Category Archives: culture shock

How to breakup with your old self after a major life transition


Significant life transitions, such as moving to a new city or a new country, becoming a parent or retiring, can be exciting, exhilarating and giving you a chance to grow.  Yet transitions, even positive ones, can also be stressful and bring up mixed feelings.

Breaking up with yourself is hard, yet necessary: In transitions, you’re breaking up with who you were during that time of your life. You’re not only leaving a place and a season in life behind, but you’re also leaving a version of you.

In life transitions, feeling strangely abnormal becomes the new normal.

So right now, if it feels like you’re going through an identity crisis it’s probably because you most definitely are.

The only way to truly own your life is to take responsibility for it. Sometimes things happen and there is no logical explanation, and it doesn’t need to be anyone’s fault. Finger-pointing and blaming doesn’t take away from what happened or change the facts. In fact, it keeps you living in the past by dwelling

Control, perfectionism, micro-managing. If it serves you, that’s great. Truth is I’ve yet to meet a woman that doesn’t drive herself crazy over it.

I refer to control as a ‘losing game’. It’s perfectly natural to desire that certain things happen in a certain way, but when we create requirements that everything happens according to plan (requirements to be happy, to feel successful, to feel good about ourselves), that’s when it backfires. And it’s only because we will never truly be able to control everything and everyone in our lives. It’s an impossibility. But we do have the power to influence ourselves and our lives to our greatest abilities.

Happiness stems from freedom, not control. But we can only feel truly free when we have the ability to choose. Restrictions and control are the polar opposite of freedom.

Breaking up with OLD_YOU starts with self-awareness.

Your inner self-talk determines what you say, what you do, and how you feel every single day. Influencing it is one of the most powerful things you can do to influence your life.

If you can identify when you are talking to yourself about yourself through the eyes of guilt, shame, blame, control, or comparison, and start talking to yourself like you would your own best friend (with acceptance, compassion, and understanding), your life is going to completely change.

Transitions never occurs in a vacuum. It Involves people at every turn.

Part of transitioning well means being mindful of the process involved in saying good-bye. If we give ourselves the time and space to say good-bye well we are freer at our destination to say hello with our whole hearts. Same principle applies when you have to say goodbye to your old self.

Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


Womanblackman

I found the question in this article very interesting:   Is It Racist to Ask People Where They’re From?
As an expat, I am asked all the time where are you really from ?  and I usually have different answers for different audiences. However to many expats, they don’t feel comfortable with this question especially if they have been living in a foreign country for quite a long time and interpret the question as obviously you are not from there, you are different.
After 25 years of expatriation, I still have some mixed feelings about this question but sometimes it is good to feel different and not from “here”.  Being a French in France is actually harder for me than living abroad, I don’t know anything about popular TV shows or the secret lives of French politicians and I have often a very different view on sensitive questions as I am living on the “other side”.
When I lived in Japan in the 90s I obviously did not look Japanese and I have been asked frequently where I was from, but at that time, being French and saying I was from Paris, were magic words and I was very well treated both at work and with perfect strangers in the streets. I was kind of “exotic” there. However Caucasians were better treated than non-Japanese Asians, especially Chinese, Koreans or Filipinos.
In the US, when I lived in New York City and 8 months pregnant, strangers were giving me a “god bless you” very often, then we had the 9/11 dramatic events and my son was born 12 days later. However I got unpleasant remarks when I said I was French because at that time the French president and the government refused to send troops to Baghdad as if I had anything to do with this decision.
Altogether I had a very positive experience in NYC. I also lived in Atlanta and we were very well-integrated partly because of my son being at the Atlanta International School but generally speaking, Atlanta is a very international city. However I was shocked to see that nothing really changed since Martin Luther King Jr, I saw a lot of segregation between African-Americans and White Americans. Each community including Latin American people had their own neighborhood with very strict boundaries. I then realized that America was far from being a melting pot !
Then we spent one year in New Jersey and it was painful to have in the neighborhood listing “the French” instead of our family name.
Now we live in Russia, I don’t have any specific problems with racism, the “where are you from? ” is still there since my Russian is pretty basic but unlike the stereotypes, I find Russians very courteous with men giving their seats to women in the Metro for example. But here again even for wealthy expatriates,  it is better to be a Caucasian than having a dark skin color.

How do you feel about being asked : where are you really from ?

Related Article:  Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

Expat Life: Culture Shock May Be Inevitable But Pain Is Optional


cultureshock

At one point or another new expats will get a “lecture” about “Culture Shock” as it is explained in this video:

Not every expats experience that sequence of emotional reactions and saying this is “normal” is not removing the pain or discomfort. Often people who do not experience this “one size fits all” approach may feel “abnormal” or less competent than typical expats and sometimes think they are a failure not able to cope with their struggles while living abroad.

