Category Archives: international

Expatriate alphabet — the K, L, M that can make your expat experience better

Expatriate alphabetby Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: K is for KINDNESS

Acts of kindness are something that we probably engage in on a daily basis. We are used to being kind to our family members, our friends, strangers in need, stray animals, the environment, etc, etc etc. Being kind towards others gives us a good feeling. Yet how often do we extend these acts of kindness towards ourselves?

I decided to dedicate the letter K in this Expatriate Aphabet to kindness to yourself precisely because very often we don’t know how to be kind to our own, sometimes fragile, selves. Especially as expats – when we go through more change and learning every time we move than most people do in their lifetimes – we tend to push ourselves really hard. We often expect to be fast and perfect in learning the culture and the language; in adjusting and bringing normalcy to our families in a completely different environment; in garnering that feeling of belonging; in excelling at work; in finding work; in creating relationships and friendships, in… this list can go on and on. And when we find ourselves to be less than perfect and less than fast (incidentally our saboteurs never let us think we are good enough), we embark on a journey of self-criticism, self-pity, and declining self-esteem.

When that happens, take a step back and think: Am I being kind to myself? What would be different now if I decided to swap criticism for kindness? How would that feel?

Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean giving up on whatever you’ve set your heart to do and be. It just means giving yourself some space, a supportive shoulder, and a lot of positive energy to continue your journey.

What have been your acts of kindness to yourself recently?

Expatriate Alphabet: L is for LISTENING and LANGUAGE

Ernest Hemingway once said: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” And unfortunately he was (and he is still) right – most people don’t listen. They hear but they don’t really listen. Because usually this is what happens when someone is telling us a story: we engage in our own internal listening. We either remember that something similar has happened to us and we begin constructing an answer in our heads about our own story; or we find ourselves bored and thinking of something else; or we remember about something we need to do and begin to worry about it; or… etc etc etc. We are never really 100% there – focused on the words and the energy of what’s being spoken.

Listening fully is essential to understanding and establishing connections with people. And understanding and establishing connections with people are essential to creating a successful and fun experience as an expatriate. Next time you are engaged in a conversation, try this exercise: put your entire attention at another person and every time you notice your thoughts going elsewhere, bring them back. What do you hear? What do you observe? And what do you hear between the lines?

Listening fully means also listening to what’s not being said in words. It’s listening to what’s important to that person, to what makes them tick, to what upsets them. If you make an effort and really listen to someone next time, you’ll be surprised to find out how much you actually know about that person.

Knowing the language goes hand in hand with knowing how to listen. Each language brings with it a certain way of interacting – and, again, as you listen, you’ll be learning these ways and, in addition to connecting with a person, you’ll also be connecting with their language.

Expatriate Alphabet: M is for MEMORIES

Expatriates can consider themselves among the luckiest people on Earth because they get to generate the most exciting memories during their international assignments. Memories of new places, new people, stimulating challenges, exploration of the unknown, etc, etc, etc. And, if we are like the majority humans, for the most part we will remember the good parts and forget the not-so-good-ones.

Memories are important not only because they remind us of the fun we had, but also because they help us remember the journey we undertook to learn about and to adjust to every new place we’ve moved to. The journey is just as important as the destination (if not more sometimes), and so by collecting and preserving the memories of places and people, we also collect and preserve the memories of our learning and discoveries about ourselves.

So here is short exercise. Answer these two questions (and, please, share your answers in comments!):

(1)What do I most remember about my past assignments?

(2)What did I learn about that place and about myself in the process?

Thoughts, comments, additions?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Expatriate alphabet — the G, H, I that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: G is for GRATITUDE

Put simply gratitude is just another perspective on life. Just like different color Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 5.39.26 PMlenses allow us to see the world in different ways, the perspectives we hold at any point of time influence our views and feelings. Dr. Wayne Dyer once said “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

Gratitude is the perspective that makes everything immediately better. Think about it: let’s say you lost your job or your business isn’t going as well as you had hoped or someone in your family is sick or… the list can go on and on. You can choose to bask in your sadness/frustration/anger/etc or you can turn around and think about what’s right with your life at that moment. What’s going well for you? What can you be grateful for?

You’d be amazed at how quickly the feelings of despair get replaced with feelings of hope when you employ gratitude.  And that’s why I think GRATITUDE takes the letter G in the Expatriate Alphabet.

What are you grateful for now?

Expatriate Alphabet: H is for HUMOR

When I think of the importance of humor while an expat, one story always pops up in my memory. When we were living in one country, we once went out to a restaurant with a group of friends. There were about six of us and, when a waiter brought only one menu to the table, we politely inquired after a few more copies. He looked at us as if we were crazy and said: “Why? They are all the same.”

We still laugh today when we remember this story.   Since then there have been many more stories and times when looking at things through the lens of humor was essential to staying sane. And that’s why I chose HUMOR for an H in the Expatriate Alphabet.

