Tag Archives: USA

Home is not forever

It used to be easier.  The moving crew would come, box up everything we owned, and a few days later we would be gone.  Gone on our way to a new adventure, a new place to explore, a new home to build.  Sure we’d be sad but the excitement of things to come would overshadow the sadness in the same way a new infatuation makes people forget their past heartaches.

This time, however, I am finding it very difficult to let go.  Second day of the pack out and I am still fighting the urge to cry.  This isn’t like me especially considering that our next destination is on my top-ten-places-to-live-in list.

After careful examination of all the reasons that can be making me sad, I finally figure it out. I realize that I am in love.  In complete, total, and, alas, unrequited love with … my view.

And my apartment.

And my building.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve lived in some amazing places over the years.  I’ve lived in historical downtowns of some great cities, I’ve lived among fascinating civilizations, I’ve lived in centers of great culture, and I even once lived across from the zoo where we would wake up to the sound of monkeys playing catch. Yet this was the first time I can say that I lived in a dream.

  • I woke up every day to the sight and sound of the ocean from every window of my apartment.
  •  I never had to wear anything more than a light cotton sweater.
  • My skin, which isn’t prone to tan, became and remained the color of golden bronze.
  • My office faced the water.
  • My terrace was perfect for coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening – not to mention reading and writing during any time of day.
  • Looking out through our windows always made me feel complete, no matter the weather.

And so as I leave our now empty apartment and as I say good-bye to every room and every angle of my view, I feel extremely grateful and inexplicably sad at the same time.  Grateful because I was fortunate to live with this beauty and sad because this dream home wasn’t forever.

But I also know dreams are never forever. Dreams come, go, and evolve. They grow and change – and we grow and change with them. My years in this dream home were not only full of breathtaking views but they were also filled with an intention to see, smell, feel, and taste the life around me every waking moment of my day. This intention was only a shadow when we moved in and, thanks to my home, it became the way of life.

So I guess in some ways a home can be forever.

An American in France

There have been quite a few famous Americans (and other expats) in history that decided to either settle or live in France for long periods of time.  Today many follow their example and in this blog post we interview Michael Barrett, an American who is now living in France.

Global Coach Center (GCC): How long have you lived in France and how did you come to live there?

Michael: I’ve lived in France now over four years in a row but longer than that over my lifetime. I lived in Paris as a baby and toddler for three years as my father worked here on assignment. My family always had an interest in France so it influenced my decision to study the language and culture in middle school, high school and then in college. My first trip back to France was with the French club of my high school in 2003. During my sophomore year (2nd year) at the University of Notre Dame, I studied abroad in Angers, France 2004-2005, where I lived with a French family, studied in French, traveled and made friends from all over the world. It motivated me to come back.

I followed that with an internship at Sciences Po Paris in 2006, and then after graduating in 2007, I moved to Lyon to be an English assistant. I met my French girlfriend there, pursued graduate studies in communications in Grenoble for two years, during which I worked at AmCham France. In July 2010 I was hired as a Digital Project Manager at New BBDO Paris, and advertising agency. I’ve been here ever since, and I also manage the site Americanexpatinfrance, write for several websites and am involved with the expatriate community while keeping a close group of French friends. I plan on applying for dual citizenship soon.

GCC: What do you love most about living in France?

Michael: My girlfriend, my French friends, the rich culture and gastronomy and history, the diversity of the regions and their characteristics… close proximity to other European countries. A generally balanced approach to life and work…their healthcare system –although it’s not perfect.

GCC: What frustrates you?

Michael: Generalizations about America and its culture, strikes, lack of convenience here (the US is a culture of convenience)…although I’ve gradually come to accept these cultural differences with the traditional French shrug of the shoulders. Every country has its own pros and cons.

GCC: What would you have liked to know that you didn’t before coming to live in France?

Michael: To know how to (try to) master the inner workings of the French civil service bureaucracy and its paperwork, implicit messages (not explicit) and assumptions that you know everything if you don’t ask a question. But I’ve learned how to manage that, too.

GCC: What are three tips you can give people planning to move to France?

Michael:

  • Learn the language and about the culture as well, as this will not only enrich you but also show a genuine willingness on your part to the French that you’re making an effort and reaching out.
  • On a related note, be open-minded. This is not America, and there will be some culture shock and things and approaches that are done differently. They have a different perspective here on many things, so approach it with curiosity and don’t be afraid to have friendly debate with French coworkers and friends (make French friends), as long as it’s not on taboo subjects (money, religion) – those are for closer friends usually.
  • Take a look at practical matters in detail – education, healthcare, taxes, driving regulations, housing – hopefully your employer or organization can help you with these matters. Better to be well prepared than land here and figure out as you go along. That can add to frustration. I’d be happy to advise on questions or refer you to an expert in a field that I don’t master as well. 

About Michael: Michael Barrett is a 26 year-old American with roots in Chicago and Washington D.C. working as Project Manager at New BBDO Paris, a PR firm in Paris. He writes a must-read blog for expats called American Expat in France.

