Our new book is out!


Management Across Cultures, Cambridge University Press

We are very excited that the second edition of our “Management Across Cultures” book is now available worldwide. We have made lots of changes in this new edition, including adding a series of applications that demonstrate how our theoretical concepts can be applied to solve real-life problems, and a brand new chapter on living and working abroad.

Special thanks to my BIB students at Carleton University for providing inspiration for many of these changes!

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Stretching Cultural Boundaries: Tai Chi

Every year, I encourage my second year international business students to go out and try something different, to engage in an activity that feels foreign to them, that puts them just outside their comfort zone. This activity can be as simple as going to an ethnic restaurant and ordering something out of the ordinary,  as long as it feels foreign to them.

The idea behind this assignment is very simple: We tend to stick to what feels comfortable, and in this comfort we can get rigid in our ways. Purposefully challenging our boundaries helps us to remain flexible, push us to continue learning and growing and makes us better people. When we know how it feels to be uncomfortable we have a little more empathy towards those that may be outsiders in our own element.

It was with that spirit that I signed up for Tai Chi classes yesterday. Despite Tai Chi’s popularity in the west, it is completely new to me. My first class was definitely a stretch. I felt lost, confused, and clumsy. All I did was practice walking, and those simple steps were extremely challenging to me. Not only I found it difficult to perform the moves, I found myself constantly wondering about the logic of things – why do we take a tea break in the middle of a one-hour class?

Overall it was a reminder that there is always room for growth and learning. It does not matter how good we are in what we already do, there is a lot out there that we know nothing about.

Did I like it? I don’t know. I was too uncomfortable to appreciate it. I decided to give it some time, and push my boundaries until it feels comfortable. My goal is to at least master walking gracefully. Who knows how long that will take me.

Have you stretched your boundaries lately?

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Biking Tour: Ottawa-Perth Loop

For the last bit of summer fun we took a four-day biking tour to Perth. I had not spent much time in the region and thought that biking would provide an excellent opportunity to slow down, visit some small towns, and experience the local hospitality. I was not disappointed.

We started our first day in downtown Ottawa along the Ottawa River Pathway towards Britannia Park, turned left on Moody Drive towards Bells Corner and followed the Trans Canada Trail to Stittsville and continued towards Carleton Place. Just before arriving to Carleton Place, we took a detour through some small rural roads to the surprisingly beautiful town of Almonte. We stayed at the Menzie’s House, a welcoming bed & breakfast in a 1850’s house by the Mississippi river. Relaxing by the pool never felt so good!

Our second day lead us to Perth. We followed along some local roads but were rather disappointed at the lack of public spaces to stop. Even though this was a relatively light biking day the absolute unavailability of stopping points combined with the hot weather made for an unpleasant ride. The reward came upon arriving in Perth, spending the hot afternoon at the pool in the Drummond House, another nice bed and breakfast, in downtown Perth.

Our third day started with a promise of thunder showers and instead of heading home as planned, we decided to make it a short ride to Merrickville and hide from the rain. What a nice change of plans! We got there early and had time to walk around downtown and browse through the local shops. We stayed at the Millisle, a bed and breakfast located in a stunning historic home. We spent the afternoon watching the rain from the veranda with a good book and a glass of wine.

Our last day started with a nice ride along the Rideau River all the way to Manotick, where we stopped for a nice lunch at the French Cafe. From there, we rode along Prince of Whales back home, a predictably unpleasant ride among cars. As a reward, we finished off our vacation (by car!) at the Le Nordik, a nordic spa in the Gatineau area, relaxing our tired muscles and gathering the last bit of energy to get back to work.

How many days before it is summer again?

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End of summer!

Although technically there are still a few weeks to the end of summer, the academic summer is getting to an end and Fall is right around the corner. Even though I still have a few plans for the next couple of weeks, I am already getting into the mood of taking stock of my accomplishments and planning the next academic year.

I started the summer with a long list of things I wanted to do, including:

  • Starting a blog (check),
  • Starting new research projects (check),
  • Getting to know Canada better and explore new locations (check),
  • Catching up on my reading (partial check, it was an unrealistic reading list),
  • And losing a few pounds and getting in better shape (not really).

The next couple of weeks will be dedicated to consolidating my accomplishments. This weekend I will be doing a last bit of local exploration on bike. We are biking to Perth and surroundings, a good way to explore the area and test my fitness. After that, I am going to Ireland to present my newest research at a conference on Managerial and Organizational Cognition.

As for this blog, I am planning to revamp it and use it as a teaching tool, getting my students engaged in a discussion of the wonders and perils of living and working abroad, or as I prefer to think about it, the process of rooting and un-rooting. Stay tuned!

Have a happy end of summer!

