Russia 2018 Football World Cup – Will Culture Win In The End? An Opinion Piece by Matthew Hill

May the most culturally appropriate team win…

As 32 teams line up to compete in the Russia 2018 World Cup, we ask how big a role will culture play in determining the winner? In this light-hearted piece we discuss the implications of country difference on the performance of national football teams.

Warning; Do not put your hard earned savings betting on the findings of this article!

Are They Hungry Enough?

Have you ever wondered what the overarching cultural criteria for winning in football is? The obvious starter is hunger to win. Interestingly, competitiveness has been studied and country comparisons have been made. On a global scale the USA is the undisputed champion. With less than 5% of the world’s population they account for almost 24% of the worlds economy. That requires a high degree of competitiveness. BUT they are rubbish at soccer. Go figure.

my success

Related to competitive behaviour and the drive to win rather than lose, aggression is a factor and, one of the fathers of culture, Geert Hofstede, measured masculinity of culture which can be seen to overlap with being macho (at a stretch.) So. Which is the most macho country? There is no obvious winner but the contenders would have to include Russia, Ukraine and Brazil (forget the man bags – look at the street life.)

Systematic

If you believe that Russia 2018 has already been won on the training ground and the whiteboards of the classroom and in the feeder schools and the coaching academies you may be right. Cultures can be measured for planning, striving for perfection and a focus on task. When we reviewed the Brazilian World Cup of 2014 Germany surprised the whole of South America with their extraordinary long-term strategy of grooming young German footballers from the moment of conception through birth, youth and up till the final whistle.

This extraordinary dedication to process, preparation and pathway paid off as never before. So the planning champions of the World – Germany must be taken seriously. If organised cultures are in with a shout we must add Japan, Sweden and Iceland to the mix as well. (Who ever thought Iceland would be here?)

Taking Risks

Conversely, is it the flamboyant individual flair of the boys upfront that wins matches? Culture studies provide a measure of risk taking, risk acceptance and active risk avoidance into account when comparing countries. Ironically, on this scale, Germany would be placed as highly risk avoidance. They actively plan to anticipate and eliminate uncertainty and prepare for all eventualities in extraordinary detail. If we look at the magical football of South America, we see the opposite where flare, superhuman talent and the theatrical make for a good game. The nearest contenders in the would have to be Spain, Portugal and France. It is interesting to note that there is a correlation between risk-taking and a fatalistic view of the world. In the examples we’ve mentioned here the Catholic faith provides the external input. “If God wishes it to be so, we will win the cup”. Never underestimate the motivating power of a vast external force. Religion has shaped the behavior, the economies and the politics of most of the world. Why should it not also play a part in football?

Rule Breaking

Zinedine Zidane’s head butting of Italy’s Marco Materazzi in extra time at the 2006 World Cup Final (in Zidane’s final professional game) is the classical example of rule breaking. It was an arbitrary, but an automatic reflex to an insult received about his mother. Sometimes principles and deep personal values trump the playing of the game and sticking within the rules.

Teamwork hands helping/giving logo

It is fairly obvious that in a difficult close fought match you need to keep 11 players on the pitch. A red card will rob you of a full team and multiple yellow cards will reduce the talent available later on in the competition. Whilst rule breaking can provide individual flair, the cumulative effect is negative in any one competition, especially involving a knockout element. So, will we see the rule breaking countries making progress? England, Portugal and Russia. If one maintains a detached analytical view, this random and arbitrary adherence to the rules is a risk too far and sabotages a country’s chances.

Power

Political, social and football power comes in two structural forms – vertical and horizontal. With the vertical structure, the boss is the boss and the player is the player. The power is kept by the captain, the coach, or the country manager. What they say goes. The players benefit from this set up because they gain certainty, direction and a clarity of the task in front of them. If the tactics and plan are good enough, horizontal power can be motivating and effective in execution on the pitch. The hierarchical countries are Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Japan, S. Korea and France.

The alternative structure is functional power, equality and democracy. Famously in, Swedish society, decisions are made collaboratively and in an inclusive fashion. Everybody is listened to, the quieter members are respected, and the collective direction is decided and followed. Off the pitch this can be powerful. On the pitch this can be disastrous. The democratic decision makers in Russia 2018 are Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Iceland.

A third choice in this section is reserved to one special country – Belgium. The Belgian compromise is a unique cultural phenomenon where, when offered the choice between black-and-white, the Belgian chooses grey. Not famous for performing well in any football competitions at the national level, we all have a soft spot for this plucky little country.

Direct communication

What do you think is required on and off the pitch? Part of the spectator entertainment package in any big competition, is looking at the communication style of the national coach. Are they calm, controlled and well-dressed? Do they communicate with simple loud commands? Or do they gesticulate like a conductor leading the orchestra playing the rousing parts of the William Tell overture?

If a coach gives direct and obvious input, then the other team can hear it too. There is an argument for indirect verbal language and disguised non-verbal communication being of more use when deployed amongst a perceptive team. Who of our 32 bands of brothers has this combination of indirect communication and subtle context interpretation? The results may surprise you. If this is a contributing factor to winning silverware (goldware) we could be in for a good competition. The countries that stand out are England, Japan and Serbia.

If you don’t believe subtlety wins matches, then you’re likely to put your money on the low context obvious verbal communicator teams. They include France, Germany, Spain and Australia.

Team or individual?

The final contribution from the science of cultural measurement gives us mixed results. Do we think a collective and group spirit promotes a healthy distribution of motivation, a glorious division of responsibility and ownership, and an advanced level of cooperation, and will their coordinated efforts be good enough to win matches?

