Tag Archives: Russia

Parenting, education and culture – a big mix

Yesterday I remembered Amy Chua and her now infamous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  My daughter started middle school and her assessment scores for courses’ placement didn’t turn out to be as high as we expected.  Aside from questions on where that would take her in the process of learning and how it would affect her own self-esteem, I was suddenly faced with questions of my own… like:

  • “What the &^$%$!”
  • “She’s always been a stellar student, what’s going on here?”
  • “How can she score worse than before – and worse than the other kids?”
  • Etc, Etc, Etc…

And as I mulled it over, feeling embarrassed, let down, bitter, and confused, I noticed that my husband wasn’t as emotional about it as I was.  I was ready to march into school and request to see the tests, I unearthed the KhanAcademy site and persuaded my daughter to spend an hour doing math (excellent resource, by the way!), and I spent more than just a few hours planning an intervention for what I felt was a failing student (now, mind you, it’s only been 2 days since the school started!).

Meanwhile my husband, as upset as the placements made him, wasn’t as emotional about the whole thing as I was.  Yes, the results bothered him and yes, he wanted to investigate farther yet he wasn’t burning the midnight oil looking for tutoring resources and creating to-do lists on how to tackle this.  So why was I so up in arms and why was he so nonchalant?

Then it dawned on me.  Cultural differences.   He is American and I am Russian-born.  I grew up in a society where education was akin to religion and where being best among the best was a must for the intelligenzia children.  My husband grew up with the motto – “as long as you do your best” whereas I grew up with the motto – “you only do your best when you are doing much better than most of the others”.  And so having my almost-a-straight-A-student daughter placed into non-advanced courses definitely touched a nerve.

What have been your experience with your children’s education?  Have you felt any differences in how you manage your kids’ education especially if you and your spouse hail from different cultures?

REMEMBER: if you coach, train, or consult people who work across cultures, consider joining us for the Culture Mastery Certification and License Program.  We start September 21, 2011 and a discount is available to anyone who registers before September 7, 2011.

A cultural blunder in one of the world’s most international sites – what was Facebook thinking?!

We all heard of cultural gaffes that either hurt business partnerships, slow them down or completely undermine them.  Classic textbook examples tell us about cultural faux pas during meetings, cultural mistakes in advertising design, and cultural errors in negotiations.  All companies go through this experience at least once in their international business deals and apparently Facebook isn’t an exception (although, in all honesty, I didn’t expect the site that brought together people from so many different countries and walks of life to be so clueless when it comes to cultural sensitivity).

A couple of days ago, I saw the following announcement from Facebook Russia:  Всем, кто ожидает прибавления в семействе – теперь вы можете сообщить об этом вашим друзьям на Facebook. Cделать это можно в настройках профиля, во вкладке “Друзья и семья” в предлагаемом списке членов семьи нужно выбрать вариант “будущий член семьи: ребенок”, ввести имя ребенка, если оно уже выбрано, и предполагаемую дату рождения. Эта информация появится на вкладке “Семья” на левой панели вашего профиля.”


“For all of you who are expecting an addition in the family – you can now let your friends know about it on Facebook. Go to your profile and in the “Friends and Family” choose the optionl “future member of the family: a child”, enter the name of the child if it is already selected, and the anticipated date of birth. This information will appear under “Family” on the left sidebar of your profile.”

My jaw dropped when I saw that.  And I didn’t really have to read the already accumulated comments from more than 60 people to know how this one is going to land. In a country where superstitions run high, people just don’t share their impending family additions with many – let alone with the whole Facebook world.

What were you thinking, Facebook?

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)!


A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: T is for TRAVEL

One of the things I usually remember about our various posts is the travel in the region.  There was the time when we drove with several friends into a part of Russia where we only ate blini — Russian version of French crepes — for three straight days (vegetarian choices were limited off the beaten track).  There was the time when we took a smelly, overnight train to Bukhara and a scary plane ride to Khiva (in Uzbekistan).  There was the time when we had breakfast in France, lunch in Monaco and dinner in Italy.  And there was the time when we saw Iguazu falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentine side.

These experiences were all very different but there is one thing that unites them — the opportunity to see things we may have not been able to see had we not been posted in the region.  Every time we find ourselves expatriated to a country, we always look around.  What can we see in this country and in the countries that surround it?  What experiences are available to us?

