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.

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 Brazil

Brazil is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in Brazil” In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers, Ana Elena Austrilino Paz, on some of the most interesting tidbits on Brazil.

Ana Elena Austrilino Paz in her own words: “I’m a word citizen! I was born in Brazil, where I spent the most part of my life, then I lived in US, where I discovered my interest about cultural studies. Now I live in France, where I have the opportunity to interact and travel around many different countries and cultures. I have a Psychology and Business degree from Brazilian universities, and a Hospitality Management degree from Rosen College (US), and a Master degree from Université de Lille 3 – France. I’m glad to work for and with expat people helping them to manage cultural differences and to improve their cultural abilities.”

Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog): What would be 1 to 3 tips you would give to someone who is moving to Brazil?
Ana Elena: The first tip that I can say is: prepare yourself to enjoy that opportunity. Brazil has such a different and mixed culture. Learn Portuguese and learn about the Brazilian region that you are about to go is something very important.
—-
GCC Blog: What was the funniest cultural misunderstanding you’ve experienced in Brazil?
Ana Elena: Foreign people use have problems to pronounce the word “pão” and   “pau”.  We always laughing a lot when they come to the bakery and ask for a “pau” instead to ask for a “pão”, because “pau” it’s a slang for the male genitals.
—-
GCC Blog: What’s the most popular proverb and why?
Ana Elena: As Brazil has different popular proverbs according to the region, the one used all around is “Viangança é um prato que se come frio” (Vengeance it’s a kind of dish that we should eat cold).
—-
GCC Blog: What do you love about Brazil?
Ana Elena: The thing that I love more and that I know that is also very appreciated by the foreign people who come there is the happiness.  We can point it in small thinks like, even if we have a lot of problems, we try to see the positive point, or we party/celebrate everything.
—-
GCC Blog: What do you dislike about Brazil?
Ana Elena: Unfortunately Brazil is a country with a lot of corruption, for the government, but also for some citizen.
———–
The full course on “Living and Working in Brazil”, co-authored by Ana Elena is available 24/7 at the online Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Academy for self- or assisted study.  Download it here.

An open mind is a terrible thing to waste or one cardinal expat rule to observe

“You are kidding me,” I was thinking to myself as we were taking a relaxation pose for the THIRD time during the last 30 minutes of a yoga class. “That’s what they call yoga?!?!?!”

This was the third yoga class I was trying in a desperate attempt to find the one I am going to love. Yoga was a big part of my life at my previous post – the part that kept me sane, healthy and fit – and so naturally finding a yoga class was essential.  Little did I know (or rather little did I expect!) that what they call yoga here and what I am used to calling yoga is not quite the same thing.

Three trials later I am still frustrated with yoga classes.  I still don’t have the one I absolutely love. I am also really missing Whole Foods and the abundance of organic produce.  And judging from how disconnected I felt during the last night’s Rosh Hashanah services, I am going to miss my reform congregation too.

But this post isn’t about the things I cannot find in the new place. This post is about the attitude I insist on assuming when looking for said things. When the feelings of disappointment surface, I notice them and decide that having those feelings isn’t going to change much.  Yoga is still going to be the same, there will still be no Whole Foods, and the services at the Conservative synagogue are never going to replace the spiritual journey I experience at the Reform.

And so I do what I did that time at yoga when I was having to endure yet another relaxation instead of a downward dog – I say to myself: “I am going to keep an open mind. This may still turn out better… or different somehow. And even if it doesn’t and ends up being disappointing, I can write it off as an experience from which I am going to learn.”

Keep an open mind, baby.  You never know what you are going to get.

Are you an expat woman who is going through some challenges? Or do you know someone who is? If so, join our Expat Women Academy – a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges. Three kinds of enrollment are available and all three offer money back guarantee!

Expat women’s guide to guilt, shame, and embarrassment — and how these three emotions create a very different impact

by Margarita

As women we are pretty much used to feeling guilty.

As expat women we are used to watching our guilt grow in direct proportion to the proliferation of experiences of things going wrong, of failing at something, or of feeling sorry for ourselves. If there were a tournament on guilt, expat women would probably win it, hands down.

And while this isn’t something to be proud of, it is definitely something to learn from. Having so much experience with feeling guilty can translate into developing resilience for feeling guilty. And since guilt can easily poison your life, why not work on recognizing it, pinning it down, and eliminating it from your life?

Ready? Set? Go?

Not so fast.

First I wanted to draw a very significant distinction between guilt and another emotion that many confuse with guilt – shame. Brené Brown’s groundbreaking work on shame (see her TED video here) identifies shame as a state of mind that is even more poisonous than guilt. While guilt makes us feel bad for what we did, shame makes us feel bad for who we are.

For instance:

  • Guilt: I feel bad because I am not earning money.
  • Shame: I am worthless because I am not earning money.
  • Guilt: I feel guilty for going out while leaving children with a nanny.
  • Shame: I am a bad parent for going out while leaving children with a nanny.
  • Guilt: I feel bad because I am having trouble making friends.
  • Shame: I am flawed because I am having trouble making friends.

Get the difference? Shame attacks us at our core, it attacks the inside of who we are, it pins us down as unworthy, useless, bad, and damaged.