Ring of many hands team Don’t try this at home…

Or, do we remember individual flair and the exceptional solo physical effort of a standalone hero as providing the defining moments of many competitions? Certainly the latter is what endures. Famous interculturalist, George Simons would say, remember that the man of the moment, stands on the shoulders of others. The contrast in this last criterion could not be more stark. England’s history has been one of the extraordinary individual dynamism often let down by the rest of the team trotting along beside them. Germany has benefited from the even and consistent support of the team reducing the pressure on individual star to perform alone. And historically… They have done better.

An alternative ending.

Decades of study in the field of culture throw up strange and unexplained phenomena. We have not factored in the support of the crowd. This must be a major factor for the great successes of South American teams and Spanish football. And, let’s add another important question – What are the people drinking? There are three main alcohol groups in Russia 2018

Rotwein

The beer drinkers – in it for the long haul, slow and steady, emotionally balanced with an even workplace. (England, Germany, Denmark and Belgium.)

The wine drinkers – emotional, artistic and graceful they are poets, philosophers and performers. It is all about drama and can end in triumph or tragedy – nothing in between. (France, Switzerland, Serbia, Croatia, Spain and Portugal)

The spirits drinkers – Courage, soul and drama typify this group. Complete loyalty to each other, sacrifice for country and team, and, heroism also marks out the firewater teams. (Brazil, Russia, Poland and Ukraine)

Conclusion – so science and culture indicate stronger performances then you might imagine from Switzerland, Sweden and Iceland, great progress by France, Spain and Serbia, and heroic efforts by England and Germany. But never, ever discount Tunisia!

Gold Nugget

Warning – Matthew Hill does not know that much about football!

 

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Notes From A Big Country. FRANCE. An Experiential Action Research Story By Interculturalist & Observer Daphne Laing

How did this wild adventure start?

The context

Having talked about a more authentic, shared life together during holidays walking the grand randonnees, in September 2017 we finally realised our dream, upped sticks and moved to Brittany, Western France to start a new adventure. The first thing to say is obvious: when dreams become reality they are no longer dreams; and this is where our story begins.

Watermill of Huelgoat, Brittany

 

The project: to set up and launch a residential centre for training courses, workshops and retreats in the peaceful and inspiring surroundings of rural France.

Daphne 1

Part 1 of the Story – Months 1 – 4

Starting as we meant to go on, and in my case with 30 years’ experience of giving intercultural integration advice, we were determined not to fall into the trap of relying on a support network offered by other Britanniques….no! We were going to integrate right from the beginning!!!! We set about asking for advice where the French go: at the mairie, the CCI (Chamber of Commerce) and of course in the bakery and tabac.

Observation 1: the advice and insights given by others who have done the same thing is invaluable, but especially in the form of person-to-person contact. There is very useful objective advice online, but internet forums are generally to be avoided!

Step 1: moving in….

Early indications: deliveries have to be guided in by phone. Mostly they have satnav but this is not to be trusted. We found that about 3 conversations were necessary for every delivery. Where does that figure on Hofstede?? Problem: I thought I spoke French, mais non! The phone was impossible. Every response was met with what seemed like a whole life story while I was still deconstructing the first greeting. I was also frankly out of the habit of answering the phone and talking to a person rather than a robot…

Daphne 2

“Please, what is the context??” I plead, trying to figure out yet again who this was and, even more challenging, where they were – since we didn’t know the geography any better than them!! In our area houses do not have names, so nobody knows where to direct a delivery if you have just moved here, because they don’t know you… Oh and dont’ worry about why that package arrives and leaves not from the post office but the coin fumeur (…..smokers’ corner) tabac in the next village….

Observation 2: so we need to be known!!!! …Start with the “weak ties”…neighbours, baker, newsagent…..

Step 2 Get registeredGrappling with bureaucracy, processes and “the system.” As we intend to be fully integrated into the community, working and living for the majority of the year in our little village, we need to set up our official support network. The problem is that when we ask the locals, they give us the answer but they don’t realise that we are the equivalent of David Bowie in the Man Who Fell to Earth…We don’t know the background, we haven’t grown up with the way the system is organised; so each meeting is positive, friendly and helpful, but we still come away with a feeling of mild panic that we still don’t really understand what is going on because we can’t put the “whys” with the “whats”. We feel as if we are getting almost nowhere fairly slowly, but I still have total faith that suddenly, like climbing a mountain, we will reach the top, having matriculated and received notification of our taxable status.

The result is that we go to all the offices we are directed to but often in the wrong order. After every meeting with another very helpful civil servant we come out encouraged and optimistic, but still not quite sure if anything has moved on. Problem: if you don’t know the system you can’t tell if we are progressing. Observation: wow it cannot be exaggerated how disorientating it feels to arrive in the new system. After 4 months we’re not yet registered with health and social care but we think we have managed to register the business and we have definitely managed to register the car…born in Italy, raised in UK and naturalised in Franc.

Daphne 3

We meet the mayor and get to know the staff at the mairie, which has lists and records of everything and everyone in the commune and is the go-to place for everything: getting planning permission; inviting international visitors who need visas; forming a club; contributing to the newsletter; picking up bin bags. Here you can’t be invisible and you are instantly accountable. Next, off to the bank to open an account – armed for the second meeting (the first meeting appeared to be relationship building) with proofs of address/ residence/birth/ proof of income. The application process is personal: “Madam has travelled a lot” and is all done with the utmost courtesy and friendliness despite the fact that our financial investment is minimal to tiny.

