Category Archives: Relationships

Grateful or in debt – what does it feel like to you? An accompanying expat spouse’s dilemma.

by Margarita

Much has been said about the role of financial dependence in expat marriages. FeeCultureOne spouse gets the transfer to work abroad, the other decides to follow thereby giving up his/her job and with that — the ability to contribute monetarily to the household.

Although situations vary, most non-working accompanying spouses contribute to the family in many other ways: they organize households in the chaotic “before” and “after” of a move; they take care of children and pets; they figure how things work in a new environment and smoothen transition for everyone else; they run the house and errands; and they play a very important supportive part that allows the other partner to work.

We all know they contribute – and they know it too – however, concerns of being financially dependent and spending “not my own money” has always been high on the expat spouse’s list of feeling unhappy. So why is it that perfectly accomplished people with a large list of things they do for the family still feel like they don’t deserve the money they spend? Why do they feel guilty not to make a paycheck?

Thinking about it a little more after a conversation I recently had with some fellow expat women, I came up with three reasons:

(1) In today’s society (the Western kind), you are only as good as the size of your paycheck and the title on your business card. Money you make elicits more admiration than the impact you make as a parent, a partner, or simply a human being.

(2) The reason above contributes directly to how accompanying spouses feel about their self-worth. Many a client with whom I’ve worked told me how they cringe when asked “what do you do?” – one of the first questions that you get in a gathering of any kind. Or how they notice that people’s eyes glaze over as soon as they mention that they are not working.

(3) And then there is the third reason – the most poisonous of them all. There are actually spouses that will hint or point out that they are the ones bringing home the bacon – and that no amount of support, or of household chores, or of parenting impact, or of simply moving around on a whim of someone else will ever be as important as their paycheck. And unless you make the same amount or more while doing everything else you are already doing, you should stop feeling smug about yourself and your contribution and start feeling very grateful.

My question is: grateful or in debt?

The answer is, of course, your choice! We can always choose the way we feel about our surroundings and the way we react to them. And perhaps it’ll work the first, the second, and the third time around. But then the fourth time, it’ll be harder. And the fifth time – even harder. Why? Because if you live near the toxic plant, you won’t be healthy no matter how many vitamins you take and how many vegetables you juice. The plant has to stop emitting toxins or you have to move.

Your thoughts on this “grateful” or “in debt” dilemma?

Advertisements

Are two heads from different cultures better than two heads from one culture?

When I arrived to Spain I didn’t really know or plan which way my coaching business would go. I knew that my international clients would keep finding me through internet, but I wasn’t sure what direction my practice would take in my new home. Would I be offering workshops? Giving presentations? Doing group coaching? Or working with clients individually?

With all these unanswered questions in the back of my mind, I decided to leave the decisions to the Universe and the field open to experimentation. You never know what life is going to offer you, right? Trying to push and control things never really worked for me and I always ended up disappointed and uninspired.

Days into this “non-plan” I made a new friend – a friend, who is also a coach but a coach from a different country and with a different training. And then I met another new friend. We got together for coffees and lunches and what do you know? A new, exciting idea began to take root and now the three of us are working together to develop it. Because of our different cultures, different backgrounds, and different trainings we come to this idea from three (or more!) different directions – a perfect recipe for both learning lots from each other and creating something fresh. It’s like fusion cuisine at its very best!

What about you? If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner who’s had to move her/his business to another country – what has been your experience in putting your efforts together with people from different places and walks of life?

Diversity=Creativity!

Like this post? Would like to receive expat tips and strategies from us? Sign up for our EXPAT TIPS MONTHLY and receive FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide and Workbook. Based on experiences of expats around the world, it offers tools that help make your expat life the best it can be! Sign up here.   

Making friends abroad… the non-intuitive way

How do we choose our friends? What do we take into account when we begin the process of making friendships in foreign countries?

We look for common interests, right? We search out people who have something in common with us, people who share similar passions, and people who make us feel like we have at least some degree of familiarity in a completely foreign to us place.

But what about the others?  What about those people who are very different from us and who at first glance do not look like friendship material?

Interestingly enough our ability to overcome our friendship “bias” – the bias that makes us search for that thing we want everyone to have – is the ability that allows us to overcomes loneliness and lack of connection.  Because when the bias is gone, we begin to open up to possibilities of having many different kinds of friends in our lives.

How do you know if you have a bias?  Think about what has attracted you to the friends you’ve had and write the qualities you discover on index cards.  Imagine that those index cards were pinned on people who are mingling around in a large room.  Those are the people you’d probably approach right away.

Now think of possible human qualities that you have not written on those index cards and imagine there are people in that room that have those cards pinned to them. How likely are you to approach them? How much chance would you give to the possibility of those friendships?

Then try it in real life.  Next time you end up in a room with people who don’t seem to have anything in common with you, consider the qualities they carry – and decide if you want to extend your friendship range by giving them a chance.

Thoughts?  Ideas? Experiences?  Share them!

Remember — enrollment is open during the summer for September 1 start of the Expat Women Academy. a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.

How to help your kids get excited about a move in 10 minutes

If it’s difficult for us, adults, to move from place to place starting over and over again – it’s paramount for kids.  Especially the kids whose ages thrust them somewhere between “I’ll miss my grandparents!!!” and “I cannot live without my friends!!!” sentiments.

So what are we to do to help those kids? Sharing information about the impending destination and communicating throughout the process will, of course, help, but how do we get them really excited about the move?

