Tag Archives: money

Grateful or in debt – what does it feel like to you? An accompanying expat spouse’s dilemma.

by Margarita

Much has been said about the role of financial dependence in expat marriages. FeeCultureOne spouse gets the transfer to work abroad, the other decides to follow thereby giving up his/her job and with that — the ability to contribute monetarily to the household.

Although situations vary, most non-working accompanying spouses contribute to the family in many other ways: they organize households in the chaotic “before” and “after” of a move; they take care of children and pets; they figure how things work in a new environment and smoothen transition for everyone else; they run the house and errands; and they play a very important supportive part that allows the other partner to work.

We all know they contribute – and they know it too – however, concerns of being financially dependent and spending “not my own money” has always been high on the expat spouse’s list of feeling unhappy. So why is it that perfectly accomplished people with a large list of things they do for the family still feel like they don’t deserve the money they spend? Why do they feel guilty not to make a paycheck?

Thinking about it a little more after a conversation I recently had with some fellow expat women, I came up with three reasons:

(1) In today’s society (the Western kind), you are only as good as the size of your paycheck and the title on your business card. Money you make elicits more admiration than the impact you make as a parent, a partner, or simply a human being.

(2) The reason above contributes directly to how accompanying spouses feel about their self-worth. Many a client with whom I’ve worked told me how they cringe when asked “what do you do?” – one of the first questions that you get in a gathering of any kind. Or how they notice that people’s eyes glaze over as soon as they mention that they are not working.

(3) And then there is the third reason – the most poisonous of them all. There are actually spouses that will hint or point out that they are the ones bringing home the bacon – and that no amount of support, or of household chores, or of parenting impact, or of simply moving around on a whim of someone else will ever be as important as their paycheck. And unless you make the same amount or more while doing everything else you are already doing, you should stop feeling smug about yourself and your contribution and start feeling very grateful.

My question is: grateful or in debt?

The answer is, of course, your choice! We can always choose the way we feel about our surroundings and the way we react to them. And perhaps it’ll work the first, the second, and the third time around. But then the fourth time, it’ll be harder. And the fifth time – even harder. Why? Because if you live near the toxic plant, you won’t be healthy no matter how many vitamins you take and how many vegetables you juice. The plant has to stop emitting toxins or you have to move.

Your thoughts on this “grateful” or “in debt” dilemma?

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

Individualistic-oriented cultures and greed – any relationship?

This morning listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) I caught an interview that the Morning Edition host did with an American venture capitalist Bill Frezza.  The conversation centered around job creation and the age-old debate that rages regularly between liberals and conservatives on whether or not taxing the rich affects job creation in a negative way.

What struck me was not the tax question, but rather the view that Bill Frezza held on jobs and on how jobs are actually not beneficial to business.  Jobs is an expense, he said, and creating jobs isn’t the goal of any business.  The goal of a business is making money for the owner and the shareholders as well as satisfying customer demand.  In other words, business owners aren’t supposed to be concerned about the American economy and the state of the country in particular – but simply about how much money they’ll make and how much profit they’ll take in.

Perhaps not quite the view I would relate to, but that’s beside the point.  His pragmatic approach seemed very ego-centric, very “as-long-as-I-make-money-nothing-else-matters”, and very … individualistic, if we want to put a culture dimension on it.  What about the world, I wanted to ask?  What about making sure that your money-making is contributing good to the world and to the society you live in?

It seems that Bill and many like him don’t care very much for that (at least that’s what came through in this interview).  And that makes me wonder – do individualistic societies where “I” is a lot more important than “We” create more ego-centrism and more greed?  Does the US with its very individualistic orientation lead the world in the number of greedy and I-don’t-give-a-f$#@% individuals?

Has this attitude been exported elsewhere? And how is this export thriving in your country?

Cultural Misunderstandings… can you relate?

Guest post by Stephen Milner

Some time ago I found myself working in Bucharest, Romania. It wasn’t that long after the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu and the culture in which I found myself living was very alien to me. McDonalds had not even opened there yet. Thankfully I was working with quite a few British Ex. Pat. who could point me in the right direction in finding my way around.