What a huge learning curve – fascinating, mentally tiring and baffling… but soooo interesting, frustrating – and sometimes bizarre. As an intercultural professional I am genuinely interested in the underlying, the abstract, the philosophy… how come everything is so different?….

What do I love about France so far?…the focus on people; the fact that you can be neither unaccountable nor invisible – the close relationship with the commune . our mayor sees to that – you are acknowledged (“weak ties”) everywhere you go, and after around 4 months we are starting to get more than a “bonjour”……petit a petit…… I love the fact that everything is discussed before anything is done – then it is done with absolutely no nonsense, and the person who has done whatever it is, is automatically accountable for their actions… and there is a kindness and a sensitivity both to the human condition and to beauty and art.  Oh yes and although we are STILL finding the 2 hour lunch break annoying because for 30 years we have been programmed that that is when you pop out to get things…… I really appreciate that all working people have 2 hours a day where they mostly eat together, talk together and bond…….. And the space around us, and the lack of M6 motorway (or any) traffic.

What I don’t like? Probably all of the above on a bad day!!!!

Until the next time,

Daphne

About the Author – Daphne Laing is a language and intercultural training specialist now based in France with a long career in training and academia. During the 1990s she worked in Executive training at Regent Executive and Lydbury English Centre before joining Higher Education where she headed up the Centre for Language and Communication Training during the halcyon years of Internationalisation in UK. During that time she was involved in several EC funded projects to that end as well as partnership development activity in places as diverse as Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Burma and China. Her practice is deeply rooted in observation and discovery and on encouraging personal reflection and growth. She is now working as an independent consultant and trainer and is setting up an inspirational residential centre for education and personal development events and courses in Pen Ar Bed (top/head/centre of the world in Breton) in Western France.

 

BREXIT Salvation is at hand – 10 Ways to Save the UK from Wrexit

We could always just rely on the Government to sort this out…

Only joking – The Cabinet must have now been briefed to such an extent that even the deafest of them has finally and fully realised the folly and cost of full-on BREXIT. So what is to be done? Here are 10 colourful suggestions that will put us on the road to a safer UK, a richer Britain and give us a better chance of keeping our jobs over the next decade.

Reader Warning – If you have a limited sense of humour or possess rabid levels of Breximatosis, please do not read further and consult a foreign doctor at the NHS…while you still can.

Military tents. Military scientist. Tent label

  1. A Cross Party Medical Movement

Stoke Mandeville hires 650 surgeons specialising in spinal repair from the EU and sets up a long row of M*A*S*H style green tents in Buckinghamshire to deal with all the MP’s that are currently suffering from Simpering Spineless Servant Syndrome – SSSS. They all have steel inserted to replace their current jelly-like backbones, recover, take a collective quadruple espresso and start representing the 54 Million people who did not vote leave.

With their new found powers they wake up and respond to the country’s actual impending economic crisis and start endeavouring to reflect the majority of their constituent’s current position on Europe.

They sweep all the muddled party leaders aside and start to act as one intelligent body as they last did during World War II to get us through the biggest mess since… World War II.

Theresa_May

  1. A Positive U Turn

Theresa May resolves her internal crisis of conscience about her, “I want to be Prime Minister, no matter what the cost to my party, my country or greater Europe and even though I am a secret Remainer.” dilemma.

Next, she issues a genuinely courageous apology for getting it all so terribly wrong. She is then able to acknowledge the brutal truth of the country’s current perilous position and begins to show INSPIRING LEADERSHIP to return us from the cliff edge back to a prosperous and constructive dialogue and relationship with Europe.

Brexit

  1. TV Game Show

Britain’s Got Traitors – Each week one of the biggest names from party politics is prosecuted for treason with celebrity “barristers” presenting real evidence of their lies, duplicity and self-interest during the referendum campaign.

If found guilty, the studio audience then vote on an appropriate punishment for the disgraced politician.

The programme will be beamed around the world to raise revenue to help reverse the losses in UK income suffered due to the drop in foreign trade, unpicked, unsold British fruit and our anaemic pound.

  1. Apology

Jeremy Corbyn delivers a sincere apology for helping convert an irritating opinion poll into a real and dangerous law when he should have done the opposite. He is then rewarded for his moral strength with an honorary seat at Oxford University teaching “Social Ethics” and the “History of the Working Class” to confused Millennials.

Vince Cable

  1. Botox

Vince Cable – Simultaneously the brightest leader of any political party and leader of the least likely party to make ANY progress at all in the next decade.

Vince is given a vast prescription for Oil of Olay, Royal Jelly and magnums of Red Bull and put on the speaker’s circuit to spread his wisdom and magic, night and day to the British public in EVERY town hall in the UK.

  1. The Unexciting Voice of Reason

Phil Hammond is publicly pardoned for backing BoJo as Maybot’s replacement as PM in a typical Tory moment of madness in the wake of the 9th of June disaster. As the closest thing to sensible in Government – he takes over the Tory party and Cabinet and begins the difficult task of sorting this mess out. The least exciting of all the options but the least worst Tory one.

Edward VIII

  1. Crowd Funded Abdication

Again, let’s get the public involved. When King Edward VIII abdicated in disgrace in 1938, he was paid off in cash and shipped out the become Governor of Bermuda. Let’s have the same for BoJo, Maybot, DD and Psy-Gove-Path.

Or, maybe we could have them form a crack leadership team to rebuild hurricane-hit Barbuda, one wooden house at a time?

