Tag Archives: international

Expatriate alphabet — the G, H, I that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: G is for GRATITUDE

Put simply gratitude is just another perspective on life. Just like different color Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 5.39.26 PMlenses allow us to see the world in different ways, the perspectives we hold at any point of time influence our views and feelings. Dr. Wayne Dyer once said “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

Gratitude is the perspective that makes everything immediately better. Think about it: let’s say you lost your job or your business isn’t going as well as you had hoped or someone in your family is sick or… the list can go on and on. You can choose to bask in your sadness/frustration/anger/etc or you can turn around and think about what’s right with your life at that moment. What’s going well for you? What can you be grateful for?

You’d be amazed at how quickly the feelings of despair get replaced with feelings of hope when you employ gratitude.  And that’s why I think GRATITUDE takes the letter G in the Expatriate Alphabet.

What are you grateful for now?

Expatriate Alphabet: H is for HUMOR

When I think of the importance of humor while an expat, one story always pops up in my memory. When we were living in one country, we once went out to a restaurant with a group of friends. There were about six of us and, when a waiter brought only one menu to the table, we politely inquired after a few more copies. He looked at us as if we were crazy and said: “Why? They are all the same.”

We still laugh today when we remember this story.   Since then there have been many more stories and times when looking at things through the lens of humor was essential to staying sane. And that’s why I chose HUMOR for an H in the Expatriate Alphabet.

Humor makes frustrating and stressful situations a lot easier to handle. It almost creates an instant vacuum effect where all your anger and stress get sucked out of you and replaced with a feeling of lightness and a belief that it’ll all work out somehow. Since exasperating situations tend to happen a lot more often when we live in a foreign-to-us culture, humor can become a tool to use on a regular basis.

So next time you find yourself in a frustrating place, think of your favorite comedian/comedienne.   What would he/she laugh about here?

I conclude with another story told by a close friend – a story that still leaves tears in my eyes because I laugh so hard every time I hear it.

A friend of mine was living in another country and at one time desperately needed to buy a pair of sandals. She spent days looking around for a pair she’d like and finally she came across something that looked promising. As customary, the store only had one sandal on display, the one for her left foot. She tried it on, liked the way it looked on her, and asked the sales girl for the second one.

“We don’t have the second one. We only have this one,” said the sales girl.

My friend stared at her. “Come again? You don’t have the second one?”

The sales girl shook her head.

My friend, exhausted after several days of search and annoyed that this time it didn’t result in a purchase either, said “Why would you display it if it’s not a pair?!” She didn’t really expect an answer.

The sales girl stood there quiet for a moment and then said: “So, are you going to take it?”

What have been your stories when you were able to treat frustrating situations with humor? Share them please!  

Expatriate Alphabet: I is for IDENTITY

To quote the movie Fight Club (1999): “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. … “ … Who are you then?

Losing one’s identity is one of the premier worries expats have when they face a decision of moving abroad. Who am I going to be there? What am I going to do with my time (for those who accompany their working spouses)? What will I relate to… if anything? What relationships will I form with people? And what about financial independence? This list of concerns can go on and on and, if you look closely, you’ll see that a lot of these questions relate to who we see ourselves as – and to how we preserve that in unfamiliar environments.

So how do we keep our identity and how do we feel good about ourselves wherever we may end up? I believe the key here is our relationship with ourselves. All too often moves and transitions produce feelings of doubt in our own abilities; feelings of guilt, feelings of low self-esteem; and feelings of “not being good enough, smart enough, etc.” No matter what we call these feelings, they are all about the same thing — we stop liking and set out to criticize ourselves. What kind of relationship is that? How much do we damage this most important relationship in our lives — the relationship of us with us?

The regular criticisms and nagging also create the recurrent feelings of “I am losing myself”, “I am no longer who I was before”, “my identity is slipping away” and so on and so forth. The self-critical mode takes over and it’s no wonder that we feel that our identity is no more.

