“Good afternoon, Ms. Jones. Hi there, Suzanna.”

What impact can this simple exchange have on a newly developing cross-cultural relationship?

I have an American colleague who is easygoing, friendly, and wants to build trust with her associates in France. On a recent conference call, she noticed that she was often addressed by her surname.  “It felt stiff and strange,” she said, “and even a bit unfriendly. Is there anything I do to fix this?”

The first step is knowing that a communication gap like this can often be attributed to cultural preference. I have no doubt my friend’s colleagues are just as interested in building trust with her as she is with them. But different communication approaches can lead to misperceptions, and a slow start at establishing a meaningful business relationship.

Cultures that have a preference for Formal Communication, like France, follow strict rules about forms of address, especially based on age and status.  Use of a first name is by invitation only, and highly dependent of whom you are addressing. Children are taught from a young age that questioning or disagreeing with authority is not acceptable, and this attitude permeates well into adult life.

Informal Communication orientation cultures, like the United States, use more flexibility in how you address others.  Use of a person’s first name comes with ease and is expected in return. Expressing an opinion or questioning a decision regardless of power or authority is acceptable. Reticence in this behavior can be perceived as reluctance, and even negativity.

Another cultural preference that can influence business relationships is Power Distance. Renowned social psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede defines Power Distance as the extent to which less powerful members of organizations accept an unequal distribution of power.

Cultures with a Hierarchical orientation are formal, with a top down approach. The person with power has the solutions. Subordinates rely on managers for direction. Employees are expected to complete tasks as directed, and the powerful are entitled to privileges.  You will find that you have to assert more positional authority in order to achieve results.

Cultures with a Participative orientation are more informal. Ideas and suggestions can come from any organizational level. Subordinates are expected to be consulted, and they participate in decision making.  There are fewer levels of management with a matrix structure. Completed work depends on collaboration, and employees have equal say. In general, it is more important to get the work done than it is to go through appropriate channels.

The impact of Power Distance can be significant unless you are aware of the potential for communication gaps in doing business, and what you can do to close them.

Here are a few tips for a Participative-oriented manager working in a Hierarchical culture from Catherine Mercer Bing’s book Many Cultures, One Team: Build Your Cultural Repertoire.

1.  Leverage the Power Position of senior management to drive projects, make introductions and connections, and communicate expectations.

2.  When dealing with change, tell subordinates what to do differently.  Do not leave it to them to figure out.

3.  Use legitimate power to exercise authority.

4.  Use an approach with higher-ups that is perceived as a “help me understand” posture.

5.  Use the proper organizational channels.

6.  Respect the formality of the hierarchy.

What are your own personal cultural preferences? What are the preferences in the countries and cultures where you are building business relationships? Find out by visiting the Culture Coach Online and completing your Cultural Profile Questionnaire.

Click here to request access.

Written by Diane McGreal, Living Abroad Cultural Advisor

Sometimes it’s the little things

We have all been experiencing some momentous events lately: Brexit, the U.S. election, and of course the ongoing pandemic and its effects around the globe.

At times like these, it’s more important than ever that Living Abroad delivers the most useful, current information to you and your employees.

Sometimes that means the sweeping changes that you gained in 2020:

– Every destination homepage revamped to bring you straight to relevant links detailing immigration changes and COVID-19 response.

– New Health Alert links at the top of every country’s “Health & Safety” section.

– Streamlined and enhanced “Passports & Visas” articles get you to the best authoritative sources in each country.

– Top global COVID-19 resources parked at the top of every page.

Meanwhile, micro-topics also continue to hold our attention. Whether it’s making sure we provide you with fresh country-specific Holiday Dates links every new year, reviewing trends on mobile payment apps in a given country, or introducing Diversity and Inclusion content — we’ve got you covered.

We also continually streamline and enhance our enormous bank of information, fine-tuning language and format so that it is most useful. Paying a great deal of attention to detail on our back end makes for a better overall experience for you.

With so many changes to how we live, work, and move people, rest assured that the Living Abroad team relies on our deep experience even as we work harder than ever to flex with the new normal and meet essential client needs.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group​​​​​​

Moving with furry family members

Last year, due in no small part to millions spending much more time at home, there was a dramatic increase in pet adoption. As we return to global mobility, what will people need to consider when it comes to their new furry friends?