  1. Reparations

Each of the 17 million BREXIT voters is fined £2,353.00 for their part in our economic downfall. The money is collected and given in compensation to the 17 million people who voted remain. This will balance out the costs for the economic damage caused, IF it is REPTEATED every year for the next decade.

David_Cameron_official

  1. The Tower of London

Dodgy Dave Cameron takes his kids to the Tower of London and joins a guided tour. When in the White Tower, he leaves his kids (again) and wanders off to look at one of the cells. A sharp eyed member of the public slams the cell door shut and Cameron, who started this fiasco, gets the opportunity for a little contemplation time – to regret and confess his mistakes with quill and parchment. His publisher replaces his planned autobiography with the new tome and all the royalties are sent in compensation to Polish painters, plumber and plasterers by way of an apology.

  1. Invade Luxembourg!

We get a jump on Trump and pay a cheque to Mr Putin, asking him nicely to send 1000 vodka drinkers and 500 troops to quietly invade Western Europe – starting with Luxembourg. Our rude neighbour Junckers is then forced to telephone the head of our somewhat depleted UK army and ask us for assistance. We will then, for the first time since this mess began, be in a position to make a few small demands about our Exit from Brexit before we all face Wrexit.

Notice – No Europeans where hurt during the writing of this post.

Lucy Fogarty’s Culture Buff Games and Cartoons

Long time SIETARian, Lucy Fogarty has recently launched a company, Culture Buff Games  (to be found at http://www.culturebuffgames.com)   that develops country specific interactive cartoon-based games to help adults and teenagers learn about cultural values in a fun and engaging way. We have a suite of interactive cartoon games for British and American culture.

Lucy is looking for feedback on topics such as the use of cartoons as educational tools, the benefits of gamification, something we covered in George Simon’s recent webinar.

Culture Buff

https://www.culturebuffgames.com/#games

The Case from BRETURN – We Can Clear Up This Mess And It Won’t Take 2 Years.

Brexit or Breturn?

An Opinion Piece by Interculturalist, Matthew Hill Enough is enough of “Brexit means Brexit” – Red, White or Blue. Stop already. The returning weak and wobbly Conservative and Unionist coalition is in chaos and it is their LOSS of a … Continue reading

May’s Brexit Election – A Cultural View – by Matthew Hill

Words from a divided nation

This week Prime Minister May called a snap election to, “unify the country” and allow her to negotiate with the EU on behalf of all of the UK so that she may go out there and get all the good things and have none of the bad.

It will not play out like that.

Big Ben and House of Parliament at River Thames International La

The scene of the crime – Prime Suspect – David Cameron – Do not approach

Before we look at the cultural aspects of BREXIT, let us remind ourselves how we got into this mess in the first place.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne had suffered from criticism and power plays from various factions within their OWN party. This was a Conservative party spat, a “Blue on Blue” bun fight. Chancer Cameron had bluffed his way through the Scottish independence vote and won. He had made another reckless referendum offer before the 2015 election and had never, in his wildest dreams, considered that the UK would be so stupid as to vote the wrong way. And then, in an historically irresponsible and arrogant move, proposed that a simple majority, either way, would dictate the UK’s future relationship with our closest neighbours and largest trading and defence partners. When, the old, the poor and the anti London / anti-elitists (and racists) voted to leave in June 2016, the UK was plunged into uncertainty and became the laughing stock of Europe, all over again.

And now CULTURE

In the war of words BREXIT supporters tended to focus on “immigrants taking our jobs in the UK” and, ”taking back control from Brussels”. Subjects on which both sides were quiet or silent were the cultural and historical perspectives that will come into play now we are leaving Europe and how these will affect us all.

The cultural benefits of immigrants

Between 2004 and 2014, 2.5 million EU citizens chose to come to the UK to live and work. This has made a net positive contribution to UK GDP, productivity measures per worker and tax revenues for the Treasury. In addition, the cultural benefit has been palpable. [Most British people struggle to speak even one language properly (innit)] The vast majority of newly arrived workers speak their native language and passable English as well. Many speak two or more languages and add to the country’s human capital, fuelling the most important parts of the British economy – the export of goods and services to other countries. Having freshly arrived people from our target export markets helps us with both local language and market wisdom as we send our crated goods on their way in lorries headed for the Continent.

Tropical caribbean island in open ocean

A Small Island Near Europe

Immigrants work harder

This sometimes unpalatable truth is most threatening to the unskilled sector where jobs are performed by employees that are exchangeable and expendable. This is not the fault of the newly arrived workers or the indigenous population. It is the way jobs are designed today with most school education being instantly forgotten and individuals adapting to the job market, ending up as minimum wage and sub-living wage employees. Our history as a rich and formerly powerful empire has created a subtle level of expectation for many British workers below which they will not consider working. The average Brit is not rushing to get up at 5 AM and wait for a van on a street corner to head off and pick vegetables on a chilly spring morning. Other EU nationals are.

Fight or trade?

From an historical perspective, when a couple of tribes live in close proximity they have two strategic directions in which to go. They can either battle or exchange goods and services. The main rationale for the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 thus establishing the European Economic Community, the EEC, was to facilitate trade and exchange as the best way of preventing the repetition of the double tragedies of the 20th century.

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing.

Whilst we are on the subject of not learning from history, let us remember that what unified Germany and the Axis powers in their support for Hitler’s strategies and ideas in the 1930s were austerity measures set out in the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Imposed by the victors upon the losers, it created an attractive option for Axis powers – support the German war effort in return for the restoration of lost power and lands – Hitler promised to turn back time.

