Tag Archives: respect

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!

Parenting across cultures – a never-ending exercise in cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Recently I read an article by Amy Chua on the subject of superiority of Chinese mothers.  Whether or not I agree with the author isn’t the point of this blog.   Although, as a side note, I must say that the author’s ego rivals that of Paris Hilton — which I thought was never possible!  And, as many other readers, I was amazed at the length she went to in order to satisfy that ego (the up-in-your-face article in WSJ included).  Disclaimer: I have not read her book but her article was enough for me to decide never to read the book and to feel bad for both her kids and her students at my (!) alma mater.

But back to the subject.  Amy Chua’s husband is apparently American and reading her me!-me!-me! article got me thinking of the role that parents of different cultures play in raising kids together.  I happen to be married to someone outside of my own culture and we are raising a beautiful girl.  How often do we agree on our own respective methods of parenting?  How often do we disagree?  And what transpires when you take an already mixed-culture couple and throw them into an expat lifestyle where a third culture becomes part of the mix?

We all know there is a lot of beauty in being exposed to and in living with different cultures.  We all know kids benefit from this immensely.  But that’s not what I want to discuss.  I want to discuss the difficulties.

If I had a penny for every time I was told I was “too strict” (I think I need to share Amy Chua article to show my husband what strict really means!) or that “my parenting culture was too critical” or that “I would do it differently” – I’d be a millionaire with my own private island already.  But instead of a penny, all I got was the feeling of being labeledjudged and misunderstood.  Of course I have not been a saint either and I think I’ve given my share of opinions about my husband’s parenting culture.

Dr. John Gottman in his brilliant book “7 Principles of Making a Marriage Work” says that 69% of problems in a marriage are perpetual.  He goes on to describe that no matter what you do, these problems are not going to go away simply because they are born out of your disappointed dream or a disappointed dream of your spouse.  Put another way – the times we fight and the fights that repeat themselves over and over again happen because our values are not being honored.  Instead – a label is issued.  Someone calls you strict instead of recognizing that by imposing a certain schedule all you are trying to do is to protect your child as much as you can from stress and anxiety.

In an interview I heard recently, Marianne Williamson said something so simple and brilliant that I am amazed I didn’t think of it myself.  She said that all over the mammal world, the maternal instinct first and foremost goes to the protection of the young.  As mammals, we – human females – are also quite intent on protecting our children.  And so thinking along those lines, I am now realizing that I am protecting my young – but I see that protection in my own, unique way.  The way that has come from my culture and my upbringing.

So what do we do if our instinct to protect and if our parental style that comes from our values collide with that of our partner/spouse?  When tensions run high and labels are attached faster than the speed of light, how do we stay calm and discuss the cross-cultural misunderstanding that’s at the root of the argument?

Your thoughts?

People who enjoyed this post also read:

Cross-cultural misunderstandings… got one?

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

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)!

Expat entrepreneur? Who is your ideal client?

This December – as every December – I am reflecting on the road traveled and the road ahead, especially as it pertains to what I bring and what my unique contribution is to this world.  I believe in co-creating: us working together with the universe to fulfill the purpose we are here for.  And, among other things,  co-creating means really listening to what the universe is telling us, getting the hints, and taking them as our cues to get our part of the bargain done.

In coaching I see this as really tuning in and knowing who you are meant to work with. A lot of coaches talk about finding their ideal clients – people with whom they come alive and people they most love working with.  I’ve always liked working with expatriates and people who have an international itch, but this December I decided that I can define it even further.


Apparently it’s very simple.  All I have to do is look back at all the clients that I have attracted over the years — the ones I loved working with — and bingo.  The universe keeps sending me my ideal clients and that’s my cue about who they are.

For example, the women clients I attract are all remarkable women that tend to be very hard on themselves. My clients run businesses abroad; move their families across continents; quit jobs and careers to follow loved ones overseas; support their spouses and children … they do all that and more, yet they often don’t feel enoughThey still feel guilty — guilty about not being enough and not doing enough; guilty not to be working, guilty spending the money they didn’t earn, guilty about having me-time, … and on and on it goes.  That on top of feeling alone, lost, unrecognized, and unfulfilled creates a cocktail that I like to call fog.  Fog of doubt, guilt, self-criticism, and not realizing that they are so much more than they think they are.

Among men I attract the seekers. I call them that because men who hire me as a coach are those who are looking to find their dream and their road in life. They don’t come to me because I coach expats – but they come to me because my expatriate and international background is something they identify with and something that contributes to their journey.

The gender definition isn’t set in stone, of course.  But looking back, I find it amazing that almost all of my clients have been my ideal clients and people I absolutely love working with.

  • So, if you look at your business, who is your ideal client?
  • Who have you loved working with?  What is it in them that draw you?
  • And how knowing this can help you identify your ideal client?

Remember to sign up for 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. 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)!

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)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: U is for UNDERSTANDING

Understanding and being understood is the base for creating connections. It applies both in situations within your own culture and when you find yourself living and working in a different culture(s).  The latter can often be a trickier undertaking.

