Category Archives: Expatriate entrepreneur

Expat Mothers in Transition or “Where do I go from here????”

In the expat world we talk a lot about transitions. Transitions from home to a TRavelforeign country, from one culture to another culture, from one school to the next, from headquarters to a country office… I can go on and on. Yet today I’d like to speak about another kind of transition – a transition that’s very specific to mothers, and more so to expat mothers.

I’ve been off the radar for the last few weeks because I was co-leading a workshop for expat women looking at their next steps. Most of them were mothers whose children have reached an age where they no longer needed their constant care and involvement (read – teenagers!). And after dedicating their lives to moving their families from country to country, settling everyone in, caring for adjusting kids and spouses, running the household, and in general being the backbone of the family during the turbulent expat years, these women were finding themselves with additional time on their hands. And a huge desire to begin something just for themselves – be it go back to work, re-invent themselves professionally, or re-discover parts of themselves they’ve ignored and start something entirely new.

Many mothers around the world who have had the luxury to take time off work to care for their kids find themselves in the same predicament. In addition to the sadness of “one-moment-I-am-needed-and-the-next-I-am-not”, there is a lot of confusion over “where I am going?” What does this transition have in store for me? Where CAN I go?

And, I think, expat mother have it tougher. We are away from friends, family members, and support networks. Our resume is devoid of part time jobs and professional development courses… unless we count the freelance jobs of packing, taxi service, and nurse. Our confidence is often low because we’ve had our share of glazed over eyes every time we answer the question “and what do you do?” And our opportunities may be limited precisely because we might be living in a country where we don’t speak the language; have no permission to work; or if we already know that we’d be leaving within a couple of years.

Sure we’ve had an amazing life and sure we’ve had access to learning things that others may not have. And we are as resilient as they come. Yet this transition can be tricky.

Especially if we don’t give it proper attention.

Have you – or has anyone you know – ever go through this transition?

Note: the program we ran for expat mothers in transition will now be available to women around the world via the web! Please check here for more information. 

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Recreating is Creative Recycling: an Expat Woman Experience

By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

I’ve lived in the Middle East for seven years. Along with appreciation for flexible ColorfulPencilsstarting times, humus with meat, and the women’s garment, the abaya, I have developed a list of axioms for success as an expat.

Many of these apply directly to the setting of the Arabian Gulf and specifically to daily events in Qatar.

One: In a high concept culture, the absence of a yes can be read as a no.

Two: The longer you sit, the wider your hips.

Three: Expat life is like a pressure cooker, the pressure of the unfamiliar forcing out whatever is inside.

Number three, however, could apply to any country in the world. What happens when your creature comforts- in my case catchall stores like Target, and a wide circle of friends- are taken away? When you find yourself in an entirely new environment and have to invent your own fun?

There are two stages. In the first you may find yourself working and sleeping in copious amounts. I alternated between an eighty hour work week and a docile weekend the entire first year I lived in Qatar. Coincidentally I also gained 15 pounds from my suddenly sedentary lifestyle.

Eventually (read two years later) I was literally sick of sleeping. I forced myself out of bed and took stock of the situation. This is when I entered stage two: the stage of invention. I wondered to myself what was interesting enough to keep me awake. None of the ladies coffee mornings or social groups had what I wanted, some expat grousing and home sickness mixed in with cultural stimulation.

I did the only thing I could: I created groups of my own. I put a small, free ad in the local events leaflet, advertising a writing group.

Writing, it turned out, was the first of many activities I would embark on to keep myself entertained. And in the process I not only found friends, but made several career changes. I went from being a university administrator to the editor of a series of books. A few years from that transition I found myself talking to the CEO who published J.K. Rowling and agreeing to work for his new company starting up in Doha. A few years from that (yes, I mentioned I’ve been in Qatar quite a while) I resigned from that job in order to pursue my writing full time and publish seven Ebooks on Amazon.

None of this could have happened if I didn’t live overseas. Or perhaps to state more accurately, none of this would have happened as quickly if I were shopping in Target every weekend or flying to my college reunion. Not that retail therapy or friendships aren’t important: I enjoy them on our holiday trips home.

