has first hand understanding of how this assignment will fail due to the relationship being under strain.  Sometimes just being able to spot the signs and work with the couple can be enough to bring the real issues out and help start the healing process.


The InterCultural Expert

This is a biggie!  Knowledge of how other cultures operate differently from our own is essential in the relocation profession.  An obvious example is how we use time.  This will impact on the relocation process in so many ways. Geert Hofstede first identified and named this phenomenon as mono chronic versus poly chronic cultures.  A mono chronic culture sees time as very linear, moving in a straight line and therefore behaviour is adapted.  The day is planned with an agenda and is time defined. A poly chronic culture if just the opposite.  Time is fluid and plans change according to need, mood or whim.  Imagine that you are from a poly chronic culture and you’re having a two day homesearch in a highly mono culture such as Germany.  The RC arrives with the agenda for the day with the first home viewing scheduled for 10:00 and a corresponding school tour scheduled for 11:30.  The assignee wants to bond with the RC over coffee and a cake in a traditional German konditorei.  Tripadvisor recommends one very close to the hotel. To the assignees, relationship building is much more important than being on time to each appointment.  After all, the landlord and the school will understand.  The RC has the very tough task of making it clear that in this culture, being on time for the landlord and the school may make the difference between getting the apartment and having the kids happily enrolled in school and settling for a second rate home and a school an hour away.  Being sable to do this at the same time as bridging the cultural gap and still building that relationship takes knowledge, understanding and skill.

The Life Coach

One of the reasons EuRA developed the Relocation Coaching Programme in conjunction with Oxford Brookes University was because intercultural knowledge by itself is not a cure all.  Take Italy for example.  A highly poly chronic culture with a huge emphasis on relationship building, doesn’t mean that all Italians will be late for an appointment!  Just because your RC is a born and bred Berliner, does not guarantee they’ll be punctual.  Just because a culture as a whole acts a certain way, doesn’t mean every individual conforms the cultural imperative.  This is where the RC also has to have all the skills of a life coach, being able to work both with the culture of the assignee but also with them as an individual.  Key areas would be listening skills, conflict resolution and an understanding of transactional analysis.  Learning styles does this person absorb information from experiencing things or by being told them?  This could have a big impact in how the RC structures the settling in process and make it more successful.

So, the skill set of the RC can’t be underestimated and would be pretty difficult to replicate with IT solutions!  Right now we are seeing the millennial dynamic affect how relocation services are delivered and it’s a topic of much conversation in the industry.  But the millennials of today will become the C-Suite execs with families of tomorrow and then, the RC skill set will be in as much demand as it always was.

Dominic Tidey is the C.O.O. of EuRA, the European Relocation Association.  EuRA is the professional industry body for relocation providers and affiliated services. As a non-profit organisation EuRA aims to promote the benefits of a professionally managed relocation to companies with globally mobile employees.