With professor Frederik Anseel. Moving to another country can be challenging on different levels. It can be compared with learning a new language, and people tend to underestimate the impact on their mental health. In this episode, Frederik Anseel suggests looking for a ‘guide in the jungle’ to smooth the process. He also talks about raising awareness of the culture we are living in and about possible stereotypes we hold over other cultures. This episode also highlights what you can do as a colleague or as a host institution to make employees from abroad feel welcome. 

Frederik Anseel

Frederik Anseel is Senior Deputy Dean (Research & Enterprise) at UNSW Sydney Business School and Special Commissioner Talent Management at Ghent University. Previously, he has held leadership and professor appointments at King’s College London (UK), ESSEC Business School (France) and Bocconi University (Italy).

Professor Anseel studies how people and organizations learn and adapt to change. His influential leadership studies, published in leading academic journals, have been cited over 8500 times and featured in the Financial Times, The Economist, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Guardian and the Australian Financial Review.

Testimony - Arturo Munoz Saravia

Arturo is a post-doctoral researcher within the Department of Veterinary and Biosciences at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.


Frederik Anseel: [00:00:02] Water is culture. We're constantly swimming in culture, and we're not aware of it. And until you actually jump out of the water, you cannot realize how it was to be in that water. And so if you're emerged in culture, you cannot realize and define what it actually is.

David Chan: [00:00:23] Welcome to and published a podcast about mental wellbeing at work. The podcast has been created by Trustpunt. That's the confidential advisor service at Ghent University. Now in the series, we focus on topics related to academia and the research community. But there's a wealth of information in the series that will be inspiring whatever your walk of life. My name is David Chan. I'm a lecturer at Ghent University, and I'm the host of Unpublished. In each episode, we tackle a topic about mental well-being in the workplace. The topics are sensitive and often seen as taboo. They include phenomena such as imposter feelings, cultural differences and loneliness. Now, for each of these topics, I talk to an expert in the field who gives fascinating insights based on their research and professional experience. Alongside our main guest, you'll hear clips of individuals in academia sharing their own personal stories. With this podcast, we hope to create a greater openness towards the issues we cover and to help create a safe, comfortable space in which to talk about mental wellbeing in a positive way. Hello, Lore. Welcome.

Lore: [00:01:35] Hi, David.

David Chan: [00:01:36] Now, you work for Trustpunt. Can you tell us a little more about yourself and about Trustpunt?

Lore: [00:01:40] Of course. So I'm Lore. I'm a confidential counselor at Trustpunt and Response is a psychosocial well-being service of Ghent University. People can come to us if they need a listening ear and actually all issues related to mental wellbeing can be discussed with us during a confidential conversation.

David Chan: [00:01:59] So we're making a podcast to discuss some taboo topics about mental wellbeing at work. In this episode, we'll talk about how cultural differences can impact mental wellbeing. So why is it relevant or necessary to talk about this?

Lore: [00:02:13] Ghent University is an international environment, so there are a lot of different cultures working together, and every culture is unique in the way they talk about mental wellbeing. So it's important to understand these differences, to increase mutual understanding, and that's why we wanted to make these episodes.

David Chan: [00:02:31] So in this episode, I'm going to talk to Professor Frederic Anseel. He's a professor in the Department of Work Organization and Society, and he now lives and works in Sydney, Australia, and that's why we organize this interview digitally. You'll also hear Arturo. He's originally from Bolivia but moved to Belgium some ten years ago, and he moved for love. We talk to him about the cultural differences he's witnessed during that period.

Arturo Munoz: [00:02:57] I'm Arturo Munoz. I'm Bolivian. I'm a biologist by formation and well, now I'm working at Ghent University here as a researcher postdoc. I never thought to come to Belgium for a PhD or something. I always was looking for options in the UK or something like that. But yeah, you cannot decide about love.

