Category Archives: A to Z of Successful Expatriation

Expatriate alphabet — the K, L, M that can make your expat experience better

Expatriate alphabetby Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: K is for KINDNESS

Acts of kindness are something that we probably engage in on a daily basis. We are used to being kind to our family members, our friends, strangers in need, stray animals, the environment, etc, etc etc. Being kind towards others gives us a good feeling. Yet how often do we extend these acts of kindness towards ourselves?

I decided to dedicate the letter K in this Expatriate Aphabet to kindness to yourself precisely because very often we don’t know how to be kind to our own, sometimes fragile, selves. Especially as expats – when we go through more change and learning every time we move than most people do in their lifetimes – we tend to push ourselves really hard. We often expect to be fast and perfect in learning the culture and the language; in adjusting and bringing normalcy to our families in a completely different environment; in garnering that feeling of belonging; in excelling at work; in finding work; in creating relationships and friendships, in… this list can go on and on. And when we find ourselves to be less than perfect and less than fast (incidentally our saboteurs never let us think we are good enough), we embark on a journey of self-criticism, self-pity, and declining self-esteem.

When that happens, take a step back and think: Am I being kind to myself? What would be different now if I decided to swap criticism for kindness? How would that feel?

Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean giving up on whatever you’ve set your heart to do and be. It just means giving yourself some space, a supportive shoulder, and a lot of positive energy to continue your journey.

What have been your acts of kindness to yourself recently?

Expatriate Alphabet: L is for LISTENING and LANGUAGE

Ernest Hemingway once said: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” And unfortunately he was (and he is still) right – most people don’t listen. They hear but they don’t really listen. Because usually this is what happens when someone is telling us a story: we engage in our own internal listening. We either remember that something similar has happened to us and we begin constructing an answer in our heads about our own story; or we find ourselves bored and thinking of something else; or we remember about something we need to do and begin to worry about it; or… etc etc etc. We are never really 100% there – focused on the words and the energy of what’s being spoken.

Listening fully is essential to understanding and establishing connections with people. And understanding and establishing connections with people are essential to creating a successful and fun experience as an expatriate. Next time you are engaged in a conversation, try this exercise: put your entire attention at another person and every time you notice your thoughts going elsewhere, bring them back. What do you hear? What do you observe? And what do you hear between the lines?

Listening fully means also listening to what’s not being said in words. It’s listening to what’s important to that person, to what makes them tick, to what upsets them. If you make an effort and really listen to someone next time, you’ll be surprised to find out how much you actually know about that person.

Knowing the language goes hand in hand with knowing how to listen. Each language brings with it a certain way of interacting – and, again, as you listen, you’ll be learning these ways and, in addition to connecting with a person, you’ll also be connecting with their language.

Expatriate Alphabet: M is for MEMORIES

Expatriates can consider themselves among the luckiest people on Earth because they get to generate the most exciting memories during their international assignments. Memories of new places, new people, stimulating challenges, exploration of the unknown, etc, etc, etc. And, if we are like the majority humans, for the most part we will remember the good parts and forget the not-so-good-ones.

Memories are important not only because they remind us of the fun we had, but also because they help us remember the journey we undertook to learn about and to adjust to every new place we’ve moved to. The journey is just as important as the destination (if not more sometimes), and so by collecting and preserving the memories of places and people, we also collect and preserve the memories of our learning and discoveries about ourselves.

So here is short exercise. Answer these two questions (and, please, share your answers in comments!):

(1)What do I most remember about my past assignments?

(2)What did I learn about that place and about myself in the process?

Thoughts, comments, additions?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expatriate alphabet — the G, H, I that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: G is for GRATITUDE

Put simply gratitude is just another perspective on life. Just like different color Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 5.39.26 PMlenses 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 Expatriate Alphabet.

What are you grateful for now?

Expatriate Alphabet: 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 Expatriate Alphabet.

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.

A friend of mine was living in another country and at one time desperately needed to buy a pair of sandals. She spent days looking around for a pair she’d like and finally she came across something that looked promising. As customary, the store only had one sandal on display, the one for her left foot. She tried it on, liked the way it looked on her, and asked the sales girl for the second one.

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

My friend stared at her. “Come again? You don’t have the second one?”

The sales girl shook her head.

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

The sales girl stood there quiet 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!  

