Category Archives: Repatriating

How to take charge of your negative thoughts during expatriation

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone suggests something new? Like a new travel destination for the weekend, or a new restaurant for dinner, or a new activity to attend, or a new expat post to consider? If you begin to think of why you should not, may not want to, not really psyched about that new thing, don’t worry – you are very much like the rest of humans. If you say – great, bring it on – congratulations, you’ve somehow trained yourself to stay clear of the negativity bias so many humans suffer through not fault of their own.

Apparently the negativity bias is our natural inclination.  Being negative about change, being suspicious about new things, and giving more weight to the negative information rather than positive information is our inbuilt tendency. Just think about the proliferation of all the scary news reports on your local news channel – they do it because negative news sells better than positive.  Our brain actually exhibits more activity when we are receiving negative information, which means that we are hard-wired for negativity! This negativity bias is also largely the reason we tend to dwell on things people have done wrong and remember their wrongdoing better than those other good things they did.

Our natural predisposition to give more weight to negativity is the reason that a new thing may not excite us at first and that we are more inclined to consider the reasons for not engaging with that new thing. And that’s the bad news.

The good news, however, is that we are highly trainable species and, if we really want to, we can teach ourselves to ignore that negative bias. All we have to do is–

(1) notice the first thought that appears when something new is suggested;

(2) recognize the negative bias; and

(3) change our perspective and find some positive reasons why that new thing is worth doing.

Try it this week. Train your mind to recognize and switch. If you stay with this practice, pretty soon you’ll notice that your negative bias has been replaced with the positive bias.

Trust me, it works. And it makes you much, much happier as a result.

Want to get rid of your negativity bias but prefer to do it in a company of like-minded expats? Join our Expat Women Academy program in November! More information and to sign up here.

Five tips for expat women to use during a move

Summer is upon us (well, at least in the northern hemisphere) and summer is the time when most expats move countries.  We pack our entire households, say good-byes, organize our arrival the best we can, and spend hours, if not days, wondering if we are forgetting something.  And since the vast majority of accompanying spouses are still women, it is the expat women that weather the brunt of each move.

And, boy, do we step up to the plate.  If a superwoman cape were given out to each expat woman at every move, all of us would have by now accumulated a closet-full of those capes.  Yet how useful are they, those capes? And how much do we actually lose by choosing to become super-women during each and every move?

Judging by my own experiences, we lose a lot of sleep. And a lot of smiles.  And quite a few laughs. We lose connections – connection with ourselves and connection with those at whom we snap.  We lose patience… a lot more often then usually. And we lose both a peace of mind – and piece of our mind.

So in service to ourselves and to those around us, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

Quit thinking yourself a superwoman.  Yes, it is nice to know that you are smart enough and strong enough and resourceful enough to move your family across the world without a glitch. But you don’t have to do it alone. Delegate. Get others to pitch in and do their fair share.

Remember you are a mother/spouse/partner – not a saint. Don’t make it a habit to take upon other people’s responsibilities during the move. Don’t feel bad that they are working/studying/traveling/etc. You have to give yourself just as much credit as you give the others. Your time, energy and effort are very valuable.

Send your saboteur packing. Stop listening to that nonsense in your ear that you are not doing enough. Even if you are organizing a move, running a small business, taking care of homework, running a household, etc, your saboteur will tell you that it’s not enough.  According to your saboteur, everyone under the sun will always do more than you.  Ignore that voice and fully recognize your contribution.

Make time and space for being lazy.  Yes, you heard me right – be lazy.  There will certainly be times during your pack out period, when you’ll feel like you don’t want to do a thing. You’ll feel like your cup is overflowing – and has been for sometime – and there is not enough space in there to add anything else. So give yourself permission, perhaps for a couple of hours, for a day, for a few days, to do nothing at all.  Read a book. Watch a movie.  Re-charge.  And remember, if you give your body and mind the time to re-charge, you’ll feel the energy come back soon enough.

Stop blaming yourself and others. Be easy on yourself and those around you.  Relocating is a difficult undertaking. You can be assured that your move won’t happen with the precision of a Swiss train, so let go of the expectation that everything and everyone will be perfect. Allow for some screw-ups along the way and laugh at them.  That’s a lot more fun than assigning blame.

What other thinking would you suggest we do away with when we move?

Need some extra support during the difficult transition time?  Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on the last Friday of each month!  Get some inspiration through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes here.

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

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.

Warning! The luggage you want to leave behind when moving abroad

by Margarita

In the previous post I talked about the secret advantage of leaving your home country that no one seems to know about (read here).  As a follow up on that post I’d like to address the pesky things that prevent you from fully stepping into that advantage.

And the honor goes toyour saboteur.  Your inner critic.  Your committee. Your shadow.  Your… you pick the word/phrase to describe the annoying negative voice in your head that scares you half to death with the prospect of future calamities should you dare change.

When you leave your home country behind and the barriers seem to disappear, they don’t always disappear for good.  Whether you want it or not, inadvertently you bring quite a few of them with you.  Just like over the years you may have transported various bugs in your luggage from country to country (we are still trying to get rid of those silverfish!), you are most likely carrying with you the thinking from your childhood and cultural influences.

Some of those beliefs may still very much valid for you – but others may not be.  Yet, you don’t really know the difference because most of them have become automatic.  If you drive a car long enough, soon you won’t even notice how you get from place to place because the driving has entered your subconscious and you are no longer consciously directing yourself to drive.

The same with beliefs and habits.  Until you begin to question them and bring them into the surface of your conscious thinking, you won’t know if they are still serving you or if they are impeding you.

You won’t know if you are engaging in a behavior because you chose to – or because your saboteur is directing you to in order to avoid some grand disaster that’s purely an assumption.