David Chan: [00:03:20] First of all, we have this notion of culture now. We all have a vague sense of what we're talking about when we say culture, but it's a notoriously difficult concept to pin down from your position. What do you think is a useful way of looking at this notion of culture, particularly when we're thinking of the problems that might arise when we talk about cultural differences?

Frederik Anseel: [00:03:40] So you're right, it is a very difficult problem. You kind of grasp it and not only as a scholar in terms of trying to define it, but also for ourselves. If you think about are we aware of the culture we live in, where we are brought up in, we are probably not aware of that. And there's this, I don't know if it's a joke or a story. I'll tell it that people often use to sort of try to clarify what culture is. So there's a story about two fish just swimming along in the water, and suddenly an older fish swims along, and he nods to the two young fish, and he says, How's the water today? And they nod to him and say, Fine, fine. And they swim along and a bit further. Eventually one fish asks the other, What the hell is water? Right. And so that story is about water is, is, is culture. That means that we're constantly swimming in culture and we're not aware of it. And until you actually jump out of the water, you cannot realize what is water, how it was to be in that water. And so if you're emerged in culture, you cannot realize and define what it actually is.

David Chan: [00:04:56] It's a fantastic image to have in terms of the old idea of You don't know what. You've got until you until it's gone. I mean, in terms of, you know, you move somewhere else and then you might start to appreciate something and understand something about your own culture. I wanted to ask you a little bit about the work situation. When somebody moves to work in a university context, especially, we've got lots of international students, doctoral students, postdocs. They move to, say, Ghent University, and they are confronted with many manners or ranges of challenges. When I was walking to the office here today, I was reminded of that feeling that I had, in spite of the fact that many things are familiar. I'm from Britain and this is Belgium. A lot of things are similar. I was had this sense of everything felt new. Just crossing the street felt like something I have to think about. And it's just this sense of, for somebody moving into a new culture, a different culture, a different country. We mustn't underestimate the challenges that it poses for an individual. Perhaps you could say a little bit more about that, because I think for many of our listeners, this is the sort of prospect they might be facing.

Frederik Anseel: [00:06:05] I love the way you describe your feeling and I very much recognise it and you almost need to switch countries to really realize how awkward or how unfamiliar a normal work situation can feel if you change cultures. And probably it's almost treacherous to see superficially in this so similar, right? It feels normal and you can navigate and find your way very easily. But then you come into this work situation. It feels very strange that you cannot navigate social situations and it's especially those social situations that make you feel uncomfortable and also question everything that you've learned to that day. Culture at work determines a lot how decisions are made. You have this continuum where sometimes decision-making is a very transparent, open process, and in other cultures it is a very indirect, unspoken, implicit process. So you might join a work situation, you might join a meeting, and you'll notice that Anglo-Saxon cultures like the UK or Australia have a very different decision-making culture than, for instance, Belgium, France and Germany. If you would be in a Belgian work situation or in a German one, that would be a very explicit process where often there is a certain confrontation, where it's clear where you are aligned or not aligned. Right. And if you do not understand the culture that feels extremely awkward and you can feel that you are maybe sort of not part of the decision-making or people keep you outside and you may feel ostracized or you may feel that you do not belong or not are taken seriously. And that is why a lot of people struggle with, in a seemingly, superficially natural similar environment, you cannot engage because you do not understand the culture.

David Chan: [00:08:13] And this is not only in a work situation, of course, but it's also something that can be experienced in daily life. Arturo has a very nice and interesting example of how he and his girlfriend had a misunderstanding just because they read the situation from different cultural points of view.

