Tag Archives: relocation

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.



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/


Vegan food options in Vieques, Puerto Rico!

New to Puerto Rico? Struggling to find healthy food alternatives? Try these tasty ideas for your visit to Vieques!


Lighthouse in Vieques

Lighthouse in Vieques

For additional relocation assistance following your move to Puerto Rico, please contact Global Perceptions. We provide relocation and language learning programs for your whole family as well as corporate communication training. Contact us today!



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

    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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10 Ways to Date Your New Home

10 Ways to Date Your New Home

By Laurie Melin


2013-07-18 11.48.19Relocation is intimidating. Whether your move is regional, national, or international, the transition is an adjustment. Even if you’re excited for the move, the reality is that settling in is not instant. Feeling really comfortable in a new place and within a new group of people always takes time.


Besides language differences, what if you cannot find people who share your background or your values or even your interests? What do you do when everything is different from what you are used to and from what you enjoy? How do you connect?


Think of life in your new community as a new relationship. How do you build relationships — romantic or otherwise — with other people? You spend time with them, do things together, and talk about their interests, their background, and the things you have in common. As you get to know them better, you build trust and mutual appreciation.


“Dating” your new community may not make you fall in love with it, but the activities below can help you get to know it and appreciate it. They may also help you meet local residents and begin building personal relationships that connect you on a deeper level to individuals as well as to the culture you are learning about.


1. Make a point of introducing yourself to your neighbors.

When you move into your new home, your neighbors might come to your door or you might walk up to theirs and say hello. In any case, introducing yourself when you meet can be a good way to build a safety net. People watch out for friends, and knowing your neighbors generally makes you safer. Your neighborly acquaintance may also lead to shared conversations, household supplies, gardening tips, child-rearing help, and more. It opens the door to begin interacting at a deeper level with people who are around you every day.

2. Take public transportation if available.

Public transportation gives you a peak into the real lives of real people. Who takes it? How absorbed in technology are they? How much do they like talking with people around them? IMG_1954[1]How boisterous are they? How reserved? How much space do they prefer to leave between themselves? How organized is the line to get on the bus or train? Learn by example what behavior is considered normal and acceptable in these settings.

3. Visit favorite spots of locals and tourists.

Travel guides list beautiful, interesting locations in your new community. Check them out! While you are there, take note: Who comes here? Who enjoys this place? Make a point of visiting local favorites, too. Where do locals go to relax? Where do they go out to eat? Where do they go on the weekend? Many of these places are not in guide books, but they’re powerful points of connection for people who live full-time in your community.

4. Visit art and history museums, landmarks, monuments, memorials, forts, etc.

The monuments, memorials, and landmarks of a place are the most obvious clue to what is and was important to any group of people. Take your own field trips and find out who these structures were built to honor. Learn more by visiting history museums large and small. How does this community discuss and represent its struggles and triumphs? Discover art museums in the area. Who and what do locals connect with? What do they commemorate?

101_22675. Visit churches and/or other religious meetings – even if you’re not particularly religious.

Observing and experiencing the religious traditions of a community is a window into the deepest beliefs and values of that community. Religion always shapes the human experience, and knowing more about the religious past and present of your community can help you understand the people living around you.

6. Start learning the local language.

If locals speak a different language than you, start learning it. This may be the hardest item on this list and take the most time, but it is also one of the most important ways to get to know a place and the people who live there. Do not stress about making mistakes as you learn. Speaking with someone in his/her own language opens the door to a deeper personal connection as you demonstrate your interest in understanding the culture and your desire to become part of it.

7. Plug in to local news sources: watch local TV, listen to local radio, and read local newspapers.

Want to know what people care about? Watch their television stations. Listen to them call in on the radio. Read the op-eds and life/culture sections in their newspapers. Learn about the (good and bad) news that matters to their daily lives as well as the topics that interest them.

8. Learn to cook local food.

While watching local TV, you might find a cooking show. In the newspaper, there might be suggested recipes. When talking to your neighbor, you might hear about or smell a new dish – ask for the recipe! You do not need to change your diet completely, but become familiar with the food your community enjoys. Why do they eat it? Where does it come from? Cook it, eat it, share it, learn to appreciate it….even if you do not want to eat it every night.

9. Explore community life through local eyes: Read their books. Listen to their music. 101_2181Learn the dances they love.

What music do your neighbors listen to? What did they read growing up in school? What do they dance to on Friday and Saturday nights? Build some commonality by experiencing these things, then go out and do/enjoy them with the people around you!

10. Participate in local celebrations, festivals, parades, fairs, etc.

Check out health fairs, holiday parades, independence day festivals, government celebrations, and more. These events happen because the organizers expect a crowd. Find out why people go. How do they connect with the event? Do you connect with it, too? How is it different from a similar event back home? How is it alike?


