Improve Your Communications With Global Clients!

This week, a series of events collectively called ExploreExport 2014, are being held around the UK. Between 7th–14th November, 130 UK Trade & Investment Commercial Officers and British Chamber of Commerce representatives from 80 markets are visiting 10 locations to offer export advice to UK businesses interested in entering new markets. It’s a great opportunity for companies to meet with highly experienced international trade specialists who have local market knowledge, extensive political and commercial contacts, can provide valuable insights, direct routes to market and new business opportunities.

Since 2013, I’ve been an accredited export communications consultant, qualified to undertake UK Trade & Investment’s Export Communication Reviews (ECRs) –helping companies with the language and cultural issues that arise when trading overseas, identifying communication strengths and weaknesses, and offering unbiased, objective advice.

Could your business benefit from an Export Communications Review?

If your business is already trading internationally, or if you are considering entering new markets, an ECR will help you improve communications with both English and non-English speaking export markets, and build confidence to trade successfully with overseas customers – without necessarily learning their language

To support the development of your international business, an accredited consultant like me, will undertake a series of reviews, spending time with you and your team, discussing your current export strategy and international activities.

They can review your written and spoken communications with a specific overseas market, or focus on a certain export activity such as promotional materials, trade shows and exhibitions, presenting to an international audience, improving relationships with overseas agents and distributors, handling foreign phone calls and emails, developing an international website strategy (see below) – or addressing whatever specific needs you may have.

When your review is concluded, you’ll receive a customised written report which will include:

  • A summary of the strengths and weaknesses of your current communications against international best practice (written, telephone, face to face and electronic).
  • Practical recommendations tailored to your company, and summarised in an action plan.
  • How-to guides, with detailed general advice on how to implement recommendations.

Is your website communicating effectively with overseas customers?

An Export Communications Review can focus on your website, making sure it communicates effectively with potential overseas customers, helping you to generate export business. A website review offers a comprehensive analysis of your website, covering:

  • Development of a web strategy.
  • Technical aspects involved in setting up an international website.
  • The design, structure and navigation of the site for overseas visitors.
  • Inclusion of appropriate international content.
  • Translation and localisation for your target export markets.
  • Promotion of the site in overseas markets (including search engine optimisation).
  • Monitoring the site’s performance.
  • Managing the impact of a successful site.

Are you interested? There is financial support available for the ECR. The cost of each review is £500 plus VAT, and exporting companies that have been trading for at least two years and employ fewer than 250 staff can receive a subsidy of £250 from UKTI towards the cost of each of their first three reviews.

If you’d like to know more about ECR, contact expatknowhow direct by emailing us – CLICK HERE!

For more information on ExploreExport 2014, go to

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New Solutions for a New Generation of Expats?

As we discussed in our last blog post, the demographics of international assignees are changing, reflecting shifts in society. While the profile of expats has always changed over time, with each new generation bringing their own values and expectations, the last few decades have seen radical social changes and an unprecedented revolution in technology, which combine to present the global mobility industry with a unique set of challenges.

There is no doubt that employers and relocation professionals need to respond to these changes – but how? Without the benefit of being able to look into the future, and with a picture that is still evolving, perhaps the best place to start is to consider those factors we can be sure of.

We know that:

  • A globalised economy and an increasingly mobile international workforce mean the number of people relocating for work is set to continue rising.
  • Gender diversity, an aging population and changes to the conventional family model are impacting on the demographic profile of international assignees, making it impossible to define a ‘typical’ expat.
  • The pre-digital ‘baby boomer’ generation is moving out of the global workplace to enjoy retirement. Taking their place are the digital immigrants of ‘generation X’, followed closely by the first generation of true digital natives – the ‘millennials’.
  • Organisations are more budget-conscious than ever, and are seeking the most cost-effective relocation solutions.

So what does this all mean for the relocation industry?