Let’s start with being understood.  NLP teaches us that “I don’t know what I said until I know what you heard.”  What it means is that we all listen through different channels and pay attention to different things within what’s being said.  Some may listen with attention directed at people in a story, others with attention to events, yet others with attention to surroundings, so on and so forth.  Ever played a game of telephone when you were a child?  Do you remember how a story changes completely when passed from ear to ear?  That’s because we recount what we hear and we all hear different things.  This fact becomes even more acute in different cultures.  So, when you are communicating across cultures make sure your message is understood the way you intended it to be – and not the way you assumed it to be.  Failure to do so may result in many misunderstandings and sometimes even in ruined relationships.

Now what about our skill of understanding?  Provided we know the language and its nuances (a big if), how do we make sure we understand what’s being said – and what’s being unsaid?  Here I’d like to focus especially on what’s been unsaid.

Almost every time a person speaks – if you listen closely – you can hear the dream(s) that person holds for him/herself.  The dream(s) that express their hopes, wishes, and aspirations – the dreams that give meaning to their lives.  Sometimes they themselves cannot hear those dreams, but your job is to be able to hear them.  Because if you do, you connect with them on a much deeper level, you learn what’s important to them, and that makes you capable of knowing how you can structure your relationship to help them achieve their dreams.

What are your thoughts on understanding and being understood?  And do you have any other U’s to contribute?

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

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, and inspired. If you ever thought of getting an expat coach and didn’t get the chance/finances/courage to do it, this Club is your opportunity to try a virtual coaching environment.  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™: Q is for QUESTIONS

When kids are young, they ask a lot of questions.  The constant flow of what, how, where, why, and what if can even drive a parent crazy.  But we know that this is how our children learn about the world and we happily oblige.  As they grow, however, and become adults, the questions become less frequent – and what’s even more frustrating, less curious.  Gone are the what, the how, and the why, replaced by a simpler form of close-ended questions.

It is an unfortunate fact that most questions we ask as adults are questions that don’t require any more than a simple yes or a no.  These questions carry no curiosity and in its place they express assumptions.  Instead of asking “What language do people speak here?”, we ask: “They speak English here, right?”; instead of asking “What was interesting about living in…?”, we ask “Was it interesting to live in…?”; instead of asking “What do you suggest I do when I…?”, we ask “Do I do this and this when…?”.

These examples may not be perfect, but if you watch yourself over the next few days, try to notice how many of your questions are open-ended and how many are close-ended.  Once you’ve done that, try to catch yourself every time you want to ask a close-ended questions, and ask an open-ended instead.  How much more do you hear in response?

Open-ended questions are powerful questions — not only because they contain curiosity, but also because they open the flow of information and energy in a much potent way than close-ended questions.  Try it.  You’ll be amazed at the difference.

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)!

Legally Abroad or Experiencing Law Enforcement When Overseas

I got my very first traffic violation ticket yesterday.  Maybe I’ve been lucky or maybe I am a law-abiding driver (well…most of the time anyway), but the irony of the fact that my first citation happened in my own country didn’t escape me.  How did I manage to get in trouble in a country where I know the rules while I never did in other countries where I was not so sure of the rules?

It’s a good question and maybe the answer to it lies in “paying close attention” even in places we think we know.  But that’s not the point of this post.  My interaction with the police officer and my ticket experience got me thinking about our worldwide experience with police.  Having lived in many countries I’ve had my share of interactions with law enforcement (although not always about traffic violations).  What is the difference between these kinds of interactions at home and abroad?

Maya Angelou once said that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  And I find that this is especially true for me when I deal with the law enforcement.  I understand that it’s not their job to make you feel good, but can they at least not make you feel awful?

I cannot claim to have experienced dealing with the police in every country of the world and I am sure there are plenty of downright horrible experiences out there.  And there are also good experiences — I’ve had a few myself.  So what has been your experience where you are living now?  And how does it compare to your home country?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really All About Going Through the Stages

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave your assumptions at home

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings: Got one?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 6 – Look for values

For those of us who travel and live in different countries on a regular basis, learning about our destinations is essential. What can I expect when I move? What will be different? What will I have to adjust to? What are the people like? How does their culture differ from mine? These questions can go on and on.

Some of us try to answer them by researching in libraries and on the internet; others go through cross-cultural training; and yet others tap into whatever expertise the online expatriate community can offer. All these sources are wonderful and they provide a wealth of information, however, they often form no more than just a base of the information required for us to become really knowledgeable about the culture, and particularly about the people we interact with.

The concept of cross-cultural intelligence goes beyond the laundry list of do’s and don’ts. And so Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 is the collection of tips and tools that help decipher – wherever you are – what is important to people you interact with, what makes them who they are, and what you can do to strike friendships, make business alliances, and establish partnerships. Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 takes a more individual approach to learning the culture. After all, we are not made out of the same mould even if we were born and grew up in the same country. In fact, all of us represent a multiplicity of cultures – a mix of ethnic, religious, corporate, socio-political, gender and many other layers of cultures.