Teamwork

The EU agreement was the equivalent of a peace treaty. When a peace treaty is signed all parties agree to forgive, to back down from aggression and to cooperate. A lot of European history and baggage has been locked away in the cupboard, for the sake of trading cooperation, EU subsidies and grants and peace. Culturally speaking, Brexit is the key that opens this cupboard and opens many wounds from the past. [Do we really want to re-examine the roles perpetrated by Hitler and Napoleon at a time when we will be negotiating trade tariffs?]

Do we really want videos of the Euro-skeptic rhetoric played before we enter the room with our Continental cousins?

The subjects discussed around European dinner table may turn to reparation, retribution and rebuke.

New bilateral treaties

Instead of the centralised and overly controlling Brussels technocrats telling each of the EU member states what they can and cannot do, we are now in the unique position of sending out negotiation teams to each EU country and negotiating separate bilateral terms regarding defence, trade and the mobility of citizens (country nationals).

To some this represents the essence of opportunity and control. We will finally have a say on our terms of business in Europe. They are perhaps forgetting that it won’t be all smiles and handshakes. We have 950 years of history that will be raked over, brought up, and may well be used against us. This will not be a quick squiggle of a Mont Blanc pen on parchment in some grand hall. Troubled President, Francois Hollande of France immediately hinted at damaging changes France may make to border controls. If British lorry drivers feel frustrated by striking farmers and burning lorries full of lambs now (within the protection of the EU), what will they face if this civilising treaty is ripped up for the Brits? The bottleneck of the channel is our weakest point. Something the wise business people of Britain are well aware of. Add to that the predictable Air Traffic Controllers strikes in summer (we have just suffered from our 47th Strike in the last 8 years) and we begin to form a clear picture of our rather isolated future.

Can we afford the divorce?

Our future will be in the hands of a dubious, and tarnished group of British ministers along with overstretched lawyers shuttling from EU country to EU country trying to preserve as many of our assets as we can like a skewed game of giant Monopoly. And, who will get custody of the golden child? The City of London generates more than 30% of UKPLC’s GDP. Outside the protection of the EU, Germany, France are already having a pop at attracting the golden goose and shrinking the number of eggs it produces. If we don’t retain custody of the country’s best cash generating asset, we will again become an “embittered single parent” after the divorce, contemplating putting on a superhero costume and climbing up the walls of Brussels in a futile and crass protest shouting, “Former EU Fathers for Justice”

Facing a coalition of the weak.

The goodwill and support shown to Britain by the majority of the 10 enlargement states that joined the EU in 2004 that we have enjoyed and required for the past 12 years is beginning to evaporate. Especially as, in their own living memory, the promises of infrastructure grants and bountiful economic progress have begun to disappear, disappoint the local population and put their politicians under pressure. Poland, the striking example of post 2004 success, is now the 7th ranked economy within the EU. As alone most Central European countries are virtually insignificant, they still relish being part of one of the largest trading blocks in the world. As slighted states, sitting across the table from us surrounded by “divorce” lawyers, the energy and relationship will shift. They have got what they want. Why should they now continue to support us so generously? We are on the outside of the tent “looking” in.

Flags and racism

In your culture trainings you teach that culture is less about countries and flags and more about a range of values, beliefs and drivers that subtly influence behaviours and choices. This subtlety will be lost when Brexit becomes a hard reality. We are seeing a return to table thumping Popularism, less sophisticated and more hostile country stereotypes and an increase in racial slurs, prejudice and, inevitably, violence perpetrated upon immigrant populations. And, these include British populations abroad. The Brits in Spain are already treated with disrespect due to their lack of language skills and integration into local society.

Warning Yellow Tape Strips You are about to cross the line

Conclusion

The EU is a mechanism designed to control the behaviour of member countries. Brexit is currently pushing against that reason and control. The Pandora’s box of cultural difference, historical resentment and Britain’s lack of future power will make for a volatile negotiating environment to send our ministers and lawyers into. The British election voter should be fully aware of what cultural consequences they face after the inevitable June Tory election victory aimed at repairing an avoidable Tory mistake.

Part if this blog post was written for Farnham Castle Intercultural Training last year.

 

It’s all in the game! Gamification in intercultural work – George Simons

Ahead of George and Matthew’s event in Lisbon, Portugal –  23rd to 26th March 2017 we present a webinar with Dr. George F. Simons, creator of diversophy®

Distinguishing games and simulations, we will discuss the growing popularity of gaming and its uses in the cultural discourse of today and the different kinds of games in popular use. Topics will include classification of types of games, how and why games can be effective tools for learning as well as community building. We will discuss factors involved in choosing, creating and adapting appropriate games for your learning objectives in intercultural training. This includes insights into facilitation from set-up to debrief, how cultural differences may affect the conduct and results of game dynamics.

Dr. George Simons is the creator of the award-winning diversophy® series for developing intercultural competence now numbering over 60 games. He has designed and often delivers a three-day simulation of Working in the USA in European university business programs. Living in France, he delivers consultation, coaching, & training worldwide. Publications include: EuroDiversity, Men and Women: Partners at Work, Seven Ways to Lighten your Life, Putting Diversity to Work, and eight Cultural Detective® intercultural guides. Currently he is collaborating with organizations and individuals in developing freely distributed acculturation games for migrants and the communities that receive them, as well as training facilitators to administer game events. His articles, reviews and other publications are available at http://www.georgesimons.com

To register go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3322007637342608900

simonsGeorge

Pride, Prejudice & Privilege in the USA

A cultural opinion piece about the US Election written by Matthew Hill

Manhattan at sunset Turn to clear vision…

When two polar opposites face off together we get – Option A – a de-escalation of tension achieved through understanding and reconciliation and, Option B – Resistance, mud slinging and an active ramping up of cold or hot conflict.

