Monthly Archives: August 2011

Parenting, education and culture – a big mix

Yesterday I remembered Amy Chua and her now infamous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  My daughter started middle school and her assessment scores for courses’ placement didn’t turn out to be as high as we expected.  Aside from questions on where that would take her in the process of learning and how it would affect her own self-esteem, I was suddenly faced with questions of my own… like:

  • “What the &^$%$!”
  • “She’s always been a stellar student, what’s going on here?”
  • “How can she score worse than before – and worse than the other kids?”
  • Etc, Etc, Etc…

And as I mulled it over, feeling embarrassed, let down, bitter, and confused, I noticed that my husband wasn’t as emotional about it as I was.  I was ready to march into school and request to see the tests, I unearthed the KhanAcademy site and persuaded my daughter to spend an hour doing math (excellent resource, by the way!), and I spent more than just a few hours planning an intervention for what I felt was a failing student (now, mind you, it’s only been 2 days since the school started!).

Meanwhile my husband, as upset as the placements made him, wasn’t as emotional about the whole thing as I was.  Yes, the results bothered him and yes, he wanted to investigate farther yet he wasn’t burning the midnight oil looking for tutoring resources and creating to-do lists on how to tackle this.  So why was I so up in arms and why was he so nonchalant?

Then it dawned on me.  Cultural differences.   He is American and I am Russian-born.  I grew up in a society where education was akin to religion and where being best among the best was a must for the intelligenzia children.  My husband grew up with the motto – “as long as you do your best” whereas I grew up with the motto – “you only do your best when you are doing much better than most of the others”.  And so having my almost-a-straight-A-student daughter placed into non-advanced courses definitely touched a nerve.

What have been your experience with your children’s education?  Have you felt any differences in how you manage your kids’ education especially if you and your spouse hail from different cultures?

REMEMBER: if you coach, train, or consult people who work across cultures, consider joining us for the Culture Mastery Certification and License Program.  We start September 21, 2011 and a discount is available to anyone who registers before September 7, 2011.

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Move countries… adapt, move again… adapt again – one tip to ease the process of constant adaptation for serial expats

It’s often easier for us to name things that we don’t want in our lives than the things that we do want.  During the move and the adaptation process so much change is happening around us that it’s quite natural to reject most of it (because face it – homeostasis or the tendency to maintain the system the way it’s been is a very strong universal force).  And so, believe it or not, but this is when we want to become clear not about what we reject – but about what we are looking for.

The way to get clear about what we want, surprisingly, is to list the things we don’t want and look at the alternative.  So here is an exercise*:

Step A: List things you are not looking forward to – things you don’t want (perhaps dealing with a moving company, struggling with the language you don’t speak, finding household help, etc)

Step B: Once you’ve listed them all, take each one and turn it around.  If you don’t want that, what is it that you do want?  For example: I don’t want to not understand a word when I arrive.  What do I want? I want to know some basics.

Step C: Once you have all the “wants” listed, choose the one that seems most attractive to you at this time and list a few things you can do to get to that want.  In our example above – I want to know the basics of the language – maybe you would look for language lessons to take before you leave.

So whenever you find yourself going over and over things that you find annoying/frustrating/unpleasant/etc in changing countries, pull yourself away from concentrating on the “not wants” and reframe them into wants.  Not only does it empower you to change those things but it also lets the Universe know what you are looking for.

*This exercise is an excerpt from a larger guide to adapting in a new country — Adjusting Guide E-course, available now for self study on the Global Coach Center Academy.

How do you know if expat life is for you?

Someone recently asked me this:

“When you were first offered an expat position, how did you know it was for you? How did you know that you’d be happy living away from home in another country and another culture?”

I had to think before I answered and even then I didn’t really know the answer.  Sure, I know the “how I know” now having been an expat many times over, but how did I know it then?  Was it a hunch?  A longing?  Hunger for an adventure?

Probably it was a combination of all the above coupled with a few other things yet the question made me think.  How can a person who grew up in a mono-cultural environment (if that exists nowadays, that is)  know if an expat position that’s being offered to him/her is their cup of tea?  How do they know it’s for them?

There are things out there in the world that are for us and there are those things that are not for us.  For instance, I know that bungee jumping is just not my thing no matter how excited many of my friends may be about it.  The same applies to life journeys –some journeys are for us and some are not.  But with journeys it may not be so easy to know especially if we have not tried.  So how would one know if an expat living is their thing before they embark on it?

Here are my thoughts and I’d love it if you can comment with yours below.

  • I think that for those people, who thrive on change, this desire for change may be a hint that expat life is definitely something to try out.
  • I think that those people who crave adventure are also lucky to know in advance that they will most likely enjoy it.

What are other ways to know?

NEW at the Global Coach Center: if you coach, train, or consult people who work across cultures, consider joining us for the Culture Mastery Certification and License Program.  We start September 21, 2011 and a discount is available to anyone who registers before September 7, 2011.

A cultural blunder in one of the world’s most international sites – what was Facebook thinking?!

We all heard of cultural gaffes that either hurt business partnerships, slow them down or completely undermine them.  Classic textbook examples tell us about cultural faux pas during meetings, cultural mistakes in advertising design, and cultural errors in negotiations.  All companies go through this experience at least once in their international business deals and apparently Facebook isn’t an exception (although, in all honesty, I didn’t expect the site that brought together people from so many different countries and walks of life to be so clueless when it comes to cultural sensitivity).

A couple of days ago, I saw the following announcement from Facebook Russia:  Всем, кто ожидает прибавления в семействе – теперь вы можете сообщить об этом вашим друзьям на Facebook. Cделать это можно в настройках профиля, во вкладке “Друзья и семья” в предлагаемом списке членов семьи нужно выбрать вариант “будущий член семьи: ребенок”, ввести имя ребенка, если оно уже выбрано, и предполагаемую дату рождения. Эта информация появится на вкладке “Семья” на левой панели вашего профиля.”

Translation:

“For all of you who are expecting an addition in the family – you can now let your friends know about it on Facebook. Go to your profile and in the “Friends and Family” choose the optionl “future member of the family: a child”, enter the name of the child if it is already selected, and the anticipated date of birth. This information will appear under “Family” on the left sidebar of your profile.”

My jaw dropped when I saw that.  And I didn’t really have to read the already accumulated comments from more than 60 people to know how this one is going to land. In a country where superstitions run high, people just don’t share their impending family additions with many – let alone with the whole Facebook world.

What were you thinking, Facebook?