  • Support needs will change. It’s no longer possible for HR departments and relocation professionals to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and bespoke support packages will be required to meet the needs of a new generation of expats who may span a wider age group, be male or female, single or married, with or without children or in a same-sex relationship. In short, ‘cookie cutter’ style formatted solutions are no longer appropriate.
  • Established packages may not be attractive to millennial workers who have different drivers. They are more likely to have travel experience and be more globally aware than their predecessors. While they will still need support, the services they will be looking for are likely to be far more flexible and less prescriptive than those that suited the baby boomers.
  • For the next few years at least, there will be an added layer of complexity for those organisations supporting expats as they have to provide solutions for diminishing numbers of baby boomers on the one hand, and fast-growing numbers of millennials on the other. They will need to manage change effectively by understanding the very different requirements of these groups and what they need, modifying their corporate structure to deliver appropriate support to different people in parallel with shifting expat profiles.

New solutions for a new generation?

Amid much uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing – understanding the emerging millennials will be critical to success. Their increased mobility, expectations of having several employers, and their ambition for faster career progression – sometimes at the expense of monetary rewards make them very different to previous generations. As well as developing innovative, more flexible services, new ways of delivering them need to be considered. Born and raised as digital natives, it seems reasonable to anticipate that this new, digitally savvy generation of international assignees will expect to be able to access services online. This possibility presents potentially significant benefits to all parties; it gives the assignee more control by allowing them to access services as and when they are ready, and it gives the assigning company the option to take advantage of a highly cost-effective medium. Of course, human interaction will always be important for some aspects of relocation, and it will be crucial for employers and professionals exploring this route, to find ways of integrating a personal element into the process where it’s needed.

The concept of online relocation is already reality, and I’m currently in discussions with RelocateYourself (, a business that has a vision to transform the future of relocation. The company has developed software that helps assignees to identify their needs quickly and plan accordingly. The relocating company purchases credits, which the assignee can redeem online for the services they want – when they need them. It’s a solution that’s far more cost-effective than traditional hand-held relocation – the assignee benefits from the expertise and experience of a global team of relocation experts (‘Relocation Angels’) when they need them, while the assigning business can spend as much or as little as they like, channelling their resources into services of their choosing.

What do you think? Is delivering services online the future of global mobility? If you’re a relocation professional, or you are one of the new generation of expats yourself, we’d love to hear your thoughts at expatknowhow.

If you are relocating staff internationally, expatknowhow can support you with a wide range of services including intercultural training programmes, helping to make the process as painless as possible!

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The Changing Demographics of Expats

In recent years, new markets, new industries, and new ways of working have reshaped the global mobility sector – and in parallel with these changes, the profile of international assignees has also been shifting. It’s an issue we addressed earlier this year in a series of blogs called ‘Managing Modern Mobility’ – based around a paper I co-authored in my capacity as Co-Chair of Families in Global Transition (FIGT) – and it’s one we return to now, as we consider how the demographics of expats are evolving to present new challenges for employers and relocation professionals.

The factors which influence the composition of the expat workforce have always been complex – driven in part by the roles and skills demanded by employers, and in part by the changing demographics of society – but never more so than now. While the picture is one that is continually developing, it’s still possible to identify the emerging key trends which employers and industry professionals need to be aware of:

  • The generational dimension

There always have been, and always will be generational differences between the different age groups that make up the global workforce at any point in time. But the disparities in values, aspirations and motivations between generations are especially wide at present. The first generation of ‘digital natives’ – the ‘Millennials’, are starting to enter the workplace, and by 2020 are expected to make up the majority of the workforce. The expectations of Millennials are reflective of the changing economic, technological and increasingly globalised environment that they have grown up in. At the other end, the post-war ‘Baby Boomers’ are beginning to retire – but still account for a significant proportion of expats. Sandwiched between these two diverse groups, with career experience forged during times of rapid technological innovation and emerging worldwide markets is ‘Generation X’.

  • Gender diversity

A few decades ago, the percentage of female expats could be expressed in single figures, but the number of female international assignees has been steadily rising, and looks set to continue doing so. The 2014 Global Mobility Trends Survey carried out by Brookfield reports that 20% of international assignees are now female – compared to a historical average of 17%.

