Tag Archives: Environment

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?

Of stories and cultures

In his book “Spontaneous Evolution” Dr Bruce Lipton suggests that, as meaning-making species, we — humans – live both by the stories we create and by the meaning we give to those stories.  Throughout history we have built lives on the foundation of our stories – and the more invested we become in our story, the more important it becomes for us to continue investing in that story… even if the story no longer works.

Some of our stories have been with us for hundreds of years, others have been around much less time.  Branches of different religions can be considered stories (think, for instance, of some religious zealots protecting the “purity” of their religion by rejecting gay rights in day and age when the humanity has embraced it as basic human right); on-going conflicts between nations can be considered stories (think of the conflict in the Middle East where animosity continues regardless of how useless it has become); and political regimes (think Egypt, Tunisia, the Soviet Union).  These collective stories often define and influence the way we live our lives – even if it no longer works for us.

Reading about this got me wondering about the connection between a story and a culture.  For instance, let’s take the collective story of the United States.  For many years the US has been known as “the land of opportunities and freedom where anyone can make something out of their life.”  Recently though it feels as if the story has been shifting towards something along these lines: “capitalism is great; socialism is awful; business interests first; money is the only thing that matters; guns need no control; social justice equals communism; corporations rule; survival of the fittest; it’s a dog-eat-dog world.”  Many people continue to invest in the story that capitalism the way they have been practicing it is the only way to go even though the system has marginalized a lot of people.  Many swear by their right to bear arms – when in today’s world of machine guns this is a much more dangerous preposition than when this amendment was created.  How do these stories contribute to the culture? And how does the culture contribute to – or maybe change – these stories?

What about the story of your country or the country you are living in?  What is it?

How has this story influenced the culture – and vice versa?

Happy International Women’s Day and a look at how immigrants celebrate their holidays

When I was growing up the 8th of March – International Women’s Day – was one of our most favorite holidays.  Everyone got a day off, mothers/grandmothers/female teachers and professionals got flowers and gifts and even the boys in school (no matter the grade!) brought every girl something.  No one much cared about the political undertones of this holiday (well, at least in the day and age of my childhood) and mostly the holiday represented a chance to express gratitude and honor women in our lives.

When I moved to the US – immigrated to be exact – I was very surprised to find out that no one knew what 8th of March even was!  After all I could remember the reports on state-controlled television that countries in Europe and Asia celebrated it.  It was strange that the US didn’t, but that’s not the point.  The point is that from that time forward the 8th of March began to slowly lose its significance.  With no one around us celebrating it, we slowly stopped too.

Today this made me wonder about how other immigrants hold on to those special celebrations when they leave the country of their birth for good.  If they live in a culture that simply doesn’t honor their holidays, what do they do to hold on to them?  And how do they pass them on to their children (if at all)?

There is a difference here between expatriates and immigrants.  Expatriates know that they will at some point be leaving and moving on to another country (or home) and that they are always going to be American, French, Russian, Canadian, etc no matter where they go – so their holidays for the most part stay with them, no matter how neglected they may have been during the period of expatriation.  The immigrants though go through the process of blending their birth identity with their adopted one and thus may lose those holidays forever.

Your thoughts?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

A to Z of Successful Expatriation: I is for Identity

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

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

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)!

 

Expat lifestyle or how to de-clutter in a most effective way

At a recent coaching summit one of the keynote speakers – Lynne Twist (whose book, The Soul of Money, I recommend highly) spoke about one of the most destructive and yet most spread myths of the modern world: more is better.  We are encouraged to consume more to “help” the economy, we are constantly sold things we don’t need through very clever advertising campaigns, and we are doped into believing that the more we have of anything the happier we will be.  Meanwhile, the constant race for more creates stress, frustration, and feelings of never being able to catch up – while depleting precious natural resources.

In the course of her talk, Lynne Twist mentioned that the storage industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and the fact that we are building houses for our stuff makes absolutely no sense when there are so many homeless people.  This got me thinking that as expatriates, we are actually lucky because we get to go through our stuff every few years when we move and we get to de-clutter on a regular basis.

Of course one of the hardest things about organizing a move (apart from saying good-byes…) is deciding what to take and what to discard.  Those decisions not only take time, but also force us to say yes to some memories and no to others.

