Tag Archives: lisbon

Political and Economic Developments in Europe – Heather Thomas

I am in my first year at the University of San Diego in the Professional MBA program. My undergraduate studies concentrated on cultural anthropology, specifically linguistics. Inspired by the desire to capture dying languages as relics of human expression, I have always been thrilled by the human experience. Taking a plunge into a new field, I see the same themes arise in the inherent social nature of business. The unavoidable road towards a global era is intertwining industries and firms on a level never before seen. Political and social happenings worldwide are changing the world we live in every day with exciting new technologies and a beautiful immersion of cultures. In my quest to discover more about the global changes taking place, and the interconnectivity of it all, I am determined to take my learning experiences abroad as often as possible.

The first, of many more, began in Lisbon and ended in Madrid.

Europe has lived through some incredibly noteworthy changes in recent years. As part of the European Union, in both Portugal and Spain I encountered a significant amount of concern, or at least a prevalent curiosity, about the future of the EU post-Brexit. Will it impact future global trends in trade relations? Will it prompt other European member nations to take action for separation from the union?

The economic union is currently the most robust integration of nations and has succeeded in making Europe a major international power. Lecturers, Francisco Torres and Mario Weitz Schneir, appeared not to fear Brexit and suggest it may be more of a loss for the UK than the remaining nation states. It does, however, bring into question the need to confront the rise of populist movements, a result of economic uncertainty and increasing concerns of globalization.

Another topic of significant impact in the last 10 years is the global financial crisis of 2008. Both Portugal and Spain have not fully recovered and also suffered a severe economic blow during the European debt crisis in 2009. Unemployment rates remain high but are on a steady inline, at just under 19% in Spain and 10% in Portugal compared to 4.3% in the US. The economic systems in both countries are seemingly in repair and investment in technology, education and energy appear promising. With so much transformation, it will be interesting see how things develop.

There are three main things I learned on this program. First, I learned to examine business in a more holistic manner, taking in cultural and historical aspects and exploring their implications. I learned that although Portugal is moving away from tourism as a major industry and into more lucrative sectors, there is no denying the appeal of the city of Lisbon. And finally, for anyone afraid of drinking up an appetite in Spain, you will never be short of Tapas.

To check out more student experiences, please visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Tips for Traveling to Lisbon and Madrid

Shreyas Sreekanth visited two locations, Madrid and Lisbon, and gave us some tips for what to do and see in both locations. Read on to find out more!

Since this was the first time I was visiting Europe, my excitement before leaving was overwhelming. We had a large group of people from different programs joining us in these wonderful locations, which made it even better to meet new people and hang out together. The pre-departure session that my classmates and I had with the Ahler’s Center was very helpful to prepare ourselves for the locations we would be traveling to, as we had speakers present who are from Lisbon as well as a person from the US currently studying in Madrid. They were kind of enough to give us a broad picture of what the locations are like, safety tips, appropriate traveling means, as well as suggestions of different restaurants and places to visit.

Lisbon is a great city in terms of the people, locations, food, and places to visit. The opening dinner on the first day was a great opportunity to meet everyone in the program. The authentic Portuguese cuisine was to die for, as I had the best sea food and wine. Our class was held in Catolica School of Business and Economics, which was a 10-minute cab ride from our hotel. The professors and students from the school were very receptive and catered to our needs in the best way they could, which made us feel more comfortable in our new environment. The class schedule was perfectly balanced between attending class and completing school work before we went out to explore the city.

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The city tour that the Ahler’s Center planned was what opened my eyes to what Portugal has to offer, as well as its prominent history. We had a certified guide who took us to the oldest part of the city, gave us information about how the city had been destroyed by an earthquake, and described what had to be done to build it back up to what it is today. It involved quite a walk, so it is highly recommended to be in comfortable attire and shoes (which will be stressed by Allison the day before). Everyone was quite tired after the session, but the highlight was going to an amazing pastry place, Pastéis de Belém, where we were served the best chocolate tarts I have ever had until now. This is a must try in Lisbon, as I ended up having a few every day after the tour.

