Tag Archives: Behavior

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.

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.

Introducing the USA

The US is one of the countries that’s profiled in the Global Coach Center Academy within the course “Living and Working in the USA” In this post we interview one of the course’s co-trainers on some of the most interesting tidbits on the US.

Jennifer Kumar, cross-cultural coach, is the co-creator of two cross-cultural training programs: “Chasing the American Dream: From Take Off to Landing” a comprehensive pre-departure preparatory course for students planning to study in US and “Living and Working in USA” – an online multi-media cross-cultural course for those planning to live, work and study in America.

Global Coach Center Blog (GCC Blog):  What would be 1 to 3 tips you’d give to someone who is moving to the US?

Jennifer For short or long stays in United States of America, there are a few etiquette rules that will be helpful for a wide variety of situations. These tips have been selected based on some of the cross-cultural misunderstandings I have coached foreigners adjusting to American culture in.

  • Tipping

There are many service professionals in USA who require to be tipped. Not leaving a tip will be offensive and is rarely if ever done even by Americans. A 15% tip is given to wait staff at restaurants that serve you at your table, restaurant home delivery drivers, hairdressers, barbers and taxi drivers. If the service was exemplary, leave 20%, if it could have been better leave 10% and if it was horrible leave two cents (two pennies). This communicates you have not forgot to tip, but that the service was pathetic. Tips are calculated based on the total of the bill before tax is added. Check your bill as some restaurants add in gratuity. In such cases, additional tips can be left if the service was exceptional. For other service professionals like bell hops, coat check attendants and valet parking attendants ask your trusted American friend as this can vary from place to place.

  • Greetings

Generally, when passing strangers on the street, someone will smile and ask “How are you?” Greetings may be more common in smaller towns than big cities. Americans do not expect long answers to this. An answer of “Fine, and you?” suffices. Don’t forget to smile. It will put Americans at ease. Some Americans feel uncomfortable if a greeting is without a smile and may ask, “Is everything alright?” If this happens, one can answer, trying to smile, “Yes, I am thinking about what I have to do today. I hope I can finish it all!” Attaching such an answer to work, Americans will understand the upset or stressed look on your face and generally will not ask more probing questions.

  • Eating Out

If your American friends or coworkers ask you to join them for lunch or dinner, assume you will pay your own bill. This is called ‘going Dutch,’ and is quite common. Unless the person inviting you insists on paying (even after you politely refuse and attempt to pay for yourself); you will pay for yourself and your own tips. Expecting your American colleague to pay for you may make them think you like them romantically; especially if you are the opposite sex; which must be avoided at all costs, especially if the person asking you to join is your coworker.

These three tips can be encountered any day whether an expat worker, international student or trailing spouse trying to fit in and socialize in American culture. If you’d like to learn more about American professional, on-the-job etiquette, social and cultural etiquette look into the course “Living and Working in USA”; a multimedia cross-cultural training with video, podcasts, worksheets and self-introspective activities. This course is designed to expose you to various elements of American culture and compare your cultural traits to those of Americans to understand how you will be able to fit in and make the best impression.

 

 

 

The low point of a Culture Shock experience – judging the other

In our day-to-day life we often pass judgments on other people without even noticing that we do.  We judge and we compare ourselves to others.  We compare achievements; we compare appearance; we compare education and intellect; we even compare social behavior and social acceptance.  Remember Susan Boyle?  Remember how everyone judged her by what she looked like, by what romantic experience she had (or didn’t have), and by the dream she dared to have (in her age and with her looks!).

It’s similar with cultures.  We judge each new culture and its people from the point of view of how it compares to our own.  That especially becomes true if are in the grips of Culture Shock and nothing is going right.  However, each comparison is ultimately an illusion – an illusion that creates either a superiority or inferiority complex.  Both these complexes contribute to misunderstandings between people; prevent them from truly knowing each other, and make it this much harder to build bridges and friendships.  If you judge someone to be better than you, how easy is it going to be for you to establish the connection?  Or, if you judge that person to be worse than you, would you even want to make a connection?  The process of judging doesn’t only make you feel bad, but it also robs you of an opportunity to open your mind and soul to an experience that can change your life.  It stops you from enjoying new things from an “uncluttered” — from judgments — perspective.

