International exchange: experiencing a different culture



Kae Paviour, Larry Greetham and Gwen Andrews (left to right) pose with a painting of the

Brindabella Ranges near Canberra.


Australian Kae Paviour says it took her a long time to figure out that groceries in Canada are labelled in both English and French. "When my husband and I went shopping, the French side would be visible," she says. "We didn't think of flipping things around to read the other side."


Encountering French on a day-to-day basis was just one of the new experiences Paviour has had during a 12-month work term as a Policy Advisor for the Telecommunications Policy Branch.


In 1979, the governments of Australia and Canada agreed to let federal departments in either country exchange employees for specified periods. The exchange is not done on a person-for-person basis; rather departments may request an employee from a specified area, or employees can apply for exchange positions. Employees are paid by their own department.


Paviour came to Canada with her husband Adrian, a computer programmer, who is on an exchange with Statistics Canada. Originally a Broadcasting Operations Policy Advisor with the Department of Transport and Communications in Canberra, Australia's capital, Paviour made arrangements to work as an exchange employee at the Department of Communications.


"It's been a real eye-opener to work in Canada," says Paviour. "You don't really have any idea how other people live until you live with them."


Despite the fact Canada and Australia are both Commonwealth countries, there are striking differences, "even with basic things like driving on the right hand side of the road," says Paviour.


Departmental employees Gwen Andrews and Larry Greetham have recently returned from 27 months in Canberra. Andrews was picked for the exchange in 1986. Her husband, Larry Greetham, at that time the Acting Chief of Spectrum Control, in ADMSR, went along and ended up working for the Department in Australia as well.


"The agreement between the two countries allows the spouses of exchange personnel to apply for jobs within the public service," says Greetham. His salary, however, was paid by the Australian government.


Andrews, former Director of Public Interest and Access Policy with the Cultural Affairs and Broadcasting Sector, says the exchange provided her with exposure to areas of communications that she would not have been able to get otherwise.

"Australia's communications system is, in many ways, about 10 years behind Canada, so I got the opportunity to work on things that have already happened here, such as the expansion of FM radio into rural areas and the establishment of an independent regulatory body for telecommunications," she says.


Andrews says her knowledge of communications as a whole has broadened considerably. As an exchange employee, she was moved to a new area every nine months. She held the positions of director of commercial broadcasting policy, director of radio communications administrative policy, and director of multilateral strategy in the Department's international telecommunications area.


Andrews is now back as the Director of Communications Policy and Liaison with the Federal-Provincial Relations Branch. Her husband returned to become the National Technical Training Co-ordinator in ADMSR Sector Co-ordination.


Greetham says the first six months in a new place is the hardest time. "During that time you're finding all the differences between what's there and what you're used to," he says. "You gradually stop doing that and become more conditioned to the way things are, and become much  happier."


He says they enjoyed the warm climate and the working environment, which is more relaxed and much less formal. He recommends employees there." considering an exchange should try to contact someone from the country they're going to before they leave.


"We would have never thought to bring our skates and skis to Australia if someone hadn't told us we could do that."


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