Arturo Munoz: [00:08:29] When I came here, I realized about some small details that can be different to Bolivia, for example. I always remember when we went out with my girlfriend on the bike and we stopped in a red light and a girl came next to us and they started to talk. And as I was just expecting or waiting until I was introduced and I was never introduced. And in Bolivia, it's not polite to talk if you are not introduced. So I was just waiting 5 minutes waiting, 10 minutes waiting. I said, I will go on to another side. I was a little bit angry about the situation because I never was introduced and I felt that I was not important or something like that, or even thought that she was ashamed of me or something like that. And she came also angry and she told me: why you didn't talk? And I asked her why you didn't introduce me. For example, here in Belgium, if if you are in a new group, you don't need to be introduced. You just talk and that's easier. But in Bolivia, it's another thing. So of course, there are things that sometimes I'm not sure how to react or what to do because I said it's not normal. It's not. And sometimes I need to go back home and ask to my wife. This happened. Is that normal or not? Or how do I need to do? Because I'm not sure. But my way to protect myself is not react. This is just to do it normal and then ask if it's normal or not.

David Chan: [00:10:07] Not understanding the culture. That wonderful image you used earlier. It's invisible. It's all around. It's water. I've experienced this and I think anybody who moves to a different country, a different culture has experienced this. You're attempting to read between the lines. You're attempting to read this text, which is culture. To what extent is it useful or possible to have a cultural guide that would be of useful in making the water visible, so to speak?

Frederik Anseel: [00:10:31] To a certain extent it is definitely possible, and there's a few good books out there. But what I have done or what I'm trying to do is basically I tried to find somebody that I trust and I'll I'll open up about this and I'll just ask them to guide me a bit, right? To be my guide in the jungle. That is a new culture. They can sort of explain to you a bit how, for instance, decisions are being made or for instance, if you ever gave somebody feedback or received feedback, why that was not well received, or you may be offended or insulted somebody without being aware. And it really helps if you have, let's say, a coach or a mentor, let's say a cultural coach. And that doesn't need to be anyone necessarily from work. It can be a friend, it can be somebody from that culture. But just discussing this is really helpful and people often enjoy it because like we use the metaphor of the water because raising those issues suddenly makes them aware of the water they have been swimming in for their entire lives. And they are then often able to make that explicit and they'll say, Oh, so if you would ask that person how, let's say, how does the after work reception works? They would struggle to answer that because it is swimming in the water. It's difficult. But if you make the behaviors or your experience very explicit, they would say, oh, right, right. Yes, of course. You get a drink and you have to introduce yourself to somebody or you need to ask somebody to introduce you because it's very impolite to sort of impose that on somebody. Those people will not naturally be aware of that. But as soon as you raise some stories, anecdotes, they'll be able to guide you. And I would really advise people that come into a culture, be it Belgium or be it at Ghent University, to find somebody that they trust that they have a good connection with. And you'll have a lot of fun. You'll have a lot of fun moments where you both discover that something works completely differently.

David Chan: [00:12:35] Humor is an essential part of understanding cultural differences, and in particular, it's important to know how to handle it. Now, these misunderstandings can lead to very funny moments, but for some people it can also be a bit stressful.

Frederik Anseel: [00:12:49] You need to approach it with a certain lightness and learn from it. Although I should be completely honest, sometimes it has also been very frustrating, and I've often been disappointed or confused about not knowing what happens and almost being angry with myself or with others because they don't seem to listen or understand me. So I understand if people have a bit of frustration, but afterwards, yes, a sense of lightness and a bit of humor, seeing how relative it is. And if those people would come to your country back, they would experience exactly the same thing and you would need to be the guide in the jungle and explain how it works for them. And it is like learning different languages, it's implicit languages and I find that is a personal experience. I get better at it, right? So I get better at reading situations, talking to people, not making any assumptions, being a bit cautious. If I go into social situations to see if I do not disrupt anything, if I do not insult anyone, it always creates good conversation starters as well, right? I will. Often when I'm in a party reception or meeting, I'll introduce myself and I say, Look, I'm from Belgium and I worked in France, the Netherlands and Italy, so please forgive me if I come with any sort of European sort of tendencies. Please forgive me because we have a very European centric way of doing things.