After being there for a few weeks I’d got myself an apartment near the centre, it had good Metro and Tram links and wasn’t very far away from The Dubliner, The Irish pub in Bucharest. It dawned on me quite early on I needed to get some Laundry done, so I asked some of the Ex. Pat. community where to go. Easy, they said, about 300m past The Dubliner, on the same side of the road was an excellent laundrette.

That evening I set off with my bag of Laundry, and exactly where it had been described was a Laundrette. I went in, and though I didn’t speak Romanian, I had troubled myself to learn one or two words.

“Bună seara,” I announced as I walked in and smiled.

The woman behind the counter replied with a long string of Romainan that meant nothing to me. I smiled again, opened my bag and placed the laundry on the counter. The woman separated all the clothes into differing types, detailing each item in a notebook. When the itemisation was complete the woman began another long string of Romanian. It was clear she wanted something.

I got out my money, and asked her how much. She wagged her finger at me, she didn’t want paying. I explained that I didn’t understand, and more Romanian issued forth. She repeatedly tapped the the notebook, her finger on the price. She must want paying! I couldn’t see the amount written clearly so I took the notebook to turn it round to read it. The woman grabbed the notebook and a wrestling match began over the counter for possession of the notebook.

It was during this tug of war that several thought passed through my mind. The first thought was that most of my clothes were in this woman’s possession, the second thought was that I was in this situation way above my head and finally I vowed that the next time I was going to do something “new” in an unfamiliar culture I would make sure I discussed it with someone from that culture, rather than an Ex. Pat.

Finally I decided to give up. I let go of the book, apologised in my broken Romanian and decided that I would simply leave, and come back tomorrow with one of the Romanians I worked with to explain the situation, and find out what was wrong.

The apology worked a treat. The woman calmed down, and beckoned me back with her arm. She picked up a pen, and pretended to sign the book. And then it dawned on me. I had to sign. In fact, signing for just about everything, I very soon came to realise, is part of the culture in Romania. Thankfully a positive response to a polite apology is also part of the culture as well.

The next day, after everyone had had a good laugh at the situation, I made sure I learned enough about the language and the culture to be polite and respectful to others. Something I never regretted doing.

Stephen Milner is an experienced board director and inspirational leader with energy, enthusiasm and a passion for generating business growth in several functions including IT/IS, e-commerce, logistics, supply chain and retail.  You can reach Stephen through his LinkedIn profile here.

Accompanying spouse and career – what’s the motivation?

Why do we work?  What makes us want to work?  And what makes us feel sad when we don’t work?

In today’s economic reality, some of us may answer above questions with a simple “I have to put food on the table and provide for my family” answer.  And while this is a very valid point, I am not going to focus on money being the reason for work in this blog post.  Instead, I want to talk about what motivates us to have professional lives.

For many an expat – and here I mean the accompanying spouses – the reality is such that we don’t have to work.  Don’t have as in don’t-have-the-necessity-of-having-the-additional-income-in-the-family for the family to live comfortably.  Yet many of us long to have a professional life abroad, especially if we had to leave out jobs behind, when we moved.

So what motivates us to long for it?

  • Desire to grow?
  • Habit?
  • Fears (like the fear of not having something to do with our time or the fear of not being enough or the fear of being perceived as someone lazy or the fear of losing ourselves)?

How often do we really know what’s motivating us?  How often do we take the time to find out?

The reason I bring this up is that sometimes we want to work for all the wrong reasons – and we suffer internally (if we cannot work) for all the wrong reasons.  So until we shine a bright light on our real motivators for wanting work, we’ll continue holding onto the old habits and old attitudes towards work, even if those are not working out for us.

Here is one exercise to help you learn your real motivators for wanting a professional life:

I.  Answer the following questions:

  • What is important to me about having a job?
  • What is important to me about having a career path/professional life?
  • What do I look for in my professional life?  Without the presence of what will my professional life lack meaning?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a job?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a career?

