Tag Archives: cross-cultural 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

Courtesy of Delaware Employment Law Blog

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

Courtesy of pixshark.com

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

Courtesy of gopixpic.com

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.

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?



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, 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.



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 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 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, 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.


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

Cultural Orientation Services for Your Relocation to Puerto Rico

Global Perceptions offers the complete package! By Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


Have you had a cultural orientation program for your move to Puerto Rico that left you with more questions than answers? Have you had a poor experience with your relocation agent? Have your family members struggled to adjust to the life and culture of Puerto Rico? Has your job as an expatriate executive been impacted as a result? Do you feel left out because language lessons were not included in your relocation package?

Come and see the jewel of the Caribbean!

Come and see the jewel of the Caribbean!

If this has been your Puerto Rican relocation experience, then we are glad that you have discovered Global Perceptions. Our custom-designed services offer you and your family members thorough, honest, and ethical cultural orientation programs. We assess the needs of your family and then design cultural orientation training curriculum to meet those needs. We make certain that everyone, down to your treasured family pet, knows what it takes to successfully adapt to life in Puerto Rico.

But we do not stop there! We also provide language learning courses for all ages. We want you to adapt to your new culture effectively and recognize the need for language

Our President teaching an English Class

Our President teaching an English Class

skills to achieve this goal. For this reason, we offer individual and group language courses for both Spanish and English learners. Classes focus on teaching you to communicate in everyday situations as you work to adjust, while also helping you understand what others are saying.

Additionally, Global Perceptions works with expatriate executives to increase their understanding of what it means to work with local employees. As newcomers in the local culture, learning business etiquette and protocol is essential to obtaining corporate objectives. We know that and work with you to navigate this important piece of the relocation process. Your success is imperative to us!

Global Perceptions offers you and your family the complete cultural orientation package. We know what it takes to successfully adjust to the culture of Puerto Rico because we have been through that process ourselves. Our staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as you adapt to living in Puerto Rico.

Do not wait! Contact us TODAY! Register for our FREE newsletter and learn more about our services at http://www.global-perceptions.com/

Personal Space in Intercultural Settings

Proxemics, or the study of space and how we use it, significantly impacts communication across cultures. People who grow up in the same region inherently understand the rules for how to use space even though they may have learned those rules unconsciously. Those rules only come into question when people break them. If you have ever had a conversation with someone and felt uncomfortable because the person was either too close or too far away for your tastes, you know what I’m talking about.

Anthropologist and renowned intercultural researcher Edward T. Hall is credited with establishing this field of study in the 1950s. He posited that North Americans had four space distances. They include: intimate, casual-personal, social, and public. Only people you know on an intimate level are allowed in the intimate space, while friends are allowed in the casual-personal region. Note that the casual-personal region affords enough space for the two people to avoid touching, but still is close enough for people to use their everyday voices. At 4-12 feet, the social region is used to conduct business. Beyond that is the public space, which is usually used for formal presentations.

If you will be traveling to another country or otherwise interacting with people from a specific region and want to know what their space expectations are, consider researching the way land is divided in their home country. In North America, for instance, suburban and rural houses are built with a sizable area of land around them. In small countries, there is limited space so homes are constructed much closer together. In places like Japan or Puerto Rico, people are accustomed to living in tight quarters so touching is expected. People who stand at a distance are considered cold or even rude. In North America, people expect their distance to be respected. Standing too close to them makes them very uncomfortable.

Even though you may have no conscious intention of offending others, the conversational distance that you choose may in fact be considered offensive. Before you get into these situations, do your homework. Discover what the cultural norms are for that culture and do your best to work within them. This may mean stepping out of your comfort zone, but it will help communication proceed more smoothly so that you can concentrate on what the person is saying and not on how close or far away the person is.

For more intercultural communication tips, join your Global Perceptions, your relocation authority, on Facebook and Twitter!

