Category Archives: A to Z of Successful Expatriation

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)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: W is for WILLINGNESS and WISDOM

If I were to come up with a cooking metaphor for an expat life, then I’d say that willingness qualifies as one of the major ingredients – a base ingredient, in fact.  Just like you cannot make a great cake without eggs (or butter or whatever you must have in your cakes), you cannot make a great expatriate life without being willing to do so.  Willingness is where it all starts – we must be willing to experience change, we must be willing to be open minded, we must be willing to learn, we must be willing to let go of assumptions and judgments, we must be willing to consider other truths and opinions, etc, etc, etc.

One of my favorite questions when I coach a client and when we are talking about a major step in their lives is: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are you to undertake that?” And the next question is “How committed are you to this course of action?” Willingness paves a way for commitment; commitment paves a road for intention; and intention helps us co-create our lives.

Wisdom is another one of those ingredients that’s a must in life – and if we were to go with a cooking metaphor, then wisdom is your recipe.  Unless you tap into your inner wise self, whatever you cook out of life isn’t going to turn out the way you dreamed.  Our inner wisdom is our resource to tap into when we have questions about the direction of our lives, when we need to make decisions about our life journeys, and when we need to find the road towards fulfillment of our dreams.

How do we tap into that wisdom?  With so much pressure from the outside, how do we make sure the world doesn’t drown out the voice of wisdom?  There are several tools you can use to find that voice of wisdom, but the important thing to know is that it’s not only about finding it, but it’s also about remembering to listen to it. Making a habit of consulting it on a daily basis and growing your connection with it is sometimes more difficult that finding it in the first place.

How do you find the voice of your inner wisdom?  And how do you make sure you tune into it on a regular basis?

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

Always being in-the-know of our inner wisdom is going to be one of many important lessons we will discuss and learn during 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.  Remember that if you sign up before November 15, 2010, you get a FREE coaching session.  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™: V is for VISITORS

Most of us can agree that getting people to visit us is a great experience … in healthy doses of course.  Visitors give us an opportunity to share our lives with them (remember sharing is one of the 7 Habits of a Happy Expat).  Visitors give us a chance to take time out of our busy schedule and visit a landmark or two with them – the landmark we’ve been postponing to visit.  Visitors give us a new perspective on the country we are living in and open our eyes to things we may have not seen.  And, finally, having visitors means that someone actually cares about our experiences and wants to learn more about them!

So what are some strategies to have the best time with visitors in your home and your country?  I have a few of my own but since each country is different I’d love it if you add yours.

Here are mine:

(1) I make a list of all museums that are worth a visit and include the opening times, the days when the museums are closed, the entrance fee (if any) and the quick tips about each one if I have them.

(2) I look up schedules for performances for the time my visitors are going to be in town and send it to them ahead of time.  If they are interested, I offer my services of purchasing them tickets.

(3) I always keep a few spare maps of the city in the visitors’ room along with a map of public transport, if that exists.

(4) If I am in a country where renting a car is not ideal, I try to reserve at least one weekend to take our visitors to places that are not accessible by public transport.

(5) I try to show and recommend at least a couple of places off the beaten tourist track – and a few of very local restaurants.

What about you?  What are your strategies?

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

Remember to check out our 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, inspired Register for it 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™: U is for UNDERSTANDING

Understanding and being understood is the base for creating connections. It applies both in situations within your own culture and when you find yourself living and working in a different culture(s).  The latter can often be a trickier undertaking.

Let’s start with being understood.  NLP teaches us that “I don’t know what I said until I know what you heard.”  What it means is that we all listen through different channels and pay attention to different things within what’s being said.  Some may listen with attention directed at people in a story, others with attention to events, yet others with attention to surroundings, so on and so forth.  Ever played a game of telephone when you were a child?  Do you remember how a story changes completely when passed from ear to ear?  That’s because we recount what we hear and we all hear different things.  This fact becomes even more acute in different cultures.  So, when you are communicating across cultures make sure your message is understood the way you intended it to be – and not the way you assumed it to be.  Failure to do so may result in many misunderstandings and sometimes even in ruined relationships.

Now what about our skill of understanding?  Provided we know the language and its nuances (a big if), how do we make sure we understand what’s being said – and what’s being unsaid?  Here I’d like to focus especially on what’s been unsaid.

Almost every time a person speaks – if you listen closely – you can hear the dream(s) that person holds for him/herself.  The dream(s) that express their hopes, wishes, and aspirations – the dreams that give meaning to their lives.  Sometimes they themselves cannot hear those dreams, but your job is to be able to hear them.  Because if you do, you connect with them on a much deeper level, you learn what’s important to them, and that makes you capable of knowing how you can structure your relationship to help them achieve their dreams.

What are your thoughts on understanding and being understood?  And do you have any other U’s to contribute?

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

Check out our 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. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  Register for it 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™: T is for TRAVEL

One of the things I usually remember about our various posts is the travel in the region.  There was the time when we drove with several friends into a part of Russia where we only ate blini — Russian version of French crepes — for three straight days (vegetarian choices were limited off the beaten track).  There was the time when we took a smelly, overnight train to Bukhara and a scary plane ride to Khiva (in Uzbekistan).  There was the time when we had breakfast in France, lunch in Monaco and dinner in Italy.  And there was the time when we saw Iguazu falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentine side.

These experiences were all very different but there is one thing that unites them — the opportunity to see things we may have not been able to see had we not been posted in the region.  Every time we find ourselves expatriated to a country, we always look around.  What can we see in this country and in the countries that surround it?  What experiences are available to us?

To the dismay of our family and friends back home we almost never go home while living elsewhere.  Instead we prefer to explore our surroundings.  When, if not then, will we have this opportunity?  And that’s why taking this chance to explore and Travel within the region of your post is the T for the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™.

Where have you traveled lately?

Any other T’s out there?

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

Check out our 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. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  Register for it 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)!