Expatriate Alphabet: 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?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

 

 

 

 

 

Expatriate alphabet — the D, E, Fs that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: D is for Discovery

Traveling always brings about discovery and for many of us one of the goals of Expatriate Alphabet becoming an expat is to discover something new.  We discover new cultures; new foods; new ways of dressing; new friendships; and new fun things to do.  The whole expatriate experience is about discovering – and while there are tons of things to discover around us, I want to focus on discoveries that we make within us when we move.

Moving to another place creates change in our lives and, as that change challenges us, we get to discover how we are around that change.  We get to discover and learn things about ourselves we may have never known.  And with it we may even discover new callings in life – a new career, a new line of education, a new business opportunity.

So the D in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation isn’t only about discovering the world outside of ourselves – but it’s also discovering and exploring our internal world.  Seeing for the first time things that we’ve had all along but never paid attention to is also a discovery.  Kind of like the discovery of things you’ve forgotten you had… those of you, who move frequently and take most of our household with you, may remember the giddy feelings of unpacking and seeing things you’ve forgotten about because they spent a few months in transit.

What have been your discoveries – external and internal?  And what other D’s are out there?

Expatriate Alphabet: E is for Exchange

When I was growing up, my friend and I used to exchange clothes.  Living in a closed society where travel abroad was rare, the most prized clothes were, of course, those that came from outside the country.  And it was not just the fashion statement that drew us towards those clothes; it was the ability to be part of something new, something unique, and something completely foreign.

Fast-forward many years ahead and I find myself equally fascinated by the different ideas and different ways of doing/being that I encounter whenever I live in another country.  And while ideas and experiences are not physical things and cannot be swamped one for another, they too can be exchanged.  It’s this fascinating EXCHANGE of what we know with what we don’t know but are willing to learn that makes expatriate life all the more attractive.  I mean, where else can you find a ready-made environment for such an exchange if not in expatriation?

What has been your experience with EXCHANGE –and how has that experience benefitted your life abroad?

Expatriate Alphabet: 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?  Schedule them!

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 the friendships I have 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 do you remember?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

What’s good about a disappointment?

Les Miserables came out recently and Anne Hathaway’s rendition of the famous

“I dreamed a dream” has been playing in my head ever since I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago. Of course I’ve been singing it to myself because of how beautiful and moving I find it, but after repeating the lyrics for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realized that there is a line in there that really speaks to me.

Remember at the end when she says “The life has killed the dream I dreamed”? Granted, the character’s situation has nothing whatsoever to do with where majority of people find themselves today. Comparing our lives to the misery on the screen would just be too far fetched. But what got me thinking is the idea of disappointment. Especially among expats.

  • How disappointed do we often feel that things we hoped for didn’t come to fruition?
  • How difficult is it for us to feel that disappointment?
  • How hard is it to be disappointed in ourselves and to think that people are disappointed in us?

As humans we always strive to be better, to achieve, to find, and to get somewhere. When we don’t, we feel that disappointment. Some of us feel it stronger than others. Some may even choose not to strive, to seek, and to try precisely because they want to avoid that feeling.

Which brings me to my point. It’s hard to be with disappointment. It sucks, it doesn’t feel good, and it’s something that we would much rather live without. But if we select to act with a goal of avoiding “being with disappointment”, how much of life will we experience? Can we actually live our lives fully if we keep trying to avoid things we find hard to be with?

Disappointment is there to teach us something. Other things we find hard to be with are there to teach us something. It’s our choice if we want to allow them in and learn – or to keep avoiding them at all costs.

What do you find hard to be with and how have those things shaped the way you go through life?

Like this post? Would like to receive expat tips and strategies from us? Sign up for our EXPAT TIPS MONTHLY and receive FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide and Workbook. Based on experiences of expats around the world, it offers tools that help make your expat life the best it can be! Sign up here.  

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: Z is for … you decide!

The English alphabet doesn’t offer too many words that start with Z and that can convey a characteristic of the expatriate experience so I decided to tap into a fantasic resource of people on our Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Success Facebook page and ask them for words in their language that either begin with the letter or a sound Z.

