Tag Archives: study abroad

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!


Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.

What life and study abroad have taught me about leadership

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


The universe is a funny place. Over the last few days, multiple signs have come my way, nearly tricking me into taking notice. You see, as humans, we are blind to most of what is going on around us. We wander around without really understanding our purpose. We IMG_1314miss the signals. We lose opportunities. We are oblivious, either keeping our heads in the sand or in the clouds. It isn’t until we step back and really listen to the sounds of the universe that we experience any sense of true clarity.


One of this week’s signs was watching the episode of M*A*S*H* in which Hawkeye is asked to light the stove in the girls’ tent and nearly blinds himself when a gas explosion shoots from the stove. He is immediately rushed into the ER and his eyes are properly bandaged. The normally chatty Hawkeye goes into overdrive, talking up anyone who will listen until his buddy Honeycutt tries to calm him down. Instead of calming down, Hawkeye becomes intensely passionate while explaining the transformation that he is going through as a blind man. He talks with such conviction of the beauty of listening to a rainstorm. He has been forced to step back and listen to what the universe is telling him. It makes him a stronger, more cognizant and authentic person when the bandages come off.


Before you get your hopes up, that sense of clarity does not instantly appear in front of you by simply taking off a bandage. To truly understand who you are and what your place is in this world takes time, patience, and painful confusion as you dig deep into yourself.

Clarity does not come easily.

Clarity does not come easily.


Your insides start to churn, slowly at first. As the images, sounds, feelings around you become clearer, the motor shifts into high gear. Digging deep enough to produce that clarity is a very emotional process. Not everyone can handle it. However, to be a great leader, you must be able to endure the pain and confusion and come out better on the other side of it. It is hypocritical, if not impossible, to lead others down a similar path if you have not been through it yourself.


I will not claim to be an expert on this subject, but I will say that I am consciously walking my own path toward clarity of purpose and message. I know that I am a leader. That has been clear to me for a long time. But what kind of leader am I meant to be? Who am I meant to lead? How am I meant to lead?


The answers to these questions became slightly less murky last night while participating in a visualization exercise in a women’s empowerment group that I belong to. We were asked to think of a moment when we have felt powerful. After sifting through my memories, one image became very clear. It was me during my study abroad trip 15 years ago. That was my moment of empowerment. As the activity continued, I focused on travel images, finally settling on the Eiffel Tower. I have always been enamored by it, but now I know why. To me, the Eiffel Tower represents independence, strength, and innovation. Each of those words was practically screaming from within me as the tower image became sharper and sharper in my mind.

Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.

Study abroad taught me about the person I want to be.


As a result of that exercise, I have realized that I want to be an Eiffel Tower leader. The Eiffel Tower is a classic symbol of the city and spirit of France. The fact that the tower starts from a wide base and moves to one single point demonstrates the struggle toward independence and the few that make it to that point. The materials used to build it and the time that it has stood attest to its strength, even in trying times. The sense of creativity and curiosity, as well as the incredible resourcefulness needed to construct such a structure represent the innovation needed to design and build it.


That is the kind of leader that I want to be. I want to be someone who instills independence, strength and innovation in herself and others. I want to be an Eiffel Tower leader. Had I not stepped on that plane 15 years ago, I may never have been witness to the magnificence of this towering monument. Little did I know at that time that my study abroad experience would eventually lead me to define what kind of leader I want to be. Now enough writing. I have work to do!




Dr. Julie Parenteau is President of Global Perceptions, a communication and relocation consulting business located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on her and Global Perceptions, please visit http://www.global-perceptions.com/ You can also follow Global Perceptions on Facebook and Twitter.

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Independent decisions

Adventures in Study Abroad: Lesson 2



Southern Wisconsin Farm

Ever since I was young, people have recognized my independent nature. I have always wanted to do things by myself without the help of others. In fact, I chose to walk to the bus stop with an older neighbor girl on my first day of school, leaving my heartbroken mother to watch from the window. This is simply part of who I am. It wasn’t until I had the chance to study abroad however, that I truly felt independent. I went to college in the same town where my family lived to make going to school affordable, so this was the first time I lived away from home. I was solely responsible for my studies, health, money, and more. What I ate, how often I did laundry, when I went to bed—they were all up to me, as were the consequences of my decisions.

While traveling through Europe, I was confronted by all kinds of situations that I had never experienced before. For example, I went to youth hostels across the continent and was repeatedly assigned to a room in which I was the only female. I recall being so uncomfortable the first time that I called my boyfriend back home to talk it over. It was just so unexpected for someone from my cultural background.

In Rome, I arrived at the train station without a lodging reservation. Previously I had not had problems going up to any of the hostels and getting a room, but that day was different. I wandered around the blocks surrounding the station, but found no vacancies. Then I noticed a small hotel and thought to myself, “This is what they make credit cards for. Stay here for one night and then find a more inexpensive option tomorrow.” The concierge standing guard must

Roman Convent

Roman Convent

have read my mind because he pointed down the street and told me to knock. I didn’t fully understand him, but hesitantly knocked on the door anyway. I was granted two nights lodging in a room of female Japanese tourists in a convent! That’s right, I stayed in a convent in Rome! How many people can say that?

