The First-Class Postbuzz - Summer 2015 Edition
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Dear SIETAR Friends and Followers,

You have been awesome friends and followers in 2015. We would like to thank you by sending you our Summer edition of "The First-Class Postbuzz". As a SIETAR Member you can contribute to this newsletter and our blog too. As you might know you can also attend up to three events before joining us. You find an overview of our upcoming events here.

In case you have any questions please reach out to me.

Kind regards
Angela Weinberger
Board Member Communication SIETAR Switzerland
Greetings From the Editor
And so, here we are – the first ever issue of The First-Class Postbuzz. We hope that you enjoy reading this inaugural edition as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

I would like to extend a big thank you to all our members who sent in their submissions for our Voices of SIETAR Switzerland. We have quite the variety of articles authored by our own members: from a behind-the-doors peek into the workings of intercultural marriages (Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin)
to the delights of the Röstigraben (Jenny Ebermann); from the dilemmas of high and low context communication (Christina Kwok) to a look into MNCs in Switzerland (Veronica De la Fuente) and advice on how to successfully build global virtual teams (Angela Weinberger).

For our Feature Article, we hear from an expert on how to navigate the education of children in an intercultural context (Monica Shah). We also have two first-hand reports of the SIETAR Europa Congress in Valencia (Yoshiko Kurisaki; Bruna Toubia) and a selection of pictures from the event.

For our Member Spotlight, I spoke to one of the SIETAR Switzerland members (Susan Schärli) about the advantages of having a multicultural background in a professional setting and the importance of intercultural competencies in healthcare.

Furthermore, in this issue you can find a summary of the latest developments in the intercultural field, information about our first Culture Pop-Up (Anne-Claude Lambelet), and a list of our favorite resources for conducting intercultural work. 

And if you have ever wondered what makes the President of SIETAR Switzerland happy or how she defines success, check out our 15 Questions

We hope that our first issue has something for everyone and we wish you all Happy Summer Reading!

Warm regards,
Marianna Pogosyan, PhD

If you wish to contribute to the winter 2015 edition of The First-Class Postbuzz, please do not hesitate to contact me before 31 October, 2015 at
Voices of SIETAR Switzerland

Across Cultures for Education

by Monica Shah

Immersion and consequent cultural integration for our children seems simple: we move abroad and our children can embrace our ‘living abroad project’ by attending a local school and guess what, they will become fluent in a new language, which brings them unique skills and status compared with most kids back home. They are likely to develop enduring dexterity in switching languages, which according to research, will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. They could learn other languages quicker, and even stave off Alzheimer’s once they are over 50. There are obvious advantages from learning another language. But is it as easy as it seems to adopt a new culture and language, and what is the cost to our family culture and identity?

Cultural integration is difficult to achieve without speaking the local language. Fluency also provides evidence that a child has gained something tangible in compensation for the complications of living abroad. But it cannot compensate for being away from family and long-standing friends or losing one’s roots (the importance of this varies according to your family’s previous global mobility). You might also be sacrificing established networks that help children in less tangible ways, and more worryingly, jeopardizing their educational success. Is it worth immersing our children? Only if we are prepared to immerse ourselves, the parents, too, or play the role of an intercultural translator to help our children hold onto their international culture too.


Szeretlek or Je t’aime? A Short Insight Into the Life of Bi-National Couples

by Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin

“For us, nothing ever “goes without saying” in a very literal sense” (Nora, 54, Swiss, married to Martin from Hungary).
“It’s always give and take, adapt or resist – life in another country teaches you that” (Rosy, 48, born in Honduras, married to Robert from Switzerland).

What are the factors that make bi-national marriages work? What are the specific challenges in such relationships? Four couples, aged between 44 and 82, all married for at least ten years, one partner Swiss, all living in Switzerland, talked to me in semi-structured interviews, revealing the most crucial aspects of bi-national relationships: communication, balance of power, social background, creating their own culture, understanding each other’s languages and intercultural sensitivity.

Your place or mine …

Rosy and Robert claim to have had the easiest circumstances: they met in Canada, which was neutral territory for both of them.
“People abroad often feel liberated, away from the expectations and scrutiny of family and friends,” they explained.
Job opportunities and their children’s education eventually brought all the couples back to Switzerland. The move was challenging: one of the partners is back in his or her natural habitat, suddenly holding all the cards: family and other social networks, inside-knowledge of daily life, mastering the local language.
“Suddenly this formal and rule-abiding man wasn’t the easy-going funny guy I had married any more,” says Rosy.
“I couldn’t even get the car serviced without my husband, because nobody at the garage understood me,” complains Amy, 44, born in the USA to British parents, married to Marc from a very international family. “The sudden imbalance of power in our relationship was a crucial moment.”
This was also the case for the other couples: if the “foreign” partner is unable to do his or her own thing, have their own social network and ideally a satisfying job, if the balance of power doesn’t shift any more, then the marriage is doomed, they say.

