Monthly Archives: July 2010

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: I is for IDENTITY

To quote 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. …” Who are you then?

Losing one’s identity is one of the premier worries expats have when they face a decision of moving abroad:

  • Who am I going to be there?
  • What am I going to do with my time (for those who accompany their working spouses)?
  • What will I relate to… if anything?
  • What relationships will I form with people?
  • And what about financial independence?

This list of concerns can go on and on and, if you look closely, you’ll see that a lot of these questions relate to who we see ourselves as – and to how we preserve that in unfamiliar environments.

So how do we keep our identity and how do we feel good about ourselves wherever we may end up?  I believe 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?

The regular criticisms and nagging also 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.

Your thoughts?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

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

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: H is for HUMOR

When I think of the importance of humor while an expat, one story always pops up in my memory.  When we were living in one country, we once went out to a restaurant with a group of friends.  There were about six of us and, when a waiter brought only one menu to the table, we politely inquired after a few more copies.  He looked at us as if we were crazy and said: “Why?  They are all the same.”

We still laugh today when we remember this story.   Since then there have been many more stories and times when looking at things through the lens of humor was essential to staying sane.  And that’s why I chose humor for an H in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation Series.

Humor makes frustrating and stressful situations a lot easier to handle.  It almost creates an instant vacuum effect where all your anger and stress get sucked out of you and replaced with a feeling of lightness and a belief that it’ll all work out somehow.  Since exasperating situations tend to happen a lot more often when we live in a foreign-to-us culture, humor can become a tool to use on a regular basis.

So next time you find yourself in a frustrating place, think of your favorite comedian/comedienne.   What would he/she laugh about here?

I conclude with another story told by a close friend – a story that still leaves tears in my eyes because I laugh so hard every time I hear it:

“I was living in another country and at one time desperately needed to buy a pair of sandals.  I spent days, if not weeks, looking around for a pair I would like and finally came across something that looked promising.  As customary, the store only had one sandal on display, the one for the left foot.  I tried it on, liked the way it looked on me, and asked the sales girl for the second one.

“We don’t have the second one.  We only have this one,” the sales girl said.

I just stared at her. “Come again?  You don’t have the one for the right foot?”

The sales girl shook her head.

Exhausted after several days of search and annoyed that this time it didn’t result in a purchase either, I said “Why would you display it if it’s not a pair?!”  I didn’t really expect an answer.

The sales girl stood there quietly for a moment and then said: “So, are you going to take it?”

What have been your stories when you were able to treat frustrating situations with humor?  Share them please!

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

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

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: G is for GRATITUDE

Simply put gratitude is just another perspective on life.  Like different color lenses allow us to see the world in different ways, the perspectives we hold at any point of time influence our views and feelings.  Dr. Wayne Dyer once said “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

Gratitude is the perspective that makes everything immediately better.  Think about it: let’s say you lost your job or your business isn’t going as well as you had hoped or someone in your family is sick or… the list can go on and on.  You can choose to bask in your sadness/frustration/anger/etc or you can turn around and think about what’s right with your life at that moment.  What’s going well for you?  What can you be grateful for?

You’d be amazed at how quickly the feelings of despair get replaced with feelings of hope when you employ gratitude.   And that’s why I think GRATITUDE takes the letter G in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™.

What are you grateful for now?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

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

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: F is for FUN and FRIENDSHIPS

If I have to think back to all my expatriate assignments, a couple of things in particular always come up.  FUN and FRIENDSHIPS were really the two cornerstones that made each assignment worth it.  Most of my good memories revolve either around having fun or making new, amazing friends and having fun with them.

Let’s start with fun.  I know that the word fun has a different meaning to all of us, but without having fun (whatever it means to you), our lives would be dull, uninteresting and boring.  What’s your definition of fun?  What do you like to do for fun?  What opportunities do you have for fun in a country where you live now?

And now the friendships.  The friends we make in distant lands support us, encourage us, laugh with us and cry with us (well, when we really need them to).  Thanks to the internet and Facebook in particular we can now keep in touch and continue to follow the lives of those friends who we leave behind as we move on to another destination.  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but some of the friendships I’ve developed during my overseas assignments have been among the most special in my life.

It’s not an easy task to always have to make friends and then leave them when you leave the country (a helpful article on “How to make friends again… and again … and again” here).  But it can be done and the effort is totally worth it.  What are your thoughts on this?  And what friendship moments will you always remember?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Dedicated to all my expat friends who made a difference in my life (you know who you are!).

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