Frederik Anseel: [00:14:11] Just an anecdote. I was a bit offended when I came in Australia and we were at work and I heard somebody from Australia saying, Oh yeah, the euros will be annoyed with that. And I was saying, Who are the euros? Oh yes, everyone that comes from Europe and has a European heritage. They have a common way of complaining about things and have a quite negative look. They are often very critical and a bit negative as compared to the Australians or people with an Asian background. And I found that very, very intriguing that what we see as normal in Europe and a normal way of engaging and also we would never in Europe see ourselves as similar. Right. We would say someone from France is different from someone from Germany for the Netherlands. But certainly if you are far away, you are stereotyped as one group, the euros, the euros. And we have a common. He said. And it's true, I recognise it. We are a bit more critical and a bit more negative, disposed to life and we complain a lot and it's, it's a bit of a European tendency. And so you become aware of how you've been raised and how you look at life by those things. And so you learn a lot from it.

David Chan: [00:15:24] Humor is an essential part of understanding cultural differences and in particular it's important to know how to handle it. Now these misunderstandings can lead to very funny moments, but for some people it can also be a bit stressful.

Arturo Munoz: [00:15:39] I met my now wife in Bolivia and the first time that I came to Belgium I was scared to go to Belgium because of the family, because in Bolivia it's like if you're a man of guy boy and if you go to the house of your girlfriend, it's like, Ooh, you need to be scared because the father is going to tell you what you want with my daughter, all those kind of things. So I came with this kind of impression, what I'm going to say to her parents and this kind of things. And I remember being in her apartment. It was good because we were alone and with her friends. But when we had to go to her house, I was basically scared. I remember taking the bus to Kalken and it was what I'm going to say, what they are going to say. And then we went out from the bus and a man came to us “Ah Ineke, ah Arturo” a huge hug and I felt really, really welcome to the family. And also we arrived to the house. And her mother was there and she was really friendly. And after one hour, I was they're not going to kill me.

David Chan: [00:16:56] As Fredrik mentioned before, people have a tendency to stereotype other cultures. The stereotyping is a very common phenomenon. If we talk about culture, it's a good thing to be aware of the stereotypes we hold about others. This notion of stereotyping is a very important aspect, isn't it, in terms of that navigating the waters, in terms of cultural difference, to some extent, stereotyping is there, and there's always a grain of truth. But what is a healthy approach to this idea of stereotype?

Frederik Anseel: [00:17:27] You made a very good summary in a sense that a grain of truth, there's a reason why we stereotype it, helps us navigate our lives, because each time if we meet someone new or have new situation, if we would first need to extensively and deeply analyze all the facts and information we would not be able to to go about and do our lives right. So we need shortcuts. We need rules of thumb, and that is what stereotypes are. It is making snap judgments, quick judgments about the social situation, about a person. What should you do? How will that person likely react? And that is based on stereotypes, right? We would say that is a very loud person that will probably be an extrovert person. And so in any sort of situation, I'll expect that person to be the first to speak up. Right. That is a stereotype that is helpful. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that we overgeneralize and we think that through those stereotypes that there's not a lot of variation between people of a certain culture that we apply that stereotype to. And so we should be aware that actually the differences within a culture are probably larger than the differences between cultures.

Frederik Anseel: [00:18:39] Let me try to give an example that is close to home and that I'm pretty confident that will not insult anyone. But let's, for instance, compare the Netherlands with Belgium, right? A typical stereotype that the Belgians would hold over the Dutch is this idea that they are a bit more outspoken, a bit more assertive than Belgium. Right. And we would say, well, people from the Netherlands can be a bit louder. And to us, they would appear a bit more extroverted. If you now would zoom in on the Netherlands, you would actually see that there's a lot of people that are also very introverted, that are not so assertive and loud. And so the differences in the Netherlands between people that are extroverted and introverted is much larger than the difference between Belgians and people from the Netherlands. And so there's a risk that we overgeneralize with the stereotype. So on the one hand, they have a kernel of truth, but we should always be very careful. Do not over generalize those.

David Chan: [00:19:40] What I take from this is that it's important to add some nuance to existing stereotypes. When you move to another country, you not only have to deal with stereotypes, but it's also a challenge to build a social network. Now Arturo talks about his experiences and how difficult he found it to make new friends, and this difficulty left a deep impression on him.