Your place and mine…

“We know that we are different, so we negotiate.”
“We talk all the time.”
“We have to communicate with care.”
Sets of values are questioned, examined, accepted or rejected, often a bit of everything. Bi-national couples create their very own culture, their “place”.
“You watch, you choose where you want to adapt and where you will not.”
The only partner who claims to have had no difficulties at all in moving to Switzerland is Jacky, an 80-year-old French countess who grew up in France and the USA. “We have the same sort of background,” she says of her Swiss banker husband Jean, 82.
Nora confirms social background as a point of reference:
“It would have been more difficult for me to create a relationship with a Swiss farmer from a remote village than with an urban Hungarian architect,” she says.
All couples understand the native languages of their partners and state this as an important factor of insight into their partners’ mindsets.
They also claim to have acquired deep intercultural sensitivity, partly through predisposition from their international childhoods, but mostly through negotiating daily life as a couple; intercultural competencies that will be passed on to their children.
 “Life in our family is multi-layered. This is what the kids pick up from the beginning,” says Amy.

Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin was born in Basel, the tri-state area of Switzerland. She spent her first four years of school in five schools on two continents. What later became known as “interculturality” was her reality - a mindset that has defined her ever since. She feels lucky to have made her passion to her job.

Photo Credit: Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin

Swiss Executives and Multinational Companies

by Veronica De la Fuente 

Recently I have been in contact with different multinational companies based in La Côte region in Switzerland, where to my surprise, there were very few Swiss nationals occupying C-level positions.

When I asked my Swiss acquaintances who work in high positions in Swiss companies about whether they would like to work for multinational companies in Switzerland, the answers were different. They mentioned that multinationals are complicated, there is too much stress and politics there, they didn’t like the management style, and in MNCs you are a number.

In my opinion, two main factors could explain this trend.

1. Soft skills versus hard skills
The Swiss education system is oriented towards rationality, technique and practical knowledge i.e., hard skills. This path has given the image of quality, precision and efficiency characteristic of “The Swiss Label”.

2. Differences in the culture of multinationals and Swiss companies.
MNCs have a vision focused on competition and results. They are hierarchical and the decision-making process is taken from high-level managers. Leadership is important because the leader makes the wheels spin. Leaders must develop soft skills such as empathy, interpersonal relations, emotional, cultural and cognitive intelligence to manage all competencies.

On the other hand, traditional Swiss companies are focused on product quality and technology, and this search for added value is their driving force. Company size also plays an important role. A multinational company with many employees seems to lose the family atmosphere that is so important for Swiss employees. In Swiss companies, hierarchy is flatter, the leader is expected to be an active part of the team and decisions are made through a consensus.

Results from the recent 2015 Randstad Award Switzerland survey show that the most attractive sectors for Swiss employees to work at are: 1) watchmaking industry, 2) IT consulting, and 3) industrial manufacturing. Knowledge, precision, technology, quality are the essential characteristics associated with these industries, where most of their production goes to foreign markets and where the Swiss can better use their savoirfaire and hard skills.

The survey also showed that the top 10 Swiss companies where the Swiss want to work most are:

  • Google
  • Patek Philippe
  • Swatch Group
  • Victorinox
  • Zurich Airport
  • Rolex
  • Nestlé
  • Swiss
  • Swissport International
  • Stadler Rail
The main factors considered attractive for Swiss employees, are:
 pleasant working atmosphere  60%
 salary and benefits  59%
 long-term security  50%
 a good work-life balance  48%
 flexible work hours  42%
 job’s tasks and responsibilities  42%

(Source: Randstad Award Switzerland 2015)

If we observe the list of top 10 companies chosen as most attractive to work for, except for Google, all ranking companies are Swiss companies (versus multinationals based in Switzerland). Interestingly, Swiss multinationals from the pharmaceutical or banking industries do not appear on the list possibly since these companies nowadays have lost their Swiss-style management and have moved to a more global style of management.

Since Swiss employees are seeking a better balance between work and private life, maybe the feeling is that this balance is difficult to achieve at MNCs.

Verónica De la Fuente is a Chilean and Swiss citizen. She has a Business and Administration degree and has worked for more the ten years in the finance industry. She is an Intercultural Consultant and Trainer working with expatriates and Multicultural teams. Coach certified by ICF (International Coach Federation). LinkedIn

Have You Ever Heard About the So-Called “Röstigraben”?

by Jenny Ebermann

Living in Switzerland for 8.5 years now, I would like to take this particular opportunity to write about something quite interesting and astonishing: the “Röstigraben”. As you might know, there are 4 main languages spoken in Switzerland and the so-called “Röstigraben”, which is a rather informal term, actually defines the divide between the Swiss German speakers and the French speakers.

