Cultural Risk Management Part III by Glen Burridge

Just how serious is it?

I’ve previously said there is a risk in our world that, by virtue of its very pervasiveness, we are more blind-sided to than any other. It threatens us with the most terrifying consequences if we do not respect it and, yet, if we harness its power, it can be an accelerator towards our greatest riches: It is that of Cultural Risk.

Assumption No. 2:

“Even if it exists, there is nothing to be done about it….”

This the biggest stumbling block we face and many people never get beyond this point.

This failure to see a solution is best explained by what can be ascribed to a malaise in both the Cultural and Risk fields.

Perhaps the question would be better re-framed:

“Why is the knowledge that exists to tackle it not being deployed more effectively?”

There are after all not one, but two fields of expertise meant to be dealing with this.

Let’s start with a simple representation of broadly pretty much any activity human beings engage in:

At the heart of this view lie two inescapable elements:

  1. What drives how groups of people behave: “Culture” (the shape of their collective motivations)
  2. What people do for the results they want: How they judge the benefits against the “Risk” (ending up in a desirable place in the range of possible futures)

    Glen Burridge Cultural Risk Model

    Cultural Risk Model

Why the intercultural signal has been lost

The field of intercultural studies should be a coherent whole, but isn’t. This is a deep irony as much as it is a tragedy.

Originally born of the need for anthropologists to make sense of “exotic” cultures that were cut from cloth very different from their own, the study of the ethnic or national dimension of inter-cultural relations carries with it a genuine, and life-affirming curiosity to explain, reconcile and improve relations between communities, whether they be tribes, regions, nations or even global blocs. Its remit can be said to range from the village green to the UN.

Equally, there have been various attempts at understanding the way assemblages of people work together as organisations since the 19th Century. Driven by a far more prosaic imperative of effectiveness, it reaches to understand the same dynamic of how people can work better together, whether it is in the name of financial profitability, optimising supply chains, guarding reputations or simply completing a mission.

Despite tackling many of the same material questions about human collective behaviour, these two perspectives remain unreconciled; the latter may not even be aware – let alone, seek co-operation with the first – with protagonists finding themselves having to delve into psychology, business studies, sociology, applied linguistics and communications for answers.

The only potential touch-point you’re likely to find is within international management studies, where the interface of culture is all but inevitable, but this is a niche. Pick up a publication from the two sides of the cultural coin and expect little overlap in thinkers.

In recent times, a third dimension has taken on a consequence all of its own, due to the ability for the global community to talk to and between itself. These are the self-identifying and potentially ephemeral cultures (manifesting, as they do, often in digital form) of networks. If there is one global social activity that perhaps defines our current time, it could arguably be this one phenomenon.

This fracture is at the heart of why we do not see our most pressing questions of the day framed in intercultural terms. There is no shortage of expertise or technique. It’s that the brand is simply too weak.

If you want a perspective on what the intercultural can offer and Glen’s own take on what holds it back, see his 2014 presentation slide deck from the Dialogin international management conference in Konstance here:

http://glenburridge.com/what-constrains-the-impact-of-cross-cultural-thinking-on-global-leadership-a-consultants-view-2/

Management’s nasty secret: It too easily forgets all risk is human…

The fundamental issue that has still yet to fully dawn on many organisations is that their greatest risk has always been and always will be human. No technology or opaque algorithm is going to change that anytime soon.

“All aircraft accidents are human factors accidents”

Captain Dan Marino, International Civil Aviation Organisation – pioneer of human factors in aviation safety

We are reluctant to contemplate the role of our own Human Factor in the vulnerabilities of a given situation. The complexity of our world and the challenges we create for ourselves mean this reticence to consider the risk we create from our own collective psychology is no longer tenable. The wonders of neuroscience, probability theory and data visualisation have also marched too far for any more excuses.

Now, some subjects are so huge and the issues so pressing, they require a whole new literature and approach. For the most eloquent raising of the warning flag on the way the spectre of uncertainty is handled by organisations, look no further than Douglas Hubbard’s brilliant The Failure of Risk Management. Otherwise, follow Alexei Sidorenko on LinkedIn, who posts almost daily on this theme.