  • Aging population

Population ageing is a demographic revolution affecting the entire world. For the first time in history, our global population will no longer be young, thanks to lower fertility, increased child survival and better health. Population ageing is happening in all regions and in countries at various levels of development. It is progressing fastest in developing countries, including in countries with large populations of young people. No country is exempt: This generation is growing at a faster rate than the total population in almost all regions of the world.

  • Family models

The traditional expat family unit of a career dad, stay-at-home mum, and 2.4 children is no longer necessarily the norm. The modern family unit comes in a wide range of forms: it’s increasingly likely that both parties in a relationship will have their own professions and pursue their own careers; many couples choose not to have children, and same sex partnerships are commonplace.

All the indications are that global mobility will increase over the coming years. At the same time, the demographics of expats will continue to evolve and reflect the changes in wider society. As the profile of assignees evolves, those people and organisations with responsibility for dealing with them will need to take these changing demographics into account, and make adjustments to the services they provide, re-evaluate how they deliver them, and find new ways to engage. In our next blog post, we’ll consider how this might be best achieved.

Are the changing demographics of international assignees impacting on your organisation? What steps have you taken to address them? Please share your experiences and thoughts with us at expatknowhow. If you’d like to read the paper ‘Managing Modern Mobility’ in full, please click here!

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India – The Jewel In The Crown Still Shines Bright!

Later this week, I’ll be attending an event hosted by the Oxfordshire International Business Club, entitled ‘India: From the Insiders’ Perspective’ (for details see OIBC India Event). A number of high-profile speakers will present, and the event has attracted a lot of interest. India continues to appeal to international businesses looking to outsource manufacturing and services, or tap into the huge and fast-growing base of affluent, middle-class consumers – despite having posted disappointing economic growth figures earlier this year.

In the 1990’s, along with Brazil, Russia and China – the other so-called BRIC countries, India emerged as a major economic power. But while the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country – once known as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ in the days of the British Raj, has enjoyed a phase of phenomenal growth, recent figures indicate a slowing down of its economy, with growth dipping to 4.7% in the financial year 2013-14.

This second straight year of sub-5% expansion compares with around 8% in previous years, but there is reason to be optimistic about the future; the country has a new government and a new Prime Minister – Narendra Modi, who has pledged to boost growth. Many economists are optimistic and expect to see an increase in investment, and the creation of more jobs following the landslide election of Mr Modi.

India at a glance

  • Politics: In 2014, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ousted the long-governing secularist Congress Party in an overwhelming election victory. India is a multi-lingual federalist state and the world’s largest democracy.
  • Economy: Although India’s economy has slowed of late, many analysts expect this to be just a blip. The country has a large, skilled workforce, though it still suffers from corruption and poverty in places.
  • History: India was under foreign rule from the early 1800s until the demise of the British Raj in 1947. Partition separated the sub-continent into present-day India and Pakistan.

Doing business in India

The sheer scale, rich cultural diversity and complexity of India make it impossible to give generic advice to those travelling there on business. Language, social caste, religion, regional customs and traditions, are just a few of the factors that will inform a visitors approach to communications, behaviour and etiquette.

  • Religion

As the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, religion in India is characterised by diversity and tolerance.

  • Language
    The official national language of India is Hindi, but different states have their own regional languages and dialects. In international business, English is widely used.
  • Hierarchy
    Discrimination on the basis of caste is illegal, but hierarchy continues to play an important part in Indian business culture and can be frustrating to outsiders.
  • Meeting and Greeting
  • Indians greet one another with the ‘Namaste’, but in an international business meetings, use a handshake.
  • Use formal titles to address people you know – Sir or Madam for people you don’t.
  • Give and receive business cards with your right hand, and treat them with respect. Consider having your own cards printed in Hindi on one side.
  • Meetings and Negotiations
    • Set meetings well in advance, confirming in writing and by phone.
    • Indians are punctual but will always put family issues ahead of business.
    • Always greet the most senior person first, and begin meetings with non-business conversation.
    • Negotiating can be a slow process while trust is being established.
    • Avoid confrontation or being pushy.
    • Keep in mind that Indians do not like to give an outright ‘no’ for fear of disappointing. Listen out for other terms which may mean the same thing.