In most cases, a healthy dog or cat can travel to an overseas destination. Many countries require you to obtain a health certificate for your pet prior to importation. This document certifies that your pet is disease-free and lists all of the vaccines your pet has received. It also includes your pet’s age, breed when relevant, and microchip information. Be sure to keep your pet’s veterinary checkups and immunizations up to date and follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding microchipping.

While going through the procedure of importing your pet to a country, be sure to monitor your home country’s re-import regulations. Prior to departure, you may need documentation from your home country that your pet originated there. If your pet will be in quarantine in a destination country, visit the animal periodically to reassure it, and to maintain your bond.

In some cases, it is more appropriate for a pet to remain behind. For example, if the pet is old or ill, if it cannot be imported into the destination country, or if its living conditions would be too affected by local climate or restrictions, it may be more suitable to find someone to look after the pet during your assignment.

It’s also important to be aware that there are services who can do a great job of supporting your pet travel and caretaking needs around the globe.  Relocation can be a series of overwhelming, stressful and complex processes. Ensuring your pet’s smooth transition through the process will also help your own peace of mind!

Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center reports provide in-depth local information about traveling and relocating with pets.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Product Manager


What do you wish for our industry?

With 2020 now behind us, I asked some esteemed members of the global mobility community what they wish for our industry in 2021. Here’s what they had to say:

Lynn Shotwell, GMS, SHRM-SCP, Worldwide ERC® President & CEO

I see two silver linings in the pandemic for the mobility community: It raised the profile of mobility professionals who have deep experience managing non-traditional assignments.  Our insights are being applied to the new world of remote work.  It also pushed all of us to embrace technology and adopt new ways of doing things at a pace that would not have been possible a year ago.  This can be exciting and energizing.  My goals for Worldwide ERC in 2021 are to provide mobility professionals with the tools they need to be strategic leaders in their own organizations and to advance the interests of the mobility industry by highlighting our unique expertise with business leaders and policymakers.

Patricia Tavares, formerly Americas Global Mobility Head, Unilever.  Currently Co-founder, Brazil Talks

2021!  What to expect of this year?  After all we went through in 2020, adaptation to new ways of working, fast changes to policies, creating or re-thinking processes! This all had to happen and with an incredible speed, meaning that Global Mobility grew and matured in 2020 what it would normally take at least 5 years to mature!

I see and believe that all we learned this past year has to come along with us to 2021. We cannot lose the speed we gained, the flexibility we learned to apply, and most of all, we need to continue showing to our stakeholders that we are ready for any situation that comes along! We all worked from home/virtually and we never worked so hard and so much and this proves that Global Mobility is here to stay! Global mobility professionals are getting better and better at what they do!

Hurray for a brilliant 2021! I am sure it will be absolutely amazing!

Brian Friedman, Host of The View from the Top & Strategy Director, Benivo

The View from The Top is as old as the pandemic. What started 2 years ago as a podcast, converted to a live show in March.  We launched the LinkedIn Live shows at about the same time as borders closed around the world. We recognised early on that there was a genuine need for thought leaders to share knowledge and hopefully spread some optimism in dark times. Our aim in 2021 is to continue our weekly shows focusing on technology.

On a personal perspective, my family is very much on the front-line. My stepson is a doctor who has been working on the COVID wards during the peaks of the pandemic and my wife has been trained to be a COVID vaccinator. There is light at the end of the tunnel and that makes me hugely optimistic for 2021.

Vini Valverde, Lead Talent Mobility Consultant, NIKE

We all know that this past year has challenged us in many ways. The stress of COVID-19, lost jobs, financial struggles, social distancing, many companies and its employees are feeling agitated, overwhelmed, or disconnected. While some of these forces are beyond our control, we have the power and capabilities to make some changes to ensure a healthy and thriving Global Mobility industry.

My wish for 2021 is that everyone makes the time to do whatever activities feel restorative to you and also help others. It can be calling a friend, take on a new hobby, build new relationships, being a reference for a colleague that lost his/her job, reading a book, just sitting in silence or being available. This will help you bring the best version of yourself (while helping others) so we can win as a team and empower our organizations to grow into the future. 