In short, what’s gone wrong with the classic manifestation of “risk management” as we understand it today is that it is shot through with our own fallibility – to the point of its own self-destruction. We need to couple our stunning abilities to numerically model a sweep of possible outcomes and their probabilities with the Human Factor. Only then can we hope to provide the best chance for quality decisions and a far more realistic and resilient vision on the true uncertainty we are facing – from which threats will surge or benefits develop.

As we’ve moved into the 21st Century, a whole new field has become dedicated to this very task, born out of the lessons of behavioural economics and social psychology, namely Decision Science, a topic I will no doubt return to, since it is our greatest hope for a vehicle to resolve this.

Cultural risk management as a trade

The other good news is that the two most fundamental applications of cultural risk management happen to have been foundations of our global society for thousands of years. So much so, we can be forgiven to taking them for granted: They are the relationships we form with each other through diplomacy and through trade.

The art of finding a mutually agreeable solution between multiple sources of power must rank among the oldest three professions (even if others commonly are accorded the epithet!) and the fate of everything from individuals to, at times, the entire human civilisation has hung on its success.

Without functioning diplomatic relations, you do not have much of a basis for society-level stability, the ability to assure safety nor to progress through exchanging ideas and material objects with other groups. There’s a very close and immediately acting correlation between lack of diplomatic effectiveness and anarchy.

The first place to look for mastery of this art is, therefore, among the great diplomatic successes of history, sometimes which are acts by single individuals. And, then, to look, by extension, at those who seem to have an uncanny ability to reach out to many groups, either with ideas or products.

Stripped back to its elemental, cultural evolution comes down to the (sense of…) distance between parties and whether they have anything which the other feels is of value, whether that be material, knowledge or even an idea. This was true in the hundreds of thousands of years when we were not much more than a clever pack of apes eking out an existence, as it is now when a quantum scientist, salesperson or political commentator speaks to a collaborator, customer or journalist on the other side of the planet. We might wrap it all in cultural artefacts like research funding, capital and network analysis, but the essential dynamic is just the same as it was on that river crossing, tundra or forest clearing back in our earliest days.

About the Author – Glen Burridge is a management consultant who’s come to the conclusion that intercultural risk is the greatest threat and opportunity lurking in all we do. To handle it, we need to think of culture as multi-faceted, ever-present and a context for every decision we ever make.

Contact Glen at glen@glenburridge.com 

#culturalrisk #riskmanagement #humanfactors #intercultural #crosscultural #management #risk

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How do Chinese millennials travel differently? – By Felicia Schwartz

The world is changing

Chinese Millenials are defining travel as they account for nearly 60% of all outbound travelers and 93% of them consider traveling an important part of their identity. Millenials’ travel patterns are a reflection of who they are as a specific demographic group, different to their more conservative and thrifty elders ; They are more ‘hedonistic’ in their willingness to spend money to indulge and pamper themselves and slightly less price sensitive. They are looking for meaningful, adventurous and exciting experiences. (GFK)

Chinese Millenials

International trips are predicted to rise by 25% over the next three years, while adventure trip, polar expeditions, and road trip travels are predicted to increase by 52%, 38%, and 75%, respectively. At present one in eight tourists to Antarctica is Chinese while Finland’s Lapland region last year recorded a record 92 % rise in overnight stays by Chinese visitors. Meanwhile Chinese demand for adventure travel is causing a shortage of skydiving instructors in New Zealand. Other adventures that Millenial independent travellers are interested in include zip-lining over Volcanos, riding in a hot air balloon, abseiling or caving, and tubing, water sledging or river surfing are top on the aquatic wish list (designhotpot.com)

 They are increasingly independent in their travels ; the 25-35 years olds tend to be semi independent ; traveling several times a year and planning some organized programs while keeping overall independent, 20 – 25 years olds travel by themselves and are open-minded about staying in hotels that might not cater for their specific cultural needs. The youngest contingent (18-20 years old) are willing to stay at hostels and backpacker-type accommodations. There is a growing search in this age group for “authenticity” and local experiences as they travel and discover the world.