We are not all the same. Deep down, different values and beliefs have shaped people living in different cultures. Our personal and cultural background influences the way we interact with others and the way we see our world. We cannot overcome all obstacles by ignoring our differences, but we can build relationships on mutual interest and respect.


Spend time getting to know your new community after relocation. The more you learn about it, the more it may interest you, and the more you may care about it, which makes forming connections with people there much easier.




For further cultural insights useful throughout your transition to Puerto Rico, visit http://global-perceptions.com/. Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, works closely with you, your family, and your company to assure that your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

5 Relocation Tips for Kids: Post-departure

The big day has come and gone. Now you are safely in your new home and starting classes at your new school. Now your major concerns are: 1) will the other kids like me?2) where will I sit at lunchtime? and 3) what will the teachers be like? These are normal questions for any new kid to ask. When making an international move however, these questions become even more stressful due to differences in culture and language. Let me offer the following tips to help guide you comfortably through these changes.

In my experience as a new kid, getting involved in a school-sponsored club or sport was critical to helping me become a part of the new school. Whether you like drama, art, fencing, robotics, or community-service, try to find a group that supports your interests. By attending their meetings, more people will see you and will get used to you being a part of the group.

Getting involved also gives you access to people with similar interests so you can make friends. Because you already have something in common, it should be easier to start a conversation even if you don’t know the person. Also, the small group setting makes it easier to have one-on-one conversations than being in a large classroom full of people. Take advantage of these opportunities to get to know other people.

Living in a new culture often means that there are new foods and drinks to try. Be open to tasting the new foods even if they do not look “normal” to you. People in the new culture probably think that much of what you are used to eating is weird or strange too. Be adventurous and try new things!

Listening to local music can help you become familiar with local styles, but can also help you learn the language. Tune your radio to a local station and listen in. Watching local television shows offers the same benefits. You may not understand anything in the beginning, but if you keep watching, you will start to pick up quite a bit. Being current with TV shows and music also gives you something to talk about with your new friends.

See the sights! Encourage your family members to visit museums, sporting events, libraries, parks, theaters, and more to get out of the house and explore. While visiting these places you will be surrounded by people of the local culture. Learn from those experiences. Discover what is important to people in the new culture by looking at museum artifacts or attending theatrical performances. You will be amazed how much you can learn from these adventures!

With these tips in mind, you should feel more secure and confident in your new home away from home. The transition is never easy, but you can get through it. Remember to stay positive and enjoy the experience of living in new place. Many kids never get such an opportunity so take advantage of all there is to learn. Maybe someday, you’ll have the chance to share your experiences with other kids making the same transition.

For your FREE Puerto Rico Welcome Kit, contact your relocation authority, Global Perceptions, today!

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!

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. 


Cross-cultural trainers in Puerto Rico

Is your company searching for cultural training programs in Puerto Rico? Look no further! Global Perceptions provides multinational corporations, universities, hospitals, military personnel, and non-profit volunteers with the information and skills to adapt effectively in the Isla del Encanto.

Relocating to Puerto Rico is not an easy task, even for those coming from the United States. People from all across the world experience adaptation highs and lows no matter where they move to, which can impact their professional and personal lives in both positive and negative ways. This is one reason why having competent, experienced intercultural trainers at the ready is so crucial.

At Global Perceptions we welcome all those making the move to Puerto Rico by providing them with intercultural training programs specific to their needs. Custom-designed programs developed with each client in mind include information to facilitate daily living, negotiate business deals, and generally acclimate to the host culture. Because we recognize the need for the whole family to be comfortable, pre and/or post-departure orientation programs, as well as on-going coaching services, are available for both adults and school age children. This approach stresses the challenges that each member of the family faces and helps them work through any difficulties with experienced professionals.

Global Perceptions staff have adjusted to life in a variety of cultures resulting in compassionate, understanding trainers who can address client needs in either English or Spanish. Staff have also received coaching from Dr. Julie Parenteau, the relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, making them uniquely qualified to serve as intercultural trainers. Perhaps most importantly, they have successfully adapted to living and working in Puerto Rico and are excited to share their experiences with newcomers.

At Global Perceptions we understand the relocation process and the toll it can take on people. That is why we make sure that we address the concerns of all family members, while helping them feel more comfortable in their new home. As a result, program participants develop the confidence needed to navigate their own adaptation process in Puerto Rico. Your company will most definitely benefit from working with our experienced intercultural trainers for your employee’s relocation needs.

To find out more about our intercultural training programs or to request a proposal, please contact our office at 787.455.7764 or visit www.globalperceptions.net.






