InterCultural Word of the Week! Intezaar

Dom Tidey EuRA C.O.O.

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Intezaar is a Hindi word for the feeling of waiting in hopeful anticipation.  As child waiting for a milestone; “How many sleeps until my birthday?”  or waiting for Christmas.  As an adult that lovely feeling of looking forward to a trip or a vacation, seeing someone special, smelling delicious food just before a meal.  Intezaar is most frequently used in the context of love, waiting and anticipating for love to be reciprocated.Fotosearch_k22719557

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.

India – Culture and Etiquette

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We feel very privileged to be taking the EuRA Global Conference to Goa in November.  This fascinating and massively diverse culture holds great fascination the world over.  So what are the big intercultural need-to-knows before the event?  In this blog I go back to one of my passions, intercultural research, this time on Incredible India!

India is a land of great cultural diversity.  I have always believed that intercultural study and cultural competency can only go so far in assisting cultural adjustment and mitigating culture shock and one of the reasons is, how little intercultural theory takes note of regional diversity.  And in a culture as huge as India, I can only scratch the surface with some of the meta observations. The cultural differences between the 29 states of India are profound.  Goa has big Portuguese influences and was a centre for trade and settlement of foreigners for hundreds of years so the cultural influences will be totally different from say Bihar, which has a completely different history. 

So is there value in drawing such general conclusions about culture?  Well yes and no… and the research doesn’t always bare out what we experience in relocation.  An example I use a lot is in the answer to the question, “A move from which country to which other, will have the highest rate of assignment failure?”  It’s not what most people expect.  It his in fact, a move from the USA to the UK.  The research clearly shows that the US and the UK are almost a match on the 6 dimensions:

US UK

With two countries so close in cultural alignment, why would an assignment fail? 

So, when looking at a culture as diverse and fascinating as India, we can really only paint in the very broadest of brushstrokes, but it never hurts to try!

All the intercultural commentary and research highlights one essential paradigm about doing business on the sub continent; Understand India!!  Set aside everything learnt during your MBA. To succeed in India and to properly cater for our customers, we need to start learning again. 

Two vital components of Indian culture are collectivism and harmony.  Again, here we come up against a contradiction with the research.  Take a look at the graph below.

4 dimensions

India (represented by the purple column) in the individualism dimension scores 48.  Although this is a slightly lower than average score, it’s a lot higher than that of China at just 20.  This dimension refers to “the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members” (Hofstede https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/india/) .  The score of 48 marks India as both a collective and individualistic culture, yet Indian people place a huge value on unity with others, especially community and family and isolation and seclusion are daunting prospects.  This is quite the contradiction to the research results.  So, to learn India, start learning from scratch and from our brilliant Indian relocators!

Just as in many Asian cultures such as Japan (and also interestingly, the UK) the concept of loss of face has high importance.  Dignity and honour are highly prized and showing respect for another both increases their self esteem and saves face.  Causing offence means a loss of face.  This impacts a great deal on communication as people will not wish to cause offence by speaking too directly in case it prompts a conflict.  For a culture like the US this can very hard to understand as communication is direct and offence is not taken easily.  It is perfectly acceptable in the US to contradict a colleague in a meeting, but in India this would be intolerable.  As a result a hard and fast “no”, is not a response that’s common, “maybe” is common and may often mean no.

Another dimension that impacts significantly is power distance.  This is the way we perceive equality and hierarchy within a society.  The lowest score in the comparison above, is the UK with 35.  This indicates a very flat power structure which results in open communication, an open door policy to senior managers and little regard paid to one’s position, “Just because a person is five pay grades above me, doesn’t mean I have to treat them with deference”.  The opposite is true for India, where seniority is taken very seriously.  Interestingly this is often attributed to the caste system, the social stratification that was once enshrined in law.  Although today the caste system is officially abolished, it still permeates society in a way that the class system did in British society.  But the UK has changed significantly over the past 50 years in this regard.  India, however has not, and upward mobility within the caste system remains difficult.  Being aware of the status of others is fundamental to doing business in India and roles are very defined.  An official or employee will not move above their role, but will refer up the chain of command.  This may seem like unnecessary bureaucracy to a culture with a low power distance score such as the US or UK.

Edward T. Hall, the great American anthropologist and intercultural researcher added the concept of use of time to the great cultural debate.  His work led him to categorise cultures as either polychromic (circular) or monochromic (linear) in terms of how they use time.  A linear culture, like the US or Germany, sees time as a straight line, with a beginning and an end.  Therefore in a meeting environment the agenda will be time delineated and the day will run on schedule.  The lunch break is for refuelling and the work begins again.  India is a highly circular culture.  The agenda is fluid and if all items are not addressed so be it.  In fact the nature of the discussions may tangent into an entirely new direction and this is to be regarded as a benefit, a creative advantage.  The lunch during the meeting is more important than the meeting as this is the time to build and strengthen the personal relationships on which the business will be built.  In a linear culture business is done for the end in itself, feeling dislike for the partners in the enterprise will not affect the outcome.  In the Indian circular culture the business is about relationships and trust and without this, the business will fail. 