Global Coach Center recently launched an online cross-cultural course — “Living and Working in France” which:

  • provides you with a foundation of what France is all about;
  • through the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ helps you understand the gap between your way of thinking and the French way of thinking;
  • provides extensive tools to negotiate the difference; and
  • blends cross-cultural information with a coaching approach to understanding and becoming successful in any culture.

Download the “Living and Working in France” here.

Expatriate vs Immigrant – what’s the difference?

by Margarita

Recently an interesting discussion took place on the Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Success Facebook page – when do we consider ourselves expats and when are we immigrants?  So I’ve decided to try to explore it and I thought we’d start with a dictionary definition.  According to Miriam-Webster:

  • the word “Expatriate” is actually a verb or an adjective and means someone “living in a foreign land”.
  • the word “Immigrant” is a noun and means “a person who comes to a country to take permanent residence”.

If we go only by these definitions above, I see one major distinction that sets them apart.  Immigrants have an intention to stay – whereas for the expatriates this intention isn’t mentioned and isn’t clear.

Put another way, immigrants may have a larger emotional commitment to their new place of residence – and, thus, their approach to making it is different.  If expatriates know that they can always leave and they know it coming into the country already – how much effort will they try to put into… (a) finding ways to belong; (b) creating connections, (c) absorbing new ways of being, (d) making life-long friends, etc, etc, etc?

Everyone is different of course and I am not stating that temporary assignment expats don’t have the commitment to create the best life they can in their new country.  Yet, I think, the knowledge that they can always leave creates a degree of comfort that “if it doesn’t work, it’s okay because three years from now I am leaving anyway.”  Immigrants don’t have that luxury.

What do you think?

 

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.

 

Tips on relocating to the UK

Guest Post by John T Paolucci

Note: Some of these tips are specific to the US expats but most will apply to all.

I have recently spent three years in London…. I think the challenges you will face are very different depending on your stage in life.  If you have school age kids then you will have schooling etc issues. I didn’t have school age kids so I can’t provide much insight from that perspective. But here are some of the things you can expect and some tips on what to do before you start your assignment…

  • Looking for housing can be very frustrating, expectations are key here. Do as much research before you get there so you will not be shocked by the differences between your home in the US and the house or apartment wherever you are going.
  •  Understand the culture…. I was responsible for 13 countries when I was there and visiting and listening is very important … Every country was different even though it was “one” company they all had their own customs and way of doing business. The one common theme was not trying to force anything but to get their buy in and understanding of the issues at hand. Being an American is not a hindrance; JUST don’t be the UGLY American.
  • Understand the TAX ramifications of your assignment, there are various ways ( tax status in the UK depends on length of assignment) that you can be assigned overseas which have different tax issues, find out the one which works best for you and work it out in advance of your move. Who is going to do your taxes, will the company pay for the tax service, (it can cost around $5k a year — remember you have to file local and US taxes), tax years are different so you may be back in the US and still have to file overseas.
  •  Have an exit strategy, what happens when your assignment ends…. Who pays for the move if you were assigned from a US firm do you have a position when you return… Be careful on this one, I know of many people who were assigned overseas from a job they had with a company in the US and when the assignment was up had no position to come home to.
  •  Spouse… getting a work VISA is difficult for a spouse…Volunteer work is an option.
  •  Fitting in, making friends..etc We were lucky because we were in an English speaking country, so we made friends at work and where we lived…Joining local EXPAT clubs is helpful and fun. You can find them on the web by searching on expat clubs. They had lots of events and it was nice to get together with people in the same situation as you.
  • Trips home— they can be expensive, some companies will allow you to make x trips a year, get that worked out before you commit.
  •  You don’t really need a car it’s cheaper to use public transit or hire a car when you need to. If you do decide to get a car remember you will need to get an international driving license. You can get it in the US by showing your US license, filling out some forms and getting some passport pictures and paying a small fee ( I think it was around $15 – $25).
  •  Medical insurance… most countries in the EU have socialized medical care, but companies also offer private insurance. I would suggest getting the private insurance if you can. The local medical is not bad for normal well care but more likely will not be what you are used to here in the US. For any major issue you will need private insurance or come home for treatment.
  •  If you have a home in the US, do you sell it, rent it or have someone mind it for you while you are overseas. We kept our home because we knew we would be back in 2-3 years and a local company managed it for us… It is not expensive. Cost about $100 per month.
  • On a fun side … ENJOY your time there, most holidays are on Fridays and Monday so you get many four day weekends and vacations are very liberal 35+ days….Take the time to see the sights…

From Global Coach Center Academy: we now offer a full cross-cultural course on “Living and Working in the UK” – it’s available online 24/7 and will tell you not only about the culture of the UK but will also allow you to assess your cultural gaps with the majority of people in the UK and prepare to navigate the differences.  Download and additional information is available here.

What’s to like and … not to like about the US?

Guest post by Jennifer Kumar

People from all over the world want to visit or move to U.S.A. There are many good things about the US, but also some not-so-good things about the country that is my birthplace that is useful for newcomers to understand to help with adjusting and settling in.