I myself was lucky enough to have experienced these two different sides of Switzerland, having lived in Zurich as well as in the Romandy in Lausanne. If you speak French and if you have a couple of spare moments, you should listen to Marie-Thérèse Porchet’s geography lesson . Not only is it hilarious, but it will also give you a better feel and understanding of what it is like to live in Switzerland and where the differences lie.

At first, when I arrived in Switzerland I thought it was funny to give a name to something rather fictive such as the imagined “border” between cultural differences. Especially for me, who grew up in Belgium with its three official languages and where to my knowledge no such terminology exists, it had never occurred that this phenomenon could actually have a name and that it would be considered very distinct. The truth is that you learn quite quickly that there really is a “Graben” (or a trench, a ditch in English). You just have to search the Internet to find many different articles on the subject.

If you are living in Switzerland, you can also hop on the train in any French-speaking town, like Lausanne for example, and travel towards Bern (or the other way round, of course). Whereas you will see French newspapers on the seats and overhear mostly French in all the wagons, suddenly and subtly this will change. Newspapers left over are now German and people speak Swiss German. Every time I take the train this strikes me, maybe because I speak the different languages but maybe also because it kind of happens all of a sudden - there is no real mix of languages and people, as it would be like in Belgium, before one or the other language dominates the atmosphere. It simply goes from French to German or from German to French.

In my professional life, I have even heard people say that they did a "semester abroad" while studying. What they really meant here was that they simply went to the other side of Switzerland to study. How interesting is that?

I personally think that these differences are very enriching and I see a great benefit in being able to switch from one language to another and from one culture to another in the same country. Maybe this also gives a good idea of what it is like to live in Europe, where all of the cultures and languages co-exist on a rather small continent (compared to others) without borders and mainly with a common currency. Food for thought!

Jenny Ebermann grew up in Brussels, is of German nationality and is currently living in Switzerland. She is an international Consultant, Mindful Leader and seasoned Coach/Trainer. Jenny speaks and works in Dutch, German, English, French, Spanish and has a good knowledge of Italian/Arabic.,

The East-West Gulf

by Christina Kwok

Having lived abroad for half my life, I tend to look at life through a bicultural lens, which is a great advantage for properly integrating into European society. However, this can cause gaps in communication when relating to family and news back in Malaysia in the classic difference of high and low context communication if I forget to switch my lens.

High-context versus low-context communication

In high-context cultures, people leave many things unsaid. Communication presumes an understanding of unwritten rules and a shared narrative that informs a person of what is going on. Malaysian culture is a high-context culture, as are the cultures of many Asian and Arab nations.

On the other hand, in low-context cultures, such as Switzerland and much of Western Europe, communication is more explicit. Expectations, relationships, and explanations are typically made clear in such cultures and words carry a great deal of importance.  

Missing plane MH 370

After the MH 370 flight disappeared on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur last March, I talked to my brother living in Malaysia on the phone, discussing puzzling aspects of the incident. Naturally, I checked to see if anyone we knew might have been on that fateful plane. His reply was a simple “no.” Our conversation reminded me of the extent of the acculturation process I had undergone from living abroad so long in an essentially low-context society. Coming from a high-context culture, my brother didn’t mention the published list of passenger names until he was prodded to do so, simply assuming that I knew about it, as if the list was published in newspapers around the world.  

His reaction to the disaster also seemed indifferent compared to mine. He seemed surprised that I had such an interest in this news, given that he had told me no one in our family or friends were affected. This startled me, as I felt heartache and compassion for the families of the missing passengers. It seems that my brother was adopting a typical Chinese attitude of: if you’re not involved, why should you care about other people’s misfortune?

The response of the Malaysian government to the missing plane crisis is another case in point. Coming from a low-context culture, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott chose to furnish information about satellite imagery of debris almost immediately, even before it was confirmed to be relevant to the missing plane. The Malaysian authorities, on the other hand, offered very little information and were accused of lack of transparency in withholding critical information about the plane’s course deviation in a timely manner. It must be said, however, that longstanding political and social factors as well as the need to “maintain face” (a characteristic of high-context cultures), were also contributing factors to their response.

Decoding advice - Some suggestions for bridging high-context and low-context styles of communication:

if you’re from a low-context culture, listen more than you speak when dealing with someone from a high-context culture. Observe body language, ask indirect questions and show respect for hierarchy and age. Don’t force the other to give an opinion and pay attention to personal and family matters.

If you’re from a high-context culture meeting someone from a low-context culture, take what the other says at face value. Try to speak up and be to the point. Share your opinion and focus on tasks and facts. Show your qualities and expertise and respect privacy.