Some tips…

Intercultural understanding is much more than etiquette… but not making a cultural faux pas is pretty essential.  Here are some tips…

Dining

Eating with the hands is the norm, but only ever with the right hand, even if you’re left handed.  As you’re eaten with your hands, don’t handle the serving spoon, wait to be served.  Food sharing is good manners and its the tradition to order a number of dishes and share them.  Never take food from someone’s plate and never drink from someone else’s glass, not even to taste their choices.  Don’t say thank you at the end of a mea, praise during eating is polite.  In general people view being on time as impolite so good manners suggests that you be 15 to 30 minutes late.  It is common that inverted guests will bring others with them who have not been invited, both friends and business colleague, so it’s best to over cater!

First Meeting

As I’ve mentioned, Indian culture places huge importance on personal relationships and business is done on a personal, friendship orientation.  Being introduced for the first time  by a mutual acquaintance sets up the relationship.  Handshakes are the standard business greeting, though in some regions and many situations, physical contact between men and women in a business context may not be OK, so watch how your colleagues behave.  In a group, greet each person individually rather than addressing the group as a whole.  Because of the high power distance nature of the culture, hierarchy should be respected so always greet the most senior person present first.  Always accept a business card with your right hand.

Business

Typically the day starts at 10am but in big cities earlier so meeting are best scheduled for mid morning or later.  Again it is considered polite to be slightly late.  However, if your colleagues are dong frequent business with Western companies (which in our industry we all do!), they will expect you to be on time.  Business dress is US European.  Body language has great significance so avoid aggressive postures of gestures such as folded arms, hands on hips.  Do not put your feet up on the furniture as feet are considered not clean.    Titles are very important, if someone has one, use it until you are invited to use someone’s given name.

 

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 – Chui Niu 吹牛

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This Mandarin phrase literarily translates as “To Blow Cow”  吹 is the character for blow and 牛 is the character for cow.  An equivalent in English would be someone who is full of hot air, a person who likes to talk, too much and not necessarily talk the truth!  However the phrase Chui Niu is more defined, referring to someone who brags or boasts in an attempt to inflate their own importance or achievements.  “Ni tai chuiniu”, “You’re bragging!”.   The phrase is thought to come from northwest China where people would use inflated cow hides as flotation devices for rafts.  Anyone who took sole credit for inflating the device was clearly “all talk”!

 

A flying cow isolated on white

 

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.

Improving Dialogue in the Mobility Supply Chain

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Over the past decade we’ve worked hard to facilitate and improve communications between the main stakeholders in the mobility supply chain.  EuRA began this initiative by bringing together the network professionals from our RMC members and EuRA Board Members.  Two years ago we formed the first RMC DSP Forum in response from the RMC group telling us they wanted to hear what issues were facing the DSP partners when working within the RMC supply chain.  The result was the Dubrovnik Supply chain session which came about as a result of a questionnaire designed and analysed by the group.

At our recent meeting many topics were discussed.  We are looking at research topics and one burning issue for the DSPs is the advance of tech and how best they can use systems to improve efficiency and reduce costs.  There are now several dedicated IT platforms for mobility and the group discussed how EuRA can help inform members about the functionality of platforms they’re using.  We will be designing a survey to try and get some real life data of the experiences DSPs have had fun building, buying, commissioning and using systems and what impact they’ve had on their processes and business outcomes. 

The group analysed the feedback we got from the RMC DSP session in Munich and one of the conclusions was that the pre-session on Wednesday afternoon after the conference opening, was a more lively and open discussion than the actual session on Thursday.  It was difficult to pinpoint hard and fast reasons but one was probably that people find it difficult to talk openly when in the same room as a major client!  As a result we will try a new format in Munich to minimise this challenge.

Another touch point was how we can maximise best practice when working together.  The first stage of a potential best practice for partnership white paper will be the session we run at the Munich conference.  Although planning is in its early stages. we will look at the big five topics that came to the fore in our discussions.  There will be, communications, building successful relationships, scope creep, RFP’s and how we do business together. 

Thanks to everyone who gave up their time to take part;

DSP Representatives; Ase Lofgren Gunsten Nordic Group, Guntrum Maschmeyer Dwellworks, Maddalena Micheili Professional Relo, Christine Martin Olympic Advisors, Alistair Murray RSS and EuRA Board Member, Louise How Spencer How, Sylvie Schmit Verbrughen ERS

RMC Representatives; Adrienne Szigeti BGRS, Abi Flanagan Paragon, Jacqueline Biersma TEAM, Leslie Putnam Crown, Simon Scott Altair, Adrian Leach HCR Group

 

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 – Ohrwurm

Annoying song

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The German word Ohrwurm is one you definitely be subjected to if you come to the Dazzling Deutsch Disco at the #euramunich conference in April 2019…

“Dee dee da da dum… Saturday night and the air is getting hot…”

If you’re familiar with ’90’s Europop, you will now you will have that song in your head for the next couple of hours!  This is an Ohrwurm… English translation?  An “ear worm”, what in English would be referred to as an earwig – once it crawls into your ear it’s very hard to get it out again, just like the Whigfield song above, or any of the countless others.  For the positive use of the word, it translates as a catchy tune as in;

Der neue Song von Pharell Williams ist ein Ohrwurm …

The new song by Pharell Williams is a catchy tune…

However the phrase also has the more negative connotation as well! 