In this piece we will explore option A…

The Swinging Diversity Pendulum

The US election campaign was a war – no doubt about it. Barbs were tossed from both sides with little regard for casualties or collateral damage.

As interculturalists, we understand the concept of privilege, power and what their use can do to the “other”.

The last 8 years have seen genuine gains for diversity, engagement and inclusion. Take, for example, the Transgender agenda – from a near zero mainstream consciousness in 2008 to reality TV and the Amazon Prime award winning series, Transparent now.

Looking back (there has been a lot of looking back…) the darker side of the liberal advance was hubris – manifest in dismissive and pejorative descriptions of the “other” and here lay the seeds of their defeat.

Dismissing does not lead to disappearance

Trashing the opposition’s intelligence was never the way to go – Imagine the emotions felt if the Left to Right labels – stupid, uneducated, white working class, bigots and racists where substituted for Right to Left insults – How outraged would the intelligentsia have been?

It takes two sides to build polar opposites and thus diminish the space for dialogue.

Swing

When the media take up the cause of the “mindful”, we know that tolerance of the liberal agenda pendulum is at the top of its swing. And guess what? It is now falling the other way. Those whose privilege is seen to be under threat will not give up their status without a fight. And in the election we saw that fight. The tide of resentment, backlash and frustration from the ridiculed right is seen in support for outlandish and extreme protectionist measures.

Cultural Relativity

By claiming the moral high ground and naming the people in the White House and media as “thinking, caring and correct” – these labels made the other side collectively and relatively; “stupid, cruel and wrong”. Just as with Brexit in the UK, these shamed people feel they have genuine grievances and are attracted to more extreme solutions.

Exclusion not Inclusion

One take on the scenario is that Middle America has been abandoned by both sides and feels intense pain – lower quality low paying jobs, less money left at the end of the week and unanswered questions about how to reverse the local economic decline of the past 30 years.

Bad or Bad?

The Republicans have behaved appallingly towards Obama and with little regard towards helping the mechanism of Government itself – pursuing a spiteful agenda of zero cooperation. The Democrats have not been blameless either. They have not addressed the local issues faced by the population – low wages, sub-prime fraud, mass house foreclosures and the alienation of the squeezed middle. They have supported Big Money instead.

It is with universal disgust that Americans see Washington as Hollywood for ugly people bargaining for their own self-interest at the cost of the Nation and with no Hollywood happy ending in sight. Trump can be forgiven from thinking, “anything is better than this.” His extraordinary ability to transcend his own privilege, tax avoidance, sexual abuse scandals, serial strategic bankruptcies and contrived conspiracies against opponents to convince people that his philosophy is the best for his country, speaks volumes about the angst and frustration of a vast sway of voters.

Bald Eagle Make America Great Again?

The Dream

“Make America Great Again” – panned by the liberal elite as crass and by many minorities for whom the 1960’s and before where a long nightmare of oppression and exploitation.

The nostalgia pitch seemed to work. Harking back to the halcyon days of the 1950s;

*Vast sexy cars, modern homes crammed with labour saving consumer gadgets and obedient housewives helping the bread winner to a cocktail and having supper ready for him when he returned from a not too arduous but highly rewarded day’s work at the office.

*Smoking, whisky, employing secretaries for their looks, a marriage bar for many office roles and a good time had by (NOT) all.

*Pool parties and picnics – It was not actually the case for the majority then and certainly it is only reality for a privileged few now.

*For many – their role in this world was as the unloved support, with no choice but to accept the inequality that kept this show on the road.

(If you think nostalgia is the way to go, I have one image for you that may blur your halcyon vision of the past – 18th Century dentistry!)

Push and Pull.

If the Pull of nostalgia was a fantasy, the Push was more urgent and keenly felt. The protest was against the political insanity of Congress, the economic consequences of Globalisation, the death of regional metal bashing in America and the starkly contrasting figures – the USA has about 5% of the world’s population and accounts for about 23% of the world’s GDP. “How then”, asked 60 million Americans, “can I not afford to pay my ever-increasing health insurance premiums?”

Add to this the unpunished crimes of the sub prime housing scandal where the biggest banks were bailed out and rewarded for their immoral exploitation of US working citizens whilst the average Joe and Joanna were not helped out in any way as they experienced the burning shame of house foreclosure. This dark chapter was remembered by many.

Changing the game

For DJT to win against the tide of the media is nothing short of extraordinary. His bizarre and extreme statements gained enormous airtime. His conspiracy theories laid waste to opponents and his nationalist rhetoric resonated with the dispossessed – pushing a complete outsider to the most important job in the world.

With Facebook fake news, a departure from facts and proof (post-truth) and the wildest campaign promises seen since Hitler, the ground was set for a revolution in a country still seeing itself as a Democracy.

The real marketing miracle was for a man tide to Big Money and an address book that went right the way to the top to convince Middle America that he was one of them and would serve their desperate needs for jobs, better wages and a return to easier times. The push and pull must have spun heads.

