Category Archives: Winning Behaviors

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).

 

 

 

 

 

Expat appreciation moment or five things I love about living in…

Summer has come and gone and for many expatriates in the Northern Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 1.00.02 PMhemisphere the summer is the time of shuttling between taking a vacation, going home to see family, and/or surviving heat/rain/major exodus at post while staying put. And with travel, either home or to another country, come comparisons. Sometimes these comparisons flatter our post countries—I longed to be in Madrid every time I prepared to cross a street in Rome this summer. And sometimes they don’t (in my humble opinion the food in Italy is much superior to what Spain has to offer).

If your case is the latter and your summer made it difficult for you come back because the place where you went on vacation felt/looked/seemed so much better than the place you currently call home, I have a suggestion. Find five things you love about living where you live now. Find at least five. And then be on the look out for more.

So, to start the ball rolling, here are my five for Madrid, Spain:

  1. The taxicabs are the best. The drivers are honest, courteous, and nice; taxis are easy to find, safe to get into, and are not outrageously expensive.
  2. The coffee and wine culture. I love it that it’s so easy to meet a friend for coffee or for a glass of wine. Neither will break the bank, both will taste exceptionally good, and either occasion will allow you to catch up with people for longer than the usual grab-your-Starbucks-cup-and-run moment.
  3. Public transport. When not on strike (!) it’s efficient, organized, clean, and extremely user-friendly.
  4. Barrio life. Even though Madrid is a large, cosmopolitan city, you still have the barrio life where you have a neighborhood place to buy your fruit, your fish, or your meat, fix your shoes, and meet your neighbors for a drink and some tapas.
  5. Climate. I know this is something we cannot control but it’s something I love anyway. I like the fact that even though it gets really hot in the summer and sometimes quite cold in the winter, it’s dry. And so the heat and the cold are much more tolerable.

So these are my five (inspired by a post in St Petersburg Times although not quite along the same lines).

What are yours? Share them in comments below!

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How to take charge of your negative thoughts during expatriation

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone suggests something new? Like a new travel destination for the weekend, or a new restaurant for dinner, or a new activity to attend, or a new expat post to consider? If you begin to think of why you should not, may not want to, not really psyched about that new thing, don’t worry – you are very much like the rest of humans. If you say – great, bring it on – congratulations, you’ve somehow trained yourself to stay clear of the negativity bias so many humans suffer through not fault of their own.

Apparently the negativity bias is our natural inclination.  Being negative about change, being suspicious about new things, and giving more weight to the negative information rather than positive information is our inbuilt tendency. Just think about the proliferation of all the scary news reports on your local news channel – they do it because negative news sells better than positive.  Our brain actually exhibits more activity when we are receiving negative information, which means that we are hard-wired for negativity! This negativity bias is also largely the reason we tend to dwell on things people have done wrong and remember their wrongdoing better than those other good things they did.

Our natural predisposition to give more weight to negativity is the reason that a new thing may not excite us at first and that we are more inclined to consider the reasons for not engaging with that new thing. And that’s the bad news.

The good news, however, is that we are highly trainable species and, if we really want to, we can teach ourselves to ignore that negative bias. All we have to do is–

(1) notice the first thought that appears when something new is suggested;

(2) recognize the negative bias; and

(3) change our perspective and find some positive reasons why that new thing is worth doing.

Try it this week. Train your mind to recognize and switch. If you stay with this practice, pretty soon you’ll notice that your negative bias has been replaced with the positive bias.

Trust me, it works. And it makes you much, much happier as a result.

Want to get rid of your negativity bias but prefer to do it in a company of like-minded expats? Join our Expat Women Academy program in November! More information and to sign up here.

Watch what you say! How your language drives your experiences

Thoughts become words.  Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character.  Character becomes destiny.” (Source Unknown)

If you have any doubts about the statement above, think back to the times when you met people who were always complaining or people who were always critical or people who were always frustrated or … etc, etc, etc.  Inevitably these people got more of what was in their language – more to complain about, more to criticize, more to be frustrated about.  Their reality kept conforming to their behavior.

What you focus on expands.

Bear that in mind when you are moving to another country, experiencing culture shock, repatriating, or simply having a not-so-good streak.  Language is a powerful tool when it comes to defining your perspective and that perspective will either make or break your experience.  Perspective will define the outcome.

Watch yourself and your conversations over the next few days.  Notice what you talk about and how you are feeling.  Write it all down and then review what you wrote.  Does your language lead you to focus on problems or possibilities; on lack or on abundance; on apologizing or on standing tall.  Once you see your patterns, commit to some or all of the following:

  • Talk about what you are committed to and not what you are worried about.
  • Stop apologizing for being you and instead stand tall in who you are.
  • Speak about your dreams, not about your disappointments.
  • Forget about how phony it may feel at first to speak in an empowered manner, you’ll get used to it.
  • Stop complaining about the lack of money, start recognizing what the money is buying you and feel grateful for that.

Think your dreams.  Speak your dreams. Watch them come true.