I cannot get this damn tune out of my head!

Mann, ich habe einen verdammten Ohrwurm

 

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 – You Know You’re Right but how do you Tell the Expat?

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Know Learn

How to Nudge Assignees to their Best Decisions

One of the biggest challenges facing relocation professionals out on the road with the assignee or family, is balancing choice, with knowledge.

One of the primary reasons that companies use relocation providers is to access their specific local knowledge.  Even with the seemingly endless information we all have access to online, there are factors which cannot be judged without help and advice on the ground.  In most cities and towns globally there will be tempting online listings that promise luxury and striking affordability.  Cross reference with Google Maps and Streetview and it looks like that fab 2 bed walk up within 10 minutes of transport links is the ideal apartment to start your assignment.  But when what is listed as an “up and coming” in reality turns out to mean not very safe, not paying for on the ground expertise becomes a massive false economy.

But what happens when the professionals have been engaged and still, the assignee wants to tread a path that seems unwise?  As I mentioned in a previous blog post about Power Distance and Transactional Analysis, there can often be a hierarchy issue that can prevent an equal and successful relationship developing between the relocation professional and the C-Suite exec.  How do relo experts work with the assignee to guide them into what they know will be the right set of decisions for their stay in their city?

A common set of conflicting requirements for the assignee can look like this:

  • City centre location the home
  • Easy access to the chosen school
  • Close to transport links
  • Close to the denominational place of worship
  • Within budget

This is often a set of unattainable goals and no one wants to be the person to say, “that’s not going to happen”.  Communication skills here are key and I want to look at that in a future blog post, but coaching skills can prove enormously useful.

When we designed the EuRA Relocation Coaching Programme with Oxford Brookes University, the very first module looked at how coaching tools can help to nudge people into making good choices.  The notion of Nudge is fascinating in itself, based around the globally successful book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein.  Basically, a nudge prompts us into making rational decisions instead of irrational ones, but the tools to succeed in this come largely from the coaching world.

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 12.07.01

Above is the Coaching Continuum.  This represents coaching and counselling styles defined by the amount of direction from the coach.  The ideal spot for a relocation professional is somewhere between 3 and 5, but using a model an be a big benefit.

We used GROW as our primary model but there are many others.

GROW is based on two foundation principles.  Firstly that we need awareness of an issue before we can change it.  We can only control that of which we are aware.  Most of the time, raising awareness is about getting the subject to focus on a specific matter and then discuss it.  This prompts us into self discovery, which creates a responsibility in us for this information.  Telling someone to accept responsibility rarely works, getting them to choose to accept responsibility can only be achieved when we have a choice and the best way to give choice is through questioning, the second principle.

G – Goals

What are the desired outcomes for this interaction?  Establishing clear goals helps to keep things on the right track.  Say the goal is to find a house with 4 beds on budget within a 15 minute walk of the children school.  This creates a set of parameters within which the next part of the model can be looked at.

R – Reality

What is the current reality of the goal?  If we know that the goal of a 4 bed house within 15 minutes of school is unachievable without a significant budget increase or living in an area we would not recommend, it is important to lead the assignee into this realisation for themselves.  Outline the options available, highlight the strengths and pitfalls of the reality of the goal.

O – Options

Once the client has come to an understating of the reality of the situation, then you move them into looking at their options.  Ask them to outline the full range of options that could exist within the reality.  This self realisation will likely include:

Can we up the budget?

Can I contribute to the housing allowance?

Are there better areas a little farther away from school?

If we settled for a smaller property would we get it on budget in a better area but just as close?

W – Wrap up

Identify the next steps; “What’s your first choice about what we see next?”

There are so many skills involved in coaching and attracting the people with those skills into the relocation company is a key management priority.  In the EuRA Relocation Coaching Programme we look at the skills and how they can be applied to the mobility process, from listening and questions, via conflict resolution to action planning.  The entire 12 module programme will be back online via our own learning platform and available for free to EuRA members during 2019.

 

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 – Verguenza Ajena

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shame

That moment when someone struts onto a stage with bucketloads of confidence and a true belief they are the next Elvis… but sings out of tune and dances with no rhythm and you want to throw things!  Verguenza Ajena (pronounced ver-gwen-tha-a-hey-na) is what the Spanish call this horrible but strangely liberating feeling.  It is the shame or embarrassment felt as the result of the actions of someone else, usually a stranger.  The most visceral experience of verguenza ajena is felt when dealing with the most self important or thick skinned people, politicians and the powerful in particular.  Linguists think that the reason the Spanish have named this emotion is as a result of the high importance in Spain of not losing one’s dignity.  Interestingly the last piece of food left on a plate is called “el de la verguenza” as whoever eats it should feel shame!

 

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.