How can you start really getting rid of that saboteur luggage you don’t want anymore?

Here are four steps to start you on your way:

Step 1.  Observe your behavior and beliefs closely.  What makes you think and do what you think and do?  Start especially with the times when you are having doubts.  Check in to see what thoughts are dominating.

Step 2. If you discover that you are engaging in “I cannot” or “I should not” or “I should” or “I should have”, take note.  A lot of these statements are the domain of the saboteur who will be working overtime to create fear of something in you.  Check in with yourself as to how valid those fears are for you NOW.

Step 3.  Try using a different language.  Instead of “I cannot”, “I should”, etc – use “I choose to” or “I choose not to”.  Take charge by exercising choice.  How does that change things?

Step 4.  Repeat at every opportunity.  Work out the muscle of knowing which of your habits and thinking need to go.

Getting rid of the saboteur luggage is one of the most important steps in engaging YOUthe YOU that you are meant to be. 

Want some support in getting rid of the saboteur’s influence?  Join the Expat Women Academy that starts on April 1, 2012.  Join us for a FREE webinar to learn more about it here.

Three tips for Expat Women

by Margarita

About a year ago I created “A to Z of Successful Expatriation™” Guide (available for FREE download here) and recently I thought — why not create a series of short, 1-3 minutes videos, on A to Z Tips for Expat women?

Why women?

When I interviewed 20+ expat women on their challenges while living abroad, I learned that many of these women share very similar challenges and struggles.  Now, of course, it’s very possible that those challenges are also common among expat men — and if that’s the case, I hope these videos will also be helpful for them!

So here are the first three of the series:

Tip 1 — A is for Attention

Tip 2 — B is for Beginning

Tip 3 — C is for Connection

More videos are coming up soon!  Meanwhile this is the last week to enroll into our Expat Women Academy — a program that offers strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.  JOIN US!

10 things expat women should stop doing

Moving abroad is a perfect opportunity to start something new.  Not necessarily a new job or a new business, but rather a new YOU.  Perhaps tap into talents you never had time for or explore parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there. But before you do that, there are a few things you may want to leave behind.  For starters, here are your first 10!

Stop allowing guilt to ruin your days.  Feeling guilty serves no useful purpose.  You don’t grow or evolve because you feel guilty.  Nor do you become a better mother, a better daughter, a better professional, or a better friend because of guilt.  So next time the familiar pang of guilt shows up, notice it and then choose to put your attention elsewhere – somewhere where you can feel good about yourself.

Stop being everything to everyone Being a perfect mother while also being a perfect relocation manager for your family while also being a perfect professional woman while also being a perfect daughter to your aging parents you are leaving behind while also being a perfect friend is not possible.  Repeat – NOT possible.  Recognize it and give yourself a break.

Stop putting your own needs and wants aside.  Losing yourself in the messes and stresses of the expatriate life and forgetting that you are special too is common.  Children, husbands, employers, clients, parents, and friends are all in need of being taken care of.  How much space does that leave for you?  You decide!  If there was ever the time and the place to engage in your passion and do what matters to you, it’s now.  Remember that.

Stop trying to be someone you are not.  Take the roles you want to take in life and don’t take the roles imposed on you by others.  So what if people back home think you should be able to learn a new language right away?  Maybe that’s not what you want.  So what if your friends at home are surprised that you are happy not working full time in your new country of residence?  Maybe it’s time for a sabbatical.  Bottom line – take the time to discover (or remember!) who you are and be that.

Stop blaming others.  Research has shown that only 10% of our happiness depends on life circumstances, while 40% of our happiness is intentional.  So next time you decide to blame your spouse for taking you to this God-forsaken country or you blame the company for not enough resources, think again.  Change your thinking.  Change your intention for your life there.  Change your attitude.

Stop holding on to the past.  Yes, you probably had a great job and a promising career.  And yes, you were financially independent.  And yes, you felt like you were contributing.  And yes, you have none of that here where you are living now.  But you have something else.  So stop peering longingly into the door of the past and open the door of the present.  Discover what it has to offer.

Stop hanging out with the wrong people.  You want to have a positive experience while an expat, don’t you?  So why surround yourself with unhappy complainers? Choose your alliances wisely – remember the energy of people around you has a huge influence on your own.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and commit to change.  Perhaps your move wasn’t as smooth as that of your neighbor.  And perhaps your spouse works much longer hours, your kids are hating the new school, and you are feeling like you’ve lost sense of who you are.  Take that as a sign that change needs to happen to how you are in the world and commit to that change.  Don’t skimp on resources here – this is the time to act and get all the necessary support you need.  Buy a self-help book, join an online course, hire a coach.  Move forward.  Sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself won’t get you anywhere.

Stop explaining yourself to others.  Yes, you may have been a professional woman back home, but now you’ve chosen not to work.  And you may have decided to indulge in a history class at a local university while a nanny watches your kids.  You don’t owe any explanations to your friends back home who have been expecting you to start working as soon as you land.  And you don’t have to explain to your family why you are not spending every waking moment with your kids.  What YOU do with YOUR time and resources is no one else’s business.

Stop pretending like everything is good when it is not.  If you are not happy, voice it.  If you are missing something, speak about it.  If you need help and support, get it.  Pretending that everything is fine and that you are a brave soul who can wither all the difficulties on her own is silly.  After all you can be spending your energy on actually enjoying yourself rather than pretending that you are enjoying yourself.

Thoughts?  Additions?  Comments?  Shoot!

Find yourself doing any of these 10 things over and over again?  To help yourself stop, join our Expat Women Academy where you’ll be given the tools and the curriculum — along with the community of women going through the same thing — to be successful in stopping them!

ALSO — 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.