Category Archives: Intercultural Training

Global Customs for Public Displays of Affection

Global Customs for Public Displays of Affection

Written by: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.

 

This week we are celebrating love and friendship at Global Perceptions by looking at global customs of affection. We start the week by examining norms for public displays of affection. Etiquette for Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) varies across cultures. The consequences for breaking the rules can be life-threatening, making it important for expatriates, travelers, and study abroad students to understand cultural norms.

Courtesy of celebratelove.wordpress.com

Courtesy of celebratelove.wordpress.com

 

Couples across Korea limit the amount of public affection shown. Koreans will hold hands, but kisses are very unusual even for those who are dating. Such displays are saved for more private locations. One major difference about Korean culture is that good friends, regardless of gender or age, also hold hands as a demonstration of their friendship.

 

In much of the Western World, hugs and kisses are standard ways of greeting friends, family members and romantic partners. Couples are known to hold hands, drape their arms around each other and steal more intimate kisses on occasion. Latin and Southern European cultures who are known for being more effusive, may even consider slightly more touching to be appropriate. Groping, however, crosses the line.
Rules for PDAs in the Middle East and China are much stricter. In China, for example, only people of the same sex are permitted to hold hands in public, while in the Middle East

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people may be imprisoned for kissing in public. Such acts go against religious traditions.

 

Whether or not you agree with these cultural norms, it is best to abide by them at all times to avoid serious repercussions. So celebrate your affection where it is it culturally acceptable, but keep your hands to yourselves where it is not allowed. You may find that it is challenging to adjust but that the change is just the spice your relationship needs.

 

For more information on living and working effectively across cultures, please contact Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico!

“I” vs. “We”: A Linguistic Perspective on the Super Bowl

“I” vs. “We”: A Linguistic Perspective on the Super Bowl

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.

 

“Oh no, not again!”

“Why do professors insist on these things?”

“Another one…I’ve already got two in my other classes!”

 

Statements like these, followed by lots of heartfelt groans, were the usual reaction to my announcing that we were about to embark on group project time in the classes that I taught. Students in my classrooms loathed the idea of working in groups. They believed it was more trouble than it was worth and that one of the group members, usually themselves, would end up doing all the work. Working as a team was not high on their priority list. How did they develop this attitude? I think language and culture have a lot to do with it. As one of the biggest American spectacles of team interaction (The Super Bowl) is around the corner, let’s take a closer look at the way that our languages suggest cultures of independence or interdependence.

 

There is a saying in American sports that there is no “I” in team. While that may be true in some cases, American’s use of English does not often convey that message. In U.S. culture we are quick to talk about how the decision at hand might impact us as individuals. “That

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meeting time won’t work for me.” “I won’t be able to finish my part before the deadline if s/he doesn’t get me the data in time.” “I can’t catch the ball if he doesn’t throw it to the target.” We are very good at blaming others and denying any fault of our own.

 

I used to hear that kind of talk all the time as a university professor. “Teacher, so-and-so is not doing the work.” “I’m the one doing all the work and I don’t think that is right.” It didn’t matter if I was working at a stateside university or one in Puerto Rico, such comments were rampant. All the focus was on the “I” even though the students were working on group projects. No one seemed interested in trying to work through the issues to bring the group closer together. They would have rather given up than try to make it work. This characteristic is truly representative of an independent, individualistic culture.

 

Outside of the strongly independent Western World, there is more emphasis on working together. Many Asian, African, and Latin American cultures are built on the idea that “two heads are better than one.” They look to the group for the support needed as individuals and truly work together to complete the task, being sure not to leave any one person open

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to scrutiny. If someone is not fulfilling their role in the group, the rest of the group encourages that person to get more involved so they can reach the group or team goal together. The group is more important than any one person and all are needed to complete the task.