They are hyper connected ; Young Chinese travelers are digitally savvy and highly involved in sharing experiences on social media platforms. 50% use travel booking sites (the three most popular being Ctrip, Qunar, and Tuniu) and they rely on review sites when planning their travels. When at their destination, WiFi is a key amenity for 63% of Chinese millennials surveyed and for 70% of 18 to 20-year-olds.

However, with all their differences. Millenials still need to be seen through the wider lense of the Chinese traveller. First of all, Chinese do travel more often than others in groups of 2 or even 3 generations. Cruise liners, for example, typically have to contend with Chinese guests that span several generations. This is when it becomes handy to focus on communalities such as food predilection and other dining habits as well as the ubiquitous love of shopping,

While nature and hiking as well as culture are on the rise as a travel motivation, amongst millenials, “good shopping experience “ still comes in third place as an overall reason to choose a destination.

It is also worth noting that the Eastern concept of service and hospitality is more hierarchical and service focused than it is in our Western egalitarian societies. In general, Chinese travellers do not really like to rough it. According to tour operators in Africa, while some Chinese travellers clamour for walking and canoeing safaris and request sleep-outs under the stars, mostly Chinese clients prioritize staying in comfortable accommodations, having the flexibility to choose if and when to go on an activity.

And just as Chinese millenials conform to certain wider Chinese cultural norms at the macro level, they also divide into specific sub groups when taken under the micro loop.

Author Profile – Felicia Schwartz

Felicia Schwartz

Felicia has pursued an international career in branding working for global communication agencies such as Ogilvy and Dentsu. Her work took her from her native Austria to France, the U.S. and eventually to China, where she spent 13 years and specialized in strategic planning and consumer insights.

Currently based in London, Felicia helps brands and companies understand the Chinese consumer through cultural insight research and achieve effective business objectives through cross-cultural intelligence training. She has worked extensively with HR teams, delivered business skills courses as well as global mobility workshops including to youth. She has experience across a number of sectors such as automobile, luxury, cosmetics, retail and fast moving consumer goods.

She counts the UKTI, EDF Energy, OpenJaw technologies, Jaguar-LandRover, Renault-Nissan, Valeo, Bayer, GSK, Bicester village, Publicis Advertising, AURA and the IPA (Institute of Practitioners for Advertising) amongst her clients.

 Felicia is a graduate with Dean’s list merits, from Duke University in North Carolina, USA. Felicia then obtained her Master’s degree from Sciences Po, the prestigious Institute of Political Science in Paris, France.

She speaks fluent German, English, French and Mandarin Chinese.

 

Book Review “Cultural Chemistry”, Author, Patti McCarthy, Review by Simon Cordon.

Cultural Chemistry should be required reading for anyone working with ‘someone from somewhere else’.

book mock up

Written with the business professional in mind, it is a powerful reminder that successful partnerships come down, in the end, to successful personal partnerships. As professionals, we are often at pains to present ourselves as subject matter experts, but we may struggle to communicate that expertise and to build lasting relationships.  Working across cultures is rarely ‘business as usual’ and this fascinating, thoroughly researched book includes many real-life case-histories from people who got it wrong.  Patti’s  use of clear, straightforward language makes it easy to read – even for late night travellers and those with English as a second language – and the inclusion of a simple 4-step coaching model gives readers a practical personal development tool.

4 Step Coaching Model

This book should be read by anyone hoping to succeed as a global professional, whether they are already established as one or are an aspiring student, or a local in a multi-national company trying to better understand their expat colleagues who have been posted from head office.

Review – Simon Cordon is Director of Management Consulting at KPMG, Melbourne, Australia.

Where can I find “Cultural Chemistry”? 

The easiest place is on the book’s website www.culturalchemistry.com.au where you can buy the book in paper form or pdf.

patti

Author Patti McCarthy

About Patti McCarthy

Patti calls herself a ‘cultural translator, someone who helps people from different cultures to communicate and connect more effectively’. She argues that nobody would attempt to play competitive sport without first learning the rules, yet people attempt to conduct business in other cultures without understanding the local protocol paying due attention to cultural issues.