Are you or any of your colleagues planning a business trip to India? Expatknowhow can deliver cultural training programmes for individuals and groups, tailored to the area of the country you are travelling to, as well as the purpose of your visit. Call us now to discuss your requirements!

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When Expats Have To Deal With a Care Crisis At Home

The new realities of economic globalisation and global mobility combine to bring exciting opportunities for growing numbers of people. But the freedom to live and work virtually anywhere in the world brings its own challenges, not least of which is how expats can care for aging parents and relatives when they may be based thousands of miles away.

In our previous post, we discussed the steps you should take to ensure you are fully prepared in the event of a situation arising, but while planning ahead is always best, we all know that life can get in the way of making plans – especially when they involve confronting the mortality of those we love. It’s for this reason that expats can find themselves in a crisis without a contingency. So, what should you do if you find yourself taking the phone call you’ve always dreaded, telling you that one of your parents has been hospitalised? In fact, it’s usually when the relative has recovered enough to be released from hospital that the real problems begin – and of course they are amplified for an expat who has to deal with them from a distance.

On the one hand the hospital will be keen to get their bed back, and the discharge team may be calling the expat several times a day asking when the relative can be discharged. On the other hand, social services will not want the patient to be allowed to return home until suitable care arrangements are in place. While the local authority will take responsibility for putting together a care plan, this can sometimes take many weeks to complete.  The result is an extremely stressed expat, and a relative languishing in hospital rather than being home where they will be happier and healthier.

It can be a worrying time for all parties, but there are a number of important points to be aware of:

  • You are absolutely within your rights to tell the hospital discharge team to leave you alone until you have organised a care plan. Some people worry about doing this because they think it may impact on the quality of care their relative receives, but this is not true.
  • You don’t have to wait for the local authority to create a care plan, you can arrange an independent plan through a reputable private domiciliary care agency.
  • While the local authority is obliged to prepare a care plan, only a small number of people will be eligible to have their care funded (currently individuals with assets of less than £23,250).
  • While local authorities will generally work with care packages of 15 minutes, most private agencies won’t undertake work in blocks of less than 1 hour – not unreasonable when you consider that even a simple visit will probably involve getting the client out of bed, washed, dressed, preparing a meal for them, and making sure they eat.

Being aware of these things will give you the ability to speed up the process, but of course, communicating from another country, in a different time zone – often while working too, can be extremely difficult. One option is to engage a professional agency to coordinate the key parties on your behalf, and give you a single point of contact. They can liaise with you, your relative, social services, the hospital discharge team and medical team. They will be able to arrange an independent care plan for you, and make sure the recommended care and support is in place as quickly as possible – reporting back to you at all stages to give you complete peace of mind.

Is this a topic that affects you? Alison Hesketh of TimeFinders – a company specialising in helping expats care for elderly relatives is one of the presenters at ‘Caring From a Distance’, an event being hosted by the group which I co-chair – Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK). Details are as follows:

Caring From a Distance – click here to register your free place

When:            7th November 2014

Where:           Signature Care Home, Cliveden Manor, 210 Little Marlow Road, Marlow, Bucks SL7 1HX

Cost:               Free

Organiser:     Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK)

To book a place on this FREE event, click here

For a real-life case study, please click here.

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Caring From a Distance: When Leaving the Country Means Leaving Loved Ones Behind

Time was, when members of an extended family would be likely to live within the same community, close by to one another – even under the same roof, so that one generation could share the responsibility of caring for another. Today though, while this structure remains the norm in some parts of the world, in Western culture, it has largely become a thing of the past, a consequence of greater mobility, and fewer factors restricting where we have to work or live. As general mobility has become global mobility, the potential for families to be divided by cultures, not just miles, has become reality.