So how do you decide which memento of the past still deserves a place in your life and which doesn’t?  How do you decide which one of your possessions to donate?  And what is the ultimate test that helps you determine what will stay?

I have a system.  It may or may not work for you, but I found that it works wonders for me.  When I begin the moving process I ask myself the following questions about those things that I consider keeping:

•    What is the energy behind this thing?  What feeling do I get from it?
•    What does it represent to me now?
•    How important is it to me now?
•    How important is it to my future path?

Many objects that we hold on to may represent who we were long ago and not who we are now. Some may come from times that have been difficult and resonate with memories of sadness; others may have been symbolic to us in the past, but no longer carry the same meaning. Why hold on to them then? Why drain yourself and your house of energy with clutter that is not useful for who you are becoming?

When people, who have not experienced expatriate lifestyles, say to me how difficult it must be to move every few years, I usually respond that it’s a blessing and an opportunity.  It allows me to part with the old and invite the new into my life.  And I find that very inspirational.

The things that don’t make it on the moving list find their next owner in 99% of the cases.  Internet has allowed us to connect with people who may want and need the stuff you have – so before you add to the ever-growing trash pile out there, consider tapping into those resources!

Speaking of resources… Global Coach Center has recently started a resource of its own — an International Directory of Expat Coacheslisted by country. We started it because we get a lot of requests from people looking for a coach in a country where they are living.  So if you are in need of a coach, please visit it.  And if you are an expat coach, list yourself!

People who read this post also enjoyed:

How green is your move?

Expat Coach — where art thou?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

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)!

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the “programming”?

I recently finished reading a fascinating book by Dr. Bruce LiptonBiology of Belief. Among many very interesting things, Dr Lipton touches upon the difference between sub-conscious and conscious minds.  He goes on to say that during our adult lives in 95% of the time we operate according to the programmed habits and beliefs that are stored in our subconscious mind.  And that programming of the subconscious occurs mostly between the ages of zero and 6.

That got me thinking about my own parenting, the messages that my daughter had downloaded into her subconscious in the first six years of her life – and how being a third culture kid affected those messages.  I realized that as we raise our kids in cultures that are foreign to us, we unknowingly pass on – without thinking – all the negative messages that come up in us in response to stress of adjustment, relocation, and simply being a stranger in a strange land.

If you think back to times when you moved with your kids at the time when they were young, what messages may have escaped your lips?  What behavior may you have exhibited in moments of stress that perhaps became recorded in your children’s subconscious?  What cultural misunderstandings may have influenced your reactions to things?  And can you now see those beliefs coming up in your children’s lives?

According to Dr. Lipton (and to many others), re-wiring the downloaded programs in our sub-conscious takes a lot more than affirmations and positive thinking.  Since our subconscious mind is our habitual mind, the only way to change the program is to engage in a completely different habit time and time again.  That’s not an easy preposition, but it can be done.  The best strategy, of course, is not to create those beliefs to begin with.

Your thoughts?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Cross-cultural misunderstandings — got one?

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

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

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™: V is for VISITORS

Most of us can agree that getting people to visit us is a great experience … in healthy doses of course.  Visitors give us an opportunity to share our lives with them (remember sharing is one of the 7 Habits of a Happy Expat).  Visitors give us a chance to take time out of our busy schedule and visit a landmark or two with them – the landmark we’ve been postponing to visit.  Visitors give us a new perspective on the country we are living in and open our eyes to things we may have not seen.  And, finally, having visitors means that someone actually cares about our experiences and wants to learn more about them!

So what are some strategies to have the best time with visitors in your home and your country?  I have a few of my own but since each country is different I’d love it if you add yours.

Here are mine:

(1) I make a list of all museums that are worth a visit and include the opening times, the days when the museums are closed, the entrance fee (if any) and the quick tips about each one if I have them.

(2) I look up schedules for performances for the time my visitors are going to be in town and send it to them ahead of time.  If they are interested, I offer my services of purchasing them tickets.

(3) I always keep a few spare maps of the city in the visitors’ room along with a map of public transport, if that exists.

(4) If I am in a country where renting a car is not ideal, I try to reserve at least one weekend to take our visitors to places that are not accessible by public transport.

(5) I try to show and recommend at least a couple of places off the beaten tourist track – and a few of very local restaurants.

What about you?  What are your strategies?

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

Remember to 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 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)!