The other must visit place is Sintra, where beautiful castles are located, as well as a breathtaking view from the western most part of Europe. The hike is through some wonderful small waterfalls and various ancieimg_20160604_013729nt castles. Again, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and attire, as it is almost a 4-hour hike to see all of the sites. The city also a lot of small little restaurants and boutiques that are interesting to peruse in, the restaurants are perfect to go with friends after a long day’s trek in the evening. A peculiar trend that I observed in Lisbon is that dinner time is usually around 10 PM, and hence, the places are open quite late. The language is not really a problem, as all the restaurants have English menus, and the minimal English that the cab drivers know is sufficient to get around the city without much difficulties. However, it is recommended to learn a few basic words in both languages, but if not, it is very important to carry a business card of the hotel with you at all times in case of an emergency.

After a week in Lisbon, we headed towards the city of Madrid in Spain. The most prominent experience I had in Madrid is the Tapas tour. Tapas is img_20160530_174244a must try in Madrid, as there so many variations to the small dishes and tapas is available in a lot of different places. The Dean also joined for us the event, making it that much better. We were lucky enough to be in Madrid during the UEFA finals between two of the most prominent clubs in Spain, Real Madrid and Atlético. The craze about soccer in Spain is real, as it is widespread throughout the city, and it seemed like the city came to a halt for those entirety of the game.

We were also fortunate enough to have guest speakers at both the locations who were from Europe to give presentations on their respective regions. The opportunity to learn about the history of both countries, the EU, and the Eurozone in general was fascinating. The industrial visits to We Do Technologies in Lisbon and the Google campus in Madrid was very useful to understand how business functions in Eimg_20160603_202749urope, and the experiences described by the founders of We Do technologies was very informative. They explained the challenges they faced in their industry, as well as how different it is to run a business in Europe in comparison to the US. The industrial visits are a core part of the program and it is mandatory to attend both of them. On a final note, the logistics and program itself were carried out very efficiently, with many thanks to Allison from the Ahler’s Center, as she coordinated with the local schools and kept us informed regularly through Whatsapp. Both of the cities were wonderful places to visit, to experience the European culture as well as to gain new knowledge, and a few credits, at the same time!

From the Classroom to Beyond

Ashrith Doddi really enjoyed learning about various international affairs within the classroom while abroad. Read on to find out more about his experience!

I had a great experience with Dr. Dimon and the rest of the crew in Lisbon and Madrid. The class, Global politics, policy, law and ethics, was such a refreshing take on global politics and market systems, with a special emphasis on European monetary and fiscal policy. The case studies given to us exposed us to global business, cross-border negotiations, culture, and challenges that entrepreneurs and businesses face when they make international transactions.

Company visit

When I read the case about corruption in Siemens in Germany, I learned about how big businesses are structured, as well as the journey Siemens and its top management took during its growth stage. The discussion we had in class was lively and insightful. Despite being in metropolitan cities with bustling nightlife and many distractions, everyone in class was prepared, well read and contributed significantly during discussions. When we were not discussing case studies or listening to Dr. Dimon talk about subject matter, we had esteemed guest speakers who educated us on European fiscal and monetary policy. This was the highlight of taking the class in Europe, because I have done some extensive research about European policy in my previous job working as a Reuters correspondent. Many things come to mind that I can use in my personal or professional life after taking the class. For example, the information about liberal and coordinated markets will help me gain perspective about how markets function in different countries. As an MBA student aiming towards a career as a consultant, these topics will help in the future when I have projects that will require international travel. Another example that comes to mind is the telecommunications case study we did, which showed me the importance of market research before entering a new market. Since I am from an emerging market (India), I can compare and contrast the business environments in different countries and the course material will help me in my future ventures.