With so much positivity, how can 2021 be anything but better than 2020?  Wishing all our colleagues an innovative, successful and healthy new year – a new beginning for us all!

Arranged by Cathy Heyne, GMS -T, Managing Director


The Night before New Year

‘Twas the night before Year End and all through the land
Applause for the New Year: “Let’s give it a hand!”

“We’re done with 2020. We’re rife with fatigue.”
And yet. We all stepped up, performed out of our league.

We dealt with shutdowns, in place for everyone’s sake
As the world struggled through the pandemic outbreak.

Moves ground to a halt, in the East and the West.
We located our people, made sure they could rest,

Secure in the knowledge that we would be there
To ease their concerns, provide duty of care.

Our offices closed to limit the damage
The virus could cause, and to help healers manage

The terrible toll, as we all got a grip
On the possible treatments: a Remdesivir drip?

Meanwhile, home desks became mini command centers.
Aiding others at their homes, whether owners or renters.

Not one among us has had time to be lax.
We got up to speed quickly on immigration and tax,

On which borders opened, and which had just closed,
And watched as the number of Zoom invites rose!

All our homes have been like an open book.
On video, pets and kids on display for a look

By curious colleagues and friends from afar
Who we might see, during normal times, at a bar.

But did all of this break us? Oh no, it did not!
For we all are much stronger than ever we thought.

You could say we’re better, more creative, and kinder.
“We’re all in this together” was a constant reminder

That throughout the whole world as the year was unfolding
There were people in need, whose hands needed holding.

In stripping away entertainment and travel
You might guess our psyches would completely unravel.

And while it’s true that a life boiled down to essentials
Might seem to be lacking in certain potential

It also is true that this challenging year
Has tended to spotlight that which we hold dear.

And so, at the end of this year that’s so flawed
Wishes for peace and joy come from Living Abroad!

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group


‘Tis the season to be grateful…

Though this year may have been difficult, the best part was staying in touch with our industry friends.
We wish you and your loved ones happiness and good health throughout the holiday season and in the new year.
To receive your holiday greeting, please click on the photo below and don’t forget to turn up the sound.

The Living Abroad Team


How did X. Pat get all these gifts so wrong?

Giving gifts for global colleagues offer many opportunities for error.

Can you find all the gift giving faux pas?

Click here for the answers!

Let the magic begin!

“Reading takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

— Hazel Rochman

As someone who enjoys spending the North American winter holidays curled up with good books, one of the pleasures I take from this time of year — even this year — is deciding what those books will be!

With authors and subject matter located throughout the globe, here are just a few of many resources you can use to find your next great read (or gift!):


Likely the best known literary prize on the globe, the Nobel Prize in Literature was first awarded in 1901.

The Giller Prize is given to a Canadian author of a novel or short story collection.

Pulitzer Prizes are awarded to books of American fiction, drama, poetry, history, biography, and general nonfiction. PEN America also offers numerous awards, including prizes for emerging writers, as well as for outstanding works of fiction, poetry, literature in translation, and nonfiction.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction is given to a novel published in the United Kingdom, written by a female writer from any country. The Booker Prize is given to a novel published in the UK or Ireland, and the International Booker Prize to a novel translated into English, with equal prize money going to the writer and the translator.

Other awards in specific genres include the James Beard Book of the Year and the IACP Cookbook of the Year, the Edgar Awards for mysteries, and the Nebulas for science fiction.

Don’t forget

Independent bookstores and libraries can also be an excellent way to find your next favorite book. Many will work with you via telephone or email, and have adapted book pickup or delivery services to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. Even better, quite a few have moved their readings, book clubs and other events to virtual formats that are accessible from anywhere.

Yes, you can!

As 2020 comes to a close, it will be quite a year to remember.  It’s time to focus on ourselves and self-renew to build our strength for the coming year.  There is a Stephen Covey habit from his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which is habit #7 on self-renewal called “Sharpen the Saw.”  Regularly “sharpening the saw” means having a balanced life that includes four areas:  physical, mental, spiritual and social/emotional.