And with a little help from the Democrats

Many commentators where offering the advice; “the lesser of two evils”. Looking back, this may not have been the MOST appetizing choice at the ballot box. It was matched in the 2002 French Presidential elections by the, “vote for the criminal, not the racist!” slogan that WORKED and got Jacque Chirac elected back as President of France.

Hilary had a ton of baggage to carry around with her on the campaign trail – a list of dubious business connections and dealings, a propensity for war and shameless connections with Big Money. And a less that world changing promise that NOTHING would change.

That and an old man sitting in a blue “court dock” behind his wife during the TV presidential debates looking on with a tired and stony face whilst the most sordid chapters of US Presidential history were dredged up again and flung about the debating hall.

We guess that Bernie Saunders made a pact with Hilary a couple of years ago to mop up the next generation and anti-Hilary liberals and hand these free thinkers over to the Hilary camp at the last minute – A cynical move too far?

What of the Future?

DJT’s Roosevelt / Keynsian infrastructure investment proposal – enormous sums of printed and borrowed money will keep the country calm for now – Nobel Prize winning , Joseph Stieglitz, points out though that the innovation and new industries that will drive US growth will be very light on labour and will fail to provide the promised vast increase in new jobs or a general improvement in the quality of living for most beyond giving them new domestic, leisure and work based gadgets to buy.

New jobs will be created. The majority, however, will be in construction and will be accompanied by minimum wages, poor working condition and little dignity – Not quite the dream of 1950s Hollywood as seen with John Ham in Madmen.

Ripples around the world

Overseas, the French Presidential election will be the first barometer of the world’s reaction to DJT. Before we saw Slovakia, Austria, Poland take a clear step to the right. Who will be next to join them?

One cent coins and Dollar banknotes Big money or local income?

Conclusion

Forget the FBI last minute e mail actions, computer voting fraud, the Popular vote and Russian interference – DJT’s rhetoric about immigration, closing borders and his promise to create jobs for regular people is what the frustrated and unheard responded to.

All that has come before has lead to the nice folks of the USA listening to these words and taking notice.

A sobering thought for all of us.

 

Reverse culture shock – the dirty little secret of repatriation by Felicia Schwartz

Where’s my driver?

The trouble with repatriation is that few expect “coming home“ to be so difficult. Of course the notion of “coming home” in itself is largely ambiguous because the place one knew before has changed during one’s expatriation as have we as people. Roaming around old stomping grounds chasing shadows is hence often more alienating an experience than confronting a new culture we consciously know will be a challenge.

Crazy Suitcase Plane

Coming home…

It does not help that the environment and companies largely ignore the returning expat’s plight. There is little in the way of readjustment programs or any consideration that the repatriate may need help fitting back into the very place they came from. Complaining about having lost the maid and driver and taking a salary cut also tends to attract “surprisingly” little sympathy.

What a blunder!

Why did I ever come back?

This stands in stark contrast to the tightknit expat communities, training programs and VIP treatment that welcome the expat upon arrival in a host country at the start of their mission.

As a result, many repatriates quickly become disgruntled and experience difficulty both in their private and professional lives. BBC capital found that in 2013, about 16% of workers left their employers within two years of a global assignment ending, while relocation experts such as Brookfield GRS and GMAC quote twice that number*. In any case, given the considerable investment in expats, any attrition would seem like a big loss in terms of ROI.

It would make sense that companies step up their efforts to support repatriates, but also give more thought to making use of the repatriate’s skills and knowledge. Of course, repatriates can also plan their own readjustment process more thoroughly:

  • Where possible, expert relocation consultants such as Brookfield GRS suggest repatriates should prepare for repatriation a good 6-9 months prior to their return. This includes planning and discussing new positions at work, living and family arrangements including schools and so on.
  • Expect the repatriation process, similar to expatriation, to extend over several stages of adjustment; the honeymoon period: “its so nice to be back in a place where the air is clean and shops are quaint, it feels like a holiday!“ to culture shock “Why are those people at work so parochial and where can I find a decent Chinese restaurant in this city?!“ to eventual adjustment “need to get a mortgage, need to sort out pension, need to plan a vacation to the Isle of Wight“ …
  • Similar to expatriation, it is crucial to adjust one’s behavior and devise a strategy for a smoother transition;
  • Refrain from starting every second sentence with “Well, in China/ Bahrain/ Rio …” while at the same time ensuring that one’s international expertise is well known and recorded across the organization.
  • Equally, avoid overloading friends and colleagues with stories of wonder and adventure in rural Guangzhou – only offer information when asked … as hard as the prospect might seem!
  • Develop and show interest in some aspect of local life; sports, music politics …and get involved in the local community. Volunteering is one meaningful way to do so.
  • Proactively ask for training if you feel any specific topics/ technologies/ skills have bypassed you while you were abroad. A mentor might also be useful.

From a psychological point of view it is primordial to achieve closure on the expatriation period and stop pining for the past or giving in to the urge of constantly comparing. Without such closure it will be difficult to successfully move onward in a familiar yet new environment which requires a great investment of positive energy!

Author Profile– **Felicia Schwartz has spent 13 years in China and is the founder of China Insight www.hitangandccc.com/china-insight a training and consultancy company helping businesses and executives adapt to cultural change and markets across China and Europe.

Felicia Schwartz

* Data Sources – Dr Katharina Lefringhausen : 23% (GMAC, 2013) to 38% (Brookfield, 2010) of repatriate employees resign from their company within the first year upon return and up to 50% leave after 2 (Brookfield, 2010) to 3 years (GMAC, 2013) upon return.