Global Perceptions Celebrates Multicultural Communication Month

April is here and that means it’s time for Multicultural Communication Month. What is multicultural communication? Why should we celebrate it? In our instant access world, we are constantly in contact with people from other cultures. Taking time to celebrate that interconnectedness is worthwhile because it reminds us how far we have come, but also points to how far we still have to go. This month’s posts by Global Perceptions relate to this unique, yet timely topic.

To begin, let’s take a step back in time. If we look way back to the Ancient Greeks, we discover the first formal studies of oratory and persuasion, which have become the foundation of today’s communication courses. As time goes on, communication grows to include written formats due to increased literacy rates. This is largely a result of the growth of religion during the Medieval times and the interest in transferring religious knowledge to non-literate groups.

Speeding ahead to the 1900s, politicians implement communication not only to win elections, but to garner support for war efforts. By the middle of the 1950s, the Foreign Service Institute begins working with the U.S. military and Peace Corps volunteers to look for ways to make U.S. ambassadors, military personnel, and community service workers more effective within their host countries. It is here that intercultural communication or multicultural communication is born.

Today, multicultural communication includes the study of verbal and nonverbal actions, the impact of religion on culture, how to conduct business across cultures, ethnic influences on our identity, prejudices, perception, context, challenges within education for multicultural people, health care, technology, ethics, listening, and so much more. This field of study has grown steadily with support from business, government, educational institutions, and non-profit groups alike. Now intercultural researchers and individuals have the ability to talk and write about their experiences and have those experiences listened to by others.

As we look forward, we will continue to see the importance of multicultural communication and its influence on our everyday lives. The ability to instantaneously impact hundreds of thousands of people with a single tweet, for instance, has already begun to change the way we live. We can now support causes thousands of miles away from the privacy of our own homes and affect change more permanently than we could if we stood in the middle of the town square crying out for change. This is just one of the reasons why celebrating Multicultural Communication Month is crucial for all of us.

Throughout April, Global Perceptions staff will post about intercultural communication topics to celebrate Multicultural Communication Month. We encourage comments about your experiences with these themes. To join the conversation, simply post your comments here or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

Finding home away from home in Puerto Rico

By Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


As another Super Bowl fast approaches, I am reminded of one of the main reasons that I continue to live in San Juan. I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan, as many people from Wisconsin are. I grew up watching the games with my dad. He taught me the basics, sharing stories of Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke along the way. Today I uphold the game-watching tradition in a different way. Now I have the unique opportunity to share my culture with the Puerto Rican community every Sunday from September through the first week of February. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always that way.

When I first moved here, I was clueless as to how I was going to watch the Packer games. Knowing that I was too big a fan to miss the games, I had to find a place to watch and soon. I went to the only local bar that I had ever been to and pulled up a stool only to find that I was the lone Packer fan in the place. My rants and cheers more than made up for that. People gave me weird looks, but I didn’t care. I was there to support my team. The season ended as it started for me, alone in the corner.

The following year I put on my gear and headed out, anticipating another lonely year in the corner. Much to my surprise, the bar was jam-packed when I arrived on the first Sunday of the season. People of all different teams filled the area, except for Green Bay. I found a TV with the Packers game on and decided that I would just have to suffice with that. At least I could see it, although I couldn’t hear a thing. Feeling let down, I looked around for a chair. In that move my life changed forever. I turned around and saw a couple walk through the door dressed from head to toe in green and gold. It was as if heaven’s gates had opened and Saint Vince had reached down to bless me! I walked over to them and asked if I could sit with them. They agreed and led me through the bar to a section that I didn’t even know existed. It was there that I first laid eyes upon what was to become the Puerto Rico Packer Nation. A sea of green and gold jerseys and caps was before me. I instantly felt at home.

Since that time, the Puerto Rico Packer Nation has grown to a much larger group who gets together to watch the games every week. We provide t-shirts, hats, and beads for those attendees who aren’t sporting green and gold. That gesture has helped the group become a family.

Today, we are all each other’s brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. We count on one another when things are bad and relish in the happiness of the good times. We are a shining IMG_0138example of what it means to be affiliated with the Green Bay Packers organization. No matter the distance, we are fans to the end.

