Monthly Archives: January 2010

The culture of “fees”: only in the US?

A great debate raged in the US after the Haitian earthquake.  The credit card fees and the millions upon millions of dollars that credit card companies were making from the generosity of the people touched a nerve in many.  That, coupled with the general fatigue in the population over the “other” bank fees — namely the fees that make the bankers fat and the population poor — produced an indignation over certain industries’ profits that the US hasn’t seen in years.

Then, a couple of days after hearing this indignation over the airwaves and reading about it on internet, I opened a newspaper and saw that John Oliver from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (which is my regular nightly comedy dose) is coming to a theater near me.  “Great,” I thought, “that would be a wonderful evening out.”  That was until I saw the prices — and it was not the price of the ticket that turned me off.  It was the fees.  For a $35 ticket I would have paid at least $17 in fees.  That’s 50% of the ticket!  My reasonably priced $35 ticket would quickly become a $52 dollar ticket.  And for what?  For me clicking a few buttons on the screen and making a purchase on-line?  Why should I be paying this much for them to process a ticket?  And whom would I be paying?  The ticket agencies that somehow decided that it were OK to rip the spectators off?

This was not the first time I had to pay outrageous fees in the US for getting a ticket to a show or a sports event.  I was even told I’d have to pay if I went to pick up my ticket at the theater — a “pick up” fee.  Come on.  Seriously — a pick up fee?

I’ve bought plenty of tickets for performances in Russia and Argentina and I don’t remember paying any fees let alone such outrageous amounts.  Which makes me wonder — why do we, Americans, put up with that?  Why do we let them rob us in daylight?  Is the “culture of fees” so strong in the American psyche that it’s here to stay?

What do you think?  And what has been your experience in other countries?

People who read this post also read:

To tip or not to tip…is that a cultural question?

Different colors of money

What makes repatriation difficult?

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Your identity in expatriation: will it stay or will it go?

Some of you may remember this quote from the movie Fight Club (1999): “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. … “  The question then becomes: who are you?

Identity and its possible loss during expatriation is one of the most recurring issues expatriates bring up in coaching sessions.  And for everyone identity signifies something different: for some it’s the loss of a career they’ve experienced by moving with their spouse half way around the world; for others it’s the loss of financial independence due to a move; for yet others it’s the loss of belonging to a group of people they feel something in common with; and for others it’s the loss of their purpose/place/way/security… the list can go on and on.  So, what makes us who we are and how can we preserve that when in transition and surrounded by an environment that’s seemingly taking away our identity?

Answering the question of who we are will take a lot more than just one blog and so I am going to concentrate on the second part of the question above — how do we keep our identity and how do we feel good about ourselves wherever we may end up?  I think the key here is our relationship with ourselves.  All too often moves and transitions produce feelings of doubt in our own abilities; feelings of guilt, feelings of low self-esteem; and feelings of “not being good enough, smart enough, etc.”  No matter what we call these feelings, they are all about the same thing — we stop liking and set out to criticize ourselves.  What kind of relationship is that?  How much do we damage this most important relationship in our lives — the relationship of us with us?

And what good comes of it?

Certainly not much.  Instead, these regular criticisms and nagging create the recurrent feelings of “I am losing myself”, “I am no longer who I was before”, “my identity is slipping away” and so on and so forth.  The self-critical mode takes over and it’s no wonder that we feel that our identity is no more.

Ever felt that way?  What do you think?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Gracias, Grazie, Merci, Спасибо: What am I thankful for in my expatriate life?

Trailing and not Failing: How our Relationships can sustain us in Expatriation?

To tip or not to tip…is that a Cultural Question?

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

To belong or not to belong: is that the choice we make when we move abroad?

One of the issues many of my expatriate clients grapple with is the issue of belonging.  For many, life overseas is a never-ending exercise of trying to fit in and yet in the end always feeling “foreign”.  It’s as if an invisible fence is erected between you and the people around you — and each time you think you are getting closer to jumping it, you realize it moved farther.

A recent article in the Economist (The Others, December 17, 2009) discusses various reasons as to why people choose to become foreigners.  One reason it mentions is looking for freedom — and not only freedom of political choices and freedom of speech, but also freedom of liberating yourself from the bonds of the culture you grew up with.  The bonds of how relationships are supposed to be, the bonds of expected financial behavior, the bonds of how your career is supposed to go, and so on and so forth.  We move because we look for something different, something where we are free to explore and choose outside of the expectations of our own surroundings.  We move away from “belonging”.  Yet later, in a foreign country, we find ourselves looking to “belong” again.  A paradox?  Maybe.

When we repatriate, things get even more complicated.  After struggling to “belong” for so long in foreign pastures, we move back home where we expect that struggle to end.  Yet it doesn’t.  Being back in our home country offers little or no “belonging” at all — and we still feel completely left out even though we are right there.

So, why?  Why struggle so?

I believe that in the end it all comes down to values and our choices as to which values are more important to us at any moment in time.  As we go through life, our values may shift on our list of priorities and, even though, we know (or we can guess) that our transition will bring struggle again, we also know we are honoring a value that yearns to be honored at the time.

What are your thoughts?

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People who read this post, also read:

Success: what does culture have to do with it?

7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

What do expats looks for?

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!