But I found the treasure of expat life is the very fact of being taken outside your comfort zone. Once the irritation, anger, and realization hat in fact, no, your life is not “just like it was at home” because there is a McDonald’s down the street, wears off, you may find you have the greatest gift a person can be given. You have the time to mindfully choose how you want to spend your days, weeks, months – all those hours that stack up to years.

The first few months of a new year are the perfect time to ask yourself how you want to showcase the new you. What skills, passions, or projects have you been talking about for years that now lurk in a back closet, shaming you into silence with their persistent procrastination?

I’ve been writing since I was in my twenties. It took me a twelve years and another continent to recycle that passion from a hobby into a full time occupation. I now teach writing to undergraduates and stay up late at night scribbling away at my own work.

What is it you love to do and yet never have time for? That’s why they call it the gift of the present.

Mohana is still in Doha. You can read all about it on her blog: www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

Mohana is also a co-trainer for the “Living and Working in Qatar” cross-cultural course available online 24/7.

Survey results of the expatriate and cross-cultural coaching niche

by Margarita

Thank you to those of you, expat and cross-cultural coaches, who took the time to complete the survey. Here are some of the results that came out of this very informal survey and you can download the full report here.

Of those who responded (69 people in total):

  • 17.4% were expat coaches
  • 26.1% were cross-cultural coaches
  • 60.9% were both
  • 89.8% coach for LESS than 10 hours per week
  • 83.9% make LESS than 30,000 USD per year from one-on-one coaching
  • 15.9% offer products such as e-courses/e-books/etc to their clients and 88.2% do NOT make any money on products
  • 76.8% offer workshops/group coaching to their clients and 85.5% make LESS than 30,000 USD from those workshops

Coaches — what do you think about the vitality of our niche?

I am  discouraged and surprised at the same time.

Discouraged because almost 85% of coaches in our niche do not make a living wage.

Surprised because I hear so much about the “needs” of expats and I hear so much complaining on the part of those expats — yet it appears not many expats are interested in working with a coach to resolve those complaints. What gives?

Your thoughts?

BY THE WAY, COACHES!  There is still time to sign up for the licensing and certification webinar for the Culture Mastery 4C’s Process™ — culture-emotion intelligence methodology that you can use to help your clients work successfully across culture.  For more info and to sign up, go here.

Introducing Turkey

Turkey is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in Turkey”.  In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers on some of the most interesting tidbits on Turkey.
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Lale Gerger in her own words: “My mother is American and my father is Turkish and I was truly brought up with both cultures.  I lived in Turkey during my elementary school years but then relocated back to Turkey in my 20s and stayed for another 11 years.  I was the first single person to ever adopt in Turkey and had to change legislation during the 5 year process.  Aside from living in both Turkey and the United States, I’ve also had the opportunity to live in Kuwait, England and Mexico.”
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Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog): What would be 1 to 3 tips you would give to someone who is moving to Turkey?
Lale:
1.  Turks are very friendly – take advantage of that and try to get to know the locals.
2.  Be patient; things can become bureaucratic in every day situations such as at a bank or even the post office!  Don’t forget that relationships are key in Turkey so try to befriend someone at places you visit often, it will make your life easier.
3. Be open and realistic; as with living in any country – there will be challenges and adjustments needed – as long as you can remain open to new experiences, you will have a wonderful time!
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GCC Blog: What was the funniest cultural misunderstanding you’ve experienced in Turkey?
Lale: I was fairly lucky in that since I’m half Turkish and I spoke Turkish when I relocated to Turkey in my 20s.  After graduating from UCLA’s Theatre department, I relocated to Turkey and was fortunate enough to land a faculty member position at Hacettepe University’s Theatre Dept.  One day, as I was trying to be friendly and making small talk with the head of the department, I asked, “So what have you done in the Theatre?”  In Turkish there is a formal and informal ways to say “you” – I, of course, mistakenly used the informal manner and to top it off, it turns out that he was not only the head of the theatre department but was one of the most famous actors in Turkey.  I, essentially, asked the Turkish Laurence Olivier what he did and in an informal manner at that!  Once I realized my mistake, I tried to apologize & use the more formal manner with him but he would not allow it; I think it was probably refreshing for him…
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GCC Blog: What’s the most popular proverb and why?
Lale: Proverbs are used consistently in every day life.  One of the more popular ones is: Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır.
Literal Translation: A cup of coffee commits to forty years of friendship.
Meaning:  Used to remind that friendships should not be taken lightly.  It also is quite telling of how the culture values relationships.
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GCC Blog: What do you love about that country?
Lale: Everything!
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GCC Blog: What do you dislike about that country?
Lale: Daily life is much more difficult – doing every day chores can become a real chore due to lack of well-developed systems. 
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The full course on “Living and Working in Turkey”, co-authored by Lale is available 24/7 at the online Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Academy for self- or assisted study.  Download it here.