Your thoughts?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

 

 

 

 

 

Expatriate alphabet — the D, E, Fs that can make your expat experience better

by Margarita

Expatriate Alphabet: D is for Discovery

Traveling always brings about discovery and for many of us one of the goals of Expatriate Alphabet becoming an expat is to discover something new.  We discover new cultures; new foods; new ways of dressing; new friendships; and new fun things to do.  The whole expatriate experience is about discovering – and while there are tons of things to discover around us, I want to focus on discoveries that we make within us when we move.

Moving to another place creates change in our lives and, as that change challenges us, we get to discover how we are around that change.  We get to discover and learn things about ourselves we may have never known.  And with it we may even discover new callings in life – a new career, a new line of education, a new business opportunity.

So the D in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation isn’t only about discovering the world outside of ourselves – but it’s also discovering and exploring our internal world.  Seeing for the first time things that we’ve had all along but never paid attention to is also a discovery.  Kind of like the discovery of things you’ve forgotten you had… those of you, who move frequently and take most of our household with you, may remember the giddy feelings of unpacking and seeing things you’ve forgotten about because they spent a few months in transit.

What have been your discoveries – external and internal?  And what other D’s are out there?

Expatriate Alphabet: E is for Exchange

When I was growing up, my friend and I used to exchange clothes.  Living in a closed society where travel abroad was rare, the most prized clothes were, of course, those that came from outside the country.  And it was not just the fashion statement that drew us towards those clothes; it was the ability to be part of something new, something unique, and something completely foreign.

Fast-forward many years ahead and I find myself equally fascinated by the different ideas and different ways of doing/being that I encounter whenever I live in another country.  And while ideas and experiences are not physical things and cannot be swamped one for another, they too can be exchanged.  It’s this fascinating EXCHANGE of what we know with what we don’t know but are willing to learn that makes expatriate life all the more attractive.  I mean, where else can you find a ready-made environment for such an exchange if not in expatriation?

What has been your experience with EXCHANGE –and how has that experience benefitted your life abroad?

Expatriate Alphabet: F is for Fun and Friendships

If I have to think back to all my expatriate assignments, a couple of things in particular always come up.  FUN and FRIENDSHIPS were really the two cornerstones that made each assignment worth it.  Most of my good memories revolve either around having fun or making new, amazing friends and having fun with them.

Let’s start with FUN.  I know that the word fun has a different meaning to all of us, but without having fun (whatever it means to you), our lives would be dull, uninteresting and boring.  What’s your definition of fun?  What do you like to do for fun?  What opportunities do you have for fun in a country where you live now?  Schedule them!

And now the FRIENDSHIPS.  The friends we make in distant lands support us, encourage us, laugh with us and cry with us (well, when we really need them to).  Thanks to the internet and Facebook in particular we can now keep in touch and continue to follow the lives of those friends who we leave behind as we move on to another destination.  I don’t want to speak for everyone, but the friendships I have developed during my overseas assignments have been among the most special in my life.

It’s not an easy task to always have to make friends and then leave them when you leave the country (a helpful article on “How to make friends again… and again … and again” here).  But it can be done and the effort is totally worth it.  What are your thoughts on this?  And what friendship moments do you remember?

These ABCs form part of the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ Guide and Workbook which is available as a free download on our main site. This Guide and Workbook doesn’t only discuss the expat alphabet but also offers activities and exercises you can do to improve your expat life. Sign up for Expat VIP list and get this free download here (right hand column).

Expat appreciation moment or five things I love about living in…

Summer has come and gone and for many expatriates in the Northern Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 1.00.02 PMhemisphere the summer is the time of shuttling between taking a vacation, going home to see family, and/or surviving heat/rain/major exodus at post while staying put. And with travel, either home or to another country, come comparisons. Sometimes these comparisons flatter our post countries—I longed to be in Madrid every time I prepared to cross a street in Rome this summer. And sometimes they don’t (in my humble opinion the food in Italy is much superior to what Spain has to offer).

If your case is the latter and your summer made it difficult for you come back because the place where you went on vacation felt/looked/seemed so much better than the place you currently call home, I have a suggestion. Find five things you love about living where you live now. Find at least five. And then be on the look out for more.