Being in judgment is one of the horsemen of apocalypse as identified by Dr. John Gottman in his research on successful marriages  and in his book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.  Gottman says that allowing this horseman to run rampant and allowing it to persist in a marriage pretty much dooms the marriage.   It’s similar with cultures.  If you keep judging a culture and its people, you’ll never “make friends” with it/them and, thus, you’ll never adjust enough to live a happy life there.

So stay judgment-free.  Consider everyone and everything as it comes into your life – new, exciting, and full of possibilities to explore.

And if you need any help with this and with Culture Shock, have a look at our Culture Shock Tool Kit E-book where we offer 3 tips on how to manage Culture Shock (some tips are based on Dr. Gottman’s research).  Available in English, Russian, Spanish, and French!

Societal cultural differences – where does the influence come from?

I took a trip to Canada during this summer vacation and even though I only spent a total of six days and only visited two cities (Montreal and Quebec city), I was struck just by how different two neighboring countries can be from each other.  A couple of examples:

  • In Canada whenever we bought anything we were asked if we want a bag.  In the US, no one asks you – they simply pile your purchases into as many bags as they can and sometimes you need to point out to them that you don’t need that many bags.
  • In Canada, when buying coffee in a café you are asked “for here” or “to go” and if it is “for here” you are served in a ceramic cup. In the US, it’s always a disposable sippy cup and if you want ceramic, you have to ask them yourself.
  • We drove through quite a few rural areas in the province of Quebec and hardly saw any churches.  The minute we crossed into the US, there were as many churches as there were fast food restaurants.

Now, I am not passing any judgments here, but it makes for a curious inquiry – how can two countries that are geographically and historically (we are not talking about Russia and Finland that are neighbors but have had a very different historical course in the past couple of centuries) so close be so different?  What are the major influences that create these differences in societal cultures?

Your thoughts?

Expats — choosing not to belong or choosing transformation?

When I look at the search words that bring people to my blog, the combination of “why people chose not to belong” comes through again and again.  It seems that making a choice not to belong to a community/group/religion/etc fascinates quite a few.  And so I get curious – are people really choosing not to belong or are they choosing to transform?

When we move abroad, we make a choice.  And while that choice can be influenced by quite a few factors (interesting career move, fascinating culture, financial reward, etc), at the root of that choice lies our innate desire to achieve transformation – to grow and evolve in all (or some) parts of our lives.  So choosing not to belong is really choosing to forego convention and embrace something different.  What I mean is that – choosing not to belong isn’t really about quitting something, it’s about gaining.

Evolution has always been driven by transformation – change, sought and brought about by people, moved our times forward.  And so as we get closer and closer to each other and as we live across cultures, each culture brings about a transformation in us.  By the same token, we bring about transformation in that culture.

So next time you are feeling down and missing the familiar, think of the transformative nature of your experiences and of how these experiences can help you grow, evolve and be at the forefront of the new evolutionary turn.

How has your expat experience been transformative for you?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

To expat or not to expat: 3 tips that can help you decide

To belong or not to belong: is that the choice we make when we move abroad?

Your identity in expatriation: will it stay or will it go?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: W is for WILLINGNESS and WISDOM

If I were to come up with a cooking metaphor for an expat life, then I’d say that willingness qualifies as one of the major ingredients – a base ingredient, in fact.  Just like you cannot make a great cake without eggs (or butter or whatever you must have in your cakes), you cannot make a great expatriate life without being willing to do so.  Willingness is where it all starts – we must be willing to experience change, we must be willing to be open minded, we must be willing to learn, we must be willing to let go of assumptions and judgments, we must be willing to consider other truths and opinions, etc, etc, etc.

One of my favorite questions when I coach a client and when we are talking about a major step in their lives is: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are you to undertake that?” And the next question is “How committed are you to this course of action?” Willingness paves a way for commitment; commitment paves a road for intention; and intention helps us co-create our lives.