 

Avoiding the he said/she said-style finger pointing of individualistic cultures typically allows people in collectivistic cultures to work together more smoothly. There is no need to point out the failures or get upset over the lack of participation of one teammate. Rather, the emphasis is on building up the group as a whole. Proverbs from these regions support this concept. The Japanese, for instance, have a saying that “a single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.” The language of Ethiopia offers this proverb, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” Again, the emphasis is on cooperation and teamwork.

Courtesy of theexaminer.com

 

As the Super Bowl approaches, I will refrain from asking you who you think will win. Instead, I will ask you to pay attention to the media messages leading up to the big game. What questions do the reporters ask of the players and coaches? How do the players and coaches respond? Is there really a sense of team present or is any one player out to “get his own?”

 

Like it or not, thousands of young people, perhaps even your children, watch these games and learn a language from these famous players. Help them unpack those messages instead of swallowing them whole. Point out how many hands hold the trophy during the ceremony. Have them listen carefully to what the players say post-game. Do the players think any one player had more of an impact than others? Help them understand that there are benefits to both independence and interdependence. Teach them to recognize that asking for help is not a bad thing, while also encouraging them to strive toward their personal goals. Allow them to develop a language of inclusivity that gives them skills for working in both contexts. Having both skillsets will help them achieve success in our global society.

 

cropped-GP-Logo1.jpgFor further insight into the fascinating world of intercultural communication, contact Global Perceptions, your relocation and communication consulting specialists in Puerto Rico! 

 

This post was added to the #MyGlobalLife Linkup at Small Planet Studio.

Eye Contact Across Cultures

Eye Contact Across Cultures

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D. and Jennifer Alvarez

 

Nonverbal cues are the source of much intercultural miscommunication. What is left unsaid is often misinterpreted by people from other cultures, creating a source of misunderstanding with potentially life-threatening consequences. One of the most misinterpreted forms of nonverbal communication is the use of eye contact. Some cultures expect direct eye contact while others condone it. Some consider direct eye contact between those of the same gender acceptable, while reserving eye contact between opposite sexes as appropriate only in intimate situations. With so many cultural differences across geographical region, we thought it important to give our readers a guide to this form of communication.

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Middle Eastern cultures view eye contact as something to be strictly avoided. This is particularly true between those of opposite sexes, with the exception of use between family members. Such norms are based on strict religious rules that prohibit interaction between the sexes. However, eye contact between men shows confidence and sends the impression that what is being said is based on truth. Men who maintain eye contact during conversations with other men are thought to be trustworthy.

 

When interacting with people from these cultures, it is important for Westerns to know about these communication differences because any prolonged eye contact between a man and woman can insinuate that an intimate interaction is desired. This is particularly important if you want to avoid any repercussions that may occur if thought to be trying to steal someone’s mate.

 

Although there are many cultural and communication differences between Asian, African, and Latin American cultures, they generally coincide on the use of eye contact. These groups are more hierarchical in nature, believing that there are social and age-based reasons to show respect to those in authority. Their eye contact demonstrates this. Those in authority (parents, teachers) are expected to look directly at the person with whom they are speaking, but those lower in the social hierarchy (children, students) are expected to deflect their look, often by looking down. This is seen as a sign of respect and should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence.

 

deniroPeople who grow up in the United States learn that it is respectful to look someone in the eye when spoken to or when speaking to others. This shows interest in what is being said. It also demonstrates a sense of confidence and conviction in one’s ideas. If the speaker avoids eye contact, s/he is thought to be hiding something or lacking knowledge of the topic. If the listener, however, avoids eye contact, it shows that the listener is distracted and not paying attention. An exception to this cultural norm is when in crowded spaces like elevators. In those cases, eye contact is avoided.

 

In much of Western Europe, the norms are much like those in the United States. Looking people in the eye is considered polite and should be maintained throughout the conversation. This is particularly important in business settings. One difference between the U.S. and places like France, for example, is that eye contact can be interpreted in more flirtatious ways. The French may casually use eye contact to let someone know that s/he is interested in getting to know her/him. Visitors should be aware of this interpretation to reduce cultural misunderstandings.