Today, following a career path is increasingly likely to mean leaving aging parents or other elderly relatives behind, and this is a topic being addressed at an upcoming event called ‘Caring From a Distance’, hosted by the group which I co-chair – Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK) in November (details at the end of this blog post). One of the event presenters will be Alison Hesketh of TimeFinders, an organisation which provides practical, professional support to older people and their families; we asked Alison to share her top tips for expats finding themselves having to leave elderly parents at home while they are based overseas:

  • Sit down & discuss things with your parents

Even if your parents are fit and healthy, before you leave make sure you have that difficult conversation with them about their future.  Planning ahead can help ensure your parents remain independent for as long as possible.

  • Organise Power of Attorney

Strongly encourage your parents to make and have registered Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) for both Health and Welfare and Finance and Property Affairs.

  • Collate contact details for friends & neighbours

Have the contact details of your parents’ closest friends and neighbours just in case you can’t get in touch with them, or become worried about them. Ask your parents’ permission first.

  • Message in a bottle

‘Message in a bottle’ is a scheme run by The Lions encouraging the elderly to keep emergency information in a little plastic bottle in the fridge door for the emergency services.

  • Contact your parents’ GP

With your parents’ permission, talk to their GP. Let them know you are going abroad, and give them your emergency contact information.

  • Identify sources of help before you leave

Identify key sources of help such as domiciliary care agencies before you go, so that you are prepared if need be. A little extra help can prevent a manageable situation deteriorating into a crisis.

If you think it might be necessary for a parent to go into care while you’re away, take time to research and visit local care homes.

  • Liaise with your siblings

If you have siblings, discuss contingency plans with them and what support they are going to need should your parents require help.

  • Get your parents online!

It’s never been easier to keep in touch. If they’re not already, get your parents online and familiar with the basics of a tablet, so you can contact each other via email and Skype. The intuitive nature of iPads and similar devices make them easy for anyone to use, and as well as a communication tool, they will potentially open up a new world of interest.

Taking a bit of time now to plan ahead will help to avoid many of the problems that expat children face when their parents need help back in the UK.   Always remember that there’s a fine balance to be struck between supporting your parents and taking over – it’s important for elderly people to remain independent and in control of the decisions which affect them. If you’d like to know more about this topic, come along to the FIGT UK free event, and hear Alison and other experts in the field of elder care give you the benefit of their experience.

Caring From a Distance

When: 7th November 2014 – click here to book your free place at this event!

Where: Signature Care Home, Cliveden Manor, 210 Little Marlow Road, Marlow, Bucks SL7 1HX

Cost: Free

Organiser: Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK)

Click here to book your place

For more information on TimeFinders, go to

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Role Play: Differing Cultural Attitudes to Women

When the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup gets underway in France on 1st August, female teams representing 12 nations including England, Wales, Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan and Samoa will take part. It’s only the seventh World Cup in the history of the women’s game, and just a few decades ago, such a tournament would have been almost unimaginable. Around the world, the status of women in sport, and all other aspects of society is changing, but the pace of change varies widely from country to country and culture to culture, so that globally there are marked differences in attitudes to women, and the roles that women play in society. It’s worth remembering that in the UK, it took 703 years to progress from the Magna Carta of 1215 to the first votes for women in 1918 – and a further 57 years before the sexual discrimination act of 1975.

Most cultures still have – to a greater or lesser extent at least – a gender role divide that is rooted in our hunter-gatherer past, when the male of the species would take responsibility for food and protection, leaving child-rearing and domestic duties to their female partner. While in most western cultures the roles of breadwinner or homemaker are no longer strictly defined by gender, in many other cultures they are still the norm.

Many factors including globalisation, economics, religion, core cultural values, and the ongoing struggle for women’s equality influence the perspective a culture has of women, and mean that gender roles and attitudes to women are evolving at different speeds in different cultures. When preparing to travel to another country for business, it’s essential to have an understanding of these differences if you are to:

  • Communicate effectively.
  • Avoid causing offence or making a cultural faux pas.

Of course, all the general rules of preparing to do business in another culture apply equally to both sexes, but women need to take particular care to understand how their gender is perceived in the culture they are visiting. It will be essential to demonstrate sensitivity, and conform to local expectations in order to be sure of achieving objectives.