Wisdom is another one of those ingredients that’s a must in life – and if we were to go with a cooking metaphor, then wisdom is your recipe.  Unless you tap into your inner wise self, whatever you cook out of life isn’t going to turn out the way you dreamed.  Our inner wisdom is our resource to tap into when we have questions about the direction of our lives, when we need to make decisions about our life journeys, and when we need to find the road towards fulfillment of our dreams.

How do we tap into that wisdom?  With so much pressure from the outside, how do we make sure the world doesn’t drown out the voice of wisdom?  There are several tools you can use to find that voice of wisdom, but the important thing to know is that it’s not only about finding it, but it’s also about remembering to listen to it. Making a habit of consulting it on a daily basis and growing your connection with it is sometimes more difficult that finding it in the first place.

How do you find the voice of your inner wisdom?  And how do you make sure you tune into it on a regular basis?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Always being in-the-know of our inner wisdom is going to be one of many important lessons we will discuss and learn during the Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, and inspired.  Remember that if you sign up before November 15, 2010, you get a FREE coaching session.  Sign up here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

For all expatriate women out there

I had an awakening today.  Thanks to my friend Liz and our amazing conversation I came to embrace something that I habitually ignored.  Something that’s a huge part of who I am, something that nourishes me, and something that we all don’t get enough of in the world around us (and maybe that’s why we tend to ignore it).

This something is my feminine energy. You see, I’ve been functioning purely out of the masculine energy – paying attention and homage to doing as much as I can do to succeed, to achieve, to produce, to make, to deliver. I’ve been stuck in this for so long that often I’d find myself literally gasping for breath and dying inside – all the while not realizing why.  The guilt around not doing enough, not being successful enough, not spending enough time with the family, not spending enough time on the business, not reading enough, not writing enough… not being enough has had me consistently running for more.  “Still doesn’t seem enough,” I’d think often, “I have got to come up with something else that’ll work even better.”  And on and on it continued – the perpetual treadmill that never got me anywhere.

I suspect that I’ve learned running the treadmill while growing up.  I’ve learned that you are worthy only if you are beautiful enough, rich enough, and successful enough.  And all those things were and are always defined by the world around us – the world that runs on achievement and masculine energy.  And so we, women – who have been brought here to nurture, to create, to give birth – have been swept up in the world’s obsession of making, doing, and achieving at all costs.

We drive ourselves very hard.  And we are very hard on ourselves. The feelings of guilt follow us everywhere and the feelings of “I am not worthy if I don’t…” are just as prevalent.  And we forget – oh, yes, we forget – that first and foremost we are worthy and beautiful in how we are and in how we are being.  We are perfect just the way we are.

When I stopped today and realized that without wanting I’ve always been defaulting to the habitual masculine energy of constant production and achievement, I also realized that I have forgotten how to play.  I don’t let myself play.  My inner child, that carries with her that feminine energy I so desperately need, isn’t allowed out.  I live on the “gasoline” made out of masculine, whereas I want to live on the “light” that comes from the feminine.

A couple of years ago I did an exercise where I came up with my life purpose statement.  You want to know what it is?  Don’t laugh too hard, but please smile: “I am Tinker bell that inspires you to do your magic.” Corny?  Maybe.  But that’s the energy that speaks to me and that’s the energy that I want to bring more of into the world.  That’s my feminine energy.

And now I’d like to speak to the expatriate women who constantly come up against the kind of masculine energy I wrote about. Just like you I am an expat and I know all too well the question of “oh, my God, who am I now?” that we ponder when we follow our partners and quit our careers.  I know the feelings of guilt over spending too much time without “working”, I know the guilt about allowing ourselves the “me-time”, I know the guilt about spending someone else’s money when before you made your own.  The guilt that usually comes together with “I am not worthy” sentiment – I am not worthy of that massage because I didn’t make money to pay for it; I am not worthy of free time because I should spend it with my kids; I am not worthy of respect from my peers back home because I am not doing anything productive; etc, etc, etc.  “Being worthy” is usually defined by the masculine energy in us.