Arturo Munoz: [00:20:02] When you want to go deeper in a friendship with Belgian people, it's impossible. You are like a wall. You can talk with anybody. They are going to smile. They are very friendly. And until you reach the wall, and it's impossible. I am more than maybe ten years or something like that in Belgium, and it's impossible for me to pass this wall because everybody has already friends, but a newcomer from outside, it's difficult to get really in this friendship. At least I felt that I was talking with other friends from outside and they felt the same. Like we can see this wall.

David Chan: [00:20:52] And this can all have an effect on people's mental well-being. Of course. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about what can be some of the consequences in terms of well-being when those differences and perceived differences begin to have a significant effect on an individual?

Frederik Anseel: [00:21:10] It's a difficult issue, and let me try to provide some guidance and especially apply it to the situation where people would move to Belgium or Ghent University. So first of all, there's a risk of feeling a bit isolated and a sense of maybe even loneliness, because you come in a new culture, you're in a new work environment, and building links, building connections is not so easy. Probably Belgium. Similar to what I hear from friends in Scandinavian countries. Belgium is not the most open and friendly culture in a sense to build friendship relations. So we and my tentative explanation for this is because Belgians stick to the places where they are born. And we often joke that Belgians keep on living around the church tower where they were born. That means that a lot of Belgians have family ties and friendship ties that go back to their childhood because they don't move far away. And so if you're new and you come to Belgium, you will find that it's sometimes difficult to make new friends, because it seems that all the friendship ties and the networks have been established for a long time, and you might feel like you're not invited to parties to after work things because people just don't do it. They have their own friendship circles that you're not welcome and you're most definitely welcome, but it's difficult to get in there. And so when you enter, let's say, a new work situation, I think it's very important to first focus on the work situation and try to build good professional relationships first with your colleagues, with your supervisors. That will be easy because when it's at work and it's a professional situation, typically Belgians will be very open, quite transparent, will be friendly, constructive, supportive.

Frederik Anseel: [00:23:02] From there on, once you feel a bit more at home and you can take part in, let's say, meetings and group discussions, typically that will go easy. You'll try to figure out how decision making goes, how people sort of build mentorship, coaching relationships, and often the best way to form part of a group is find one other person that sort of introduces you and vouchers for you in the group. As a newcomer, you will be taken up by the group. And in Belgium it's often one person of the group that needs to introduce you and make you part of the group. And from thereon it can be a bit easier and then it might take a while. Belgians are a bit reserved and it takes a while for them to open up. They won't talk about feelings and emotions or their private lives very easily, very frequently. It takes a long time for them to get to know you, to trust you. But after a while they'll open up. You'll get to know them. Maybe you'll have an afterward drink and their partner will be there or other friends. And from there on it becomes easier and often it becomes easier. If it's a group thing, you'll fit in, and from there on it's easier to build those relationships. But what I've seen and what I've heard from international colleagues is that let's say that first period, that first six months to a year can be a bit of a lonely period where you feel isolated again.

David Chan: [00:24:32] That idea of a confidante, a person who can vouch for you, introduces you that will smooth your way in the process. I was wondering also what about well, if we take the Belgian context within a professional context, university context, what about what colleagues, supervisors or heads of department, etc., what they might do that might ease the path for colleagues coming in from other countries, other cultures?

Frederik Anseel: [00:24:58] I've only sort of discovered this myself by moving to other countries and other cultures. I think as a host institution and as, let's say, supervisor or colleagues, we could do much more. The problem is that we're all still swimming in the water, not being aware of the water rights. And so it's all very small things, but it's often the small gestures that signal something if you belong or not. Right. And I'll give you an example. Something that Belgians, for instance, sometimes do is if you have people from an international background, be consistent in speaking English so that they understand. Right, even if it does not come naturally to you, even if you need to speak English to somebody that you've known for your whole life and you've spoken in Flemish for your whole life, if somebody from another country is present consistently speaks English because otherwise it feels like you're excluding them. It feels like you're talking about them while they're present. Right. It's a very nasty habit that we do. Is this sort of changing our language while somebody else is present, if you're not addressing them, you have to change all your communications to the language that they understand, right? Of course, we invite people to learn Dutch, learn Flemish, but we know we have a difficult language to learn.