 

Before traveling or relocating to another country, take the time to learn about cultural differences. Knowing what is socially acceptable can help you avoid making serious cultural mistakes. Relocation specialists like those at Global Perceptions can help! Make your international move a smooth one by taking part in our cultural adaptation seminars! To learn more, visit http://www.global-perceptions.com/

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What color is your suit? The importance of color in cross-cultural interactions.

What color is your suit? The importance of color in cross-cultural interactions.

By: Julie Parenteau, Ph.D. and Jennifer Alvarez

 

People communicate in all different ways. We use words at times, while our body language does the talking at other times. And in some cases, silence is used instead. Today we share a more subtle, but hugely important form of communication that can wreak cultural havoc in certain settings. We are talking about color. Let’s explore this fascinating topic in further detail.

Start by looking around you. What color are the walls in your office? What color flowers do you buy for your special someone to show your affection? What color are you wearing right now? How do poeple react to you when you wear that color? Colors are used in particular pink suit mencultures to represent culturally specific ideals and values. For instance, if you were to walk into a formal interview in a pink suit in the United States, what judgments might be bestowed upon you? How might that be different if you were interviewing with a Korean company?

 

Red

In much of the Western World, red is popping up all around us because St. Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Red, in that part of the world, represents love and warmth. This perspective also applies in the case of Chinese brides who typically wear red for good luck. To write a Chinese person’s name in red ink, however, means that that person is dead to you.

Red represents purity in India, but for South Africans, is used to show mourning following the death of a loved one. Red is also the color associated with Communism, in addition to Santa Claus and Satan. Interestingly, psychologists suggest that the color red has been used to stimulate brain activity.

 

Pink

Pink, a lighter shade of red, symbolizes trust in Korea. In Western cultures, pink is pink suit womenconsidered a girl’s color and often suggests femininity. Pink roses, on the other hand, represent gratitude and appreciation as opposed to red roses which represent love. Psychologists have found that pink works in suppressing the appetite and relaxing muscles.

 

Orange

In Western cultures, people often think of pumpkins and falling leaves when thinking of orange. In the Netherlands, orange is known as the color of royalty while in Northern Ireland orange is the color associated with the Protestant church. Orange roses represent enthusiasm, which supports studies that have found orange to be an appetite stimulant.

 

Green

Green has several meanings across cultures. While it symbolizes money and nature in the United States, green is also affiliated with jealousy and greed, as well as disease in some Asian countries. Green is considered the color of Islam, but to the Irish is used to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Blue

Blue is the symbol of wealth in many Eastern cultures, but represents immorality or even death in China. For Iranians and Egyptians, blue is the color of mourning. Western cultures consider blue to be a depressing, sad color and talk about people who are emotionally down

as “having the blues.” Such thoughts align nicely with those of psychologists who have studied the calming effects of the color blue.

 

Photo courtesy of www.snailcream.co.uk

Photo courtesy of www.snailcream.co.uk

Purple

Purple, once thought to be the color of royalty across much of Western Europe, has transcended to the color or loyalty in Western cultures. In contrast, widows in Thailand wear purple when in mourning. Researchers have determined that purple produces a peaceful environment and may even be used to reduce migraine headaches.

 

Black and White

Thought by many to be the absence of color, white is associated with purity in Western cultures and black is associated with mourning. Asian cultures however, have a different perspective. For those in China, Korea, and India, for instance, white is the color of death. Therefore, gifting white flowers or anything wrapped in white paper is culturally inappropriate.

 

Because of the culture that we grow up in, we tend to view colors like those around us. As we travel and venture out into the world, our perspectives broaden. We may begin to see shades of color where there were none before. Perhaps there is a local name for a specific color that was not previously in your purview.