Now, I am not saying that we don’t want or don’t need the masculine energy.  No.  We need both.  But we need a good balance of both.  And we desperately need our feminine energy and our inner child – we need to let them out and let them be with us and guide us.

So I am going to make a commitment to be with Tinker Bell every moment of each day.  I know it’s going to be difficult and at times I will default.  But that’s the journey.

And if you want to join me on this journey, please do!  I want for every expat woman out there to tune into what I tuned into today and to stay there.

What’s the source of your feminine energy?  How have you been tapping into it?

How committed are you to tuning into your feminine energy more and more every day?

Check out our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program. It has been specifically designed around expatriate issues and concerns and it’ll help you feel supported, encouraged, inspired — and help you tap into that beautiful feminine energy you’ve been missing. Register for it here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: P is for PEOPLE

When I was living in Argentina, one of my friends explained his constant tardiness the following way: “I’ve gone native.”  In Russia, going native sometimes meant using your elbows in public transport, and in Uzbekistan it meant haggling over 5 cents at a market.  Whatever the country, many of us  often find ourselves absorbing and engaging in the habits and behaviors of people who surround us.

This post, however, isn’t about going native.  I am only using this example to illustrate a human tendency to repeat after people who surround us.  In NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) it’s called modeling and there are techniques that are built upon this tendency.  For instance, people are encouraged to succeed by hanging out with and repeating what successful people do – that is, by modeling them.

Specific NLP techniques aside, we can all benefit from repeating – and from surrounding ourselves with people who we would want to repeat after.  At the same time, we don’t benefit by surrounding ourselves with people whose energies drag us down.  So, if you want your expatriate experience to be happy and successful, consider who you hang out with.  Do you spend a lot of time in the company of upbeat and open-minded people?  Or do you find yourself socializing with those who complain and judge?

Finding a circle of acquaintances and friends who offer positive energy is important everywhere – and it is especially important when you are living in another culture and need all the support you can get.

Who are you surrounding yourself with?

And – there are lots of P’s out there – suggest one!

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: O is for OPEN MIND

There exist many wonderful quotes about what an open mind is and what it comes to represent to different people.  To start this blog on an inspirational note, I thought I’d mention a couple of them – and I’ll mention especially those that resonate with me (apologies for not being sure who the authors are):

“An open mind is a mind of curiosity, wonder, learning, infinite possibilities and a beautiful desire for understanding.”

“A person open to all things and ideas is by default wiser than the one that is not.”

“When you are open to everything, nothing is impossible.”

And while these quotes are probably enough to confirm that open mind is very important in order to be happy as an expat, I’d still like to explore a bit further.  I’d like to explore what it is that closes our minds.

Making assumptions and passing judgments – these two attitudes are often to blame for keeping our mind closed rather than open.  Let’s look at making assumptions first.

We live our lives by making assumptions.  Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not.  After living in a culture for a long time (or for our entire life) we are full of assumptions that have been created by our experience with that culture.  When we move, we automatically assume the same about the new place.  For instance, if in my “old home” colleagues didn’t bother me when I closed my office door, then I am going to assume that things should be the same in my “new home”.  And why not?  Should not people know what a closed door means?

You see how this idea about “what people know about closed doors” becomes an assumption based on previous experience?  And if we take this assumption to be the truth (which is what we do most of the time), then we encounter a lot of frustration in dealing with the new situation.  Instead of keeping an open mind and inquiring about the meaning of a closed door in the new culture, I may assume that it’s the lack of respect and the lack of manners that makes people come in freely when I have my door closed.

And now about passing judgments. The new country we’ve ended up in has been in existence long before our plane deposited us there.  People here are used to being and doing things their way.  No matter how much it may bother us and no matter how much we disagree, a judgmental attitude will get us nowhere. Remember we don’t own the absolute truth of how to be.  There are many different truths and realities out there.  And when we have an open mind – free of judgments and assumptions – we are more able to see the different truths and realities.

Where do you assume?  Where may you judge?  And how does that affect your learning and your life as an expatriate?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!