Below is some top line etiquette advice for women travelling to other cultures on business:

  • Middle East
    • Dress conservatively and avoid any kind of revealing clothes.
    • Keep a scarf with you in case you are required to cover your head which may be necessary in some situations.
    • Your Arab host may offer you their hand to shake, but don’t put your hand forward first.
  • India
    • Strict orthodox Muslims don’t drink any alcohol, and neither do most Hindus, especially women.
    • Women should wear conservative trouser suits or dresses.
    • While Western women may offer their hand to a westernized Indian man, it is inappropriate to offer it to others.
  • China
    • Women do not usually drink at meals.
    • Revealing clothing for women is considered offensive to Chinese businessmen.
  • Japan
    • Women should dress conservatively, but don’t wear trousers for business as Japanese men can find it offensive.
    • Keep accessories to a minimum.
    • Women should only wear low-heeled shoes to avoid towering over men.
  • South Africa
    • Africa is a patriarchal society. Sometimes, foreign businesswomen are referred to as ‘girls’.
    • The best way for a woman to prove her worth is to demonstrate her knowledge of a topic

If you are a woman planning a business trip overseas to an unfamiliar culture, expatknowhow can help ensure that you are fully prepared for a successful visit. Our bespoke cross-cultural training programmes can be tailored specifically to your destination culture – from the perspective of your own gender. Call us now to discuss your requirements in detail.

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Best of British: Behaviour, Manners & Etiquette

In the UK, summer is short – a few glorious weeks at most, a few rain-free days at worst – but that doesn’t stop the irrepressible British people from making the most of it, and from June to August, the calendar is packed with social and sporting events. Not even the vagaries of the notoriously fickle British weather can dampen the spirits of participants, or silence the sounds of summer – the splash of blades on water at Henley Royal Regatta, the chink of Champagne flutes and opera drifting on the evening air at Glyndebourne, the thud of willow on leather at a Test match, or the call of the umpire at Wimbledon.

Corporate hospitality has become an important feature of many of these classic, quintessentially British events, and much oiling of the wheels of business takes place alongside the sporting action or entertainment. For foreign visitors invited to an event, the etiquette and rituals of these occasions can appear complicated, and knowing how to behave can be confusing.

Here then are a few insights into the peculiarities of the British character, and a crash course on some areas of etiquette:

British character traits

  • Reserve

The British are inclined to be reserved by nature, often unwilling to show extremes of emotions in public, and to non-natives this can sometimes come across as cold and uncaring. An unwillingness to express feelings means the British can be slow to complain, and for years they’ve put up with poor service in shops and restaurants (though this has begun to change in recent years). An extreme example of the British sense of reserve was highlighted in a survey by the British Heart Foundation which found that Britons experiencing the symptoms of heart attacks will wait an average of 90 minutes before calling an ambulance!

  • Understatement

Closely linked to the sense of reserve, is the British tendency towards understatement. The most dramatic events can be played down almost to a point of insignificance – as in the Queen’s pronouncement: “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,” as she reflected on 12 months in which her three eldest children’s marriages broke down and one of her palaces caught fire. The British weather is often the subject of significant understatement, so that torrential rain may be described as ‘rather inclement’, or sub-zero temperatures as ‘a little on the chilly side’.

  • Self-deprecation

The British are generally modest about their accomplishments and skills, and any expression of overt self-confidence is likely to be interpreted as arrogant and boastful.

  • Humour

The UK has exported it’s particular brand of humour all around the world through the medium of television and shows like ‘Fawlty Towers’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’, ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘One Foot in the Grave’.  Reflecting British culture, it’s often gentle, off-beat, ironic and understated.

  • Dress

Private functions such as balls and parties in the UK can call for a diverse range of clothing, depending on the nature of the occasion, so make sure you consult your invitation for dress code details. For public events, dress codes can vary depending on the type of ticket you have and the access it allows. Dress codes are usually quite strictly enforced, and if you’re not dressed appropriately, you may be refused admittance.