Originally from England, Patti has also lived in Belgium, New Jersey, Botswana, Singapore and Australia. As a long-term expat herself, Patti appreciates the potential for misunderstanding, conflict and personal isolation. She finds that many expats are completely unprepared for the professional and personal challenges that relocating brings and at around 40%, the failure rate is alarmingly high because of it. Many employees of international businesses fail to take advantage of the opportunities that cultural diversity provides and this naivety can be dangerous and expensive, both professionally and personally.

Apart from her personal experiences in relocating, Patti worked for three years as a relocation consultant and is a Master Life Coach and Master NLP Practitioner. Cultural Chemistry was established in 2008.

Contact Patti patti@culturalchemistry.com.au UK phone: 07944 636 091

 

Cultural Risk Management Part 2 by Glen Burridge: Deadly Assumptions

Now, I hope I started to frame this last time, but let’s take that first assumption and look at some practical evidence of why it needs dispelling. This won’t be the normal size of my blogs. This is just too important an subject. But stick with me….

Assumption No. 1    “This topic has little or no effect on my world: I have more important things to worry about”

This is so big I’m going to break it down into two parts.

Part I: Every Human Grouping Has a Culture

Let’s start with internal culture, the one that exists in every grouping or organisation of human beings on the planet. This is the aspect most people are familiar with.

In the world of business, the evidence of its importance is legion and its consequences run from operational ineffectiveness through to life and death:

  • In a 2008 survey of more than 1500 industry executives, IBM found that roughly half of all projects fail due to “company culture”

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/bus/pdf/gbe03100-usen-03-making-change-work.pdf

  • Deloitte ‘Core Beliefs & Culture’ survey from 2012 illustrates the power a corporate culture has on how happy and valued employees feel:

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-core-beliefs-and-culture.pdf

Exc orgs 

  • The Final Report on the Investigation of the Macondo Well Blowout by the Deepwater Horizon Study Group (2011), one of the worst industrial accidents in of recent years:

“It is the underlying safety culture, much of it so ingrained as to be unconscious, that governs the actions of an organization and its personnel. [These are] cultural influences that permeate an organization and an industry and manifest in actions that can either promote and nurture a high reliability organization with high reliability systems, or actions reflective of complacency, excessive risk-taking, and a loss of team situational awareness.”

http://ccrm.berkeley.edu/pdfs_papers/bea_pdfs/dhsgfinalreport-march2011-tag.pdf

We also know that increasing the variety of the people who make up an organisation, in terms of the most fundamental traits, has a positive impact:

Diversity

http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

And you don’t have to take my word for it, listen to what these two men have to say about the topic of organisational culture, who know a thing or two about running a business….

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not be even aware of the extent to which this is happening”

Edgar H. Schein. Renowned American organizational psychologist, Emeritus Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Peter Drucker. 20th Century business management guru and writer

The ends might be different, but the same undoubtedly goes for the public sector and our governments. Any listing of the largest organisations on the planet,

e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_employers

is dominated by state-driven entities. Just contemplate the complexity and cultural diversity – in every sense – of a collection of several million employees represents for a moment. By any standards, these are equivalent to nation states in themselves. Even a several thousand employee organisation will have its own clans, power struggles and centres, outlying regions, dialects and a clear sense of norms and networks of communication and action.

Part II: When Worlds Collide

For an organisation that remotely cares about its interaction with its operating environment, it’s very tempting, especially for a commercial entity, to simply state that what’s important above all is their relationship with their customer(s). This makes complete sense…..on the face of it, but the correlation between corporate health is mixed, as examples:

The truer reality is any organisation, whether public or private sector, sustains its existence with its overall relationship with its operating environment.

Crudely speaking, it is fed by a demand from within that space, whether it be from a market or a power centre. Its survival may assured through various means: extracting profits, exchanging goods, offering expertise, a social contract, acting on behalf of a governing mandate or through distributing services altruistically, among other things.