Planning to move to another country this year? Or repatriating home? Join us for a FREE webinar on strategies for adjustment and repatriation on May 14th at 2pm EST US. Sign up here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/534844358

10 things expat women should stop doing

Moving abroad is a perfect opportunity to start something new.  Not necessarily a new job or a new business, but rather a new YOU.  Perhaps tap into talents you never had time for or explore parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there. But before you do that, there are a few things you may want to leave behind.  For starters, here are your first 10!

Stop allowing guilt to ruin your days.  Feeling guilty serves no useful purpose.  You don’t grow or evolve because you feel guilty.  Nor do you become a better mother, a better daughter, a better professional, or a better friend because of guilt.  So next time the familiar pang of guilt shows up, notice it and then choose to put your attention elsewhere – somewhere where you can feel good about yourself.

Stop being everything to everyone Being a perfect mother while also being a perfect relocation manager for your family while also being a perfect professional woman while also being a perfect daughter to your aging parents you are leaving behind while also being a perfect friend is not possible.  Repeat – NOT possible.  Recognize it and give yourself a break.

Stop putting your own needs and wants aside.  Losing yourself in the messes and stresses of the expatriate life and forgetting that you are special too is common.  Children, husbands, employers, clients, parents, and friends are all in need of being taken care of.  How much space does that leave for you?  You decide!  If there was ever the time and the place to engage in your passion and do what matters to you, it’s now.  Remember that.

Stop trying to be someone you are not.  Take the roles you want to take in life and don’t take the roles imposed on you by others.  So what if people back home think you should be able to learn a new language right away?  Maybe that’s not what you want.  So what if your friends at home are surprised that you are happy not working full time in your new country of residence?  Maybe it’s time for a sabbatical.  Bottom line – take the time to discover (or remember!) who you are and be that.

Stop blaming others.  Research has shown that only 10% of our happiness depends on life circumstances, while 40% of our happiness is intentional.  So next time you decide to blame your spouse for taking you to this God-forsaken country or you blame the company for not enough resources, think again.  Change your thinking.  Change your intention for your life there.  Change your attitude.

Stop holding on to the past.  Yes, you probably had a great job and a promising career.  And yes, you were financially independent.  And yes, you felt like you were contributing.  And yes, you have none of that here where you are living now.  But you have something else.  So stop peering longingly into the door of the past and open the door of the present.  Discover what it has to offer.

Stop hanging out with the wrong people.  You want to have a positive experience while an expat, don’t you?  So why surround yourself with unhappy complainers? Choose your alliances wisely – remember the energy of people around you has a huge influence on your own.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and commit to change.  Perhaps your move wasn’t as smooth as that of your neighbor.  And perhaps your spouse works much longer hours, your kids are hating the new school, and you are feeling like you’ve lost sense of who you are.  Take that as a sign that change needs to happen to how you are in the world and commit to that change.  Don’t skimp on resources here – this is the time to act and get all the necessary support you need.  Buy a self-help book, join an online course, hire a coach.  Move forward.  Sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself won’t get you anywhere.

Stop explaining yourself to others.  Yes, you may have been a professional woman back home, but now you’ve chosen not to work.  And you may have decided to indulge in a history class at a local university while a nanny watches your kids.  You don’t owe any explanations to your friends back home who have been expecting you to start working as soon as you land.  And you don’t have to explain to your family why you are not spending every waking moment with your kids.  What YOU do with YOUR time and resources is no one else’s business.

Stop pretending like everything is good when it is not.  If you are not happy, voice it.  If you are missing something, speak about it.  If you need help and support, get it.  Pretending that everything is fine and that you are a brave soul who can wither all the difficulties on her own is silly.  After all you can be spending your energy on actually enjoying yourself rather than pretending that you are enjoying yourself.

Thoughts?  Additions?  Comments?  Shoot!

Find yourself doing any of these 10 things over and over again?  To help yourself stop, join our Expat Women Academy where you’ll be given the tools and the curriculum — along with the community of women going through the same thing — to be successful in stopping them!

ALSO — To benefit from the collection of tools, ideas and exercises based on experiences of expats from around the world, get your FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” workbook by signing up for our Expat VIP list here.

Inspiring quotes for your expat year ahead

by Margarita

In this post I’d like to invite you to play a game.  Below you’ll find twenty quotes – one per each of the 20 days left in 2011 (listed in no particular order).  Read each of them aloud to yourself and measure it on an inspiro-meter: on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest level of inspiration), how inspiring is this quote for you?  Once you measured them all, post a comment below with a quote that’s closest to ten.

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
Flora Whittemore

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Pericles

“Things do not change; we change.”
Henry David Thoreau

“If you only do what you know you can do- you never do very much.”
Tom Krause

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.”
Bernard Edmonds

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
C.S. Lewis

“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.”
Italo Calvino

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
Aristotle

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping”
Chinese Proverbs

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages”
Dave Barry

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.”
Seneca

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be”
George Sheehan

“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”
Wayne Dyer

“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”
Deepak Chopra

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received”
Antonio Porchia

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”
R. I. Fitzhenry

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs

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.

And in case you are interested, we just unveiled our #Re-Discovery #Re-Create #Re-Join Workbook and Guide based on a recent workshop that offered strategies and tools for women embarking on the re-discovery journey. First 30 people who download this guide will get a free one-0n-one coaching session! To find out more and to download, visit here.