In previous posts we covered the first five (5) tips of the Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101. Those five tips are very important to be able to take advantage of this sixth tip. So if you didn’t have the chance to read about them, I’d encourage you to do so now – before you read about this last one. Here are the links to the first five tips:

Tip 1: Really Listen

Tip 2: Pay Attention

Tip 3: Leave your Assumptions at Home

Tip 4: Judgments are not Allowed

Tip 5: Be Curious.

And now on to the last tip, Tip 6: Look for values.

Values are what we honor and cherish in our lives. A value is an individual concept and, even though it’s often affected by the many cultures and traditions we belong to, our own personal values are different from those of our neighbors, friends, or our co-workers. Our values drive our energies and direct our actions.

Therefore, learning to read and identify the values of others is an important tool to connecting with what drives them – and with who they are. But how do you read another person’s values? As you listen, pay attention, use curiosity with patience, and leave your assumptions and judgments out, you will be able to “hear” the “energy” behind somebody’s words. If your new acquaintance, for instance, is talking about her recent trip into the rain forest and you see the eyes sparkle, chances are that adventure is one of her values. If your friend is complaining about a rude treatment he received in a store, it might be his value of respect that got stepped on. If your co-worker shines when she gets praised for the good job that she does, one of her values might be recognition or acknowledgement. When you start living within another culture, knowing what’s important to your neighbors and helping them honor those things will make you new friends and prevent conflicts.

The Cultural Intelligence process is based on a premise that to succeed in the foreign-to-us culture we need to learn, appreciate, and honor cultural differences. The tips we discussed break the process into five easy-to-adopt steps and help make it part of your every day routine.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.

If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave your Assumptions at Home

In the last two postings we covered Tip 1: Really Listen and Tip 2: Pay Attention.  Today we are going to discuss Cross-Cultural Intelligence Tip 3: Leave Your Assumptions at Home.

The vast majority of us look at the world through the prism of our own culture, our upbringing, and our background.  This interpretation of things based solely on our own experience creates assumptions and these assumptions impede learning because, well, “why learn if we already know”.  Unfortunately this also rings true with some forms of cross-cultural training that often create assumptions through statements such as “the Russians do this…”, “the Americans are like this …”, “the French are …”, etc.  These assumptions (and the process of assuming) effectively build a wall between us and the others.

The assumptions we carry also very much define our attitude towards others.  And they color the way we approach our interaction with those others.  I recently had a conversation with someone who was very frustrated with some Americans and therefore didn’t think that Americans in general made very good expats.  Not only did this person assume that the entire nation of Americans are like those few people they met, but they also already gave up on any American ever being able to measure up to their standard of an expat.  How do you even start to interact from that perspective?  How successful do you think your interaction with those people is going to be if you start from such a negative place?

The key is to completely free yourself from any assumptions.  Treat each person and each place as someone/something entirely new and different, as someone/something that offers good things and may contain some bad things, and as someone/something you want to learn about.  Start with a clean slate and you’ll get much farther.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

International partnerships – how tricky are they?

My blog had to take a hiatus for a week and it was not only that my daughter was on vacation.  I have embarked on my first international business partnership and although it is very exciting, it’s been taking a lot of my time and energy.  The latter in particular.

Now, I understand that beginning a business venture which involves partnerships can be a challenge anywhere.  Even if your partners are from your own country and culture, you may still have differences in how you approach things, differences in how you work, and plainly creative differences.  Yet I think I can vouch that partnering with people from another country is a different animal altogether!

This isn’t about the logistical and legal details of having an international partnership.  Those are plentiful and we are still working on figuring them out.  No, I am talking about coming together and working on a project from such different perspectives about responsibility, time lines, ways of doing things, and communication that every single task becomes a huge undertaking.

And the hardest one for me so far has been to keep from imposing my perspective on the others.  There have been countless times during our meetings and our work together in the past two months, that I’ve wanted to pound my fist and scream that things are not done this way.  That if we continue in that manner we will either fail or end up spending a lot of energy, effort and time that doesn’t need to be spent.

Yet I kept my fist pounding to myself and decided that at this stage of learning to work together, this is also an opportunity for me to let go of the control I am used to having in all of my projects. It’s time for me to have a little more faith and trust in what my partners are saying.  It’s time for me to trust that the Universe will get us there in the end.

Don’t get me wrong, I will step in more strongly when I feel that things need to be guided.  I am not going to sit by and watch things fall apart.  Yet this is not the time to do that yet.  Although I am somewhat frustrated and although I know that pounding the fist may have gotten us where we are much faster, I also know that we all learned a lot in the process.  My fist pounding would have never taught us that much.

So this is developing.  And I am learning to work with them.  And they are learning to work with me.  And I think we are on to something really, really great.

Have you ever participated in any international ventures where you partnered with people from another country?  Share your experience!  I would love to hear it.