Humor makes frustrating and stressful situations a lot easier to handle. It almost creates an instant vacuum effect where all your anger and stress get sucked out of you and replaced with a feeling of lightness and a belief that it’ll all work out somehow. Since exasperating situations tend to happen a lot more often when we live in a foreign-to-us culture, humor can become a tool to use on a regular basis.

So next time you find yourself in a frustrating place, think of your favorite comedian/comedienne.   What would he/she laugh about here?

I conclude with another story told by a close friend – a story that still leaves tears in my eyes because I laugh so hard every time I hear it.

A friend of mine was living in another country and at one time desperately needed to buy a pair of sandals. She spent days looking around for a pair she’d like and finally she came across something that looked promising. As customary, the store only had one sandal on display, the one for her left foot. She tried it on, liked the way it looked on her, and asked the sales girl for the second one.

“We don’t have the second one. We only have this one,” said the sales girl.

My friend stared at her. “Come again? You don’t have the second one?”

The sales girl shook her head.

My friend, exhausted after several days of search and annoyed that this time it didn’t result in a purchase either, said “Why would you display it if it’s not a pair?!” She didn’t really expect an answer.

The sales girl stood there quiet for a moment and then said: “So, are you going to take it?”

What have been your stories when you were able to treat frustrating situations with humor? Share them please!  

Expatriate Alphabet: I is for IDENTITY

To quote the movie Fight Club (1999): “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. … “ … Who are you then?

Losing one’s identity is one of the premier worries expats have when they face a decision of moving abroad. Who am I going to be there? What am I going to do with my time (for those who accompany their working spouses)? What will I relate to… if anything? What relationships will I form with people? And what about financial independence? This list of concerns can go on and on and, if you look closely, you’ll see that a lot of these questions relate to who we see ourselves as – and to how we preserve that in unfamiliar environments.

So how do we keep our identity and how do we feel good about ourselves wherever we may end up? I believe the key here is our relationship with ourselves. All too often moves and transitions produce feelings of doubt in our own abilities; feelings of guilt, feelings of low self-esteem; and feelings of “not being good enough, smart enough, etc.” No matter what we call these feelings, they are all about the same thing — we stop liking and set out to criticize ourselves. What kind of relationship is that? How much do we damage this most important relationship in our lives — the relationship of us with us?

The regular criticisms and nagging also create the recurrent feelings of “I am losing myself”, “I am no longer who I was before”, “my identity is slipping away” and so on and so forth. The self-critical mode takes over and it’s no wonder that we feel that our identity is no more.

Your thoughts?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

 

 

 

 

 

Expatriate alphabet — the D, E, Fs that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: D is for Discovery

Traveling always brings about discovery and for many of us one of the goals of Expatriate Alphabet becoming an expat is to discover something new.  We discover new cultures; new foods; new ways of dressing; new friendships; and new fun things to do.  The whole expatriate experience is about discovering – and while there are tons of things to discover around us, I want to focus on discoveries that we make within us when we move.

Moving to another place creates change in our lives and, as that change challenges us, we get to discover how we are around that change.  We get to discover and learn things about ourselves we may have never known.  And with it we may even discover new callings in life – a new career, a new line of education, a new business opportunity.

So the D in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation isn’t only about discovering the world outside of ourselves – but it’s also discovering and exploring our internal world.  Seeing for the first time things that we’ve had all along but never paid attention to is also a discovery.  Kind of like the discovery of things you’ve forgotten you had… those of you, who move frequently and take most of our household with you, may remember the giddy feelings of unpacking and seeing things you’ve forgotten about because they spent a few months in transit.

What have been your discoveries – external and internal?  And what other D’s are out there?

Expatriate Alphabet: E is for Exchange

When I was growing up, my friend and I used to exchange clothes.  Living in a closed society where travel abroad was rare, the most prized clothes were, of course, those that came from outside the country.  And it was not just the fashion statement that drew us towards those clothes; it was the ability to be part of something new, something unique, and something completely foreign.

Fast-forward many years ahead and I find myself equally fascinated by the different ideas and different ways of doing/being that I encounter whenever I live in another country.  And while ideas and experiences are not physical things and cannot be swamped one for another, they too can be exchanged.  It’s this fascinating EXCHANGE of what we know with what we don’t know but are willing to learn that makes expatriate life all the more attractive.  I mean, where else can you find a ready-made environment for such an exchange if not in expatriation?

What has been your experience with EXCHANGE –and how has that experience benefitted your life abroad?

Expatriate Alphabet: F is for Fun and Friendships

If I have to think back to all my expatriate assignments, a couple of things in particular always come up.  FUN and FRIENDSHIPS were really the two cornerstones that made each assignment worth it.  Most of my good memories revolve either around having fun or making new, amazing friends and having fun with them.

Let’s start with FUN.  I know that the word fun has a different meaning to all of us, but without having fun (whatever it means to you), our lives would be dull, uninteresting and boring.  What’s your definition of fun?  What do you like to do for fun?  What opportunities do you have for fun in a country where you live now?  Schedule them!