Whatever your organisation does, it will inevitably be interacting with others, no matter what your or their motives. And each will possess a culture(s) which will never switch off, constantly interplay and collectively shape a new reality.

The trouble is that if you ask a random person on the street what “inter-cultural relations” are, chances if they have the patience, they’ll figure out more or less what it should mean. However, except for those working in certain fields, it’s far less likely to be something they systematically think about much and there is even less chance they claim it as an area of expertise deployed on a frequent basis.

Even those who are consummate interculturalists most likely don’t name it and will often put it down to “good personal qualities” or the like. The idea that groups they belong to are actively engaged in such issues will take some head scratching. Even though the consequences may be very apparent to them, only if pushed, are they likely to bring the C-word into it. And don’t be surprised if – even if you get here – when they refer to culture, they will be exclusively talking about ethnic or national ones (…we’ll get to that, in a bit).

It’s not that Culture isn’t ever-present or of capital importance, it’s that most people are simply not taught to frame relationships in intercultural terms, which is tragic since its master practitioners literally save the world or, at the very least, your world every day. Each diplomat who recognises that the point being made in a treaty negotiation stems from a deep-seated historical perspective born of an ancient sleight, each business person who realises that a sale needs to occur in a certain pattern to gain trust in this market, each presenter who outlines their arguments in a way which reaches out to a colleague from another discipline…..they are all making the world an easier place to live in and moving forward human progress. Belligerent, selfish or malignant actions taken in the world are, by definition, anti-intercultural in that they drive away mutual comprehension and productive co-existence.

Yes, I told you this stuff was important, didn’t I?

Maybe it is my training as a geophysicist, but I like to think of the inter-cultural relationships acting as a wave-field. Like the sun’s energy that bathes us, culture is something we are constantly bathed in. The spectrum frequencies change slightly with every moment, but it is inescapable and complex, but if you make an effort to understand it, it is something you can harness for all sorts of good.

We’ll get back to what goes into that ocean of waves, but for moment I just make one plea – don’t limit your thoughts on this subject to flags, languages or belief systems. There are complete strangers you can meet from the other side of the world who you will have instant an instant cameradery with, based on affinities that go well beyond those factors. Have a think….

Now, if you still don’t think this subject is of capital importance, take a look at this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

Culture plays a significant and inescapable role in pretty much any one of these effects that warp and shape our activities. Go through any of them in your professional life and see if you can think of an event where you saw this effect in play.

And now, count up the cost…..in money, reputation, uncertainty and RISK.

Billions of $’s in accumulated financial losses have resulted from not adequately addressing for this element of risk, hard-earned standing and reputation has been dissipated and yes, many lives lost. And what’s worst is that it, if deployed, it presents one of the greatest opportunities for all-round gain and it is sitting in plain view to any organisation that decides to engage with it.

That’s where this concept of Cultural Risk Management sits, right under each of the human behaviours that influence the full sweep of your organisation’s operations.

Talk to the AuthorGlen Burridge. For a discussion of the topics raised in this article and associated blogs, please feel free to get in touch with Glen at glen@glenburridge.com or via LinkedIn.

Cultural Risk Management – Part I of a new series by Glen Burridge

This is the first of a series of articles where Interculturalist and Earth Scientist Glen Burridge be looking to highlight a topic that confronts us every day in all aspects of our lives and yet is frequently neglected by both organisations and individuals: Cultural Risk Management

Crowd. A large group of people of a white background.

If we have one characteristic as humans that represents both our greatest capability and our greatest weapon it is our ability to self-organise.

In other words, to create cultures.

In these groupings, we become actors in the world, through our organisations, societies, tribes, networks and communities. Through them, we trade and we exchange, we engage in conflict and war and we create things of beauty and value. In doing so, they form the basis of our identities and influence our behaviour at every moment. Some stem back to the origin of our species, while others are bubbling up as we speak.

Culture as Lifeform

We may do our best to romanticise them, especially those identities to whom we belong and find the most meaningful, yet a culture is – at best – no more than a meta-stable life-form. As ambient conditions vary, vulnerable cultures die, a few coalesce, whilst others are born. They are susceptible to changes in the environment, undergoing perpetual fashioning by external challenge and interaction – an analogy with viral behaviour would not be unfair – and our increasing connectivity with each other accelerates this process.

