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cultural differences

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Tipping the Right Amount

Pic credit: Grant Cochrane Eating out, getting your nails done, taking a taxi - how much do you tip?

I asked myself that again last week while in New York. Taxis in Manhattan have a handy screen where you can choose the amount you wish to add as tip: 20 %, 25 %, or 30 %. If you want more options, I guess you better have cash on hand.

The tour guide through the UN building was offered a tip from an eager participant. She declined but vehemently hugged her.

Here in Texas if you don't like the service you simply give double the tax, about 16 %. If you like it, 20 % upwards it goes.

In Germany, we usually rounded up to the nearest two or so Euros. Base salaries for the service industry may be a bit higher though.

In Spain, my sister-in-law told us tipping was completely out since the crisis. Nobody had money to tip with, and waiters didn't expect it anymore.

In Mexico, everybody expected a tip whether we asked for the service or not. People would simply grab my grocery bags outside the store and insist on putting them in the trunk for me, or wave me out of the parking spot blowing on rather annoying whistles.

If you're an expat, the tips you are used to in your home country may be far too much, way too little, or even insulting in your host culture. Service levels will most certainly show discrepancies. The locals may also make exceptions for you and expect extra high contributions, assuming that as an expat your living standards are considerably better than their own or that of the local clientele (which may or may not be true). CNN wrote an article about international tipping a few years ago, and USA Today published this handy tipping chart you might want to consider as a basic guideline.

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Un regalo para Pep y los otros 49 mil Españoles trabajando en Alemania

20130116-191318.jpg Estimado Señor Guardiola,

¡Bienvenido a Alemania!

Espero que se lo vayan a pasar bien en su nuevo hogar. ¿Se va a mudar con su familia? ¿Ya les ofrecieron clases sobre las diferencias entre las culturas de los dos países? En fin, hay explicaciones bien fáciles de por qué reservamos la hamaca con una toalla.

Parecemos tener mala leche porque normalmente no entran las emociones en las discusiones. No quiere decir que no nos importe, sino que queremos entender el tema y hablarlo de manera racional y calmada. Se trata de la tarea, del objetivo - no de la relación entre las personas que lo estén tratando. Hoy te grito, mañana te invito. No es nada personal. Incluso si es mi jefe, le voy a decir claramente cuando algo no funciona o si no estoy de acuerdo con Ud. No es que no le tenga respeto a su puesto, pero la calidad y la excelencia importan aún más.

Al hablar con otros, hay que fijarse sobre todo en las palabras. Los Alemanes comunicamos el mensaje que queremos transmitir por la mismísima palabra. No nos verá utilizando ni las manos ni las cejas para enfatizar un punto de vista. Como consecuencia, no leemos muy bien entre líneas y tendrá que decir claramente qué es lo que quiere. Decir que sí significa: "estoy de acuerdo". Y no: "lo entiendo". Cuando decimos "no", no pretendemos ofender, sino ahorrar tiempo, ser directos y claros en nuestra respuesta.

Ya se darán cuenta de que el sol no sale tanto en Alemania. Con lo cual valoramos nuestro tiempo mucho más que los Españoles y la puntualidad, la eficacia y la eficiencia son muy importantes. No creemos en el mañana; es más, lo que se puede conseguir hoy mejor no retrasarlo. ("Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.")

Otra cosa que debería tener en cuenta es que a los Alemanes no nos gusta la incertidumbre. Planificamos, aseguramos, reflexionamos, y ponemos reglas para poder afrontar la vida con, por lo menos, la ilusión de estar preparados. Las reglas aplican por igual a todos, y por eso son justas. Criamos a nuestros hijos con valores de honor y responsabilidad personal. Por eso no cruzamos la calle si el semáforo está en rojo - vengan coches o no. Y no robamos la hamaca si tiene una toalla encima.

Espero que el choque cultural no sea muy grave, ni para Ud, ni para su familia. Estoy segura de que pasarán muchas horas de felicidad y disfrutarán de los preciosos paisajes. Bavaria no tiene ni playa ni chiringuitos, pero las terrazas ("Biergarten") en verano lo compensan. :-)

Alles Gute, Doris

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Do you feel well rested?

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Do you feel well rested?

According to the Gallup World Poll, 72 % of male and 65 % of female respondents feel well rested, the remaining 28 and 35 % respectively do not. How's your work-play-rest balance shaping up lately?

During my recent trip to Chicago I was reminded that one of the contributing factors to our perceived stress and relaxation levels might be our preference for and attitude to managing time. How we view time and the way we tend to manage it has actually been identified as one of the seven cultural indicators Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have explored during their extensive cross-cultural research, documented in their oeuvre, "Riding the Waves of Culture." They highlight the differences between more primitive and more educated societies, that view time "by simple notions of "before" and "after" moons, seasons, sunrises and sunsets" vs. more complex schedules. (Daily planners, email alerts and PDA's, anyone?)

Accordingly, some view time as a scarce resource, some see it as plentiful; some are more oriented towards the past, others towards the present or future. You know which is which by the people in those cultures who tend to be punctual or more flexible, and those who have a rich history and value tradition compared to more modern, goal-oriented cultures. Let me stress at this point that there's no one best way, I'm simply describing / citing differences in attitudes and preferences.

The point that I think plays into the whole stressed - rested notion is that of sequential vs. synchronic organization of activities, or in other words, do you prefer to do one task at a time or juggle various things at once? Again, we're all juggling to some extent, and we all have certain limits to our attention-span. When left to your own devices, do you prefer starting one thing and finishing it before beginning another? Personal psychology like the MBTI's Judging vs. Perceiving preference also play a role here. It is fair to say, though, that if you have a preference for sequential one-at-a-time organization but live in an environment or work in an office or in a job that requires you to do multiple tasks simultaneously, you will feel  more stressed and as a consequence need more time to wind down before you feel relaxed and your batteries are charged up again.

Would it be nice if we could have things happen one at a time? Alas, life doesn't work that way. Sometimes, your house will be struck by lightning at the same time you're busy planning and studying and training for other things, and then you have to re-plan, reschedule and be flexible. Appointments might be missed, emails not returned as promptly as usual, laundry not laundered - and even though that seems disgraceful and impossible, beating yourself up on top of it all and holding yourself to standards so high you cannot reach them won't help matters much. On the contrary.

So what do you do to recharge? How do you relax, and when do you feel rested? Have any secret remedies you'd like to share? Let 'em rip in the comments section!

Image by pinguino, flickr, Creative Commons license.

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