Monthly Archives: March 2011

Of stories and cultures

In his book “Spontaneous Evolution” Dr Bruce Lipton suggests that, as meaning-making species, we — humans – live both by the stories we create and by the meaning we give to those stories.  Throughout history we have built lives on the foundation of our stories – and the more invested we become in our story, the more important it becomes for us to continue investing in that story… even if the story no longer works.

Some of our stories have been with us for hundreds of years, others have been around much less time.  Branches of different religions can be considered stories (think, for instance, of some religious zealots protecting the “purity” of their religion by rejecting gay rights in day and age when the humanity has embraced it as basic human right); on-going conflicts between nations can be considered stories (think of the conflict in the Middle East where animosity continues regardless of how useless it has become); and political regimes (think Egypt, Tunisia, the Soviet Union).  These collective stories often define and influence the way we live our lives – even if it no longer works for us.

Reading about this got me wondering about the connection between a story and a culture.  For instance, let’s take the collective story of the United States.  For many years the US has been known as “the land of opportunities and freedom where anyone can make something out of their life.”  Recently though it feels as if the story has been shifting towards something along these lines: “capitalism is great; socialism is awful; business interests first; money is the only thing that matters; guns need no control; social justice equals communism; corporations rule; survival of the fittest; it’s a dog-eat-dog world.”  Many people continue to invest in the story that capitalism the way they have been practicing it is the only way to go even though the system has marginalized a lot of people.  Many swear by their right to bear arms – when in today’s world of machine guns this is a much more dangerous preposition than when this amendment was created.  How do these stories contribute to the culture? And how does the culture contribute to – or maybe change – these stories?

What about the story of your country or the country you are living in?  What is it?

How has this story influenced the culture – and vice versa?

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Out of the mouths of TCKs (third culture kids)

We all know that our children are wise but how often do we choose to listen to their wisdom?  Sure, we insist that they listen to us because as adults we… well, we know what’s best, right?  But what about listening to them?  How often do we give them the chance to share their wisdom and be heard?

The other day I suggested that my 11-year old daughter start a blog.  She likes to write, she likes to share her opinion on matters, she likes to be heard, and she likes to help people with their problems (don’t they all like that?).

“Blog?” She said. “What will I write about?”

“Well,” I responded, “you are pretty special.  You’ve been to a lot of places, you are a third-culture kid, and you can share your experiences with others – TCKs or just kids who may have to move and deal with adjustment.”

“Ok,” she said, still unsure. “But what can I tell them?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Why don’t you just write and see what comes up.”

And so she did.  She wrote her first (and then later, her second) post without putting too much thought into it (or agonizing over it), but in the end coming out with some amazing pearls of wisdom (read it at TCKids: For Kids by a Kid)

What have you learned from your kids when moving around the world?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

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

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)!

To expat or not to expat: 3 tips that can help you decide

In today’s day and age expatriates are not only those sent abroad by their companies.  They are also people who decide to retire abroad; people who decide to move overseas on their own (although they might be called immigrants but more about that in another post); people who go to another country to study or volunteer; etc, etc, etc.  All of them have one thing in common: they somehow decided that living outside of their home country borders will be a good thing for them.  How does one decide that?  What can be helpful to consider before taking the plunge?

The tips I will list below may not fully apply to each category of expats but they will be helpful nevertheless.

Tip 1.  Consider the “why”. What is calling you to move abroad?  What’s driving your desire to relocate?  Is it the friends who keep telling you to do it and the grass just always seems greener on the other side?  Or is it the feeling of newness and adventure that’s calling you forth?  Are your reasons purely financial?

Discovering the motivation behind the thought of moving is your most important step to undertake before making any decision.  When you discover your motivating factors, you zero in on which of your personal values you’ll be honoring and which ones you may be neglecting. Making sure your values do not suffer in the process of your relocation is instrumental in making your move a happy one.

A simple process of making the decision based on values (as opposed to pros and cons process that most of us use) is the following:

  • First, identify your values.  What’s important to you in life?  Aside from food, water, and shelter what do you absolutely have to have in your life to make it worthwhile?  Make a list of those values (or if it’s difficult for you to give those values names, look at the list of common values at Global Coach Center site and pick the ones that ring true for you).
  • Second, chose the ten values that seem most important.  Imagine you are moving and you are only allowed to take 10, what would they be?
  • Third, draw the following table on a piece of paper and rate your chosen values on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)
Value If I move, I’ll honor this value at the following level (from 1 to 10) If I stay, I’ll honor this value at the following level (from 1 to 10)
Example: 

Adventure

Family/Grandchildren

Learning/Growth

 

  • What are you discovering?  What are your values telling you?

Tip 2.  Investigate. Learn a few things about your own cultural blueprint and about prevalent cultural blueprint of the country you want to move to.  This learning goes beyond the traditional clichés and the do’s and don’ts – in fact, this learning will help you see how compatible (or not compatible) your cultural habits and values are with the cultural habits and values of the majority of people in your host country.  If your compatibility is close to zero, you may be looking at years of frustration – so why do it?  You might be better off selecting another country if you set your mind on moving.