Brené Brown’s definition of shame is: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations. Shame leaves women feeling trapped, powerless and isolated.”

The last sentence in this definition is the key when it comes to distinguishing between shame and guilt (and embarrassment).

Being embarrassed and feeling guilty is often the result of doing something wrong and, as a result, this “doing” may inspire us to change our ways, make amends, grow, and learn.

Feeling shame has a different effect. It isolates us, makes us feel trapped and powerless. It can literally destroy us… if we let it.

So the next time you feel a familiar pang of guilt coming on, look closely.

  • Is it guilt or is it shame? Is it about your “doing” or about your “being”?
  • How culturally-determined is your shame? In other words, how did the expectations of a culture in which you grew up contributed to you feeling shameful? What’s your shame’s trigger?
  • What can you do about this trigger?

We will be doing a lot of work around guilt and shame in our Expat Women Academy program that starts on October 1, 2012. It’s a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.

There are three different ways of joining the program — and all of them provide a money-back-guarantee. So join us for the Expat Women Academy and kiss those feelings of guilt or shame good-bye!

Useful quotes for (almost) every facet of expatriate life

by Margarita

I’ve been missing in action these last few weeks and with good reason.  I’ve been moving — relocating to a new country and a new post for another few years. Between packing out, a necessary vacation, and a rocky settling-in I just didn’t have much time to blog. I did, however, have time for finding ways to get inspired during this not-very-easy-transitional period.

And so here is my small collection of, I hope, inspirational quotes for those times when you need them:

Sadness of departure and good-byes

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” –Erich Fromm

Overwhelm of keeping it all under (some kind of) control

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” –Chinese Proverb

Rocky arrival

“Bless a thing and it will bless you. Curse it and it will curse you…If you bless a situation, it has no power to hurt you, and even if it is troublesome for a time, it will gradually fade out, if you sincerely bless it.” -Emmet Fox.

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” -Richard Bach.

Long settling in

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion . . . . I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” –C.S. Lewis

Misunderstandings, miscommunications, mis… everything!

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” –Albert Einstein

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” –Alexander Graham Bell

Keeping your relationships strong

“There is no feeling more comforting and consoling than knowing you are right next to the one you love.” –Oscar Wilde

“Love is saying ‘I feel differently’ instead of ‘You’re wrong.’” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Missing things and people

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.”  -Henry David Thoreau

“Missing someone gets easier every day because even though it’s one day further from the last time you saw each other, it’s one day closer to the next time you will.”  -Author Unknown

Going for your dreams and being advised against it

“As soon as anyone starts telling you to be “realistic,” cross that person off your invitation list.” –John Eliot

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” –Michelangelo

Living in another culture

“Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

And a poem (by yours truly):

Current of Change

Every day you know
That you can learn something
If you allow it
 
You wake up
The world is bustling beneath your window
And you realize
That you don’t know how to bustle with it
 
Life is different where you come from
You are different
 
Your choice is then
To close yourself up and turn away from new smells and colors
To continue to be as you have always been
 
Or to take the discomfort of the current of change
And produce light that will grow in your heart until you see your way around a little better
and can begin to bustle together with the street below.

Any additions?

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Home is not forever

It used to be easier.  The moving crew would come, box up everything we owned, and a few days later we would be gone.  Gone on our way to a new adventure, a new place to explore, a new home to build.  Sure we’d be sad but the excitement of things to come would overshadow the sadness in the same way a new infatuation makes people forget their past heartaches.

This time, however, I am finding it very difficult to let go.  Second day of the pack out and I am still fighting the urge to cry.  This isn’t like me especially considering that our next destination is on my top-ten-places-to-live-in list.

After careful examination of all the reasons that can be making me sad, I finally figure it out. I realize that I am in love.  In complete, total, and, alas, unrequited love with … my view.

And my apartment.

And my building.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve lived in some amazing places over the years.  I’ve lived in historical downtowns of some great cities, I’ve lived among fascinating civilizations, I’ve lived in centers of great culture, and I even once lived across from the zoo where we would wake up to the sound of monkeys playing catch. Yet this was the first time I can say that I lived in a dream.

  • I woke up every day to the sight and sound of the ocean from every window of my apartment.
  •  I never had to wear anything more than a light cotton sweater.
  • My skin, which isn’t prone to tan, became and remained the color of golden bronze.
  • My office faced the water.
  • My terrace was perfect for coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening – not to mention reading and writing during any time of day.
  • Looking out through our windows always made me feel complete, no matter the weather.

And so as I leave our now empty apartment and as I say good-bye to every room and every angle of my view, I feel extremely grateful and inexplicably sad at the same time.  Grateful because I was fortunate to live with this beauty and sad because this dream home wasn’t forever.

But I also know dreams are never forever. Dreams come, go, and evolve. They grow and change – and we grow and change with them. My years in this dream home were not only full of breathtaking views but they were also filled with an intention to see, smell, feel, and taste the life around me every waking moment of my day. This intention was only a shadow when we moved in and, thanks to my home, it became the way of life.

So I guess in some ways a home can be forever.

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.

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