Although we won’t be watching our team play in the Super Bowl this year, we will all join together to cheer on our extended family members whose teams are fighting it out for they, too, are our brothers and sisters. We are a football family.



This reflection is dedicated to the members of the Puerto Rico Packer Nation, the Packers friends that I have met over the years, and my parents who provide the supplies for our local family. Go Pack!


“Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com – See more at: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2014/01/31/link-up-jan/#sthash.8BseqTQV.dpuf

Importance of cultural adaptation training in Puerto Rico

window in old san juanThe day has come! Your big move to Puerto Rico is before you! Your entire family, including the family pet have landed on the Island of Enchantment with visions of days spent on the beach in your heads. Just beyond those wishful thoughts, it’s likely that there’s also some uncertainty, confusion, or even disbelief swimming around. Even though Puerto Rico falls under the government policies of the United States, it is not the United States. Things work differently here and if you want to understand how they work, one of the best ways is to participate in a cultural adaptation training program. Cultural trainers, like those at Global Perceptions, offer insight and experience that only those who have been through the adaptation process can really understand.

Take it from me, Dr. Julie Parenteau, President of Global Perceptions, living in Puerto Rico without any cultural or linguistic knowledge makes life very difficult. When I moved here in 2006 communicating with native Puerto Ricans was extremely challenging both because I had trouble understanding them, and because they didn’t understand the words I learned during 10 years of Spanish instruction. Not having a corporate sponsor also forced me to do everything on my own. If I had had a Global Perceptions cultural training program, I would have understood more and had fewer problems during my cultural transition.

Without such a program, I spent the first three years perpetually lost. It didn’t matter where I went, I would get turned around all because I didn’t understand where anything was in relation to anything else. I got in the wrong lines, wound up in areas where a single woman shouldn’t have been, spent much more than necessary for everyday services, and generally felt frustrated.

playa sucia

This doesn’t have to be your experience! Don’t allow yourself to agonize and lose sleep over your relocation to Puerto Rico. Make the decision today to invest in yourself with our cultural adaptation training programs! Puerto Rico is an amazing country with so much to offer, so let us help you navigate your trip.


For more information about cultural adaptation training programs offered by Global Perceptions, your relocation authority in Puerto Rico, contact us at 787.455.7764 or visit our webpage: www.globalperceptions.net. We will happily prepare a proposal free of charge!

The Expat’s Guide to Politics in Puerto Rico: Part I

“Let the wild rumpus start!” This line from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are describes the scene that I witnessed during a Spanish tutoring session over the weekend. The sirens, followed by the muffled sounds of someone supporting their candidate through the microphone were all I needed to assure myself that it’s that time of year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the political season in Puerto Rico is under way so buckle up and get ready for a bumpy, mud-slinging ride!

If you are an expatriate experiencing your first election season in Puerto Rico, you are in for a real treat. Weekend rallies and caravanas will soon block major thoroughfares creating traffic jams and generally irritating drivers trying to accomplish their daily tasks. These caravanas are made up of as few as five vehicles, but usually are at least twenty cars long with some seeming endless. No matter the size, one thing is for surecaravanas are noisy! Giant speakers mounted on the backs of pick-up trucks or embedded in minivans blast merengue and salsa music or reggaeton, nearly overpowering the message being spread from the lead car to support X or Y candidate. Whistles blow and people scream from their vehicles and along the street as people leave their homes to show their support.

Before even seeing who the supported candidate is, one can tell which party s/he represents just by viewing the oncoming colors. Streamers, posters, and brightly painted vans sport red, blue, green, orange, or purple depending on the party represented. Red represents the Popular Democratic Party (PPD); blue is the color of the New Progressive Party (PNP); green represents the Independent Party (PIP); orange was chosen as the color of the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPP), purple indicates a group of supporters of the Worker’s Party (PPT), and the Sovereign Union Movement (MUS) is associated with the color turquoise.