History tells us that cultural ‘entropy’ has operated since our earliest times: As human populations have expanded and come in closer proximity, there is a tendency for any extensive culture to produce homogenisation of society in their image. In order to survive the onslaught, any target community will require strong traits – either of adaptability, invincibility, suitability or to defy the threat by virtue of distance or size. There are moral and practical consequences to what is lost and gained by such an organic course, but it could be argued that this is simply the to-and-fro of natural selection at play; a culture is no more than an elegant ecological solution to a problem at a given time.

Whatever their origins and health, what the human story makes abundantly clear is that the simultaneous greatest threat to our future wellbeing and opportunity for positive development comes from the interaction between cultural groups. This is where interculturalists operate and (ought to) have a capital role to play in our future.

Yes, it really is as important as that.

Limited Space

The Earth, at present our sole home, has a surface area of 510 million square km. That might sound like a lot to you and me, used to possessing only an infinitesimal morsel of that terrain, but of that immense expanse only roughly 20% is habitable. In terms of the volume of our planet, only a fraction of 1% is a survivable biosphere. We are currently adding over 200,000 extra people per day to that space.

It pays for us to get along well with each other.

The Other

Cultures, with their attendant values, motivations and artefacts will come and go, but the perennial question that matters is whether these groupings – and their representatives – are able to find a common basis in which the existence of the Other is not a accompanied by fear. No group is ever going to fire a nuclear warhead deliberately at itself, it will always be at an Other. ‘Civil’ Wars are anything but civil. They entail the disintegration of the façade of a collective identity under exterior pressure or internal reckoning.

Equally, all valuable endeavours we embark on culminate, in some form, in a collective effort. At all scales of our lives, this entails an association of existing bodies, whether they are political, commercial, humanitarian or social. We therefore know we are going to face a myriad of interfaces in much of what we do. We ought to be prepared. Any organisation that neglects the multiple dimensions and effects of culture is ignoring not only its own DNA, but that of the environment it operates in.

Yet, despite a whole field of solutions that now stretch back more than half a century, the risk associated with cultural interactions remains the one we are collectively most reluctant to address in business and in the world at large.

The worst kind of success

The worst kind of failure is when we ignore a critical factor that was staring us in the face all along. The worst kind of success is one achieved without the capacity to repeat it, carrying threats into the very next situation we find ourselves, but now with a perilous confidence, until the moment of drama when we realise we have made a serious misjudgement, when it becomes no longer a risk, but history.

In the following articles, Glen will open up the discussion to explore further dimensions of cultural risk, how deeply it reaches into our lives, society and business, which go far beyond the familiar cultural realm of national identities.

For a discussion of the topics raised in this article and associated blogs, please feel free to get in touch with Glen at; glen@glenburridge.com or via LinkedIn or leave a comment below.

glenEarth Scientist and Interculturalist, Glen Burridge

 

 

Why Cultural Sensitivity Matters More Than Ever in 2017 – LSIC -Matthew Hill

The London School of Communication’s Cathy Wellings asked me to pen something on the need for keeping culturally aware and sensitive in these challenging times. With her permission, here is an except and a link to the full article on the LSIC website.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 10.36.13

The London School of Communication Culture Blog

And a link to the full article; https://www.lsictraining.com/about-lsic/blog/article/why-cultural-sensitivity-matters-more-than-ever-in-2017-338/

Book review: Bamboo Strong: Cultural Intelligence Secrets to Succeed in the New Global Economy by David Clive Price

Review by Grant Hall, Founder of the League Cultural Diplomacy, International Events Management Through the telling of his immersive life experiences in a variety of different cultures and locales, David Clive Price delivers practical advice on how to develop your … Continue reading

Living with the Culture Shock of Brexit – Then and Now – A personal piece written by Nadège Welsch

Then and Now…

London Skyline at Dusk with City Hall and Modern Buildings, Rive

Part 1 – THEN – 27th June 2016

“This weekend, with news of the results of Brexit spreading across the world, has been a very challenging time for a lot of People, and I would like to share not only what I went through but what some of my fellow European and pro-Remain British friends may have gone through too.