Frederik Anseel: [00:26:19] And let's be honest, not a lot of people speak Dutch in the world. It is quite a challenge. So be consistent, speak English, make sure that all the communication is in English, every email that you send. I've noticed that for a lot of international people, they find it hugely frustrating that they still get emails only in Dutch. They do their best to understand that, but they will still get the occasional email and it always feels so unwelcoming, right? It is like you're not important. And so it's about those small things that you can do. And then I think a certain tolerance from supervisors and colleagues about new ways of doing or other ways of doing. We in Belgium have a way of sticking to our traditions and routines. That is the way we do things here. And we've always done it like this. It's not because somebody comes from Germany or the US or from Singapore that we suddenly need to change our ways. But why not? Why not sort of question yourself and think, well, maybe we have a routine or a habit that is just not so efficient or not so effective or not so welcoming. And maybe you need to sort of think, could we do that differently?

David Chan: [00:27:29] I think reaching out, which is all of the sort of measures you're suggesting there, is, creating an environment where those from other cultures will feel that there is an opportunity to to actually understand and also to enter into the kind of dialogue that you mentioned earlier that's that's so important that being able to talk about cultural differences. Let's go back to Arturo. He had the impression that your identity in Belgium is closely intertwined with your job, and this is not always easy for him.

Arturo Munoz: [00:28:02] This is also one thing that the Belgian is very important work. Second of third question in a conversation is about work. What do you for work? And sometimes it's tiring because especially when you are, you don't have work. When I came here, for example, to do my just to visit a couple of times or to look for options to work with PhD or something like that. I didn't have the PhD yet and everybody was asking me, What are you doing? What are you working with? And then I got the PhD and the questions decreased. So nobody was asking what I was doing because everybody knew that I was doing my Ph.D. I finished my Ph.D. and again, the question, What are you doing? What do you do for work? And even people don't ask you, How are you? How do you feel? They ask you, What are you doing for work? And everybody wants to show that they are really busy doing their work. Everyone says, Oh, I was working yesterday until 2:00 in the morning. I was, my weekend was very full. I have a lot of work and this is also maybe typical of Belgium that people talk a lot about work and they want to show that they're working hard, they work a lot. But sometimes for me, more important to think, Do you feel okay or not?

David Chan: [00:29:23] I asked Fredrik if there's something that we as Ghent University can do to prevent these kinds of situations or to stimulate ways in which to welcome new people into our culture.

Frederik Anseel: [00:29:33] Institutionally, there's a lot of goodwill, there's a lot of actions, but I think we could go further. Diversity is important. It means that we try to be more open in the way that we recruit and hire and bring in people from all different cultures. Right. It's much easier from someone from a different culture to be part of a group if they're not alone. If you have a group of ten people and nine of them are Belgian and one comes from another culture, that is difficult. But if five of them are from Belgium and five come from all different cultures, it is much easier. And so that is what diversity is. But we need to go further than diversity. Diversity is just having different backgrounds in the room. Inclusiveness means that the people that are in the room feel that they belong and that they actually are valued for giving their views and opinion. And I often feel that that is a difficult next step. And there's some work to do because we often have this feeling that we are already sort of proud that we're open and that there are people from international cultures. But we need to go further and make sure that they have as much voice and input as we have. And to give you an example, something that I have been advocating for is when we recruit someone in Belgium, we have a very task oriented focus. We think about the person that we've recruited and we think about the job that person is going to do, right? And we give them a role description.