As is the case in many other countries, elections turn dirty quickly across the island. Whether running for mayor, senator, or governor, candidates are quick to swing mud at their opponents, pointing out all of their flaws rather than focusing on the issues of the island. It is during moments like this that politics really does turn into a sport in Puerto Rico. Discussions become heated, sometimes even dividing long-time friends and family members. For this reason, there is a law that no alcohol can be sold from 12am until 9pm on the day of an election even it’s for a referendum and not an actual candidate.

The fact that Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the U.S. President doesn’t keep them from getting involved in their local politics. In fact, they are very passionate about politics. If you are an expatriate or someone else who has recently relocated to Puerto Rico, we suggest that you avoid engaging in political discussions. Foreign opinions are not always welcome. Until you have lived here for several years and really understand the issues, steer clear of this topic. However, you should try to learn about politics on the island because it will explain a lot of why things happen the way they do here. Until you have that knowledge, sit back and wait out the passing caravanas with interest and awe. It will all be over in a few months.

This information is provided to you by Global Perceptions, your Relocation Specialist in Puerto Rico. To take advantage of our special FREE SPANISH TUTORING CONSULTATIONS , contact us TODAY! This offer is only good until September 15, 2012! Visit www.globalperceptions.net or call 787.455.7764 before it’s too late!

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation: Part II

The latest installment in our Relocation, Relocation, Relocation series is here! Count on Global Perceptions to provide you with the tips and advice you need to facilitate your international relocation process in Puerto Rico. Read on to find out what to expect in terms of weather, food, clothing styles, and holiday celebrations.

Weather: Puerto Rico is an island located in the Caribbean Sea where the temperature fluctuates between 80 and 95 degrees during most of the year. The sun shines for a good part of the year while rain takes over at other times. There is little that can be done to prepare yourself for drastic temperature changes other than to purchase lightweight clothing. Air conditioning will be your best friend for awhile, but watch out as electric bills can be very high if the AC runs often. Because of its location, Puerto Rico is also prone to hurricanes. Hurricanes can be scary, but with our tips, you’ll be ready!

Dress: People in Puerto Rico are very conscious of their appearance. Whereas some cultures are laid back in their approach to clothing or hair styles, Puerto Ricans prefer to make positive statements through the use of designer clothing and accessories, paired with fresh haircuts and manicures. Women often dress up and apply make-up to run errands. Men also pay attention to their image. They buff their shoes, starch their shirts, and do a considerable amount of “man-scaping.” If you are ever confused about what to wear to an event, it is recommended to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed.

Food: One of the best things about living in a new culture is trying the different foods. Use this opportunity to try local seafood, plantain side dishes, rum drinks, and custard desserts. Stop at a roadside stand for alcapurrias, bacalaitos, empanadas, or piononos. If you’d rather fill up on fruits than fried foods, there are plenty to choose from as well. Mangos, papayas, pineapple, and guava are widely available depending on the time of year and make great fruit smoothies. Desserts range from flan (vanilla, cheese, guava, among others) to tres leches (3-milk cake) to arroz con dulce (sweet rice). Be adventurous! Try them all!

Holidays: Celebrations are rampant. Anything, small or large, can cause people to gather and toss back a few. If, however, you’re celebrating a major event, months worth of planning may take place prior to the big day. Such celebrations include: your baby’s first birthday and christening, your daughter’s 15th birthday (quinceañera), or a wedding. Such grandiose celebrations can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Some may see this as a waste of money, but in Puerto Rico such lavish parties are commonplace. Of course not everyone has the money for events like this but for those who do, giving their child the best party ever is paramount on their minds.


For more tips and advice on relocation in Puerto Rico, keep reading our blog! More relocation tips are soon to follow! We share what we know to help you through each step of the relocation process.  Feel free to comment and to share your experiences as well! We look forward to hearing from you!

Don’t forget that we are offering FREE CONSULTATIONS for Spanish lessons for both adults and children until September 15, 2012. Contact Global Perceptions TODAY for an appointment! Visit www.globalperceptions.net or call 787.455.7764. 


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