Christina Kwok is an intercultural skills trainer & speaker. She helps diverse teams weld radically different perspectives into a unified team effort. She has worked with diverse organizations such as Zurich Insurance, UBS, and ABB Technikerschule to develop key communication skills for a global business environment. Website LinkedIn

Making Global Virtual Teams Work

by Angela Weinberger

Unlike traditional teams, global virtual teams don’t meet daily at the same location. Global virtual teams have become a common phenomenon in large organizations as well as in small businesses. In a recent survey mentioned by Keith Ferrazzi on HBR, 79% of respondents said they always or frequently work in dispersed teams. They define virtual teams as “work groups which (1) have some core members who interact primarily through electronic means, and (2) are engaged in interdependent tasks — i.e. are truly teams and not just groups of independent workers.” We would add that these teams are usually working across time zones and members have different cultural backgrounds.

Like all other teams, global virtual teams require proper leadership and management for optimum results. Let’s start with why we should opt for them.

Advantages of Global Virtual Teams:
• Companies can bring global talent together when projects start, while employees can enjoy the flexibility of working from where they live according to their schedule.
• Organizations can cut costs on relocation, traveling, real estate and other business expenditures. Businesses that use virtual teams to build a global presence, outsource their operations and need less common expertise or skills from people who are reluctant to relocate from their home location.
• Global virtual teams add diversity to a project. They are ideal for brainstorming ideas and fostering creativity. They also enable organizations to network globally and to gather culturally diverse perspectives.

Challenges of Global Virtual Teams:
• Compared to traditional teams, global virtual teams might be hard to get right and challenging to manage. It might not always be easy to bring people from different cultures to a common platform and to get them to collaborate on a project.
• Differences in communication patterns can impact goals and motivation. The reliance on modern technology, emails, and virtual meetings can take away from the dynamics of in office face-to-face-exchange. Thus, in order to excel, each member needs to be self-motivated.
• The need for collaboration could cause delays in the progress of the project.

Tips To Manage Global Virtual Teams:

1) Build Trust
The first and foremost requirement is to build and maintain trust between team members. This helps to overcome communication barriers and sustains the motivation of each person involved. Without trust, team members will experience challenges in working together which is the essence of virtual teams.

2) Set clear Goals, Standards & Rules
Managers need to set clear goals for all members, as well as for the team. Performance standards and communication rules must also be clearly defined to avoid misunderstandings and harmful assumptions. In addition, they should also be clear on tasks and processes.

3) Enable constant Communication
Team members should be able to communicate clearly, constructively and positively, even in the absence of nonverbal cues of face-to-face communication. Optimum use of technology for this purpose is a requirement.

4) Build a Team Rhythm
It is crucial for global teams to have regular meetings in order to stay on track, ideally the same day and time each week. Create meeting agendas in advance with agreement on communication protocol and timings. In case of time zone conflicts, rotate meeting times to practice fairness and avoid bias.

5) Develop your Global Competency
Develop into a leader who appreciates the experience of managing global teams. Periodically set up one-to-one performance management meetings with your team members and give feedback. Let your team members know how they contribute into the success of your project so that they get a feeling of ownership.

Ferrazi, Keith (2014): Getting Virtual Teams Right, Dec Issue. Harvard Business Review.

Angela Weinberger is a Global Mobility Expert and Intercultural Coach. She has worked in Human Resources and Global Mobility during her corporate career. Angela founded Global People Transitions in 2012. She recently published “The Global Mobility Workbook - A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing International Assignments”

Member Spotlight

An Interview With Susan Schärli by Marianna Pogosyan

I met Susan Schärli on one early summer Saturday, over a cup of morning tea, to talk about culture. Culture on its own is a theme as vast as the oceans themselves. But for Susan and me, and for everyone else who shares their heart with more than one home, a chat about culture can quickly turn into a philosophical investigation of identity, self-concept, and all else that is within culture’s encompassing reach.

As I was sipping my tea and listening to Susan talk about the fascinating marriage of her cultures with her life and work in her soft-spoken English and an unrelenting smile playing on her lips, I got the feeling that I had more in common with her than SIETAR Switzerland, a TCK upbringing, husbands who are from different cultural backgrounds than us, and being mothers to five-year-olds.

What I had in common with Susan was the silent, unspoken understanding of belonging to the same tribe. The tribe, that is full of members whose eyes kindle with sparks of Wanderlust and who know first-hand the meaning of empathy from having seen, tasted, and experienced different cultures.

I promised Susan that our interview wouldn’t take longer than half an hour. But it took much longer than that. I blame it all on her – she was too interesting to talk to. Besides, when you meet someone from your tribe, half an hour will fly faster than it takes you to finish a cup of tea.

We started our conversation with a question that might sound straightforward to many, but in fact, it’s anything but simple to answer for someone like Susan.

“Sometimes, Where are you from? is one of the hardest questions to answer,” Susan says with a laugh. “The answer will depend on the context in which it’s being asked, and who is asking.”
She gave me the long answer, which I would have done as well if I knew I was talking to someone from my tribe.

