Tag Archives: Choices

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).

 

 

 

 

 

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

25 reasons for expats to be happy

  1. You are alive.
  2. You are healthy.
  3. You have people who love you (even if they are not near you at this moment).
  4. You are courageous (you moved away from home after all!)
  5. You get to see things others don’t.
  6. You get to experience new foods.
  7. You get to travel.
  8. You have friends around the world – and not just virtual ones!
  9. You have memories and stories that others would envy.
  10. Your kids are growing to be global citizens.
  11. You speak more than one language.
  12. You get to explore the world.
  13. You can help others less fortunate than you without having to travel far to do it.
  14. You can act as a cross-cultural ambassador for your country.
  15. You are creative (because your life now incorporates so many different ways of doing things).
  16. You are worldly.
  17. You have skills you could not have had if you stayed home all your life.
  18.  You know to count your blessings.
  19. You have patience (even if you think you don’t!)
  20. You have more opportunities than people back home.
  21. You can try different wines and different coffees.  And don’t forget the dessert!
  22.  You can study and learn something unusual.
  23. You almost certainly have a novel in you.
  24.  Your friends and family back home admire you.
  25.  You have a fun life.

Even if all of those don’t quite apply to you, there are still enough reasons here to keep in mind — especially when feeling sorry for yourself.  Pick the ones that especially speak to you and write them down where you can always see them.  And make sure to look at them when the bad mood strikes!

Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on January 20th!  Get some inspiration and support through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes of clarity here

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.

 

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

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Why Study Abroad?

Guest post by Anthony Garcia

Study abroad is an experience that can greatly enrich any student’s education. Like any opportunity, however, it is important to make sure that you get the most out of it. If you are traveling solo for research, or in a group of students from your university, it is up to you to make sure your trip is the best it can be. Determining what you want out of your study abroad trip and considering cost and location can help you do just that.

Not only does studying abroad make it significantly easier to learn a foreign language and gain fluency, but travel will immerse students in the culture of their location, broadening their horizons and teaching them in ways that a classroom setting cannot. The benefits of study abroad are long-lasting and widely-recognized. In 2006, the U.S. Senate published a resolution to support study abroad programs in the U.S. educational system, citing the need for a larger population of globally-aware American citizens. Time abroad helps students make connections outside their comfort zone, improving cultural awareness and independence. Practically, students who travel learn the leadership skills vital to success.

So long as the location and program are appropriate to the individual person, study abroad can benefit those who are in college, high school, or even younger. Deciding which study abroad program is right takes some investigation.

First, it’s important to make sure you are working with a reputable company. Those run by colleges and universities are typically a safe bet, while there are many privately-owned companies that specialize in sending students abroad. Another option is to enroll directly in a school overseas, but that takes more research and may not be possible in all locations.

Whatever company or organization you decide to work with, make sure you do the research thoroughly ahead of time. The company should hold up well to scrutiny and be able to answer any and all questions you have. They should be exceptionally knowledgeable about the countries they send students to and should be able to help you apply for a passport and student visas. The company should also direct you to any health precautions you should take before leaving, such as vaccinations and travel insurance.

Once you’ve found a company or program you want to work with, it’s time to decide where you want to go and why. What do you want to study? Art, politics, science, history, languages? Would you be more comfortable in an urban area or can you handle being in the country? How long do you want to be gone? What can you afford to do?

It is also important to consider the history of the place. Cultural and political history can give you a host of possibilities for study, but it may also place some challenges on studying abroad. These challenges can be positive ones, such as language and cultural differences, but learning about those differences will help you be comfortable once you get to your destination. Staying open to learning new aspects of history and global issues will also help you make the best of your trip overseas.

There are many scholarships and grants available to students for studying abroad, but they may not cover everything, including the costs of passports, visas, transportation, and food. If you can afford a set program cost on your own, you need to double-check what it will cover and budget accordingly. Costs will depend on where you go and how long you stay, but talking to other students who have been on the planned trip can help you get an idea of what extra money you might need.

No matter what it might cost you or what hoops you have to jump through, the benefits of studying abroad are well worth it. Both tangible and intangible, these benefits will last students a lifetime. Studying abroad is a truly enriching experience for any student.

About Anthony: Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.  He also writes for Online Graduate Programs.