Expatriate Life in Puerto Rico: Focusing on the Positive

“It’s so hot!” “It takes forever to do anything around here!” “They drive like maniacs!” “Why can’t they pick up their trash?”

After a month in Puerto Rico, these are common statements I hear from expatriates. Although common, they are disheartening. I am not a native Puerto Rican, but I have lived here long enough to be hurt by such comments. More disheartening is that the negative comments outweigh the positive comments. If you find yourself focusing on the negative during your stay in Puerto Rico, consider the following tips to concentrate on the positive.

  1. Go out! Sitting at home is not good for your physical or mental health. Leave the house. Plan to visit a local beach or explore further into the island. Caves, horseback riding trails, golf courses, coffee plantations, and more await you!
  2. Make new friends. Talk with your neighbors or other expatriates. They have information you need and can offer support. Make the effort to meet local people even if a language barrier exists. You’ll be amazed at how much you can communicate through a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues.
  3. Get involved. Find a group that supports causes similar to yours. Join a book club or a gym. Volunteer at the local humane society or Red Cross chapter. Try something you’ve never done before! Take tennis or golf lessons; learn to play an instrument. In Puerto Rico there’s something for everyone so get involved!
  4. Enroll in Spanish classes. Many Puerto Ricans understand English, but their verbal skills are less developed, making conversation difficult. Learn how to find what you’re looking for, how to handle emergency situations, and general vocabulary in Spanish. Doors will open for you and Puerto Ricans will appreciate the effort.
  5. Embrace new traditions. Because of the influence of the United States, many of the same holidays are celebrated in Puerto Rico. However, local traditions for these holidays prevail. On July Fourth you may or may not see a fireworks display depending on the political affiliation of your local mayor. Christmas is celebrated, but Three Kings Day (January 6th) is more important to locals. Work these new holidays into your traditions. Invite others to your home and ask them to bring their favorite holiday food to share. Establish new ways of celebrating time-honored customs.
  6. Search for learning opportunities. Watch what others do; listen to them. Talk to them and learn. Make each moment about what you can learn about the culture and people. Ask questions too. The knowledge you can obtain through observation is surprising and will help you understand the culture better.
  7. Maintain positive thoughts. Start by sleeping regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of exercise. While out, notice the colorful orchids stretching out from the trees in your neighborhood. Enjoy the warm sunshine as it spreads across the golden sands. Find a special place that you and your family enjoy going to and make a habit of visiting regularly. Avoid generalizing and stereotyping. Instead, focus on all the good that is around you.

For additional information on relocating to Puerto Rico and to register for your FREE COPY of the upcoming DVD, “Getting Your Feet Wet: Top Ten Tips for Adjusting to Puerto Rico,” go now to Global Perceptions on Facebook. 

Top Five Reasons to Learn Puerto Rican Spanish from a Native English Speaker

My family moved (AGAIN!) the summer before eighth grade, forcing me, a 13-year old girl at the time, to try to fit into yet another school and community. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad we made that move now when I look back because the new school only had one foreign language option—Spanish. I had already started taking French classes prior to the move, but now decided that I would add Spanish too. I continued studying both Spanish and French in high school and college. After obtaining my Ph.D., I made the move to San Juan, Puerto Rico where I immediately put my vast knowledge of book Spanish to the test. There was just one problem with this. Book Spanish is NOT the same as practical, everyday Spanish. And Puerto Rican Spanish is even more different than what was in the books. I began to seriously doubt whether I was ever going to be able to communicate effectively in my new home. Luckily for me, I’m a very determined woman and wasn’t going to let this stop me from getting the most out of my Puerto Rico experience.

To get to where I am today, I made a lot of mistakes, got lost numerous times, and paid more than I should have on several occasions. After more than five years, I have reached a point where I can speak fluently with natives and have them ask me how I can possibly speak Spanish so well. It’s comforting to know that they approve of and appreciate my efforts. Now I use my experiences to teach other non-Spanish speakers to speak local Spanish so that they can complete daily tasks with minimal stress.

So why should you take Spanish classes with me versus a native Spanish speaker? I’ll give you five reasons!

  1. I have been in your shoes and know the feelings that you’re experiencing.
  2. I know the mistakes that English speakers make when speaking Spanish and can help you avoid them.
  3. I can explain things in ways that you understand using examples from English.
  4. I provide speaking opportunities with someone like you so that you can build your confidence.
  5. You need practice, not perfection!

To take advantage of your FREE, no obligation consultation, call me at 787.455.7754 or send an email to jparenteau@globalperceptions.net. Hurry! Free consultations last until January 31, 2012!