Susan was born in Australia to a Dutch mother and a Chinese father. She lived in the Netherlands for 12 years, and then in Belgium. Later, she moved back to Australia to study nursing, which is where she met her Swiss husband. She summarized the experience of having lived in four countries and having been educated in five as being a mixture of different possibilities. Depending on the context, she feels that a different part of her cultural mélange comes forth. She is fluent in Dutch, English, German, French and is planning on learning Chinese soon. Currently, her home is in Switzerland, where she has been living for 15 years with her husband and two children.

“It’s the longest period I have ever lived in any country!” she exclaims with a mixture of pride and astonishment. 

When it was time to choose a profession, Susan’s choice laid between three disciplines: anthropology, psychology and nursing.

“I chose nursing, because I wanted a job that was relationship-based, that would allow me to be with people, to really get to know them, and of course, to travel around the world,” she says. 

These days Susan wears many hats at her job as Coordinator of International Relations at the Institute of Nursing, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW): she is in charge of the nursing networks, staff-development, communication of international activities, student and staff exchange and international curriculum development. As part of the international curriculum development she teaches intercultural communication to staff and Bachelor and Master of Advanced Studies students.  

“If you like people and if you like traveling, nursing is a good job for you. There are lots of opportunities as a nurse, since there is a shortage of nurses all around the world,” she says sounding like a true ambassador to her profession.

But besides attending to the day-to-day demands of her job, perhaps the biggest feat of her professional accomplishments involves being a bridge between worlds, a facilitator between cultures, a translator of psycholinguistic communication between people with different cultural backgrounds. As is usually the case with matters of the heart, passion is capable of bringing about change. And with Susan, the changes that she has been bringing forth have recently taken on tangible results.

Thanks to Susan’s efforts to raise intercultural awareness and to create opportunities for students through her international curriculum, 18 nurses were able to come from abroad to study in Winterthur this year. 

“We haven’t been able to catch up with globalization,” Susan says. “We need to develop the skills to deal with the consequences of globalization. This is especially true in Switzerland where 22.8% of the population is foreign, 18.1% of the patients are non-nationals (Schweizerische Gesundheitsobservatorium, 2012) and 24.4 % of employees in the health sector are non-nationals (Bundesamt fuer Statistik, 2012).

There is a diverse patient group, but the people who are caring for them may not have acquired the skills necessary to be able to work with people from different cultures. The need for development of cross-cultural skills appears to be urgent in the healthcare field. The Federal Office of Public Health in Switzerland states that one of the inadequacies of the Swiss healthcare system is the qualified staff’s “lack of transcultural skills and inadequate sensitization to the specific health problems of the migrant population” (p. 17).

In addition, the research from Casillas et al. (2014) on cultural competencies of health care providers in Swiss hospitals supports the need for improvement of cultural competency among health care providers.  

The lack of cross-cultural competencies in Swiss hospitals is an issue in Switzerland and Susan wants to research this phenomenon in her Master’s thesis at the Intercultural Communication Institute and the University of the Pacific.

“So how do we get from an ethno-centric state to a ethno-relative state? What is the gap and how to fill it?” I ask.

“It depends on the stage of development where the person is at,” Susan explains referring to Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity on how to view cultural differences. “Becoming ethno-relative is all about accepting differences and seeing that their culture is just as valuable as the other. You need to talk to both sides and when the translation works well, people move forward. That’s when they understand that we all behave according to our own cultural programs. It’s all about being a bridge and helping them to see that.”

Being a bridge is something Susan had experienced very recently. She shared a story that illustrates a true example of putting her theoretical knowledge into practice to wonderful results. The story involved a Serbian student nurse who Susan had invited to the hospital for a few days for observation purposes. Due to various cultural factors, a disconnect happened between the student and the Swiss staff at the hospital, along with a breakdown in communication. The Serbian student was almost sent back home. That was when Susan stepped in. She talked to both the nurse and the Swiss staff separately, asking questions, explaining differences, facilitating a dialogue, being a cross-cultural bridge. A few days later, she got another email from the Swiss staff.

“They said that despite the initial hardships, the experience had been extremely enriching for everyone,” Susan says with a proud smile. “And they are most happy to take on another international student next year.”
I asked her if she misses her job of being a nurse.
“I miss my patients, but now I have my students,” she says with a warm chuckle.

When it was time for my final question, I chose one that I myself in my own intercultural journey have long pondered about.
“Do you think people are more different or the same?” I ask.
She thought for a while.
“We are more different,” she finally says. “And we have that in common.”