2.  All humans can divided into those who mainly get motivated by away factors, those that mainly get motivated by toward factors, and those who get motivated by both.  The away factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I don’t have to ask my spouse for spending money.”
  • “I am working so that I am never going to be poor.”
  • “I am starting a new business so that no one can say I am doing nothing with my time.”

The toward factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I can buy myself whatever I want.”
  • “I am looking for a new job so that I can get more challenged.”
  • “I want my own business so that I can be my own boss and can be as creative as I want.”

Looking at your answers to questions above, gauge whether or not you are motivated mainly by away factors, towards factors, or both.  Usually the away factors, while having a place in our lives, don’t last and are not as compelling as the toward factors.  The away factors display our saboteur thinking and provide a negative-energy-filled pull towards having a career.  How valid is that thinking in your life now?  And what would you be without that thinking?

So what is at the heart of you wanting to work and have a career overseas?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Trailing and not failing: how our relationships sustain us in expatriation?

What do expats need to stay?

Expat entrepreneur? Who is your ideal client?

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™: Y is for YOU and what YOU make of it

Often times my clients have trouble focusing on their own needs.  They are so concerned about the necessities of people around them – spouses who have started working in a new culture and are stressed beyond belief; children that need help adjusting to a new country and a new school; parents who have been left behind and want to be comforted; friends who expect regular updates and quick invitations to visit; former co-workers who wonder about their next career step, etc, etc, etc.

When so many people around you need tending to, there is not really any time left for your own needs and dreams, is there?  And even if there is some free time somewhere in your day, how guilty might you feel if you decide to spend it on you rather than on any of the above?

Turns out – very guilty.  A lot of us would drop anything to make lives of people around us better, yet we rarely strive to do the same for ourselves.  Even after a day of housework, running a virtual business, making dinner, helping with homework, and spending time on the phone with family, many of us find it difficult to take a few moments of guilt-free pleasure for ourselves.  Be it a book, a mindless television show, a massage, a facial, a bath… whatever.  The point us – remember there is YOU in that expat reality you are all living in.  And YOU too need some pampering.

So next time you feel that you should not be having that massage or that the TV show you are watching is too stupid to waste your time on, stop and think about what your needs are in that moment.  How are you serving them?  And how much better does it feel to serve them than to ignore them?

And as for the “what YOU make of it” part in this letter Y – Dr. Dyer once said some very powerful words: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”  How are you looking at your expat life?

Want to work on those guilt-feelings with others like you? Join our Expat Club: 10 Weeks of Wisdom Program where we will provide tools and skills you usually get during coaching to work on this and other expat issues.  Learn more here. BONUS: if you sign up before December 1, 2010, you get FREE access to the “7 Habits of a Happy Expat” online course.


For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click 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™: R is for RELATIONSHIPS

When you move from place to place as an expat, everything is different.  Your work is different, your relationship with your colleagues is different, your colleagues are different, the way of life is different, the culture is different, etc, etc, etc.  The only thing that stays pretty much the same is your family that comes with you.

The differences and changes we go through as we move often produce a lot of stress for both you and your family.  And since our outlets for stress are frequently those closest to us, many times we take our frustrations out at our spouses and our children.  And they, in turn, take their frustrations out at us.

These frustrations and the fights/misunderstandings/pain they cause act as underground water currents that slowly destroy the foundation of your home.  How can you stop these currents from damaging your relationships?

One way to do it would be to find another outlet for your stress.  Hire a coach and you’ll realize that the coaching fee you’ll spend will be an investment that will keep paying by making your family stronger.

Another way to do it is to go back to the basics.  Make a point of returning to those moments that initially brought you together (if this is your spouse) or those moments that you look back at with happiness (if it’s your kids and your spouse).  Re-visit those moments together — find that magic again.  Remember those meaningful connections.  And then decide together – what do you want your next chapter to be?  And how do you want it to be?

For more on relationships while an expat, you can read this post:

Trailing and not failing: how our relationships can sustain us in expatriation?

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, 7 Habits of a Happy Expat 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)!