Frederik Anseel: [00:31:05] We make sure that they have a lab and everything, but they come with a family, they come with a background, they come with a history. And so what I've experienced when I've felt most welcome is when my new institution also welcomed my family and was interested in “How are your children doing? What is your partner doing? What was their background? How did they feel coming here? Do they have a professional future? Can we help them? Can we help them find a school? Can we help them find a community?” And so that is incredibly important because if I focus again on the task aspect, somebody cannot thrive in their role, cannot feel good in their job if they're worried and concerned about their family, if they're not okay. And it's very difficult if you're working and you go back home and back at home, your family does not feel home in the new country. They're worried about how things are going there. They long back to where they came from. That makes it very difficult. And so I think as an institution, we need to think a bit broader and not just about the person we are recruiting, but also their network, their family and their roots and how we welcome those.

David Chan: [00:32:19] Absolutely. So, I mean, perhaps you can close with the you're just to follow up their Frederick with your lovely image. You know, right at the beginning of our talk, that optimistic idea, this idea of openness to cultures and diversity becomes the new it becomes the water that we're swimming that we all have at some level, an instinctive grasp of this sort of openness.

Frederik Anseel: [00:32:40] That's a great idea. It's almost saying, get out of the water of your fish bowl and jump in the water of another fishbowl. Right.

David Chan: [00:32:48] I have two goldfish. I'll tell them later. Frederick, I'd like to thank you for your very enlightening and sharp remarks concerning this very important issue of culture and well-being in the workplace. Thank you very much. And I hope it's not too long now before your dinner time.

Frederik Anseel: [00:33:11] No, it was great being here. It was great talking to you. And and indeed, it's almost time maybe to have an aperitif now.

David Chan: [00:33:19] That is very Flemish. Yes. So that's the interview. And many thanks to Fredrik Anseel. So, Lore, we heard some very interesting insights from Fredrik. And Arturo gives an honest and engaging account of his experiences. What do you think about this episode?

Lore: [00:33:39] Well, we were very glad that Arturo was willing to share his experience, even if it was sometimes hard and difficult for him. We hear positive stories at Trustpunt, as well as more challenging or disappointing stories. So I think we can conclude that moving to another country is a very personal story. There's no one good way to deal with it, and it depends on multiple factors. So for example, your personality, your social situation, your work situation and so on. And I also think it was very inspiring to hear Fredrik as well as he was not only the expert in the field and this episode, but he can also relate because of his own personal experience moving to Sydney.

David Chan: [00:34:25] And Lore, for you, what would be the takeaway message of this episode.

Lore: [00:34:29] When moving abroad, it is normal to experience all kinds of emotions. As Frederik mentioned, it is hard to grasp the essence of a foreign culture, so know that you are not the only one struggling with it. We also think it's a good idea to open up about this to someone you trust. And that can be a colleague, a new friend, but also a professional counselor. So don't be afraid to explicitly ask if someone wants to help you to get a better understanding of the culture.

David Chan: [00:34:58] And a lot has been said in the episode about Belgian and European culture as well. Now it is, and some of these details are quite challenging to hear about, but I guess it's also positive to talk about this more.

Lore: [00:35:11] Yes, indeed. It was also an eye opener for me personally, so we also hope to create awareness regarding the culture you live in because we are often not aware of our own culture and think about the image Frederik used. You are swimming in the water without realizing what the water is. So if we are aware of our own culture, we can adapt our behavior in order to make the change easier for international researchers. So regarding our own culture, we hope that this can be an eye opener and at least it's something to think about.

David Chan: [00:35:44] Absolutely. This was Unpublished, a podcast of Ghent University to give insights about mental wellbeing to our local and international co-workers. Have you been affected by one of the topics in our episodes? Well then don't hesitate to contact a confidential counselor of Trustpunt. Did you find this an interesting episode? Share it with your coworkers. You can find more information about this podcast at In the next episode, I'll be talking to Johan Brackman about the balance between competition and cooperation. Unpublished is a podcast brought to you by Trustpunt from Ghent University and is produced by Chase Creative.