Let’s focus on the mental aspect of self-renewal.  As we begin our planning for 2021, Covey’s second habit, “Begin with the End in Mind,” is a good place to start.  Many people think of a new year as a promise of a fresh start, to do things a bit differently, and create some new goals.

To begin, take a moment to acknowledge all you’ve accomplished during 2020 and what you’ve learned from the past.  Reflect on your career, relationships, health, finances, and creative pursuits.  Make a list of all of your wins, successes, and breakthroughs.  Remember that 2020 was a year full of challenges and that just doing tasks like shopping or working remotely added additional stress to our life.  Then write down all of your losses, disappointment, and breakdowns.

It’s important to “close out” the current year.  Regardless of whether or not the items on the list were a win or less than desirable, you’ll need to be complete with past accomplishments and disappointments in order to be open to new opportunities in 2021.

Next, choose five to seven lessons learned from the past year that you would like to remember and carry into the coming year.  Now it’s time to shift focus and create new goals.  Start by imagining ahead to December 2021.  Create a list of your wins, successes, and breakthroughs for the year.  Be very specific and write them as though they have already happened.

Focus on all areas of your life.  Currently there are a lot of factors beyond our control, such as shutdowns and restrictions on social gatherings.  Place your attention on what you do have control over and make self-care a priority.

One way to clarify your thoughts is to use the S.M.A.R.T goals approach to help you achieve what you want in your life.  This system will help you focus your efforts and use your time wisely.  Don’t forget to review your goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and focus on your most important goals first.

And ask yourself this question: “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  This is the question Gary Keller addresses in his book, “The One Thing.” 

By focusing on the “one thing” for the week, month or quarter, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals.  Keep yourself accountable by finding an “accountable buddy” or building time in your day to review your goals.  Not only will this keep you on track, 2021 may be your best year yet!

Thing are looking up!

How many hours a day do you spend looking down at paperwork, or into a screen? Optometrists recommend a 20-20-20 rule to ease eye strain: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Stretches and exercises are helpful to relieve neck, shoulder, hand, and back fatigue.

Taking a brisk walk can be even more restorative. But now that half the earth – and most of its population – is experiencing shorter days and weak sunlight, getting outside tends to be a dim proposition.

So why not take in the night sky? This December, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible to us as close as they have been in 400 years. On December 21, a telescope or binoculars will show you the two largest planets side by side, with their moons. Bundle up, find a place away from ambient light, and take in the beauty of what my family likes to call ‘sky jewelry.’

For general stargazing, Travel & Leisure maps out the 10 best spots in seven countries around the world: Chile, Costa Rica, France, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States (Utah, Hawaii, New Mexico, California).

Of course, even during our short days, the sky offers no shortage of breathtaking views, some of the most gorgeous of which recently have been at sunrise: a bank of clouds creating a literal silver line as the sun rises behind it. One morning was so foggy that the rising sun looked like a fireball throwing off flames.

Clouds are their own sources of astounding artistry. They can be dramatic, forbidding, peaceful, or present us with a story-book tableau that looks like a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pint. To quote a character in Swedish mystery writer Kjell Eriksson’s “The Cruel Stars of the Night:”

“I collect clouds,” Lars-Erik said and leaned forward, looking up at the sky. “It is like an enormous art exhibition. I like to stand out in my yard and watch nature give me fresh exhibitions every day, and to top it off it’s free. Have you ever thought about how the sky can give rise to the most unbelievable formations?”

As 2020 draws to a close and we await a COVID-19 vaccine, may the simple splendor of our natural world provide some peace and beauty, even in the dark.

Celebrating in a different way

Ukrainians do not generally celebrate their birthdays. Instead they celebrate:
a.  Name Day:  The feast day of the saint for whom the individual is named.
b.  Town Day:  The founding date of the town where the individual was born.
c.  Ancestor Day:  A new baby is given the ‘birthday’ of a recently deceased ancestor.
d.  Family Day:  The wedding anniversary of the individual’s parents.

Click here for the answer!


Living Abroad would like to take this opportunity to wish those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, a happy and healthy celebration.  We are thankful for all our friends around the world.