Madrid - bull fight

To conclude, I highly recommend the course to future students. The classroom discussions with the professor and the students encouraged me to keep up to date with case studies, current affairs and especially, to learn more about the European economy. Traveling with fellow students and professors was an enriching experience and I thank the University of San Diego’s Ahlers Center for the scholarship and the opportunity to take this class.

Final dinner

Lisbon & Madrid: Food, fútbol, and friends/family

Surabhi Mohta participated in the study abroad program to Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain where she observed many cultural similarities between the two countries and reflected on her experiences in both places.

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A wise man once said, ‘the world is a book; and those who do not travel read only one page.’ I realized how true these words are after my experiences abroad. For two weeks in May 2016, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Spain and Portugal. I knew coming to the University of San Diego, which is a pioneer in study abroad programs for its graduate school, that I wanted to study abroad at some point as a student here and I have been lucky enough to experience two study abroad trips so far. I didn’t know just how life-changing studying abroad would be and how much I would learn while I was traveling. I took a class which taught me about how different economic and political conditions can shape the way of life in a country and how some of the most innovative ideas can come out of the toughest constraints. I also learned so many things outside of class that helped me to appreciate my experience that much more.

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I learned so much about another culture: what other people value, what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what makes them stay up so late. I learned what it’s like to live as a traveler and not a tourist, and how to explore a country with strangers who can become close friends. I learned how to read a city with my feet, walking through streets so narrow that the sidewalks, where they existed, were no wider than a foot. Living in a foreign city is supposed to push you outside your comfort zone, interact with people you have never met before, immerse yourself in a culture very different from your own, as well as understand how local businesses work, and why they are structured the way they are. The culture shocks I experienced came in the daily routines, the little details, such as with the type of foods. All the fruits and vegetables were so fresh, since the Spanish and Portuguese aren’t dependent on preservatives. The food in Portugal and Spain was very traditional and local. The people are proud of where they come from; they are born, they live and die here. I found that the food they eat reflects their municipal pride.

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Another thing that was interesting to note is the Portuguese and Spanish culture of extraversion. Yes, there’s a huge economic crisis: the youth unemployment rate, especially in Spain, exceeds 60 percent. Yet, people are still going out. They aren’t afraid to have a good time, and I experienced this through feeling the intensity of the fútbol games, which you knew the entire city was watching by the perfectly synchronized cheers erupting from the apartments and streets around me. They would rather live with less than sacrifice going out with their friends and family. This reflects the importance the Spanish and Portuguese people place on relationships, which I also observed in the way business was done in these countries.

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What makes study abroad so amazing is how much you learn about life in such a condensed period of time, away from everything familiar. As Henry Miller said, ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ That’s exactly what a study abroad experience does to you.”

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To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

10 Must-Do’s in Madrid

During May and June of 2016, USD afforded students from the MBA and MSGL programs the opportunity to study abroad in Lisboa, Portugal and Madrid, España. Both cities were absolutely breathtaking and are highly recommended destinations. In Madrid, there are 10 Must-Do’s that left a lasting impression on me and will enhance your culture experience:

  1. Watch a soccer (fútbol) game with the locals. Soccer, or fútbol, is like a religion in Europe. If one really wants to get immersed in the culture, find a local pub, and enjoy the festivities. Some of the best soccer in the world is played in Spain, as Spain won the World Cup in 2010, and Real Madrid won the Champions League Championships in 2016. Puerto del sol has great restaurants to enjoy the games!
    2. Plaza de Cibeles
  2. After the match. Spaniards are very passionate people. When something good happens, everybody gets together in the streets and celebrates. If there’s a concert, soccer game, or national holiday, Plaza de Cibeles is a great location where everybody conglomerates to rejoice in the moment. It’s an amazing cultural experience, and the atmosphere cannot be replicated.
  3. Flamenco. The performance originates from Spain. The presentation involves singing, guitar, dance, and more. It is a classy experience, and one really gains an appreciation for the talent, fitness, and rehearsal that these performers undergo in preparing themselves for the performance. A great venue for this is Corral de la Moreria.
    4. Plaza del Callao
  4. Reach out! Had one asked me at the time if I knew anybody in Madrid, I would have said no. However after passing the word along, my friend’s, friend’s, brother, from Zamora was in Madrid at the time. Reach out to your friends, find some local connections, and hang out in a few of the local spots. There are great local spots around Plaza del Callao.
    5. Viejo Madrid
  5. Tapas. Tapas are a wide variety of snacks, or appetizers, of Spanish cuisine. These are edibles that are synonymous with Spanish culture. There is lots of finger food that can be served both hot and cold. A great restaurant for tapas is Viejo Madrid – highly recommended.
    6. La Paella Real
  6. Paella. Paella is a type of food that’s unique to Spain. It’s a rice dish that originates from Valencia. There are many different types of paella which one could have to include vegetarian, seafood, mixed, and more – and goes great with tapas. La Paella Real is a great location with well-recommended Paella should one have a hankering for some good Spanish ham.
    7. Restaurante Alabaster
  7. Iberico Ham. This tapa is so good that it gets its own caption. Cured from the black Iberian pig, found only in Portugal and Spain, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Restaurante Alabaster had the best!
    8. La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, Las Ventas
  8. Bullfighting. This bloodsport is strongly tied to Spanish culture and masculinity…not for the fainthearted. The roots can be traced back to Mesopotamia where bulls were worshipped, and sacrificed, as entailed in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Eventually this killing ritual became sacred.  A venue to view this ritual is La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, or more simply, Las Ventas.9. Hotel Urban Madrid
  9. Rooftop restaurants. These are great locations to come after supper and reflect on the day. It provides one with a great vantage point to take in the beautiful city and digest the cultural experiences with friends. One such rooftop location that’s recommended is Hotel Urban Madrid.10. Jardines del Buen Retiro
  10. Row boats. Though the Spanish are known for being arguably the most influential sailors in the world, Madrid is unfortunately landlocked. However, one is able to enjoy the great outdoors on the water by renting a rowboat at Jadines del Buen Retiro. This is a popular place for the locals to come and enjoy their time off work.

Business Etiquette in Spain, Portugal, and India

Rajat Raizada made the journey to Lisbon and Madrid this summer, experiencing a contrast of Portuguese and Spanish business etiquette to that of his native country, India. Please enjoy reading his perspectives on European and Indian cultural practices, and how to have cultural-awareness in international business.

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“During my summer abroad trip to Spain and Portugal, I noticed many cultural differences between these countries and India. I made several points about what occurs to me as different in Spain and Portugal from India.

Hierarchy

Indian society is very hierarchically organized which isIMG_20160525_173020 apparent from the way parents raise their kids. The parents are the boss and the kids follow the instructions of the parents. Even in business environment, the companies follow a hierarchical structure. In organizations, hierarchy is the central way of managing. If you work with a software company, even a small one, you’ll find a project manager, who is managing the team leader, who is managing the programmers, even in the smallest projects. And the programmer will need his superior for anything that he does. However, in Europe (Spain and Portugal) most companies give people responsibility, freedom and measure people on their performance within those boundaries.

Openness

In India, people are very open, discussing personal, professional, and all kinds of topics with their friends and colleagues. India is a collectivist society and major focus is given on relationship building. Before conducting any business, two parties generally meet 2-3 times to develop good relations and bondIMG-20160615-WA0015s between them. While in Europe (Spain and Portugal), people are always trying to be very polite and won’t share anything negative or offending (which also makes for a very positive cultural experience). It is sometimes hard to really get the truth or the person’s vision on a subject. From a business perspective, it is valuable to learn about different cultures, as by understanding them, it becomes easier to develop a successful cooperation.