Here is a fun exercise you can do with your children to help them move from sadness to excitement in about 10 minutes:

(1) Get a sheet of paper, write “Moving to _____ “ on top, and divide it into 2 columns.

(2) Title the left column “Bad things about moving to_____” and title the right column “Good things about moving to _____”.

(3) Ask them to come up with the “bad things” first.  Write down everything they say and make sure not to offer your own opinions.

(4) After they are done, ask them to come up with the “good things”.  Again, stay clear of imposing your “good things” on them and instead listen for their ideas and write each one of them down.  This part works really well if you have already spoken with your child about your destination and things you can all enjoy there.

(5) After both columns are done, rate each thing you wrote on a scale of 1 to 10: 10 being “how bad that thing is” for the left column and “how good that thing is” for the right column (and 1 being the reverse).

Example:

“Bad things” about moving to ______ “Good things” about moving to ______
Leave grandparents (10) New adventures (10)
Leave school (6) Learn a new language (7)
Leave local TV (3) See snow (8)

(6) Sum up the numbers.  If you did your sharing and communicating throughout the process, your child will come up with a lot more “good” things than “bad” things and you’ll be able to point out how high their satisfaction is with the move as opposed to their dissatisfaction using the numbers.

(7) Hang the list in your child’s room until the move and remind your child that they can always look at it when they feel particularly sad.

Leave a comment letting us know how it went for you!

For another kid-friendly exercise that can help your children adjust in a new country, download our Adjustment Guide E-course — on online self-taught course that provides tools on how best to manage the effects of adjusting to another culture.

Also, enrollment is now open for May 1 start of the Expat Women Academy. a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.  Join us for a FREE webinar to learn more about it here.

8 mistakes expats make that can leave them feeling disconnected

by Margarita

One of the biggest challenges of an expat lifestyle is feeling disconnected – from the life you leave behind, from people and events in your current place of residence, from family and old friends back home, and even from those who surround you.  If you are an expat right now, how strong is the feeling of being disconnected in you on a scale of 1 to 10?  Are you somewhere between 4 and 10?

If you are, read on and let me know if these eight mistakes resonate with you!

Mistake 1.  You have very high expectations that people back home will continue to want and initiate consistent interaction with you.   We all miss our friends/family when we move, but face it – we left.  They stayed behind and they moved on with their lives.  They’ve substituted the vacuum you left in their lives with something/someone else and they are doing just fine.  It’s harder for you, of course, because you are the new kid on the block. Sure they’ll be there for you when you need them, but for heaven’s sake – don’t expect them to get in touch with you as often as they did in the past – and don’t sulk if they don’t.  Remember that it’s now up to you to initiate and maintain contact.  You are the one who has left.

Mistake 2. Somehow, somewhere you’ve decided that making new friends isn’t your strength.  Fair enough – some of us are more outgoing than others, but make sure you realize that perspective is everything.  It colors the lens you use to look at the world.  So if your current perspective is “I suck at making new friends”, you will suck at it.  Change your perspective and you’ll be surprised to see how things change around you.

Mistake 3. You decided that you only want strong, intimate connections and you are not interested in anything else.  It’s your choice, of course, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to create lasting friendships.  But are you sure you are giving everyone a chance?  How do you know that someone who doesn’t seem “the material” now isn’t going to turn into a dear friend?  Stranger things have happened in the world.  Make sure you are open to every possibility that comes your way.

Mistake 4.  You think your to-do list is too long and you just have no time to get out and get to know people.  It’s a classic one – how many times have we used our to-do lists as an excuse not to do something that seems challenging, uncomfortable, or scary to us?

Mistake 5.  You take trips home every 3-4 weeks for a vacation, just a visit, or… just because.  Another classic – and another very strong reason for not feeling connected either at home or at your new place of residence.  Commit to one of those places and grow your connections there.

Mistake 6. You feel uncomfortable chatting up to people because your language skills are not perfect.  This may be a good place to train yourself to let go of expecting yourself to be perfect – in languages and anywhere else.  Besides, how else would you improve your speaking ability if not by speaking to people?

Mistake 7.  You engage in unfavorable comparisons of your current place of residence with home (or with the one you left).  We all heard that the “grass is always greener on the other side”, but guess what?  Yours would be green too if you only watered it enough.  So forget about how your new home doesn’t stack up to your previous home and stop the comparisons.  Instead find the beauty where you are.

Mistake 8.  You use social media like there is no tomorrow.  Lots of people adore Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, etc, etc (I don’t even come close to knowing all the social networking sites out there), but life still mostly happens on the outside and the connections you make on the outside are the ones that are going to nurture you.  Your 1000+ friends on Facebook will forgive you if you engage in the outside world.  So what are you waiting for?

Which mistakes resonate with you?  And what additions may you have?

Like this post? Would like to receive expat tips and strategies from us? Sign up for our EXPAT TIPS MONTHLY and receive FREE “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide and Workbook. Based on experiences of expats around the world, it offers tools that help make your expat life the best it can be! Sign up here.

Shit Expat Men Say

After doing the “Shit Expat Women Say” video, it’s only natural that we would want to follow it up with the “Shit Expat Men Say”.  The first one stirred a bit of a controversy among some, so I am very curious to see the reactions to this one.

Thoughts?  Comments? Things we missed?

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.

And for those of you who work with expats, the next licensing/certification webinar for the Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ is coming up in March 2012.  Sign up now HERE and save — and get two languages at a price of one!

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.