It is important to acknowledge first the feelings without judgement and then look at individual best coping strategies. You can’t change things you have no control about but you can change the way you think and from a new perspective make necessary changes to get the most of your expatriation.

Sometimes friends are not enough and it is important to allow yourself to find professional help.

If you need someone to deeply listen to you and help you solve issues you have as an expatriate, Please Send Me Your Message  for a complimentary coaching session

Related articles: 

Conversation Killers : What Do You Do ? Where Do You Come From ?


FACE-CONFUSED-EXPRESSION

Picture: Huffington Post : Want To Kill A Conversation? Ask Someone What They Do

Imagine , you are at a networking event and you are new in town or never met anybody in the group before, you have butterflies in your stomach, when someone comes to you and ask :

What do you do ?  Like most people you might feel embarrassed to answer such a direct question, especially when you don’t have a “job”.

Is what someone does the most important information you need to engage a conversation anyway ?

Same apply to  ‘Where do you come from? ” If you want to avoid being stereotyped, what would you answer?

Tips: Try to answer and give information about you that encourage the other person to share their personal interests .

So here what works for me:

What Do You Do? I love living abroad, meet people from different backgrounds, explore new food, discover natural wonders, learning new stuff like languages. How about you ? What do you love to do when you are not at work?

Where Do You Come From? I am not sure if where I am from defines me anymore as I spent most of my adult life living abroad, I get inspired by my French mom for cooking dishes with a Provencal flavor like “ratatouille” but would die for having authentic “zaru soba”. I really like cosmopolitan urban style of living like I had in New York, or Tokyo and now in Moscow. How about you? What are your favorite places for vacation?

If you are like most people,  you probably have fears and anxiety to engage a conversation with people you don’t know, so:

How do you feel when you get those questions ?

In addition if you are an expat “trailing” spouse like me and freshly arrived in a  city or country you may be even more uncomfortable to answer as nobody is really interested by what you are really doing : unpacking cartons, helping children adjust to their new school or being lost in translation at the supermarket. On top, you might experience the emotional struggles of the “culture Shock”.

What are your typical answers ?

What are the most embarrassing questions you ever got at a networking event ?

Related articles:

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


Globe

In the article ‘Global Mindset Secrets of Superstar Expats” published  by Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors argue that immersing executives in different cultures does not produce effective global leaders as they often fail to learn how to deal with the complexities of their work environment.

To lead is to be able to influence people who are not thinking and behaving like you. In my experience learning to lead across cultures is a mix of formal leadership development training aligned with corporate values and multiple international assignments in places with very different cultural values and dimensions (https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/tag/cultural-dimensions/ )

I challenge the concept of “‘global mindset” as it is often interpreted as an “ethnocentric” way of doing business aka “western”. You can have all the attributes listed in this article and fail to adapt your leadership style to one specific country. Applying participating leadership and asking employees to take initiatives doesn’t work well in Russia for example, while Americans appreciate leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates.

Successful leaders in developed economies are different from successful leaders in emerging economies.

In a Forbes’ article,  How Does Leadership Vary Across the Globe? results of a  study show that it is important to adapt leadership style to a specific culture and not try to apply  “Americanized” management principles. The skills set and competencies of leaders in different countries vary.

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) is an international group of social scientists and management scholars who study cross-cultural leadership. According to GLOBE researchers, leader effectiveness is contextual, that is, it is embedded in the societal and organizational norms, values, and beliefs of the people being led. In other words, to be seen as effective, the time-tested adage continues to apply: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

To gauge leader effectiveness across cultures, GLOBE researchers empirically
established nine cultural dimensions (adapted from work of Hofstede) to capture the similarities
and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs –and practices—among societies. The cultural dimensions can be used in intercultural leadership training.

Related Articles: 

The 5 Biggest Lies About Expats


ExpatMoving

It is amazing how much pressure is put on expats to comply to a certain image of the “ideal expat”.

The perfect expat does not exist and most recommendations I read on specialized blogs on how to become one are just lies !

Expats are ordinary people and accept or choose to live and work abroad for a multiple of reasons that are not good or bad. It is their lives, their choices and sometimes their mistakes when they face challenges they can’t overcome but I think no one should judge them and certainly not other expats.