Masculinity

Though India is moving towards gender equality, India is still predominantly a male-dominating society. This is quite evident as most of the important financial decisions are made by the male member in the family. In companies, gender ratio has not yet reached 50:50 and most of the senior positions in the company are taken by males. In Europe (Spain and Portugal), there is no gender bias and men and women work together and share the same goal. Unlike in India, some key positions in Portugal and Spain are held by females in the company.

Greetings

While many Spaniards of the opposite sex will greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks, this is not as common in business relationships unless you know the other party well. While in India, handshake is most prevalent way of greeting in business community (don’t even think of kissing).

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Addressing a person

In Europe (Spain and Portugal), people use first name for addressing a person in the company. In India, though, addressing by first name is catching up but people still prefer to be addressed as Sir or Madam (especially if you are talking to senior).

Punctuality

In Portugal, punctuality is not seen as very important. Interestingly, people from the North are usually more punctual than those from the South. In fact, it is polite to arrive five minutes late. The host usually arrives “on time” but all others are usually late. When you arrive for a meeting, do not be offended if you are kept waiting for up to 20 minutes. This is the usual practice in Portugal. If you are kept waiting more than 30 minutes, then it would be quite normal to express some discontent. While in India, people are generally punctually (not as punctual as Americans) and arriving 5 minutes late in a business meeting is not considered rude.

In Portugal, during my visit to WE DO Technologies, I noticed quite a few differences from the Indian companies. First, the CEO of the company was very approachable to all the employees. Second, all the employees of the company were encouraged to suggest new ideas which can aid in companies growth. Third, the work timings of the company were from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with weekends off. In India, the company CEO is not easily approachable to all the employees and generally top management makes all key strategic decisions about the company. Other employees just follow their superior’s orders. Also, the work timing in India is very harsh. Generally, 9-10 hours workday is common with Saturday as working day (half day in some companies).

Doing business in Europe – Spain

These are the things which I learned during my trip to Spain in regards to doing business:

Doing business in Spain requires good understanding of their culture and values. Spanish culture has influenced the world greatly in the past. At one time, Spain ruled in South America, the Caribbean and as far east as the Philippines. As a result of this large colonial influence and the growth of Spanish as a second-language, Spanish is regarded as the second most spoken language worldwide. Spain has a relational culture.IMG_20160530_174610

To do business in Spain means one has to build a network of contacts in different sectors of society. To get your client to trust you right from the start, it helps to provide him with references about yourself and your company from important people in Spain. Getting yourself introduced by a trusted relation of your new client is also a very good way to start the initial contact. Relations are built personally, not by telephone or e-mail. Out-of-the-office meetings like lunches or dinners offer the best occasions to get to know each other better. This aspect of doing business of Spain is very similar to that of India.

The Spaniards like to dress well. Formal business suits are worn by men with dark colors in winter and light in summer, and fashionable business dress is worn by women. Spain has a large shoe industry therefore shoes are an important part of their dress. The social status of a person is directly connected to the dress. Young people, however, are nowadays generally free to wear comfortable clothes.

Doing business in Europe – Portugal

Portuguese people are very friendly and social. Generally, it takes 1-2 meetings to build a relationship before starting a business with them. Some of my other key takeaways about doing business in Portugal are mentioned below:IMG-20160615-WA0016

Business dress is usually rather formal. Casual dress is still unusual in Portuguese companies, even in modern or creative industries. In some cases, however, companies allow their staff to dress down on Fridays. However, a standard business suit is still the most common form of dress among businessmen.

Portugal has a slightly higher level of corruption than other western European countries. Corruption is an important political and economic issue and still represents an enduring characteristic of Portuguese business culture. Most cases of bribery and corruption are reported from the public sector. They are related mainly to concessions, unclear approvals of contractors and specific economic lobbying or job offers to friends and family members.

In the Portuguese business environment, it is normal to give a gift to customers and partners. To reject a gift is seen as offensive. Also, as gifts are considered to be a personal gesture, it is not polite to re-distribute a gift to staff.”

To check out more student experiences, please visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.