Understanding how colors work across cultures can help people interacting in multicultural settings to avoid cultural faux pas. When deciding how to dress or what type of gift to give, it is particularly important to take color into consideration. Something as basic as the color ink used to write someone’s name or the color of the paper used to wrap a gift can make or break a business deal. Think carefully about this as you go into your next international negotiation.

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For additional insights into working effectively across cultures, contact the staff at Global Perceptions. Our professionals will set you on the right path!

Spotlight City: Cabo Rojo

Don’t Miss Cabo Rojo!

If you are considering traveling to Puerto Rico, are new to the island, or just need a diversion from your daily routine in the metropolitan area, head to Cabo Rojo! Cabo Rojo, located on the very Southwestern tip of the island, is a small community that offers big time views. Those views, and much more, make Cabo Rojo a must-see despite its distance from San Juan.

Although a trip to Cabo Rojo and back can be completed in a day, it’s a long day of driving so most people make a weekend of it, staying in one of the many small hotels or paradors in the area. Grand Bahía Ocean View Hotel, one of these hotels, is sandwiched between the salt flats and the mangroves, providing a secluded area from which to watch the sun set. The chefs and wait staff at the on-site restaurant, Agua al Cuello, never fail to give you an unforgettable dining experience of fresh seafood and delectable desserts.

From the pool deck of Grand Bahía Ocean View Hotel you can see the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse off to the left. This is an ideal place for photographers and travel enthusiasts. El Faro Los Morillos (as it is called in Spanish) was constructed in 1882 to help sailors through the Mona Passage. Today it is one of Puerto Rico’s most picturesque sights. Set high above the Caribbean waters atop limestone cliffs, the Cabo Rojo lighthouse stands as a beacon summoning visitors and residents alike. Be sure to bring your camera because these are images you won’t want to forget. And keep children near you at all times since there are no guardrails to protect them.

On the other side of the lighthouse is Playa Sucia, a secluded beach for a refreshing dip after climbing the hill to the lighthouse. This inlet in the Caribbean Ocean is a favorite among locals, but can be a challenge to get to if you have kids or lots to carry. Our recommendation would be to pack light because the path is not always accessible via automobile. That way you can truly relax beachfront and enjoy the incredible view and warm sunshine.

For nature enthusiasts, the area also features the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. Those up for a good hike will witness native birds and plants while wandering through the subtropical dry forest. In and around the Interpretive Center (open Thursday through Sunday) you can get more details about the history of the area, including the salt flats, as well as the birds that frequent the area. Guides are also available for a fee. Be sure to bring your sunscreen, bug spray, and water and wear appropriate clothing for hiking! The trails are not long, but the sun is hot!

As you can see, for rest and relaxation, Cabo Rojo is where it’s at! Make sure to include it on your Puerto Rican bucket list!

Watch for other Spotlight City posts from around Puerto Rico courtesy of your Relocation Specialist in Puerto Rico, Global Perceptions!

 

 

 

Three Healthcare Tips for Your Big Move

 

The holidays are upon us and Global Perceptions wants to reward you by givingIMG_0592[1] you 12 DAYS OF FREE GIFTS! Here are our relocation tips for DAY 4!

 

Three Healthcare Tips for Your Big Move

By Jennifer Alvarez and Julie Parenteau

 

Remaining healthy during your relocation process, as well as maintaining your health abroad, is vital. To stay healthy, Global Perceptions recommends taking the following precautions.  

  1. Medical Coverage.  If you are relocating due to your job, make sure to clarify
    Learn about healthcare procedures in your host country before leaving.

    Learn about healthcare procedures in your host country before leaving.

    what will be covered in your host country. If you will need to transfer your medical insurance, make sure you complete this transaction immediately after arrival. This will ensure that you and your family will be covered in case of a medical emergency.

 

  1.    Vaccinations. Most countries share the same series of vaccinations.  In some cases, depending on the country you are relocating to, there may be additional mandatory vaccinations that need to be completed before you travel there. Aside from mandatory vaccinations, check to see what vaccinations may be recommended, but not required.  The main point is to protect yourself against various diseases that some countries have that others do not.