So, to start the ball rolling, here are my five for Madrid, Spain:

  1. The taxicabs are the best. The drivers are honest, courteous, and nice; taxis are easy to find, safe to get into, and are not outrageously expensive.
  2. The coffee and wine culture. I love it that it’s so easy to meet a friend for coffee or for a glass of wine. Neither will break the bank, both will taste exceptionally good, and either occasion will allow you to catch up with people for longer than the usual grab-your-Starbucks-cup-and-run moment.
  3. Public transport. When not on strike (!) it’s efficient, organized, clean, and extremely user-friendly.
  4. Barrio life. Even though Madrid is a large, cosmopolitan city, you still have the barrio life where you have a neighborhood place to buy your fruit, your fish, or your meat, fix your shoes, and meet your neighbors for a drink and some tapas.
  5. Climate. I know this is something we cannot control but it’s something I love anyway. I like the fact that even though it gets really hot in the summer and sometimes quite cold in the winter, it’s dry. And so the heat and the cold are much more tolerable.

So these are my five (inspired by a post in St Petersburg Times although not quite along the same lines).

What are yours? Share them in comments below!

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

Recreating is Creative Recycling: an Expat Woman Experience

By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

I’ve lived in the Middle East for seven years. Along with appreciation for flexible ColorfulPencilsstarting times, humus with meat, and the women’s garment, the abaya, I have developed a list of axioms for success as an expat.

Many of these apply directly to the setting of the Arabian Gulf and specifically to daily events in Qatar.

One: In a high concept culture, the absence of a yes can be read as a no.

Two: The longer you sit, the wider your hips.

Three: Expat life is like a pressure cooker, the pressure of the unfamiliar forcing out whatever is inside.

Number three, however, could apply to any country in the world. What happens when your creature comforts- in my case catchall stores like Target, and a wide circle of friends- are taken away? When you find yourself in an entirely new environment and have to invent your own fun?

There are two stages. In the first you may find yourself working and sleeping in copious amounts. I alternated between an eighty hour work week and a docile weekend the entire first year I lived in Qatar. Coincidentally I also gained 15 pounds from my suddenly sedentary lifestyle.

Eventually (read two years later) I was literally sick of sleeping. I forced myself out of bed and took stock of the situation. This is when I entered stage two: the stage of invention. I wondered to myself what was interesting enough to keep me awake. None of the ladies coffee mornings or social groups had what I wanted, some expat grousing and home sickness mixed in with cultural stimulation.

I did the only thing I could: I created groups of my own. I put a small, free ad in the local events leaflet, advertising a writing group.

Writing, it turned out, was the first of many activities I would embark on to keep myself entertained. And in the process I not only found friends, but made several career changes. I went from being a university administrator to the editor of a series of books. A few years from that transition I found myself talking to the CEO who published J.K. Rowling and agreeing to work for his new company starting up in Doha. A few years from that (yes, I mentioned I’ve been in Qatar quite a while) I resigned from that job in order to pursue my writing full time and publish seven Ebooks on Amazon.

None of this could have happened if I didn’t live overseas. Or perhaps to state more accurately, none of this would have happened as quickly if I were shopping in Target every weekend or flying to my college reunion. Not that retail therapy or friendships aren’t important: I enjoy them on our holiday trips home.

But I found the treasure of expat life is the very fact of being taken outside your comfort zone. Once the irritation, anger, and realization hat in fact, no, your life is not “just like it was at home” because there is a McDonald’s down the street, wears off, you may find you have the greatest gift a person can be given. You have the time to mindfully choose how you want to spend your days, weeks, months – all those hours that stack up to years.

The first few months of a new year are the perfect time to ask yourself how you want to showcase the new you. What skills, passions, or projects have you been talking about for years that now lurk in a back closet, shaming you into silence with their persistent procrastination?

I’ve been writing since I was in my twenties. It took me a twelve years and another continent to recycle that passion from a hobby into a full time occupation. I now teach writing to undergraduates and stay up late at night scribbling away at my own work.

What is it you love to do and yet never have time for? That’s why they call it the gift of the present.

