Monthly Archives: March 2009

A different take on expatriate motivation

So I’ve been asked to deliver a two hour workshop on motivation, or, to be more exact, on how management can motivate people in these trying times.   I’ve done my research and I was busy typing away and creating Power Point slides when it dawned at me: this theory of motivation in the workplace I’ve been working with fits very well with my general work with expatriate issues.

I am talking about the Frederick Herzberg Theory of Motivation, also known as Hygiene Theory or Two Factor theory.   Herzberg conducted many interviews with employees asking them what pleased and displeased them in their work.  And what he discovered was that “the factors causing job satisfaction (and presumably motivation) were different from those causing job dissatisfaction”.  Based on that Herzberg developed the motivation-hygiene theory where he called the satisfiers motivators and the dissatisfiers hygiene factors.  For him “hygiene” meant “maintenance” — factors that are necessary to avoid dissatisfaction, but that by themselves do not provide satisfaction.

Now, this theory was developed for a workplace but when I looked at it, I saw certain parallels with our lives as expatriates.  For instance, here is a list of hygiene factors as outlined by Herzberg:

(1) Company policy
(2) Supervision
(3) Relationship w/Boss
(4) Work conditions
(5) Salary
(6) Relationship w/Peers

And here is a list if motivational factors:

(1) Achievement
(2) Recognition
(3) Work Itself
(4) Responsibility
(5) Promotion
(6) Growth

According to Herzberg, “hygiene” factors help us avoid dissatisfaction.  The motivational factors help us reach satisfaction.  However, the two sets cannot be treated simply as opposites of one another.  That is, the things in our lives that keep us from being dissatisfied are rarely enough to satisfy us. They are rarely enough to motivate us and to move us towards fulfillment and overall happiness with our lives.

If you look closely at the two sets of factors, you’ll probably notice that factors in the second set are deeply connected with the human desire to grow, to achieve, to learn, and to develop.  Factors of the first set, while nice to have, don’t help us move to fulfilling life.  At the same time, we can be growing, achieving, and learning while being dissatisfied with the environment we live in.

It’s similar with the expatriates.  In order to have a good expatriate life it might be enough to have a nice house, a good school for the kids, friends, and things to do; yet in order to have a fantastic and satisfying expatriate life one needs something more.  Something that will satisfy our innate desire to become and to grow – and something that will motivate us to get a fulfilling life… wherever we are.

How are you satisfying that desire to grow?  What motivates you?  What moves your experience from simply “not-dissatisfying” to enriching?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings… got one?

We’ve been having this great exchange on the LinkedIn Group I organized — Ask a Cross-Cultural Coach.  One of our members asked: “What funny misunderstandings have you experienced?”  I was immediately reminded of two cases that happened to me in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  The years were mid-1990, the country was just climbing out of the break up of the Soviet Union, and we were working there in international development.  We were always on the look out for new places to eat and both stories happened to us in a restaurant.

In the first story, when we came in and sat down the waiter brought us 1 menu.  There were 5 of us so we asked for 4 more menus.  He looked at us, very confused, and said: “Why?  There are all the same.”

In the second story, in another restaurant I ordered a plate of spaghetti (local-made makaroni) and when it was brought to me it had a very bad smell.  So I mentioned it to the waiter.  He looked at me and responded: “They are fine.  Other people ate them before you.”  I never understood if he meant they ate “my” plate of spaghetti or just that batch of spaghetti in general.

On that discussion forum we had a few other, very funny comments.  Want to read them?  Visit and join our group at:

And please share your funny stories here!

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

What do expats look for?

When we talk about expatriates, we most often refer to those of us who move every few years from one posting to another or to those of us who are serving a posting outside of home. But what about those people who have made a foreign country their “home”? Those, who moved to live in another country for professional, personal, or any other reason? Are they expatriates?

According to the Wikipedia, “an expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland).” So, if we go with that definition, then those of us who have moved to another country to live for “good” (or at least for a very extended period of time without a commitment to return), are also expatriates.

Yet it seems that there is a difference between the two kinds of expatriates – the ones who are there on assignment and the ones who are there “permanently”. What is that difference?

If we go back in history and look at famous expatriates – each country probably has had at least one during its existence – we’ll find that those expats that move to a country and make it their home, are attracted to something that this particular country has to offer. It might be culture, it might be climate, it might be the atmosphere, or it might be opportunities that are not available at home. Whatever it is, it seems to be something that’s both unique to that particular country and desired by that particular person.

And so the difference that I see between the two sets of expats is specificity. Expats who move from post to post are not looking for anything specific, they are looking for the experience of a temporary expatriation. Expats who make a foreign country their home look for something specific, something that they were missing at home and something that they absolutely need to have a fulfilling life.

What are you looking for when you become an expatriate?

How does knowing this change your expatriate experience?

Let us know — leave a comment!

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

In the previous post we talked about the first three behavior choices of a happy expat:

1.  I am intensely curious.

2.  I accept others as they come, I don’t judge, and I don’t try to change people to my liking.

3.  I look at everything as an amazing learning experience.

(Details of each are in the previous post).

So, let’s continue with the last four:

4.  I find opportunities wherever I am and I don’t lament those I’ve left at behind. Life of an expatriate consists of one move after another.  Sometimes we know when that move is coming and sometimes we don’t (in these days of “the crisis” many of us will move suddenly).  Opportunities that were open to us in one place may not be available in another.  But remember “life is always offering us new beginnings…” There will be new opportunities, so do you want to spend the time lamenting about what you left behind or do you want to spend the time listening and looking out for what’s opening up for you?