There were a lot of very interesting and fun suggestions and here they are:

  • Znanie (Знание — Russian for knowledge).  Knowledge of the culture before you move is essential to success.
  • Zeal our Zealous
  • “Zsa zsa zsu” and, quote from Urban Dictionary, ‘Comes from “Sex and the City”, where Carrie describes it as the feeling you get when you meet someone you really really like. That sort of lovely, butterflies feeling when you just want to be with someone.’… and you could translate it to the feeling when you go to a place that you really like and the feeling when you want so be somewhere…
  • Zeit (German) – time: take your time to adjust, to learn, to enjoy, time out, time with your family…; be patient with yourself…
  • Zèng-sòng in Chinese language, which means to present (a gift). Living overseas is a present and good experience you give yourself.
  • Zest — Zest for life

What about you – do you have a word in your language that begins with either Z or a sound Z that can be part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Series?

Remember to sign up for the Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired.  Sign up here.

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™: Y is for YOU and what YOU make of it

Often times my clients have trouble focusing on their own needs.  They are so concerned about the necessities of people around them – spouses who have started working in a new culture and are stressed beyond belief; children that need help adjusting to a new country and a new school; parents who have been left behind and want to be comforted; friends who expect regular updates and quick invitations to visit; former co-workers who wonder about their next career step, etc, etc, etc.

When so many people around you need tending to, there is not really any time left for your own needs and dreams, is there?  And even if there is some free time somewhere in your day, how guilty might you feel if you decide to spend it on you rather than on any of the above?

Turns out – very guilty.  A lot of us would drop anything to make lives of people around us better, yet we rarely strive to do the same for ourselves.  Even after a day of housework, running a virtual business, making dinner, helping with homework, and spending time on the phone with family, many of us find it difficult to take a few moments of guilt-free pleasure for ourselves.  Be it a book, a mindless television show, a massage, a facial, a bath… whatever.  The point us – remember there is YOU in that expat reality you are all living in.  And YOU too need some pampering.

So next time you feel that you should not be having that massage or that the TV show you are watching is too stupid to waste your time on, stop and think about what your needs are in that moment.  How are you serving them?  And how much better does it feel to serve them than to ignore them?

And as for the “what YOU make of it” part in this letter Y – Dr. Dyer once said some very powerful words: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”  How are you looking at your expat life?

Want to work on those guilt-feelings with others like you? Join our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program where we will provide tools and skills you usually get during coaching to work on this and other expat issues.  Learn more here. BONUS: if you sign up before December 1, 2010, you get FREE access to the “7 Habits of a Happy Expat” online course.


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

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™: X is for X-Cultural Training

Let’s start by playing a game.  Choose an answer for the question below – an answer either in Column A or Column B – that most accurately describes you.  For each line you can only select an answer in Column A or B, but not both.

What do you find most effective for your style of work?

COLUMN A COLUMN B
Informal schedules and timelines Formal schedules and timelines
Flexible task-list A well organized task-list
Variety of tasks at the same time Completing one task before moving on to the next
Different issues can be discussed at the same time in a meeting Focus on one issue at a time in meetings
Little or no notice on schedule changes Sufficient notice on schedule changes

Sum up your Column A answers.

And now ask a few of your local contacts to do the same.  What’s their sum for Column A?

If you discover that your sum is different from theirs – congratulations!  You’ve just learned where you differ from your counterparts on one of 11 cultural variables (in this example the cultural variable is Time-Focus).

You may ask – and?  So what?  How is that useful?

It’s useful because it’s usually the first step of a cross-cultural training (although trainings can differ in their approach). Cultural variables form part of our cultural blueprint.  The cultural blueprint — derived from influences of our country, our traditions, our religion, our place of work, etc – defines who we are starting from our habits/behaviors/skills/talents and ending with our values/identity/life purpose. When you know where your preferences lie in relation to each cultural variable, you know your own cultural blueprint.

Once you know your own cultural blueprint, you can compare it to the cultural blueprint of people around you – and, thus, understand what’s at the root of the difference between you and them.  That’s step number two.

And step three is to find ways to negotiate the difference for the benefit of all concerned.

Of course cross-cultural training includes a lot more than this.  It also includes information about the country, its history, traditions, and values.   When this information is complemented with the process of negotiating through cultural blueprints, you get both the background information and the course of action you can take to make your adjustment easier.

We offer online cross-cultural trainings based on that model for Russia, China, Germany, Spain, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and Israel through the Global Coach Center Academy (more countries are coming up soon).  If you are interested in contributing to this effort and covering a country, please contact us directly.

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

Remember to sign up for the Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired.  BONUS: if you sign up before December 1, 2010, you get FREE access to the “7 Habits of a Happy Expat” online course. Sign up here.

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)!