Moving Across Borders: My Real World Experience

For the first 6 months of 2015 I was privileged enough to explore this globe-trotter phenomenon and gain some real world knowledge first hand. My journey saw me moving through South America, South-East Asia, and China. I immersed myself into the different countries and dug deeper, observed closer and looked harder at the cultural differences between regions. This experience gave me an unmeasured appreciation of the challenges and often amusing intricacies that assignees face when moving.

Here are some of the interesting anecdotes and oddities I came across during my travels:

Eye balling: In China, people stare out of sheer curiosity. In the West we are taught that staring is rude but prolonged gawping is a true art form in Asia. In South America I learnt that a steady gaze is a sign of trustworthiness.

Personal space: In Europe and North America a certain amount of distance is left when interacting. In South America interactions are more tactile as people like to get close with soft handshakes and ‘abrazos’. In South East Asia personal space dissipates the minute you cross the border.

Relationships in business interactions: In the West, business is contractual. But in South America and Asia, I noticed far more emphasis placed on personal relationships with more vocal and animated interactions.

Travel: Inter-city connectivity makes travelling through Europe a convenient experience. Nothing however compares with the ease and comfort in which you can catapult through China’s impressive countryside at 300km an hour in their futuristic bullet trains. In contrast transit through countries such as Peru and Bolivia are pain-stakingly long, bumpy and sometimes downright dangerous.

Traffic: In South East Asia and China, the rules are there are no rules! Crossing when the light is green can still be a life threatening undertaking. Also be prepared to share the roads with various livestock and entire families squeezed onto one moped.

Unlucky numbers: The Chinese avoid the number 4 like the plague. Don’t expect to find a 4th floor in all buildings. In the USA and Europe the irregular number 13 is considered unlucky, especially Friday the 13th. In Hispanic culture Tuesday 13th is considered bad luck day.

Beauty: In China, white skin is idolised. It is impossible to find creams and body washes without bleaching agents. In Europe and the Americas, tan skin is considered attractive.

This journey provided me a peek into the many cultural differences that expats experience when they move to a new region. There is so much more they are getting used to, aside from a new job. Equipped with my new found cultural intelligence I can now empathise with both their excitement, but also their challenges in adapting to the customs and expectations experienced when relocating to an unfamiliar environment. I also more wholly appreciate the level of comfort that one can experience when there is local knowledge, expertise, and assistance nearby when needed. This makes me recognise on a greater level that having our Arpin representatives at both origin and destination to council employees throughout their move process truly is a bonus. I’m proud to represent a company that provides this level of care and knowledge, and with the added benefit of having physically seen many cities around the world with my own eyes, I can safely confirm that nothing beats real world experience!

Natalie Chapman
Business Development
Arpin International (UK) Ltd.