I realized that this was a question, just like the first one that had started our interview, that didn’t have a straightforward answer. We agreed on reopening the case of the influences of culture on the human psyche over a bottle of wine. After all, most matters of the heart pair better with wine than mint tea. 
Casillas, A., Paroz, S., Green, A.R., Wolff, H., Weber, O., Faucherre, F., Ninane, F., & Bodenmann, P. (2014). Cultural competency of health-care providers in a Swiss University Hospital: self-assessed cross-cultural skillfulness in a cross-sectional study. BMC Medical Education 2014, 14 (19), 1-8. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-14-19

Bundesamt für Statistik [Federal Buro of Statistics]. (2012). Gesundheitsstatistik [Health Statistics 2012]. Retrieved from Statistik Schweiz - Publikationen

Schweizerisches Gesundheitsobservatorium. [Swiss Health Observatory] (2012). Migrationsbevölkerung und Gesundheit – Analyse der Hospitalisierungen [Migrationpopulation and health – Analysis of Hospitalizations]. Retrieved from Obsan - Alle Publikationen

Federal Office Public Health. (2008). Migration und Gesundheit. Kurzfassung der Bundesstrategie Phase II 2008-2013 [Migration and Health. Short summary of the Federal Strategy Phase II 2008-2013]. Bern: Federal Office Public Health.


Susan Schärli is the Coordinator for International Relations at the Institute of Nursing, Zurich University of Applied Sciences. She has almost completed the Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations at the Intercultural Communication Institute / University of the Pacific. She is a certified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory and the Global Competencies Inventory.

Marianna Pogosyan, PhD is a consultant for international executives and their families for all matters of cultural and psychological adaptation to a life far from home. She has lived in Tokyo longer than any other city in the world, where she also wrote her doctoral dissertation in cross-cultural psychology.

Impressions From the SIETAR Europa Congress in Valencia May 2015

Insights From the SIETAR Europa Congress in Valencia

by Bruna Toubia

When I was eight years old, my grandma used to tell me, “If you are a naughty girl, one day you’ll go to a conference called SIETAR, this one will take place in Valencia, a beautiful city, and there they will offer plenty of very interesting workshops and you’ll be frustrated because you will manage to go only to a few workshops.”

This reference to Thiagi’s funny anecdotes could summarize the spirit of the SIETAR conference in Valencia in May. But since I had not been a particularly naughty girl, I just enjoyed the conference and brought back much inspiration for my everyday work - be it in content or in form. On top of that, what a good opportunity to meet again some old friends, colleagues and other participants and to share with them highlights of the different workshops! All of it in the historical and yet bustling city of Valencia.

The purpose of this year’s congress was to refresh the cultural paradigm by sharing stories, theories and best practices. It started with “On the Road with Migrants,” a board game based on real-life stories, designed by Caritas France and presented by Catherine Roignan. The game is all about experiential learning in order to raise awareness of the ordeals of migrants before arriving to their final (?) destination. It was a real lesson of courage, respect and humility for all participants in the game. Playing the role of the migrant, you would get regular info flashes to understand their political, economic and social background. This exercise is not only a mind-opener for all participants, but also allows for heart-opening and heartfelt moments.

Another highlight was the workshop led by Alexander Scheitza and Christine Wirths on “Dealing with challenging situations in intercultural training programmes”, i.e. dealing mainly with resistance. This was a very good incentive to jointly reflect on how to understand the different communication channels (explicit, implicit or non-verbal) and to identify the targets and motives of such resistance in the training environment. It was also a reminder of strategies and tools on how to make sure that in spite of all possible unfavorable external circumstances we, as trainers, always provide a safe environment for our participants.

Kim Eun Young inspired us with the story and the talent management of Samsung: A strategy led by a charismatic leader who started by “discerning the time” and encouraged his staff to “change everything except your wife and children.”

I also went to the workshop facilitated by Marcelo Baudino on Latin America. I know little about Latin America and wanted to have insights on how to introduce a whole continent or region to participants not familiar with it. I was very pleasantly surprised by the activities he used. The main activity was to separate us in little groups and each group had a snapshot of one country (like telling about a particular political event, a disaster, etc.) and to reflect on the values that could have derived from these events. 
At the end of the congress, I felt energized with so many new ideas that I could have run a marathon!

Bruna Toubia specializes in cross-cultural training, management of global teams and career and life counseling. She is an experienced facilitator of transitions, changes and empowerment.


Photo op in front of the SIETAR Switzerland table
Livingston Thompson (former president SIETAR Europa), Saskia Lackner (Vice President SIETAR Austria) - winner of the Swiss Quiz, Dr. Christa Uehlinger (President SIETAR CH), Barbara Corravubius Venegas (president SIETAR Austria).

What a Feeling! – A Newcomer’s Delight at SIETAR Europa Congress

by Yoshiko Kurisaki

Back home from Valencia with thirty (30) business cards and two more kilograms of weight, I am feeling good!

My first SIETAR Europa Congress (21 – 23 May, 2015) has turned out to be a life event for me. At the Congress, every moment was not to miss. The fresh stimulus hit my brain non-stop, and above all, what people I met! Everyone was there to meet new people and to learn new ideas from every opportunity.

I never met so many people who bear on their backs a wide variety of cultures, and who understood and even advocate the importance of cultural competence.

What a delight!