 

  1. Medication Supply.  Make sure you receive at least a one month supply of all
    pills

    Get your prescriptions filled prior to departure.

    medications for all family members before you depart.  It may take some time to finalize your medical insurance paperwork and locate a primary health care physician.  You do not want to run out of your much needed medication before you are able to obtain a refill.

Taking these measures will help you and your family stay physically healthy so that you can focus more on staying emotionally healthy during this trying time.

 

For more relocation advice for your move to Puerto Rico or beyond, please contact Global Perceptions. Or visit us on Facebook and Twitter!

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5 Tips for Bringing Fall to Life as an Expat

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

5 Tips for Bringing Fall to Life as an Expat

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D., Owner/President of Global Perceptions

 

Fall is my favorite time of year. There’s something about the cool, crisp air ushering in the season that makes me feel renewed. Sipping hot chocolate after Friday night high school football games and picking apples from a nearby orchard add to my giddiness. Or at least

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

they did! Since moving to Puerto Rico eight years ago, I have seen precious little of the colorful trees shining in the setting sun. In Puerto Rico, there is only a slight difference from one season to another. So slight in fact, that I forget that seasons even change. That’s a pretty big change for a Midwestern girl accustomed to greeting the seasons with gusto.

Despite my change of venue, I have found ways to bring my favorite season to life, even in the Caribbean! Here are my top 5 ways to keep fall alive for expatriates living in Puerto Rico and other tropical locations.

 

1) Watch American Football

I am a HUGE Green Bay Packers fan! It’s hard to grow up in Wisconsin and not be. If American football is one of your passions, carry it to your new home and watch your team with local fans. Win or lose, cheer or jeer, get together as a family over nachos and chili, just like home. Sometimes even just the consistent schedule of games will help you recreate the fall feeling.

 

2) Bake, Bake, Bake

Get our your mixer and have a bake-a-thon! Fall without recipes made of pumpkin, apple and cranberry just wouldn’t be fall. Let the scents of cakes, breads, cookies, pies and muffins waft through your house, creating a sensation that transports you to the coziness of a fireplace-heated living room. Imagine yourself wearing flannel pajamas as you crack

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

eggs, even though you are likely in shorts and a tank top. If you think ahead, you can even have pumpkin spice and butterscotch shipped right to your door via online shopping! And you’ll have something delicious to eat afterward!

 

3) Buy a new sweater

The feel of a new sweater is such a fall thing. The softness and warmth that it emits even while on the store rack beckons the aimless shopper. Cashmere, knit, wool….they all call out, promising to comfort in the best and worst of times. And somehow you know that whether it’s a cool gray or warm cranberry color, you will be comforted by its thread.

 

4) Pick up scented candles

When you start dreaming of enjoying Saturday afternoon walks in the park, listening to the crunch of the fallen leaves beneath your hiking boots, you know it’s time to find a

Sometimes giving into  your desires is the best thing you can do!

Sometimes giving into your desires is the best thing you can do!

substitute. Candles work wonders! Pick up something that screams FALL to you. I personally like apple-scented candles, but there are lots to pick from. Find one that works for you and light it!

 

5) Get on the plane

For those times when the nostalgia simply takes over and you have to see, feel, hear, taste and touch the fall, get on the plane and reward yourself with a few days in a place that offers just what you need. Consider a trip mid-October to early November in places like Washington, D.C. or Kansas City. The temperatures still aren’t too cold during the day, but they offer crisp nights perfect for trying out that new sweater.

 

For more ideas on making your transition to Puerto Rico a positive experience, consult with the Relocation Specialists at Global Perceptions! We have the local experience, but the global reach. Visit us TODAY at http://global-perceptions.com/

 

“Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com” – See more at: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2014/09/26/september-mygloballife-link-up/#sthash.UM54udoA.dpuf

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