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.

Sharing the moment

by Margarita

These are the kinds of moments that help keep the stress and frustrations of being  a solopreneur at bay and I just had to share it with those of you who are not members of the LinkedIn group where this was posted!

I announced the upcoming Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ licensing/certification and received an amazing testimonial in a comment from one of the previous participants:

“I can’t recommend Margarita’s training enough! I’ve done it and regardless of all my experience and knowledge, it gave me a different insight into how to approach my training programmes. Relevant, pertinant, interactive, useful, and enriching. Margarita was a great facilitator and the other participants really took part and shared. Personally, since I did her training I have reassessed my programme contents and presentation and my clients love it!

No, Margarita didn’t ask me to post this, this is a real feedback…I used a lot of what we discussed in the course just yesterday, for the first time ‘live’ , with MBA students wanting an insight into intercultural management. I was able to demystify the theories, make it relevant and apply it to their professional lives. Must have done a good job because I’ve been invited back! Thanks M! (Helen Le Port of HLP Training)

Thank you, Helen!

So if you are a solopreneur and sometimes feel that it’s always uphill and never downhill — think of these moments and remember them!

If you want to use the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process ™ with your clients, the next licensing/certification is taking place on December 1 & 8, 2011 via a webinar.  The early registration discount is only until November 24 — so sign up now!

Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

In a recent BNET blog (5 Ways to Foster Innovation) Kimberly Weisul says that:

“Roy Chua, of Harvard, believes that creativity is not necessarily about coming up with something totally new. Instead, he says, “most often it is about connecting ideas to create something different. If you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive ideas that are different.” Chua surveyed a group of media professionals about their social networks, and then asked each to brainstorm about the future of the newspaper industry. A group of outside judges ranked the ideas based on how creative they were, and it turned out those professionals with ore multicultural social networks came up with more creative ideas. Chua conducted a similar experiment with college students, surveying their social networks and asking them to come up with a new advertising campaign for a fruit drink. Those with more contact with different cultures came up with more creative ideas.”

Now we’ve heard before that moving to another country and becoming an expat encourages creativity just for the simple reason of being in a different environment and being exposed to new perspectives.  By the same token, cross-cultural interactions and connections do the same job of exposing us to different perspectives and ideas.  But what’s our role here and who do we have to be to actually become more creative?

There are a couple of traits I think are very useful in taking advantage of your cross-cultural ties when it comes to becoming more creative:

  • Open-mindedness – if we are closed to new perspectives and ideas, no amount of them around us will help;
  • Courage – new things can be scary and taking them on can be even scarier;
  • Curiosity – digging deeper is part of adopting something new.

What do you think?  What other traits can be helpful here?

Want to take advantage of this opportunity to become more creative and productive when working across cultures? We have a couple of openings for executives who want to improve their intercultural competency.  Our individual cross-cultural coaching program is based on Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ — the program that helps people build their cultural competency.  For more details please visit here.

A coach or a trainer? Want to help your clients improve their intercultural competence?  Get licensed to use Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ in the upcoming webinar.