I am an Intercultural Consultant. I help expatriate and global managers adapt to their new environment. In facilitating their adaptation I always refer to the Culture Shock curve and its five stages: Excitement, Denial & Depression, Culture Shock, Acceptance and Acculturation. The last time I experienced the Culture Shock curve for myself was moving to Singapore 10 years ago!

Over the course of this weekend I moved through the first two phases and am now heading, at some speed, towards culture shock.

The excitement phase was before the Referendum results, I think most of us were positive that the UK would vote remain and thus demonstrate that we are a strong Europe and that Europeans fit naturally along side British folk. When the results came in on Friday morning, as I woke up at 5:30am, I couldn´t believe that Brexit had happened. I was in complete denial, I just couldn´t wrap my head around it although I had an aprehensive feeling that it might happen, but again, my excitement was stronger. I found myself accepting the decision of the British public, as I live in their Country, and I need to accept their wishes but, trust me, I still felt out-of-place especially going heading out for dinner that evening. The atmosphere felt colder than usual, but I put this down to my own projections.

Tears in the morning

The rest of the weekend was set aside for the depression phase – waking up in tears not knowing what the future will bring, especially working as a freelance Consultant and delivering Trainings to, mostly, European expats – teaching them how to integrate into the UK, so that was a big shock ! What will I do? I thought I would spend the rest of my life here, I have friends which are now part of my Family, I have a home that I bought, I have a car, what will that mean? What does the future hold?

I also had a few talks over the weekend with a few Young British People and asked them what they thought of Brexit and a lot were shocked and angry. They said they were “Europeans” and not British citizens, what will happen for their future and their kid´s future? They won´t have the opportunity to have work experience abroad, travel, learn languages and go abroad to train themselves, so, overall, a big shock all round.

When I spoke to European friends and colleagues most felt betrayed, stabbed in the back, not welcomed and also fearful for their future.

We now know that nothing major will happen over the next two years and that, as Europeans, we will be able to stay. What will be the conditions after though? I think the acceptance phase after the shock sounds like, “One way or another if there are no Jobs, I/we will have to move back to Europe”. I think this is what our culture shock is about, leaving a beautiful country, our friends, our lives.

For now, however, we need to wait and see and try to get out of the shock phase to get on and live our lives.

Part 2- NOW

6 Months post Brexit:

Panorama of a big summer field

Six months have passed since the Brexit Referendum vote. What has happened up to now? How do I feel? And, how do we as Europeans feel in the UK?

Since the announcement of the referendum and even after Brexit was voted into reality, many of us, in the intercultural world and in broader Training and Development have noticed a significant slowdown in business. A colleague of mine mentioned that some of his programs had been canceled, another said that some clients were backing out of training committements and that they wanted to wait for the New Year. Why is that so?

Unfortunately there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, Brexit was one major event and shock in 2016. This was closely followed by the election of Mr Donald Trump, and now we can hear, throughout Europe, the loud voice of right wing movements, Austria was close and France will be the next test. What will happen there? At the pace we are going, everything is possible!

What will this mean for the world…for Europe?

What we can see is that there is mistrust of politics in general and a fear of the unknown and its consequences for peace, employment and our way of life. All of those participating in racist actions, protest votes and the results they are generating are people that want CHANGE . They are asking – who else can give them change? Noone but those who run against the existing political system.

We need to bring back trust and respect for one another. It is through cultural consciousness that we may avoid further conflict and make sure that our children grow up in a peaceful world, where citizens are respected, have a job and can practice their religion without challenge.

So, where am I then, after these last 6 months? I think I am still in the shock phase. And there is hope. I am edging toward the acceptance phase. we need to wait and see, and to see past what the press is telling us, go past what politicians are trying to sell us (from their own position of confusion, choas and fear) and make sure that our objective is for harmony and making sure that we engineer the conditions that allow for all of us to live together in peace.

welschAuthor Profile – Nadège Welsch

Nadège is Franco-German starting her career with a major German Telco based in Munich where she worked with Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa.