Mohana is still in Doha. You can read all about it on her blog: www.mohanalakshmi.com or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

Mohana is also a co-trainer for the “Living and Working in Qatar” cross-cultural course available online 24/7.

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.

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!

What can “sh*t people say” videos can teach us about being an expat?

by Margarita

Recently a wave of viral videos hit YouTube.  “Sh*t” people said — and by people I mean every possible group out there — was everywhere.  Some of them were better than others in terms of humor, production quality, acting, etc but what was interesting about them was that these videos took stereotypes and cliches and amplified them.

I thought — why not do a similar thing?  Why not take the expat women and expat men and create a couple of videos to amplify a few things that those two groups are known for saying?  Why not laugh at ourselves?

I don’t pretend to be a comedienne and I am certainly not a filmmaker. 🙂 But I penned a script of sayings that I either remember hearing or things I’ve said myself and hired some actors.  The result was “Sh*t Expat Women Say” and “Sh*t Expat Men Say”.

The reaction was mixed.  Some people thought it was some good, old fun that allowed us all to laugh at ourselves but there were others that felt slighted (you can check out comments to both videos at the links above).  The offense some people took made me think: where do we draw the line between taking other people’s opinion and humor as just that — humor — and taking it as something else — something that offends us?

How is that similar or different to managing our feelings towards something when we live in another culture?  How do we decide what offends us and what humors us?

Thoughts? Opinions? Shares?

Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on February 24th!  Get some inspiration and support through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes of clarity here.

 

25 reasons for expats to be happy

  1. You are alive.
  2. You are healthy.
  3. You have people who love you (even if they are not near you at this moment).
  4. You are courageous (you moved away from home after all!)
  5. You get to see things others don’t.
  6. You get to experience new foods.
  7. You get to travel.
  8. You have friends around the world – and not just virtual ones!
  9. You have memories and stories that others would envy.
  10. Your kids are growing to be global citizens.
  11. You speak more than one language.
  12. You get to explore the world.
  13. You can help others less fortunate than you without having to travel far to do it.
  14. You can act as a cross-cultural ambassador for your country.
  15. You are creative (because your life now incorporates so many different ways of doing things).
  16. You are worldly.
  17. You have skills you could not have had if you stayed home all your life.
  18.  You know to count your blessings.
  19. You have patience (even if you think you don’t!)
  20. You have more opportunities than people back home.
  21. You can try different wines and different coffees.  And don’t forget the dessert!
  22.  You can study and learn something unusual.
  23. You almost certainly have a novel in you.
  24.  Your friends and family back home admire you.
  25.  You have a fun life.

Even if all of those don’t quite apply to you, there are still enough reasons here to keep in mind — especially when feeling sorry for yourself.  Pick the ones that especially speak to you and write them down where you can always see them.  And make sure to look at them when the bad mood strikes!

Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on January 20th!  Get some inspiration and support through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes of clarity here

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.

 

Inspiring quotes for your expat year ahead

by Margarita

In this post I’d like to invite you to play a game.  Below you’ll find twenty quotes – one per each of the 20 days left in 2011 (listed in no particular order).  Read each of them aloud to yourself and measure it on an inspiro-meter: on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest level of inspiration), how inspiring is this quote for you?  Once you measured them all, post a comment below with a quote that’s closest to ten.

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
Flora Whittemore

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Pericles

“Things do not change; we change.”
Henry David Thoreau

“If you only do what you know you can do- you never do very much.”
Tom Krause

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.”
Bernard Edmonds

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
C.S. Lewis

“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.”
Italo Calvino

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
Aristotle

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

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages”
Dave Barry

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.”
Seneca

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be”
George Sheehan

“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”
Wayne Dyer

“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”
Deepak Chopra

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received”
Antonio Porchia

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.”
R. I. Fitzhenry

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs

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.

And in case you are interested, we just unveiled our #Re-Discovery #Re-Create #Re-Join Workbook and Guide based on a recent workshop that offered strategies and tools for women embarking on the re-discovery journey. First 30 people who download this guide will get a free one-0n-one coaching session! To find out more and to download, visit here.