Eating and drinking

  • Table manners

Wait until everyone is served before you start eating, unless your host or hostess instructs you to start immediately. According to Debrett’s (a guide to British social skills), you should “Hold your knife firmly in your right hand, with the handle tucked into your palm, your thumb down one side of the handle and your index finger along the top (but never touching the top of the blade). It should never be eaten off or held like a pencil. When used with a knife or spoon, the fork should be held in the left hand, in much the same way as the knife, with the prongs facing downwards. On its own, it is held in the right hand, with the prongs facing upwards, resting on the fingers and secured with the thumb and index finger. Cutlery should be rested on the plate/bowl between bites, and placed together in the bottom-centre when you are finished.”

  • Tea

Tea is an institution in Britain; at any time of year, and at virtually any occasion, the British will always find an excuse for a ‘nice cup of tea’, and for those who insist on doing it properly, there is much to learn:

  • Tea should always be poured into the cup first, with any milk, lemon or sugar added afterwards.
  • After using your teaspoon to stir the cup, place it on the saucer.
  • When drinking, don’t hold your little finger in the air, but use your thumb and forefinger to hold the cup handle.
  • Drink your tea quietly without slurping – and definitely don’t dunk your biscuits’!

Are you new to the UK and struggling to get to grips with the nuances of British culture? Perhaps you have overseas staff recently arrived in the UK who have to attend social functions as part of their job, and need to understand the differences between British culture and their own? Expatknowhow can deliver bespoke cross cultural training programmes to suit all needs. Call us now to discuss your requirements.

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Will The World Cup Kick-Off Brazil’s Economy?

Whether you love the ‘beautiful game’ or hate it, it’s unlikely you’ll have escaped the media hype around the football World Cup which has been taking place in Brazil over the last month. On Sunday 13th July, at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the competition reaches its conclusion as two teams step out onto the pitch to compete for the most prestigious prize in football.

Hosting the competition for the second time in its 20 year history, the 2014 World Cup has been an opportunity for Brazil to show a TV audience of millions, what a stunning and diverse country it is – and to welcome around 600,000 foreign tourists who have made the journey to Brazil in person. But playing host to an event on the scale of the World Cup can be something of a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it has the potential to galvanise a nation and stimulate the economy, but there’s always the possibility it can turn into a hugely expensive white elephant.

As one of the emerging BRIC economies, Brazil is a country of contrasting fortunes, where poverty and wealth are never very far away from one another – a fact neatly encapsulated by images of Rio’s shabby favelas, clinging precariously to the hills above spotless white beaches. Brazil is Latin America’s biggest economy and the seventh largest in the world, but recently it has suffered from high inflation and sluggish growth. President Dilma Rousseff promised that the World Cup would spur growth, but there have been protests from Brazilians angry over the expense of the event, and the lack of trickle-down growth.  Of course, it will only be well after the final whistle has blown that it will be possible to fully evaluate the impact of the World Cup on Brazil’s economy.

Brazil in a nutshell!

  • Brazilian culture

Few cultures deserve the term ‘melting pot’ as much as Brazil. Centuries of European domination and the slave trade, have seen an influx of many nationalities settling and intermarrying, resulting in one of the world’s most diverse and culturally complex countries. Over half the population of 190 million are white, around 40% are mixed black and white and less than 10% are black. Portugal’s influence still dominates; 80% of the population are Catholic, and the official language is Portuguese.

  • Meeting etiquette
    • For business meetings, Brazilians will usually dress in conservative European style, but in tropical areas of the country where temperatures can reach 40º, smart casual may be acceptable, so check with your host first.
    • For Europeans, Brazilian punctuality can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s not a sign of rudeness or laziness. Traffic in the cities can be very congested, so allow plenty of time to get to meetings.
    • Meetings can be long. They will often involve small talk before the business discussion gets underway.
    • Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of a meeting, but if you are meeting at a restaurant, it’s polite to wait until the end of your meal.
  • Business negotiations
    • Business in Brazil is hierarchical and key decisions will need to be made by the most senior person.
    • Developing strong personal relationships is important. Brazilians like to negotiate with people rather than businesses.
    • Brazilians prefer not to depend on a single supplier, so an exclusive contract is unusual.
    • It’s not unusual for a business deal to take many months to negotiate.
  • Body language
    • Avoid using the ‘OK’ hand sign – this is an offensive gesture in Brazil.
    • The Brazilian concept of personal space is different to that in many European cultures. And conversations are often held at close quarters.
    • Touching arms and elbows is common, as is backslapping between men.