I am usually alone in my work, which revolves around supporting businesses that work with distinctively different cultures of Europe and Japan. It is not unusual to have to convince people of the reasons why culture is in the centre of international business management or HR challenges, and that it is not merely a hobby or a personal matter. I am always thinking in what ways I could better explain that cultural competence is a subject for which you must work on your heart, rather than asking me to pass you a quick and easy solution off-the-shelf.

At the SIETAR Congress, all were on the contrary. Everyone knew well the importance of culture in life, work, education, and more. It was almost meditating to know that I am not alone.

On the technical front, the Congress has provided me with excellent training opportunities. By attending sessions, I learned various techniques of exercises and how to lead them, how to move your body and use the space during presentation to communicate efficiently with the audience, how to organise an online training, and many other things. I thank all the presenters who showed me their best performance: Thiagi, Christine, Shelley, Catherine, to name only a few.

I should not forget to mention that the work behind the scenes undertaken by the Secretariat of SIETAR Europa was valuable and admirable.

In short, the SIETAR Congress was nothing like the conventional business seminars, which I have attended many times in the past. I felt that people working on cross-cultural understanding do not hesitate to reveal their hearts and minds. They are interested in people. They do not hide the human side of themselves.

I am convinced that I dove into a professional community with a human mind.

Yoshiko Kurisaki is the Founder and Executive Consultant of Europe-Japan Dynamics. Yoshiko is a Japanese national, lived in four countries in Asia, North America and Europe, and established in Switzerland. Drawing upon her first-hand experience of working in these countries for over 25 years, she provides consulting and workshops to Swiss and European companies doing business with Japan. Website 

Culture Pop-Up

First Culture Pop-Up in Geneva: Fun, Friendly Atmosphere and Shared Expertise

by Anne-Claude Lambelet

May 28th was our first Culture Pop-Up! We were blessed with a lovely evening as we settled in my garden with wine and nibbles. We had a nice group of Suisse Romande Members, a Young Sietar Member and some followers. Christa Uehlinger, the President of Sietar Switzerland, gave a brief update of developments since the AGM and after a round of self introductions, members and followers alike shared some tools, books and exercises that they use for their intercultural trainings and coaching. Everyone left with new friends and some immediately applicable tips for their day to day practice.
We look forward to building a strong community and reinforcing links and collaboration between our members. It’s also always nice to welcome followers who bring new perspectives and wish to learn more about our association.


Anne-Claude Lambelet is a French citizen and an ATCK (Adult Third-Culture Kid). She has been an active player in the global mobility service sector in Switzerland since the early 1980’s. She is an Intercultural Competence Expert and a Career Development Coach. She holds a degree in Cultural Competence from the University of New South Wales and is the Vice-President of SIETAR Switzerland.


A Look Into the Intercultural Profession
Have you ever wondered about what professional backgrounds your colleagues in the intercultural field come from? Or what motivates them to work in the intercultural profession? Did you know that the most common highest degree obtained by interculturalists is a master’s degree? Or that the vast majority of interculturalists have personal experiences of living abroad? In a recent report (Salzbrenner, Schulze & Franz, 2014), 400 interculturalists from over 40 countries were asked to fill out an online survey consisting of 37 questions that, in different ways, shed light on the intercultural profession. The topics covered in the survey included the professional profile and average income of interculturalists, expertise matter, methods and tools used in trainings, and advice for newcomers to the field. The results of this research conducted by Susan Salzbrenner, Tanja Schulze and Anja Franz paint a fascinating picture of the intercultural profession. The full report is available online at statusreport/. In the meantime, below are some excerpts from their findings.
Professional Profile
Interculturalists come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and hold a variety of degrees. While the most commonly held highest degree is a Master’s degree, most of the degrees were obtained in the fields of linguistics/language/literature (12.8%), psychology (15.4%) and business/economics/marketing (10.8%). Other degrees held by interculturalists included arts, communications, education, engineering, healthcare and anthropology.

Read More>>
15 Questions to... SIETAR Switzerland President Dr. Christa Uehlinger
1. What was your childhood dream?
To work like Albert Schweitzer, a doctor, somewhere in the jungle with and for natives.

2. What is your favorite book?
I love books. Oftentimes, I carry one with me J. One book which touched me is “The whale rider" by Witi Ihimaera. Others I liked are "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, or "Nachts, wenn der Garten blüht" by E.L. Swan. I also like children books such as “Die unglaubliche Geschichte von der Riesenbirne” by Jakob Martin Strid.

3. Who has influenced you most in your life?
Different people. Among them my grandmother. She was a fun-loving and adventurous person with a love for cooking.

4. How do you relax?
I follow different strategies: taking a lavender bath, connecting with nature, chatting to a friend, cooking, meeting friends or my godchildren, jogging, having a nice glass of red-wine or just sleeping.

5. Where do you feel most at home?
My base is my flat in an old-town house in Winterthur. From there, I explore the world and feel at ease easily. I feel at home in different places of the world such as the Northwest of the US or Australia. When I’m travelling, my “home” is my sleeping bag and a small pillow.