To the dismay of our family and friends back home we almost never go home while living elsewhere.  Instead we prefer to explore our surroundings.  When, if not then, will we have this opportunity?  And that’s why taking this chance to explore and Travel within the region of your post is the T for the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™.

Where have you traveled lately?

Any other T’s out there?

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™: 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)!

I live here? I live here. I live here!!!

Those of you who follow my blog know that a few months back my family and I left Russia (St Petersburg) after spending four years there.  We had a wonderful time, enjoyed (almost) every moment of it, learned quite a bit, and saw many interesting things.  Leaving was tough — as it is each time when our post comes to an end and we have to relocate.

This time we moved to South Florida — Miami to be exact.  And to this day — it’s been over six months now — I walk around my neighborhood still asking myself: I live here? And then saying: Yes, I do. And then almost screaming: I live here!!!

Why you’d wonder?  Was Russia that bad?  Or is Florida that wonderful?

None of the above, really.  But when I go outside and when I realize that this year my winter consists of sunny skies, temperatures in the 20 C (70 F), slight breeze, palm trees and never having the feeling of being frozen to the seat of your car — I just rejoice.  I feel extremely grateful to be able to live in this climate, to be able to drink coffee and eat dinner outside every day, to know that I’ll wake up to sunshine almost every day, and to enjoy walking the dog.

It’s true that Miami doesn’t have a lot of things that Russia has and I miss those things every day.  But instead of concentrating on what’s lacking — I choose to focus my attention on what I have and feel gratitude for it every single day.

So what about you?  What are you grateful to have and experience in the place you are living in now?  What makes you want to say: “I live here? I live here. I live here!!!”?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

“What will I miss” list makes it easy to remember

Flight $500, Hotel $150, Expatriate Reunions… Priceless

What makes repatriation difficult?

For those who are interested to learn more about Russia and how you can make your time there successful and fun, I am offering a FREE TELECLASS: Your Experience in Russia — Success Tips.  For more information please click here.

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

Celebrating Birthdays Abroad

This week my daughter is celebrating her 10th birthday, although this birthday will be only the 4th one she’s celebrated in the country where she was born.   As a third-culture kid (a TCK) she’s already had a chance to have her special day in Brazil, Argentina, and Russia — each celebration being very different from the others.  And so, as we prepare for yet another party, I am thinking of differences in the meaning of birthdays and in birthday celebrations around the world.  Not just for kids — for adults too.

The country where I grew up (Russia) one’s birthday is a very important occasion and that importance isn’t reserved for children only.  Adults treasure their birthdays and celebrate them yearly in circles of their family and friends.  An interesting fact is that when you decide to celebrate your birthday with co-workers, it is you, who is responsible for bringing a cake to share.  My husband, an American, always found that a bit odd.

In the US birthdays are a lot less of a big deal for adults.  Your family may or may not call you on your birthday and, even if they live far away but happen to be close on that special day, they won’t always come and spend the day with you.  But in a different tradition from Russia, in the US your co-workers will treat you to lunch and your friends will treat you to dinner.

What meaning does your culture attach to birthdays?  And how have you celebrated your birthdays (or your kids’ birthdays) in different countries?  Please share!

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings …Got One?

What do Expats look for?

Money Everywhere…

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

The culture of “fees”: only in the US?

A great debate raged in the US after the Haitian earthquake.  The credit card fees and the millions upon millions of dollars that credit card companies were making from the generosity of the people touched a nerve in many.  That, coupled with the general fatigue in the population over the “other” bank fees — namely the fees that make the bankers fat and the population poor — produced an indignation over certain industries’ profits that the US hasn’t seen in years.

Then, a couple of days after hearing this indignation over the airwaves and reading about it on internet, I opened a newspaper and saw that John Oliver from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (which is my regular nightly comedy dose) is coming to a theater near me.  “Great,” I thought, “that would be a wonderful evening out.”  That was until I saw the prices — and it was not the price of the ticket that turned me off.  It was the fees.  For a $35 ticket I would have paid at least $17 in fees.  That’s 50% of the ticket!  My reasonably priced $35 ticket would quickly become a $52 dollar ticket.  And for what?  For me clicking a few buttons on the screen and making a purchase on-line?  Why should I be paying this much for them to process a ticket?  And whom would I be paying?  The ticket agencies that somehow decided that it were OK to rip the spectators off?