After touring Munich one day, I opted for a cheap dinner at a recognizable fast food restaurant. As I sat with my sandwich and fries, a twenty-something man looked over at me and began to speak. My inability to speak German spread over my confused face. The man quickly switched to English, striking up a conversation which showed that we had something in common. We both knew Wisconsin! His girlfriend was studying in Madison and I had grown up not far from there. We talked for a bit and then he offered me a ride back to my hostel. It

German Fast Food Restaurant

was cold and dark and I was not sure of the way so I took him up on his offer. He even permitted me to call my boyfriend from the car phone in his Mercedes! A solitary dinner turned into a pleasant experience.

As I now look back on those seemingly minute moments, I see them for what they were—very naïve decisions made on the part of a young woman without the cultural cache that I know possess. I recognize the uninformed theories that I used to make those decisions and am eternally grateful that there were no serious consequences as a result. On the flipside of the coin, had I not had experiences like those, I may not have become the resourceful, culturally-informed woman that I am today. Those circumstances taught me to look for the good in people, to always have a Plan B, to assess the situation and choose the best course of action for me, and above all, I learned to rely on myself, trust my instincts, and become independent. It is these experiences that have shaped who I am today.


Please tell me how your study abroad experience has impacted your life by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you!

I have applied my study abroad knowledge to start Global Perceptions, a communication and relocation consulting business based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on our services, visit www.global-perceptions.com or call 787.455.7764.

Journey Abroad

Adventures in Study Abroad by Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


Fifteen years ago, I embarked on a journey that would forever change my life. I left home to study abroad as part of an exchange program coordinated between my home university and one in Rouen, France. As I look back on that period, I see how that experience shaped my career decisions, personality, and values. This month I will reflect on some of those experiences. I will start with my departure from Wisconsin.

With enough luggage to provide for an entire family, I left for O’Hare airport in Chicago on that brilliant August day. I don’t recall being nervous, but as a 20-year old college kid from a small farm town in Wisconsin who had never lived away from home, I must have been.

Into the Brave New World

Into the Brave New World

All I remember is that I was incredibly excited to go back to France and to visit with my best friend. I achieved a life-long dream of visiting France two years earlier with my high school French class, but this was different. This time I would be on my own, forced to fend for myself without the security of a bilingual teacher to translate if needed. I was fully independent.

After a roughly eight-hour flight, I arrived in Amsterdam, my first stop.  Outside the baggage claim I was greeted by my dear friend who had been an exchange student at my high school during our senior year. Occasional phone calls and Christmas cards kept us in touch, but seeing her waiting for me warmed my heart. It also made managing all my luggage much easier! Thank goodness her father had invested in an American-made car or we may not have fit the passengers and luggage in the car. (Yes, I have since learned to pack MUCH differently!)

Along the drive, I looked around at everything through a jet-lag induced haze. From what I could see, The Netherlands looked a lot like Wisconsin. Lots of farm land and vibrant green vegetation as far as the eye could see.

After we arrived, her family sat down with me to inquire about my trip over coffee and snacks. It didn’t take long for them to see how tired I was and offered to let me sleep for a bit. I accepted.

Clogging around The Netherlands

Clogging around The Netherlands

The next day our adventure began. Before we even left the house, I managed to short circuit their entire home when I used the wrong adapter for my hair dryer. I was mortified!

The rest of the week was filled with trips to fishing villages in the north, museums in the south, a late night bike ride to a pub with her friends, and wandering the streets of Amsterdam. It was just the kind of welcome I needed to ease into the idea of spending four months away from home. It also allowed me to overcome the jetlag before heading into the classroom.

At the end of the week, all of my luggage and I got on a train in Utrecht headed to Paris. As the train pulled into the train station, the nervousness began to creep into my mind. Here I was with an impossibly large suitcase, a duffel bag, a shoulder bag, and a backpack and no idea where I had to go to get my train to Rouen. A young woman stopped to help me, explaining that I had to take a bus to Gare St. Lazarre.

I don’t think I will ever forget the looks on the driver’s or other passengers’ faces as I maneuvered my bags onto the bus. I was every bit the American tourist. My jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes and incredible amount of luggage screamed AMERICAN! I was mortified once again!

Thankfully, the other passengers helped me navigate the stops to get off at Gare St. Lazarre and I boarded the train for Rouen. It had already been quite a day and I was tired. A woman noticed and started to speak with me. I explained that I would be studying there, which

My Study Abroad Home

My Study Abroad Home

excited her so much that she offered to give me a ride to my university once we got off. Once again all of my bags were loaded up into a European compact, leaving barely enough room for me to sit.

Pulling up to the university gave me a sense of relief. At last, I had made it. This is where I would live for the next four months. This is where I would learn to count on my own ingenuity and become resourceful. This is where I would gain independence and strength of character. This is where I would get lost and find myself. This is where my world would open up and where I would come to numerous realizations about who I was and where I wanted to go in life. Of course I was blissfully unaware of the overall impact of this trip until much later, but as I reflect on the course my life has taken over the past 15 years, I am fully cognizant as to why I am where I am and how I got here. That is a humbling feeling.


Please tell me how your study abroad experience has impacted your life by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you!

For more information on how I have applied my study abroad experience in my own life, visit www.global-perceptions.com


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