 

Emergencies are Easy to Report

I like that 911 is a well-known three digit phone number that can be utilized for emergencies in most parts of the US. 911 can be used to report fires, medical emergencies, crimes and other emergencies. There is no need to have a long list of hard to remember numbers when 911 can be easily dialed at any time. Once 911 or the emergency number is called, in most areas and cases a police person, ambulance or fire truck can report to the scene within a reasonable amount of time.

Rise of Mega-Grocery Stores

Although I love shopping in mega-grocery stores, I know that with each one that opens, the smaller, inner city mom and pop stores that serve those with limited mobility and finances are run out of business. Those that continue to exist are forced to sell items at higher prices than these mega stores and are also known for carrying more ready-to-eat, processed and frozen foods.  While dairy, frozen and breads are often found at these inner city marts, perishables like vegetables and fruits are a rare find. Unless farmer’s markets are available in cities, people with limited transportation living in inner cities with access to such mini-marts are in deteriorating health. With the high prices found in inner city marts, the residents resign to eating ‘fresh’ fast-food at places like McDonalds which feeds more per dollar than the mini mart, and more than the bus or taxi fare to the mega-groceries and the pain of carrying  home all the groceries on the bus.

Personal Travel is Easy, Public Transportation Can Be Challenging

I like that I can get in my car and drive from ‘sea to shining sea’ in a relatively short period of time due to the good road infrastructure that connects the US. However, I know that in encouraging the use of the personal car, public transportation is in decline. Unless one lives in a major metropolis, finding good public transportation within and between small towns and cities can be challenging. Though there are Greyhound busses and Amtrak trains for long distance rides, they have limited connectivity. Depending on the rider’s final destination, there may not be public transport from the bus or train’s drop off point to the final destination. Keep this in mind while taking ground transportation.

A Multicultural Nation Which is Monolingual

I like that the US is known for attracting people from cultures around the globe. In the US, a person can meet someone from a remote country or a popular country and learn about their culture and traditions. Also, when there are enough people from that country settled in various parts of the USA, we find restaurants, cultural organizations and ethnic stores that anyone can visit to learn more about diverse, global lifestyles. Although I like that Americans are all united by one language- English, I dislike the fact the fact that most Americans do not see a practical need to become fluent in another language. Americans may get forced to learn a second language in school or college or want to do it for fun for brief international travel, but a typical American will not use a language other than English to navigate around 95% of the country.

For newcomers to the USA on business, pleasure or family visits, knowing a little about the benefits and disadvantages of the US and it’s lifestyle will prepare you for what to expect so you can plan around the challenges to have a comfortable stay in the U.S.A.

For a more complete guide to adjusting to life in the US, please check out our cross-cultural course “Living and Working in the US”, co-authored by Jennifer Kimar.

 

 

A little bit of crazy

Last week many of us were saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and a visionary of epic proportions.  Some may agree and some may disagree about the ways he lived his life and the ways he did business – and, yet, the majority of us probably agrees on one thing.  Steve Jobs was different.

Listen to this never-shown Apple commercial that he narrated and pay careful attention to the words:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Why do I bring this up?  Because I think that those of us who choose to live outside of our home countries – outside of the familiar, the comfortable, and the known – are a little bit crazy, somewhat rebels, and to some degree troublemakers.

Our willingness and our drive to leave the habitual and to embark on an adventure that will test the whole of our beings can elicit admiration or hostility.

Our return always feels like it puts us right into the category of the round pegs in the square holes.

Our ability to understand and communicate between cultures makes us the connecting link between peoples divided by borders, currencies, economies, and wars – and that puts us right up there with all those others that want to change the world.

What do you think?  Do expats have a little bit of crazy reserved for geniuses?  How inspirational do you find this in your life?

Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

This morning listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) I caught an interview that the Morning Edition host did with an American venture capitalist Bill Frezza.  The conversation centered around job creation and the age-old debate that rages regularly between liberals and conservatives on whether or not taxing the rich affects job creation in a negative way.

What struck me was not the tax question, but rather the view that Bill Frezza held on jobs and on how jobs are actually not beneficial to business.  Jobs is an expense, he said, and creating jobs isn’t the goal of any business.  The goal of a business is making money for the owner and the shareholders as well as satisfying customer demand.  In other words, business owners aren’t supposed to be concerned about the American economy and the state of the country in particular – but simply about how much money they’ll make and how much profit they’ll take in.

Perhaps not quite the view I would relate to, but that’s beside the point.  His pragmatic approach seemed very ego-centric, very “as-long-as-I-make-money-nothing-else-matters”, and very … individualistic, if we want to put a culture dimension on it.  What about the world, I wanted to ask?  What about making sure that your money-making is contributing good to the world and to the society you live in?

It seems that Bill and many like him don’t care very much for that (at least that’s what came through in this interview).  And that makes me wonder – do individualistic societies where “I” is a lot more important than “We” create more ego-centrism and more greed?  Does the US with its very individualistic orientation lead the world in the number of greedy and I-don’t-give-a-f$#@% individuals?

Has this attitude been exported elsewhere? And how is this export thriving in your country?