Are you, or anyone in your team planning to visit Brazil on a business trip? Expatknowhow can deliver cross cultural training, ensuring you’re fully prepared to get the very best results from your visit. Call us now to discuss your requirements in detail.


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Preparing for a Successful Cross-Cultural Relocation

Does your business recruit personnel from overseas, or send staff to work abroad on assignments? The increasingly global nature of business means that when an organisation wants to acquire the best talent available, or move resources to where they are needed most, the solution will frequently involve relocating individuals – often with their spouse and family – across cultural borders.

International mobility brings commercial advantages for businesses – and career and lifestyle opportunities for individuals, but changes in work, the workforce and the workplace mean it’s a complex and evolving area.

  • The traditional family model is changing

The expatriate profile is changing in line with the traditional family model. Whereas once a typical expat would be male, and accompanied by a ‘trailing spouse’, dual careers and income requirements are now an expectation for many.

  • Workforce expectations are changing

As ‘Generation Y’ enters the workplace, they bring new expectations of career flexibility, a better work-life balance, and a greater sense of fulfilment.

  • The partner profile is changing

As more women are becoming assignees – 23% in 2013 – the proportion of male spouses/partners is also rising. (Brookfields Global Relocation Trends Survey 2013).

Not surprisingly, family concerns remain a highly sensitive aspect of international mobility, and continue to be the number one reason cited for an assignment being turned down according to a recent report. (Brookfields Global Relocation Trends Survey 2013).The same report also states that the third most common reason cited for assignment refusal is concerns about spousal or partner career.

What steps do organisations need to take to ensure a successful cross-cultural relocation?  

  • Consider the needs of the accompanying spouse/partner  

Employers need to take account of the needs of spouses and partners, and put in place practical, professional and social support. These types of support can be put in place without impacting heavily on the organizational budget, but will require planning and engagement by all parties.

  • Cross-cultural training

For an employee and their spouse/partner to be able to adjust quickly to the culture they are going to live and work in, cross-cultural training will be essential. Training can be tailored to take account of pre-existing levels of general cultural awareness, and to address specific cultural differences relating to the destination country.  All aspects of culture as they apply to social and business interaction will need to be covered.

  • Full support with housing, education, financial & legal matters

It’s crucial to remember that non-work related issues will be extremely important to the employee and their family, and only when these areas are dealt with will the employee be able to focus wholly on their work. Supporting them with issues such as housing, schooling, financial and legal matters will be critical to ensuring they settle, and are able to become productive quickly.

  • Post relocation – ongoing support

With the physical relocation completed, there may be a temptation to tail off support, but it’s at this point when the employee is at their most vulnerable. It’s vital that systems are in place to make sure the employee and their family settle in to their new location. Direct actions can include a welcome reception and briefing, full orientation tour, social events and introduction to the expat community. It will be vital for the employee to have a direct line of communication so they’re able to express any concerns. This way, they can be dealt with quickly before they become real issues.

Do you have an International Assignment Policy?

Any organisation relocating staff internationally should establish an International Assignment Policy (IAP) – also sometimes called an Overseas Assignment Policy (OAP), a reference document setting out all internal guidelines relating to relocation. An IAP will make certain that policies and benefits are clear to all parties, ensure equity, and will help the process of relocation run smoothly. It will include details on policy relating to remuneration, international allowances and support services.

Would you like professional help developing an International Assignment policy for your organisation? Expatknowhow can work with you to create an IAP that will differentiate you from competitors, give you a business advantage, and make your international relocations as straightforward as possible. If you have staff that you want to prepare for a cross-cultural posting, we can create bespoke training programmes to match their needs and help ensure a successful relocation. Call us now on 01235 855 236 to discuss your requirements!


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