Monthly Archives: January 2011

Expatriates – surviving or thriving? Depends on how you look at it…

Recently a few articles and books caught my eye.  All of them were targeted at expats and all of them used the word survive in some fashion.  There was either a title “How to survive as an expat” (Disclaimer: not the exact words); or an e-book on “5 Ways to Survive your move abroad (again, not exact words); or an article on “Survival tips on…”, etc, etc, etc.  All this written material  was intended to help expatriates and was offering help from the perspective of survival and having to survive.

Why do I bring this up?  If we look at the definition of the word survive, this is what we get:

  • To remain alive or in existence.
  • To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere.
  • To remain functional or usable.

How is that for a perspective?  How inspiring does it sound to you if you are an expatriate (or preparing to become one)?

My point here is that perspectives from which we approach our lives matter a great deal.  Perspectives can be empowering and inspirational – the ones that make us look at the world thought the glasses of possibility.  Perspectives can also be cautious and fearful — the kind that force us to look at the world through the glasses of prevention.

Looking at our expat experience from the point of view of having to survive is nowhere as fun and calling as looking at it from the point of view of thriving.  What do you think?

And how do you look at your expatriate journey?

People who enjoyed this also read:

A different take on expatriate motivation

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Culture Shock revisited or is it all about going through the stages?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Parenting across cultures – a never-ending exercise in cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Recently I read an article by Amy Chua on the subject of superiority of Chinese mothers.  Whether or not I agree with the author isn’t the point of this blog.   Although, as a side note, I must say that the author’s ego rivals that of Paris Hilton — which I thought was never possible!  And, as many other readers, I was amazed at the length she went to in order to satisfy that ego (the up-in-your-face article in WSJ included).  Disclaimer: I have not read her book but her article was enough for me to decide never to read the book and to feel bad for both her kids and her students at my (!) alma mater.

But back to the subject.  Amy Chua’s husband is apparently American and reading her me!-me!-me! article got me thinking of the role that parents of different cultures play in raising kids together.  I happen to be married to someone outside of my own culture and we are raising a beautiful girl.  How often do we agree on our own respective methods of parenting?  How often do we disagree?  And what transpires when you take an already mixed-culture couple and throw them into an expat lifestyle where a third culture becomes part of the mix?

We all know there is a lot of beauty in being exposed to and in living with different cultures.  We all know kids benefit from this immensely.  But that’s not what I want to discuss.  I want to discuss the difficulties.

If I had a penny for every time I was told I was “too strict” (I think I need to share Amy Chua article to show my husband what strict really means!) or that “my parenting culture was too critical” or that “I would do it differently” – I’d be a millionaire with my own private island already.  But instead of a penny, all I got was the feeling of being labeledjudged and misunderstood.  Of course I have not been a saint either and I think I’ve given my share of opinions about my husband’s parenting culture.

Dr. John Gottman in his brilliant book “7 Principles of Making a Marriage Work” says that 69% of problems in a marriage are perpetual.  He goes on to describe that no matter what you do, these problems are not going to go away simply because they are born out of your disappointed dream or a disappointed dream of your spouse.  Put another way – the times we fight and the fights that repeat themselves over and over again happen because our values are not being honored.  Instead – a label is issued.  Someone calls you strict instead of recognizing that by imposing a certain schedule all you are trying to do is to protect your child as much as you can from stress and anxiety.

In an interview I heard recently, Marianne Williamson said something so simple and brilliant that I am amazed I didn’t think of it myself.  She said that all over the mammal world, the maternal instinct first and foremost goes to the protection of the young.  As mammals, we – human females – are also quite intent on protecting our children.  And so thinking along those lines, I am now realizing that I am protecting my young – but I see that protection in my own, unique way.  The way that has come from my culture and my upbringing.

So what do we do if our instinct to protect and if our parental style that comes from our values collide with that of our partner/spouse?  When tensions run high and labels are attached faster than the speed of light, how do we stay calm and discuss the cross-cultural misunderstanding that’s at the root of the argument?

Your thoughts?

People who enjoyed this post also read:

Cross-cultural misunderstandings… got one?

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Expat Entrepreneur?  Who is your ideal client?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Your next expat assignment or “where do we go from here”?

The last couple of months have been almost like a roller coaster in my household.  It’s bidding season at my husband’s work – those of you on diplomatic assignments will know what I mean.  Those of you who don’t, let me explain.  The bidding season is the time when your dreams and hopes get crushed one by one during a period of 2 to 3 months of excruciatingly slow wait.

Okay, so maybe I am being a little bit dramatic here.  But for those of us who during the bidding get to gaze at the list of cities with names such as Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, etc and imagine ourselves there – the process of watching them slowly disappear as they are assigned to someone else is painful.  You’ll agree, won’t you, that after you’ve seen yourself on the streets of Paris snacking on pan de chocolat or taking a train trip through the Swiss Alps or swimming in the Mediterranean, it’s kind of difficult to get used to the idea that you’ll be doing neither.  Instead you’ll be on your way to a place you never thought you’d get assigned to.

But those disappointments do happen.  And, since at some point we all come to realization that we have no control over bureaucrats on the assignment panel who excel at making back room deals, we need to learn to find a way of falling in love with our next post.

How do we do this?  In 2 very easy steps:

First. We find and rip apart all the photos of Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome… okay, just a joke here.  The first step is actually changing our perspective.  From bitter, I-want-to-bury-that-assignment-panel, hate-this-lifestyle perspective to maybe-there-is-something-I-will-find-interesting-in-that-place-I-am-going-to perspective.  Or you can try Forest Gump perspective – “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.  Or you can try your dog’s perspective.  Or… you decide.  The point is to snap out of the perspective that drags you down and offers you nothing into the one that’ll get you excited and inspired.  Because you’ll be going to that post anyway so why not go in a better mood?

Second.  Your new post isn’t really all bad, is it?  I mean there must be something on offer there that maybe isn’t available in Paris.  Think through all facets of your life – schools, house, career, education, travel, household help, fun, etc, etc, etc – and then consider what’s available for you at your new post in each of those dimensions.

It looks like I’ll be going through this process soon enough.  Care to join me?

Have any additional suggestions?

Last three days to sing up for 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. Sign up here.

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!