And now the FRIENDSHIPS.  The friends we make in distant lands support us, encourage us, laugh with us and cry with us (well, when we really need them to).  Thanks to the internet and Facebook in particular we can now keep in touch and continue to follow the lives of those friends who we leave behind as we move on to another destination.  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but the friendships I have developed during my overseas assignments have been among the most special in my life.

It’s not an easy task to always have to make friends and then leave them when you leave the country (a helpful article on “How to make friends again… and again … and again” here).  But it can be done and the effort is totally worth it.  What are your thoughts on this?  And what friendship moments do you remember?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

Watch what you say! How your language drives your experiences

Thoughts become words.  Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character.  Character becomes destiny.” (Source Unknown)

If you have any doubts about the statement above, think back to the times when you met people who were always complaining or people who were always critical or people who were always frustrated or … etc, etc, etc.  Inevitably these people got more of what was in their language – more to complain about, more to criticize, more to be frustrated about.  Their reality kept conforming to their behavior.

What you focus on expands.

Bear that in mind when you are moving to another country, experiencing culture shock, repatriating, or simply having a not-so-good streak.  Language is a powerful tool when it comes to defining your perspective and that perspective will either make or break your experience.  Perspective will define the outcome.

Watch yourself and your conversations over the next few days.  Notice what you talk about and how you are feeling.  Write it all down and then review what you wrote.  Does your language lead you to focus on problems or possibilities; on lack or on abundance; on apologizing or on standing tall.  Once you see your patterns, commit to some or all of the following:

  • Talk about what you are committed to and not what you are worried about.
  • Stop apologizing for being you and instead stand tall in who you are.
  • Speak about your dreams, not about your disappointments.
  • Forget about how phony it may feel at first to speak in an empowered manner, you’ll get used to it.
  • Stop complaining about the lack of money, start recognizing what the money is buying you and feel grateful for that.

Think your dreams.  Speak your dreams. Watch them come true.

Planning to move to another country this year? Or repatriating home? Join us for a FREE webinar on strategies for adjustment and repatriation on May 14th at 2pm EST US. Sign up here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/534844358

What can “sh*t people say” videos can teach us about being an expat?

by Margarita

Recently a wave of viral videos hit YouTube.  “Sh*t” people said — and by people I mean every possible group out there — was everywhere.  Some of them were better than others in terms of humor, production quality, acting, etc but what was interesting about them was that these videos took stereotypes and cliches and amplified them.

I thought — why not do a similar thing?  Why not take the expat women and expat men and create a couple of videos to amplify a few things that those two groups are known for saying?  Why not laugh at ourselves?

I don’t pretend to be a comedienne and I am certainly not a filmmaker. 🙂 But I penned a script of sayings that I either remember hearing or things I’ve said myself and hired some actors.  The result was “Sh*t Expat Women Say” and “Sh*t Expat Men Say”.

The reaction was mixed.  Some people thought it was some good, old fun that allowed us all to laugh at ourselves but there were others that felt slighted (you can check out comments to both videos at the links above).  The offense some people took made me think: where do we draw the line between taking other people’s opinion and humor as just that — humor — and taking it as something else — something that offends us?

How is that similar or different to managing our feelings towards something when we live in another culture?  How do we decide what offends us and what humors us?

Thoughts? Opinions? Shares?

Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on February 24th!  Get some inspiration and support through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes of clarity 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.

25 reasons for expats to be happy

  1. You are alive.
  2. You are healthy.
  3. You have people who love you (even if they are not near you at this moment).
  4. You are courageous (you moved away from home after all!)
  5. You get to see things others don’t.
  6. You get to experience new foods.
  7. You get to travel.
  8. You have friends around the world – and not just virtual ones!
  9. You have memories and stories that others would envy.
  10. Your kids are growing to be global citizens.
  11. You speak more than one language.
  12. You get to explore the world.
  13. You can help others less fortunate than you without having to travel far to do it.
  14. You can act as a cross-cultural ambassador for your country.
  15. You are creative (because your life now incorporates so many different ways of doing things).
  16. You are worldly.
  17. You have skills you could not have had if you stayed home all your life.
  18.  You know to count your blessings.
  19. You have patience (even if you think you don’t!)
  20. You have more opportunities than people back home.
  21. You can try different wines and different coffees.  And don’t forget the dessert!
  22.  You can study and learn something unusual.
  23. You almost certainly have a novel in you.
  24.  Your friends and family back home admire you.
  25.  You have a fun life.

Even if all of those don’t quite apply to you, there are still enough reasons here to keep in mind — especially when feeling sorry for yourself.  Pick the ones that especially speak to you and write them down where you can always see them.  And make sure to look at them when the bad mood strikes!

Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on January 20th!  Get some inspiration and support through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes of clarity here

To benefit from the collection of tools, ideas and exercises based on experiences of expats from around the world, get your FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” workbook by signing up for our Expat VIP list here.