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The Canadian Health System

I was supposed to be travelling and exploring new parts of this country, but ended up here in Ottawa exploring difference facets of the Canadian health system. It seems that what bothers my son is not serious after all, but getting to this preliminary conclusion required a visit to his doctor, a call to the Telehealth Ontario, and two emergency visits to CHEO.

A country’s health system is always a topic of animated conversation among expatriates and immigrants, trying to make sense of its workings, and searching for an assurance that should something happen to them, there will be a way to make it better. I have heard mixed reviews of the Canadian health system. Immigrant doctors reassuringly tell me of the availability of resources and fairness of the system. But patients complain of long and uncomfortable waits for non-urgent cases.

My own experience reflects this ambivalence. To start, I am very grateful to the Ontario health line. It was comforting to discuss the case with the nurse before packing up and driving to the emergency room. I would have probably waited until the morning pacing around the bedroom, unsure of what to do. The nurse’s guidance helped to clarify things and prompted me into action. I can see the relevance of this system to calm down stressed mothers, cut down on unnecessary strains in the emergency room, and to direct hesitant patients. Thumbs up for that.

Our experience at CHEO was reasonable. We were received promptly, preliminary checks done right away, and sent to a room to wait for the doctor who arrived reasonably soon. The pediatrician was reassuring but unsure about my son’s problem. We were sent home on wait and see mode with strong warnings to go back at the smallest sign of change for the worse. It was an uncomfortable wait and see. I am not very good at waiting and was not sure what I had to see. I would have liked an ultrasound right there and then for a little more certainty.

It is difficult to compare systems, as each case is unique. I have to say I was glad not to be worrying about how much that visit was going to cost me or what the insurance company was going to say about it, as I usually did in the U.S.. I wished I were back in Belgium where we never left a hospital before several exams were performed. And I was pleased not to be amidst the Brazilian randomness of care, wishing for the good luck of falling in the right hands at the right time.

Our wait and see mode lasted for two days when I finally decided that what I saw was different enough to warrant another emergency visit. We were back at CHEO and the experience repeated itself predictably and reassuringly. This time the doctor was more confident about the causes of the problem, and concluded that it was less serious than previously anticipated. She requested an ultrasound, to be done sometime this week, and a visit to the surgeon to be scheduled when a surgeon became available. The continuous wait is the biggest drawback of this system where eliminating discomfort is ‘elective’ and can wait until the short supply of professionals go through more urgent cases.

And this is the biggest weakness of this system that just does not have enough health care professionals to go around. I find that puzzling given the high number of immigrant doctors admitted in this country that are not able to practice. I appreciate a system of quality control and like to know that every practicing doctor will apply similar protocols and understand the culture and workings of health care in this country, but maybe there are things to be done to increase the odds that those immigrant doctors admitted in this country can succeed.

We are now home, waiting for appointments while the summer slips away. All I can hope for is that my health care exploration ends soon.

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Rideau Heritage Route

My mom is visiting from Brazil. Having my mom around is great, not only because she is great company and, well… my mom, but also because her visit gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my roots and at the same time show off my new home. This weekend I played tourist guide along the Rideau Heritage Route.

The irony of my tourist guide role is that I have not been in the region myself. I have been so busy exploring the Quebec side that I have neglected some very nice sights here in Ontario.

We visited Perth, Westport, did some shopping at Kilborn’s in Newboro, and spent some time at the local beach at Rideau Lakes.

I love visiting small towns. I find they provide a different window into Canadian culture, in its quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. I am definitely going back for the ones we missed this time around. My plan is to get to know this country pretty well, one small town at a time.

Do you have a  favourite Canadian small town?

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Galactic Travel

My Star Wars family

I am NOT a Star Wars fan.

I have tried to watch the Star War movies at different stages of my life, but I get bored with all the galactic action and could never get into it. Up until now, it has never been a problem. I managed to go through life without engaging with the topic and I don’t think anyone has noticed.

But things have changed. I was outvoted by the males in my life and dragged to the Star Wars exhibition at the Montreal Science Center. I tried to bargain a wait at the Scandinavian Spa across the street, but I lost. And that is how I ended up immersed in this culture, as foreign to me as tribal culture in the middle of Africa.

I decided to use this opportunity to expand my cultural horizons, and approached this visit as I would any other more conventional travel to unknown cultures. I don’t have to become one of them, but I can be open-minded enough to appreciate them.

With that frame of mind, I actually enjoyed the experience. The exhibition builds on the concept of identity creation, and has interactive activities to help visitors identify sources of influences on their behavior. Using segments of the Star War movies they discuss how family, culture, personality, and experiences shape who we are and influence our behavior. I have enjoyed that framing very much and even become a little curious to get to know the inhabitants of this world a little better.

In the end, this was a reminder that we do not need to go very far to learn from different cultures and perspectives. There is plenty to learn right here, with people who look just like us.

Have you tried anything ‘foreign’ to you lately?

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