This was not the first time I had to pay outrageous fees in the US for getting a ticket to a show or a sports event.  I was even told I’d have to pay if I went to pick up my ticket at the theater — a “pick up” fee.  Come on.  Seriously — a pick up fee?

I’ve bought plenty of tickets for performances in Russia and Argentina and I don’t remember paying any fees let alone such outrageous amounts.  Which makes me wonder — why do we, Americans, put up with that?  Why do we let them rob us in daylight?  Is the “culture of fees” so strong in the American psyche that it’s here to stay?

What do you think?  And what has been your experience in other countries?

People who read this post also read:

To tip or not to tip…is that a cultural question?

Different colors of money

What makes repatriation difficult?

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

“What will I miss” list makes it easy to remember

The time has come for us to leave Russia and move on to our next post.  We are bringing with us boxes and boxes of Russian souvenirs (perhaps too many!), photos of places we visited, and memories of people we’ve met and of things we’ve done.  And even though all of those mementos will do their job of reminding us of our times in St Petersburg, Russia, I still feel I need a final touch to complete my Russian experience.  I need my “What will I miss” list.

I first wrote this list when we were leaving Argentina and I am glad I did.  Because every time I read it now memories of my life in Buenos Aires take on especially vivid colors.  As human beings we tend to replace old memories with the new ones and so recollections of a country, where you were awhile ago, will most certainly fade to make room for the new ones.  And that’s where the “What will I miss” list comes in handy.  It makes that long-gone experience alive for you all over again.  I suggest you do it for each place you leave behind too!

So here is my list about St Petersburg, in no particular order:

•    I will miss the beautiful white nights when memories of a harsh and grey winter disappear as fast as the speedboat to Peterhoff and when you suddenly feel you can live in this city forever.
•    I will miss our trips to the Mariinski and the Mikhailovski and the Philarmonics and the Capella and the … I can go on and on.  I will miss the fact that in this city you can go to a high quality performance every day.
•    I will miss the New Years celebrations – the time when the city is transformed into a magical fairytale where Ded Moroz (the Father Frost) and Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) are the main characters.  I will miss the optimisim in people’s eyes during that time and the omni-present “S nastupajuschim” (“Wishing you an upcoming holiday”).
•    I will miss the beauty of the city where each building is not only an architectural wonder, but also a historical one.
•    I will miss people’s dedication to remember the World War II and especially the Siege of Leningrad.  I will miss the holiday of the 9th of May, when the whole city comes together to celebrate its survival after the war and to remember those people who perished.  I know there is a lot of political exploitation of these events, but I am not going to remember them.
•    I will miss some of the world’s greatest museums and I will miss seeing group after group of Russian children touring them with their schools.
•    I will miss seeing the opening of the bridges on summer nights and I will miss the moment when the sun doesn’t disappear behind the horizon, but instead comes up as soon as it sets.

There are probably a few more things that I will miss and I can add them later.  And, of course, there are things that I will not miss, but I am not going to try to remember them.

What about you?  What would you miss when you leave the place where you are living now?

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

Flight $500, Hotel $150 … Expatriate Reunions — Priceless

One of the hardest things that we face when we live expatriate lifestyles is saying good-byes to friends. It happens more often than when we live in our own countries simply because either our postings end or postings of our friends end. And so most of us spend a good part of our overseas lives saying good-byes and making new friends, so that we can say good-byes all over again.

I bet this good-bye business was much harder in past years – before the advent of e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networking sites. It’s become much easier now to continue to stay in touch and see what your friends are up to in their new places of residence. However, no matter how convenient these things are and no matter how easy they make it for us not to forget about each other, nothing can ever replace the real face-to-face interaction.  Reunions are important.

I learned this last weekend when we finally had a 3-day get together with the circle of friends from my first year posting in St Petersburg, Russia. We planned it for almost 2 years, going back and forth on dates and places and logistics. Finally, three years after our roads went in different directions, we made it. The eight of us got together.

It is impossible to paint in words how much fun we had! Like they say in the MasterCard commercials: Flight 500 Euro, Hotel 15O Euro, Dinners out 100 Euro. The amount of laughs, smiles, memories, and overall positive energy – PRICELESS!

So I really encourage you to organize and plan reunions. It is not really that difficult – all that it requires is the commitment and the sense of making your reunion a priority on your list of things to do and spend money/time on. Seeing friends from years and countries in your memory is a gift too precious to waste.

We are already making plans for our next reunion.

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