Become an Ugly Expat in 12 easy steps

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You’re probably familiar with the expression “Ugly American,” a pejorative and stereotypical term for US expatriates who alienate the locals with their loud and disrespectful behaviour.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

I have been an expat by choice for 20+ years and I am guilty of being sometimes an ugly expat (especially complaining about local bureaucracy or simply craving for some food I can only find in my home country) BUT, I would never judge another expat based on my experience.

In fact, I think there is no such thing as an ugly expat, only lonely or frustrated people who simply don’t know how to get their basic needs met. Not everybody get cross-cultural training or can afford to hire an expat coach before moving abroad to understand what specific challenges they will face in a new country.

They never heard about words like “TCK” or “trailing spouse” or “culture shock” and why should they ?

Lets be practical and realistic : If you don’t speak the language, never visited the country and know nobody there, I would strongly suggest that you call first your embassy to get in touch with other expats who can understand you and how you feel, provide resources they tested such as medical centers, shopping etc.. You will have more chance to be a happy expat !

Here a great article from fellow expat coach Margarita Gokun Silver:
I like particularly habit # 5: Happy expats know that feeling sad at times is part of the game ( and that you are allowed to vent your frustration too )


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9 thoughts on “Become an Ugly Expat in 12 easy steps

  1. Dorothy Dalton January 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm Reply

    Anne – this is so true. Your insights are pertinent. I have also been a long term expat (really an emigrée by now) and have seen many individuals and families flounder because of the lack of cross cultural input to support this massive transition. In many cases it is the trailing spouse who deals with the brunt of the challenges while the working partner has the structure of a business support system. We can all be ugly at times but there are those that are uglier than others and they tend to go whence they came!

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach January 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm Reply

      Hi Dorothy, agree there are certain expats complaining all the time, saying everything is much better “home”, not respecting local people and negative on almost every aspects of their expat life but I know ugly peole whining and complaining all the time in their home country too. Are ugly people more prevalent among expats ? Well I don’t know, but very serious studies show that unahppy trailing spouse is reason number one for expat failure. So frankly I have met more happy expats in 20 years than ugly ones. The most difficult part is often repatriation to the “home” country”.

      I think “traditional ” expats with “trailing” spouses tend to disappear. More and more families decide to become global citizens without an all inclusive “expat package”. In that case the expatriation is more a lifestyle choice and both partners seek positive experiences.

  2. rickzullo January 25, 2013 at 4:35 am Reply

    Good article, Anne. Yes, I agree that a lot of “happiness” depends on whether or not you’re there by choice. Those who elected an expat lifestyle tend to feel “free” to abandon it if things don’t go as planned. While those who are trapped by a job or a spouses job are more likely to resent their circumstances..
    I particularly like what you said about repatriation. I agree that it is likely to be more difficult that the expatriation.

  3. Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach January 26, 2013 at 12:49 am Reply

    Thanks Rick for your comment. About the stress of repatriation many people don’t know how hard it can be and it is a real problem most companies do not care about. In my experience more than 50% of long term repatriates are leaving their company or are fired within 2 years following an expatriation.This is particularly true for executives who are 50+

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