Monthly Archives: March 2010

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Ever wondered what makes some expatriates happy and others not so happy?  Here is my take on it: THE WINNING SEVEN™ or 7 Habits a Happy Expat.

1.  Happy expats are intensely curious. Coming to another land is always interesting.  You get to learn about the culture, you get to experience a different way of life, you get to try new foods, and maybe even new sports and new hobbies.  A whole new world opens up for you.  Being curious around this new world leads to happiness.

2.  Happy expats accept others as they come, they don’t judge, and they don’t try to change people to their liking. No matter how much things may bother them and no matter how much they may disagree, a judgmental attitude never gets anyone anywhere.  Accepting that things run the way they do is the key to happiness.

3.  Happy expats look at everything as an amazing learning experience. Someone once said that “life is always offering us new beginnings, it’s up to us whether to take them or not.”  I don’t remember who said it but it’s an empowering way to look at what’s available to us at every moment of every day.  And especially to those of us who get this incredible opportunity to not only travel but also live in different places.

4.  Happy expats find opportunities wherever they are and they don’t lament those they’ve left behind.  Life of an expatriate consists of one move after another.  Sometimes we know when that move is coming and sometimes we don’t (in these days of “the crisis” many of us will move suddenly).  Opportunities that were open to us in one place may not be available in another.  But remember “life is always offering us new beginnings…” There will be new opportunities, so do you want to spend the time lamenting about what you left behind or do you want to spend the time listening and looking out for what’s opening up for you?

5.  Happy expats know that feeling sad at times is part of the game. A happy expat doesn’t mean a giddy-at-all-times expat.  A happy expat means also an expat who knows that being sad at times is part of the expatriate experience.  Being sad about leaving friends behind; being sad about leaving your family far away; being sad about quitting a job or changing a career … this list can go on and on.  The difference between a happy expat and an expat that’s not happy is that for the former the sadness is something that’s natural and something that doesn’t take over your life and makes a victim out of you.

6.  Happy expats share. Sharing means so many different things.  It may mean sharing with your friends and family when you are sad – going through the stressful times alone is no fun.  It may mean sharing with a coach – a right client-coach partnership will undoubtedly make your expatriate experience richer.  It may also mean  sharing your experience with others, helping those like you find the best facets of their expatriate journeys.

7.  Happy expats stay clear of criticism, sulking, and stonewalling.  It is so very easy to blame someone else in your misfortunes.  It’s easy to say that everything around you is horrible; it’s easy to sulk in your misery when you’ve convinced yourself that it’s not up to you; and it’s easy to put a barrier between you and the place you live in.  Yet there is no way you are going to be happy where you live, if you consistently engage in criticism, sulking, and stonewalling.  Staying clear of those attitudes will help you be happier.

This post is an excerpt from an on-line course called “7 Habits of a Happy Expat” available now at the Global Coach Center Academy. The course includes a more detailed description of the concept of 7 Habits as well as hands-on exercises and tools on how to adopt those habits during your expatriation.  Download the course HERE.

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

Who owns the truth?

I read an interesting bit in the recent issue of National Geographic Kids that I found in the pile of my daughter’s school papers.  Their section “Bet you didn’t know” usually has interesting factoids for the kids to ponder over.  This particular one read the following: “you see color differently than the person next to you”.

So the red color that I see isn’t the same red that you see or that the person next to you sees.  Our “reds” are different from each other — and even if that difference is very slight — they are still different.  Which is another evidence of the fact that reality is not really a given but rather an interpretation of what we see it as and of how we process it.

The physics and the science behind it are completely beyond me so I won’t go into that.  What makes this interesting for me is what happens when you replace the word “color” with the word “truth”.  “You see truth differently than the person next to you” — which is another way of saying “your truth is different than mine”.

I think this is very important to remember when we go out into the world and, especially, when we move to other countries and live within other cultures.  Our truth can be very different from the “truth” of your new neighbor — but it doesn’t mean that their “truth” isn’t true.  It’s just a different truth, a different way of processing and interpreting reality around them.  Understanding that we don’t own the only “truth” and that there are many “truths” out there can prevent many conflicts and miscommunications.

I am not saying that you should change the vision of your “truth”.  But accepting that your “truth” is just one of many may actually enrich it.  Just like knowing that “red” comes in different shades will make your view of the world rich with colors, knowing and seeing other people’s “truths” will make your life rich with experiences.

Your thoughts?  What has been your experience with the different “truths” out there?

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For those who are interested to learn more about Russia and how you can make your time there successful and fun, I am offering a FREE TELECLASS: Your Experience in Russia — Success Tips.  For more information please click here.

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

What do expats need to stay?

According to statistics, the vast majority of expatriates who leave their postings early cite “family adjustment” as the main reason for their return.  And while the definition of “family adjustment” is very broad and can contain a lot of different issues, for the purpose of this blog post I’d like to focus on just one.

The spouse/partner career issues come up both in statistics and in my own practice of coaching expatriate spouses.  Almost 80% of the spouses I coach come to me citing either their difficulty in adjusting to life without a career or in justifying taking a few years off or in feeling confident enough to look for and find a job in their new country of residence.  These struggles put a lot of strain on their well being, their families’ well-being, and, by extension, the success of the expatriate assignment — which, in turn, greatly affects the company’s ability to retain talent and the company’s bottom line.

So what can companies do to help their expatriate families in terms of this issue?  Short of finding a great job for the spouse, what tools and resources can companies provide?  My suggestion would be to start with these three and add more if necessary:

1.  When preparing an employee for expatriation, inquire if the spouse/partner is interested in continuing her/his career while abroad. If that’s the case, make sure you offer that spouse/partner the kind of cross-cultural training that’s focused on job and corporate culture.  The list of traditional do’s and don’ts is nice but it doesn’t help when someone wants to find work.

2.  There are web sites out there that offer job searches specifically for expat partners. Some require subscription but the amount of money you’d spend on subscribing to them will definitely pay off as you won’t lose the money you spent on expatriating someone who wants to come home 2 months later.

3.  Pay for the first three to four coaching sessions with a certified expatriate/cross-cultural coach for the spouse/partner. Coaching is a great tool of empowerment that helps people adjust faster and better.  You don’t have to commit to cover coaching costs for the entire time of your employee’s expatriation — but if you cover the first few sessions, they will continue on their own.  The support and the skills that coaching offers will contribute to your efforts in creating the best expatriate assignees out there.  We work with HR departments and specialists to offer this kind of initial session service — please contact us here for more information.

There are many more things that companies can offer and I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions in the commentaries!

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