6. What is your favorite word in a foreign language and what does it mean?
안녕하세요 (An-nyeong-ha-se-yo) which means “hello / good day” in Korean.
When I taught in South Korea, we started the class together by me saying 안녕하세요 and the students repeating it. It turned into a daily ritual which we shared – very nice.

7. What is your favorite music?
Depending of my mood, I’m listening to jazz, classics, pop, rock, world music or music to meditate.
8. Who inspires you?
At the moment, Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.

9. How do you define success?
I’m most successful if I’m following my intuition and my heart - not thinking about being successful at all.

10. What is your favorite quote by a famous person?
“In uns selbst liegen die Sterne des Glücks“ by Heinrich Heine

11. How would the people closest to you describe you?
Good question. Why don’t you ask them?

12. How do you motivate people?
Treat them as people, create a good atmosphere, use their strength, be supportive and empower even to stretch the comfort zone. However, people can only be motivated if they are willing to let them be motivated.

13. What does leadership mean to you?
I would like to answer this question by a quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more – you are leading”.

14. Describe happiness in three words. (List three things that make you happy.)
Being in the moment, lying in an tent and listening to the wind moving trees, a smile

15. What is your favorite part of your job?
That I can work with people of all backgrounds and that I’m faced with new questions every day which stimulates my curiosity.
Born and bred in Zurich, Dr. Christa Uehlinger studied law at the University of Zurich. She has worked over 10 years in international business, and has studied intercultural communication at ICI in Portland. She is the founder of Christa Uehlinger Linking People and works as an intercultural adviser and teaches intercultural communication. Christa is an author and has lived, worked and traveled throughout Europe, Canada, the US, India, Australia and Asia. She is the President of SIETAR Switzerland.
Resources for Professionals in the Intercultural Field
As the intercultural profession develops and matures by each passing year, the list of resources for intercultural work keeps growing.

Books, articles, journals and research on various aspects of the intercultural field are published regularly, making the intercultural literature more and more eclectic.

The Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Oregon offers a rather exhaustive list of resources for all those interested in furthering their knowledge of the intercultural field.

Below is a list that we have compiled that includes some of the favorite books and materials of the SIETAR Switzerland board as well as our colleagues from the intercultural field. Maybe you’ll find your favorites among the list, or perhaps you’ll discover something new for your own intercultural library.


Online resources

For Cultural Competence: A Resource Manual for Developing Cultural Competence (2007) by Williams-Stith, Vivian and Haynes, Phyllis
International Leadership Programme by Dr. Eva Kinast
Intercultural Insights Yahoo listserve
ICF Cultural Competency in Global Community of Practice

Academic journals

Harvard Business Review
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Journal of Intercultural Communication
Journal of Intercultural Communication and Research
Journal of Human Resources
Journal of International and Intercultural Communication
International Journal of Intercultural Relations
Intercultural communication

The Art of Coming Home (2001) and The Art of Crossing Cultures (2007) by Craig Storti
Coaching Across Cultures:  New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate & Professional Differences (2003) by Philippe Rosinski
52 Activities for Exploring Values Differences (2003) and 52 Activities for Improving Cross-Cultural Communication (2009) by Donna M. Stringer and Patricia A. Cassiday (eds)
The Third Culture Kid Experience: Growing up Among Worlds (2009) by David Pollock & Ruth Van Reken
APA Handbook of Intercultural Communication (2010) David Matsumoto (ed)
Culture & Organizations:  Software of the Mind (2010) by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede & Michael Minkov
Jolts! Activities to Wake up and Engage Your Participants (2011) by Sivasailam Thiagarajan and Tracy Tagliati
Understanding Intercultural Communication (2011) by Stella Ting-Toomey & Leeva Chung
Handbuch Interkulturelles Coaching (2012) by Gesa Kraemer and Kirsten Nazarkiewicz
Building Cultural Competence: Innovative Activities and Models (2012) by Kate Berardo and Darla Deardorff (eds)
Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business (2012) by Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner
Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself in the Process (2013) by Andy Molinsky
The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures (2013) by Linda A. Janssen
Finding home abroad: A Guided Journal for Adapting to Life Overseas (2014) by Trisha Carter and Rachel Yates
The Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence (2015) by Janet Bennett


"The First-Class Postbuzz" - Summer 2015 Edition
First published as an electronic magazine on 29 June 2015.
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2015. Individual contributors have the copyright for their article.
c/o Dr. Christa Uehlinger, Stadthausstrasse 77, CH-8400 Winterthur.

Editor-in-Chief: Marianna Pogosyan, PhD
Setting & Layout: Angela Weinberger
Photo Credits: Dr. Christa Uehlinger (unless other name is mentioned)
Publisher: SIETAR Switzerland
Responsible: SIETAR Switzerland

All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior written permission.
ISBN: 978-3-9524284-2-9
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2015