5.  I know that feeling sad at times is part of the game. A happy expat doesn’t mean a giddy-at-all-times expat.  A happy expat means also an expat who knows that being sad at times is part of the expatriate experience.  Being sad about leaving friends behind; being sad about leaving your family far away; being sad about quitting a job or changing a career … this list can go on and on.  The difference between a happy expat and an expat that’s not happy is that for the former the sadness is something that’s natural and something that doesn’t take over your life and makes a victim out of you.

6.  I share. Sharing means so many different things.  It may mean sharing with your friends and family when you are sad – going through the stressful times alone is no fun.  It may mean sharing with a coach – a right client-coach partnership will undoubtedly make your expatriate experience richer.  It may also mean  sharing your experience with others, helping those like you find the best facets of their expatriate journeys.  And, of course, sharing may also mean teaching people around you about your culture, your values, your beliefs, and things you hold dear.  But remember, sharing isn’t preaching!  When you share, you give people a choice and freedom to decide whether they want to follow you or not.

7.  I stay clear of criticism, sulking, and stonewalling. It is so very easy to blame someone else in your misfortunes.  It’s easy to say that everything around you is horrible; it’s easy to sulk in your misery when you’ve convinced yourself that it’s not up to you; and it’s easy to put a barrier between you and the place you live in.  According to Dr. John Gottman, who did a lot of research on marriages, a marriage stands very little chance of surviving if these attitudes are present (for more information get Dr. Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”).  It’s the same for your relationship with a foreign place.  There is no way you are going to be happy where you live, if you consistently engage in criticism, sulking, and stonewalling.  So stay clear of those!  It’s not always easy, but it’s important.  And, if you need help with it, share.

This is now available as an on-line course at the Global Coach Center Academy here.

Copyright © 2009 by the Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

Ever wondered what makes some expatriates happy when they live in another country?  And what makes others not so happy?  I’ve created “THE WINNING SEVEN™” or 7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat.

Here are the first three:

1.  I am intensely curious. Coming to another land is always interesting.  You get to learn about the culture, you get to experience a different way of life, you get to try new foods, and maybe even new sports and new hobbies.  A whole new world opens up for you.  How do you want to be around this new world?  Take a metaphor of a toddler, for example.  When children are young there is so much newness around them that all they want to do is explore.  A toddler’s curiosity is intense — everything is interesting and they have no preconceived ideas as to how things should be.  A happy expat is kind of like that.  A happy expat sees the new place through the lens of a toddler.  Everything becomes a new “toy”, a new “game” to learn and enjoy.

2.  I accept others as they come, I don’t judge, and I don’t try to change people to my liking. This new place you’ve ended up in has been in existence long before your plane deposited you there.  People here are used to being and doing things their way.  No matter how much it may bother you and no matter how much you disagree, a judgmental attitude will get you nowhere.  Accepting that things run the way they do is your key to happiness.  Remember you don’t own the absolute truth of how to be.  There are many different truths and realities out there.  You see your truth through your emotions and others see their truths through their emotions.  We all have different emotions and we are all different.  Accepting others as they are will contribute to your happiness.

3.  I look at everything as an amazing learning experience. Someone once said that “life is always offering us new beginnings, it’s up to us whether to take them or not.”  I don’t remember who said it but it’s an empowering way to look at what’s available to us at every moment of every day.  And especially to those of us who get this incredible opportunity to not only travel but also live in different places.  Imagine for a moment what you would have missed if you never moved.  What things would you have never seen and what things would you have never experienced?  And now imagine what you have seen and experienced as a result of every move.  How many more new things are out there for you?  Even those times when nothing seems to be going your way, what is your gift there?

The next four are coming up in the next blog!

Copyright © Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Money … everywhere

I’ve noticed something interesting happening to me in Russia. Whenever I am outside I always find money on the ground. It’s not a lot of money — kopeks mostly (something like cents) — but I still find quite a few of them. Whenever I am outside of Russia, be it in the US or Europe or anywhere else, I am usually not that lucky. So what is it that makes money litter the ground in Russia?

I am thinking it has to do with an attitude that many Russians hold on small amounts of money. When you go to a supermarket, you will almost always find a kopek coin or a five kopek coin unclaimed at any cashier station. It’s as if picking up that little change isn’t worth it. Picking it up places shame on you for being so “mercantile”, so “small”. It makes you feel small and it’s shameful in the eyes of the others.

Same goes for the money on the ground. If you dropped a kopek or five, you won’t be bending down to get it. And if you a pedestrian who notices this change on the ground, you are not going to take it. Others may see it and then what would they think of you!

These beliefs about small money and how your own worthiness is connected with it translates into other facets of the Russian life and society. Nowadays you are often judged on how much money you make, what position you hold, and how many designer clothes and expensive cars you own. You can buy your degree, you can buy a judge, you can buy pretty much anything. People with lots of money rule the country and the last thing you want to do is to appear as if you don’t have money… which is what will happen if you pick up that kopek!

So I happily go around picking up all the change. I believe money should not litter the ground. It should be respected no matter how small it is… kind of like people who should be respected no matter how much they make.

My 2 cents … or kopeks worth…