She expatriated to Singapore for a year and half before immigrated to the UK to pursue her passion for culture. With an MSC in Business Psychology she created Be-a-Chameleon seven years ago, training individuals as well as groups in cultural awareness, working effectively across cultures and working effectively in multicultural teams.

Nadège speaks English, French, German and Spanish and is a passionate advocate for cultural consciousness.

sky and hands

“Are you for REAL?” Language as a window to our soul – Matthew Hill

bubble of communicationNext year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the destruction of the Iron Curtain. This year I found myself in many training rooms with people whose parents were most affected by these changes.

A common legacy from those times is an abundance of negative language, even from the mouths of employees in dynamic global companies. I thought it pertinent to revisit negative language and ask, “What’s really going on?”

  1. Stress test

From my time in the Czech Republic a generation ago I finally worked out what the excess of questioning, pessimism and doubtful language really signified. The Soviet context had been one of low expectations, cynicism and a constant diet of untruths disseminated via radio, television and newspaper. When the new country invaders from Germany, France UK and America arrived, their language of promises, short-term sacrifice and future riches must have sounded sickeningly familiar.

Over time it became clearer that the doubting questions, the need for proof and the hesitation were intended to stress test the foreigner’s promises. So the reframe for negative language heard in those times was a simple question, “Are you for REAL?”

  1. Science

Entropy describes the universe in its inexorable journey towards chaos and randomness. Pessimists are often closer to the mark with predictions of the future than their optimistic counterparts. The second reframe of negative language can be to see it as the pure and selfless pursuit of accurate forecasting!

  1. Change

I was working with a large group of people from Central and Eastern Europe recently and, as we began an American open form group exercise, I was hit by a wave of resistant language, critical questions and dire predictions. These individuals were subject matter experts and had been ripped out of their home environment and resettled in downtown London.

The context is important. Their reluctance to perform this random task was a reflection of their hesitation to embrace the change that they faced. They were cautious, fearful and their language betrayed their inhabiting something like a childlike state of not knowing.

  1. A good old moan

There is comfort and a bonding warmth to be found in having a moan, gossiping or whinging about shared circumstances. It is a large part of British small talk and I encounter it frequently when travelling to a new country and meeting a new training group. This seems to be a social attempt to unify diversity through articulating common themes and so building a temporary harmony that fosters the conditions in which a relationship can form. This of course comes with the caveat that it is frequently used for political ends in economically challenging times to unify disparate people to hate one minority, foreigners in general or the government of the day.

  1. Forced positivity

If I were to control your working hours communication with the directive that all of your words have to be optimistic, positive and upbeat, would you comply? For a lot of people this is a reality and their answer is yes. A couple of years ago I used to meet socially with a group of guys from a very famous American pharmaceutical company that pursued this linguistic policy.

What struck me as funny and a little tragic was that, under social circumstances in a Twickenham pub, the other side of their lexicon came out in a torrent. It’s as if, for every forced positive phrase, one negative phrase had to be uttered later to restore their inner peaceful balance.

  1. Permitted negativity.

There are 2 examples that stick in my mind. The first are some famous fictional detective figures that have full permission from society to be grumpy old men. Their surly belligerence is portrayed as a essential part of sleuthing genius and their tortuous ability to always get their man.

The second example is much more dangerous. In my UK trainings it is the overtly racist exchanges between English and French executives or the permitted taunts between groups of men and groups of women. The third horror is to be found in the inter-departmental jibes as, for instance, between sales and marketing.

Under the guise of banter, badinage and permitted cheek, these exchanges seem intended as proof of a trusting in-group bond but feel sadly like a rain of micro-inequities and acts of aggression.

Conclusion

Negative phrases provide a fabulous opportunity to ask, “What lies beneath the surface conversation?” Certainly from my time in the Czech Republic it was possible to separate the human from their words and the human’s intention from their deeper fears.

Matthew Hill is an author, trainer, coach and public speaker.