 

Brexit Exit – It is easy to be a Critic. Less easy to stay and LEAD by Matthew Hill

Laughing through the tears…

(Reader Warning – This is a opinion piece that takes a helicopter ride over a complex subject and contains ironic humour.)

Looking back on the dramas of the last 2 weeks in the Dis-United Kingdom there are some things that have now become clearer and other things that we may never know.

Two issues – It seems that there were a multiple of issues being decided on 23rd June 2016 and not just the notion of EU trade vs World trade.

Perhaps the quietest issue was to prove the most profound – the voiceless hard working people of regional England and Wales protesting successfully against the London elite and their pursuit of personal positions of power whilst continuing to marginalise the existence of the regional population.

London, UK. Houses of Parliament in Westminster

New luxury flats in the centre of London

The disenfranchised voted and were heard. And they will NOW be ignored as a tiny minority of the country (Tory MPs and party members vote for the next Prime Minister to lead the country at this, the beginning of a 40 year negotiation marathon to divorce from the EU (whilst keeping the cleverest child – Access to the Single Economic Market), forging new trade ties with the US, China, Russia, and returning to former lovers – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Irony – It was the poorer parts of the country that wished to distance themselves from the EU. Despite the fact that they are the greatest beneficiaries of EU largesse when it comes to being awarded valuable Regional Development Grants.

Fisheries – We heard a lot about “loss of control of our country” – the one concrete example was UK fishing grounds (should that be water?) The depleted fishing fleet of the UK will now be able to fish more freely and… export their fish to Spain (or will they?)

Racism – The police are reporting a spike in verbal racial abuse, physical racially motivated attacks and a general increase in xenophobic rhetoric. This harks back to the extremes of the campaign and the ethnocentric chant of “Give us our country back” (from Whom and to Whom?) Scapegoating the Polish for coming over here and displacing us with their intelligence and positive work ethic seems to have found resonant favour with the mob. These visceral abusers have dulled their senses to history (we are all immigrants. Britain robbed, stole, enslaved and killed in the name of empire AND the British Government gave right of abode to the 800 million people of empire in 1931 and the right to work in the UK to 507 million people of the EU in 2004.) The sacrifice of Polish and Czech pilots during WWII is conveniently forgotten in the heat of the moment as emotions fear and stress take over.

The lies – the Leave campaign talked of a two year divorce, the £350 million a week fee to the EU now being available to fund hospitals and schools, EU having sovereignty, 60% of British laws coming from Europe, an immediate halt to immigration and that the EU would beg us to continue trading on terms of our choosing as they needed us SO MUCH.

Unfortunately none of this was true.

And the remain campaign was not above telling vast fibs in support of their cause. Their message though was undermined more by internal conflict, a complacency based on the notion that not enough people were crazy enough to want to leave and that they could continue to fight internal political battles with each other instead of devoting their time and full concentration to producing an agenda leading and honest campaign for reform from within the EU.

Corby-Nation – The most complex sub plot of the last decade surrounds the leader of the opposition – overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn suffered an assassination attempt, a coup from Tony Blairs’ faction both inside his own party and from powerful lobbying groups and Tony’s cronies populating many powerful places in the media and the outside world.

Killer

Hello Jeremy, it’s me Tony.

The Conspiracy is that – it would be better not to unite and attack the current political vacuum and provide some national alternative leadership but, instead, to destroy the Labour party thus providing a distraction from the Chilcot report on the even bigger disaster of the second Gulf War.

WMD – Widespread Ministerial Deception – The Chilcot report (after 7 years) says, in the longest and most British way possible, that the war was an all round cock up from start to finish. (Interculturalists please note the 2.6 million word report is the most low context document on earth and Sir John Chilcot’s speech the most high context one you will hear this year.)

PS – Honest Jeremy did, however, contribute to the disaster we all now face as his incorruptible stance did not allow him to give a clear boost to the remain campaign.

Onwards to the Negotiation table – In the early 1970’s we put away the history books and moved on from the past. The EEC The European Economic Community was the thing. No more mention that Britain had been at war at one time or another with just about all of the major EU players with the only exception being Greece.

From a cultural perspective, those dusty history books look like being opened up again and used against us in a court of law, during the elections in France and Germany and around the negotiation table as we sort out 27 new bilateral trading agreements.

Cultural Perspective – For interculturalists this mad moment provides an expensive and invaluable case study with rich content for your classrooms – The Brexit being an example of the dangers of Government lead patriotic rhetoric, the power of the media to spread negative country stereotypes, a case of complexity keeping reason and clarity from the masses and, the reversal of 40 years of Diversity and Inclusion practice in the workplace happening in a matter of weeks.

What’s next? – a second referendum will not happen. The exit negotiations will be delayed but will begin. The next wave of opportunists will take their places in Parliament as Prime Minister and head of the opposition. The pound will be weaker, speculative and dirty money pouring into the UK PLC will diminish (not a wholly negative thing), The economy will move into mild recession as investment and strategic corporate decisions are delayed and the regions that voted leave will begin to feel the immediate cold wind of economic downturn even before winter arrives.

PS – Scotland will leave the UK and the violence in Northern Ireland will increase.

PPS – Summer holidays will be 10% more expensive.

The End – Going Going Gone –  On behalf of the leavers – Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn – “Sorry” (They have not uttered this word themselves but we know they feel burning shame and guilt at this time.)

(Number of words in this post – 1066 – that is a British history joke.)

 

The Author Matthew Hill is currently applying for Albanian Citizenship.

Vintage Koffer - Burg, Spreewald.