Tip 3.  Conduct proper reconnaissance. You are about to make a very important decision of your life, so consider spending a few months simply living in that country as a try out.  Feel what it’d be like for you to become the resident of that country for good.  Connect with other expats – those who are there for a short and a long run.  What are you learning that can help you decide?

Tip 4.  Don’t make this decision alone. Friends, family and an army of well-wishers will have their opinions about your desire to move.  And although they’ll be dong the best they can to be impartial, their advice will still contain at least an iota of how-will-that-impact-me thoughts. Besides, other people’s advice rarely fit when we are about to make a really big decision in our lives.  So find someone who will help you tap into your own wisdom — find an expat coach.

How have you made your decision to move?  Please share.

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Expat coach — where art thou?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the “programming”?

What do expats look for?

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)!

Happy International Women’s Day and a look at how immigrants celebrate their holidays

When I was growing up the 8th of March – International Women’s Day – was one of our most favorite holidays.  Everyone got a day off, mothers/grandmothers/female teachers and professionals got flowers and gifts and even the boys in school (no matter the grade!) brought every girl something.  No one much cared about the political undertones of this holiday (well, at least in the day and age of my childhood) and mostly the holiday represented a chance to express gratitude and honor women in our lives.

When I moved to the US – immigrated to be exact – I was very surprised to find out that no one knew what 8th of March even was!  After all I could remember the reports on state-controlled television that countries in Europe and Asia celebrated it.  It was strange that the US didn’t, but that’s not the point.  The point is that from that time forward the 8th of March began to slowly lose its significance.  With no one around us celebrating it, we slowly stopped too.

Today this made me wonder about how other immigrants hold on to those special celebrations when they leave the country of their birth for good.  If they live in a culture that simply doesn’t honor their holidays, what do they do to hold on to them?  And how do they pass them on to their children (if at all)?

There is a difference here between expatriates and immigrants.  Expatriates know that they will at some point be leaving and moving on to another country (or home) and that they are always going to be American, French, Russian, Canadian, etc no matter where they go – so their holidays for the most part stay with them, no matter how neglected they may have been during the period of expatriation.  The immigrants though go through the process of blending their birth identity with their adopted one and thus may lose those holidays forever.

Your thoughts?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

A to Z of Successful Expatriation: I is for Identity

Your identity in expatriation: will it stay or will it go?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

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)!

 

Expat lifestyle or how to de-clutter in a most effective way

At a recent coaching summit one of the keynote speakers – Lynne Twist (whose book, The Soul of Money, I recommend highly) spoke about one of the most destructive and yet most spread myths of the modern world: more is better.  We are encouraged to consume more to “help” the economy, we are constantly sold things we don’t need through very clever advertising campaigns, and we are doped into believing that the more we have of anything the happier we will be.  Meanwhile, the constant race for more creates stress, frustration, and feelings of never being able to catch up – while depleting precious natural resources.

In the course of her talk, Lynne Twist mentioned that the storage industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and the fact that we are building houses for our stuff makes absolutely no sense when there are so many homeless people.  This got me thinking that as expatriates, we are actually lucky because we get to go through our stuff every few years when we move and we get to de-clutter on a regular basis.

Of course one of the hardest things about organizing a move (apart from saying good-byes…) is deciding what to take and what to discard.  Those decisions not only take time, but also force us to say yes to some memories and no to others.

So how do you decide which memento of the past still deserves a place in your life and which doesn’t?  How do you decide which one of your possessions to donate?  And what is the ultimate test that helps you determine what will stay?

I have a system.  It may or may not work for you, but I found that it works wonders for me.  When I begin the moving process I ask myself the following questions about those things that I consider keeping:

•    What is the energy behind this thing?  What feeling do I get from it?
•    What does it represent to me now?
•    How important is it to me now?
•    How important is it to my future path?

Many objects that we hold on to may represent who we were long ago and not who we are now. Some may come from times that have been difficult and resonate with memories of sadness; others may have been symbolic to us in the past, but no longer carry the same meaning. Why hold on to them then? Why drain yourself and your house of energy with clutter that is not useful for who you are becoming?

When people, who have not experienced expatriate lifestyles, say to me how difficult it must be to move every few years, I usually respond that it’s a blessing and an opportunity.  It allows me to part with the old and invite the new into my life.  And I find that very inspirational.

The things that don’t make it on the moving list find their next owner in 99% of the cases.  Internet has allowed us to connect with people who may want and need the stuff you have – so before you add to the ever-growing trash pile out there, consider tapping into those resources!

Speaking of resources… Global Coach Center has recently started a resource of its own — an International Directory of Expat Coacheslisted by country. We started it because we get a lot of requests from people looking for a coach in a country where they are living.  So if you are in need of a coach, please visit it.  And if you are an expat coach, list yourself!

People who read this post also enjoyed:

How green is your move?

Expat Coach — where art thou?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

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)!