In 20+ years of expatriation I have met plenty of expatriates of all kinds, some for short assignments of 2 to 3 years, others who got married and followed their spouse in their country and stayed there forever, students, executives, diplomats, adventurers, artists, stay at home moms or dads, career women, trailing spouses, TCKs etc. and they all had their own ways to deal with expatriation. Some fall in love with their new location and had a blast other hated it every single day but the majority had good and bad days just like ordinary people.

It is true that successful expats share some skills regardless of where they live, their age or social status but I don’t believe there is such thing as expat DNA implying that you are born with some innate abilities to live abroad and that you just need to follow the perfect expat model to enjoy your expat experience.

It is like asking the famous question : are leaders born or made ? My answer to this one is always “both”. You may have certain innate qualities such as emotional intelligence, curiosity, or being a good listener but you also need to experiment and make your own mistakes to learn what is the best communication or leadership style to apply when you face various situations.

Here my list of what I think are the biggest lies about expats and misleading advises on what you should or shouldn’t do while living abroad:

Lie #1: Expats are lucky managers sent by multinational companies, they have huge benefits and salary compared to locals. It may be still true in certain countries but we see more and more companies sending managers abroad with minimum relocation packages or applying local job market benefits (localized expats). People are also moving by themselves abroad to find a job without relocation support from a company. Most expatriates who find jobs abroad have usually unique qualifications or intercultural intelligence that make them in high demand in certain industries or countries. Nothing about luck here, you have to compete hard to get those jobs or go where others don’t want to.

Lie #2: Expats, especially accompanying partners, live a glamorous life, complain all the time and should live like “locals”. This one implies that “locals” are all the same and in majority less fortunate than the expats. Well, I am not sure who are the “typical local people” ? Lets take countries such as Russia for example: like most recently emerged economies, they have extremely rich people, many are young multimillionaire entrepreneurs and a relatively small middle class of young people too, concentrated in big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. The rest of the population is living in poor rural or industrial areas. Even if you are a very well paid expat you can’t even dream to have the same lifestyle of the so-called “oligarchs”. You certainly don’t want to drink as much Vodka as the average Russian men and I won’t recommend to try the local custom of bathing in icy rivers with an outside temperature of -25C .

In certain countries don’t play with your health by eating any kind of food or drinking tap water just to do like locals. I remember the story about expats in Africa getting serious diseases such as bilharzia because they did not want that local people carry them on their shoulders to cross rivers infested with bloodsucking worms.

In Dubai (UAE), March this year, a Norwegian woman was raped and jailed after reporting the crime to the local police. The case highlights the increasingly frequent tensions between the United Arab Emirates’ international atmosphere and its legal system according to Al Jazeera.

While I am a strong advocate for learning and complying as much as possible with local customs and social rules, I also encourage new comers to find a “mentor” who is either another expat or someone with extensive international experience because someone who never lived abroad or not culturally close to you don’t understand your challenges as an expat family. Even some long-term expats blame freshly arrived ones for not blending enough with people from their host country. In the later case I suspect poor empathy and maybe some kind of jealousy.

Lie #3: Expats should not seek the company of other expats, to have a successful expatriation. This injunction is directly the consequence of Lie #2. When you live in your own country nobody tells you that you spend too much time with like-minded people who share your interests, hobbies or lifestyle, so why expats should not have friends among other expats ? Maybe some scientists have evidences that link the number of expat friends with expat failure rate ? Should we apply a quota system like no more than 20% expat friends ? Here again I am advocating for the expat “trailing spouses” who usually are perceived as the ones who have all the responsibility regarding expat failures which is often the case. Unhappy partners are cause #1 for premature returns.

Not all expat families have the luxury to get an intensive language course and cultural awareness training before moving to their new country. So, to adapt quickly to a new location without too much unnecessary struggles, I recommend that you contact first thing first other expats living in your new home via local support groups or using social media. In 99.9% of the cases they will be more than happy to share their tips about neighborhoods, schools, doctors, public transportation etc. even before you say yes to moving abroad. You may even speed-up the process of meeting local friends among those who speak your language or love your original culture in such support groups.

Expats who volunteer to help new comers usually love the country and want to share mostly the good things about it but also inform them about risks such as the ones mentioned above.

Like everywhere you will meet negative people who are never happy and complain all the time but remember that you are free to be friend with whom ever you like.

Lie #4: Expats who don’t learn a foreign language are lazy and unable to adapt While learning the local language helps, it is not necessary a success factor. I know by experience that good communicators don’t use one channel and being fluent in a language does not imply you understand the culture. In addition with globalization more and more people speak English, at least in big cities.

If you can only learn few words and gestures of the local language because you don’t have enough time, don’t feel ashamed, be incredibly selfish for your sanity : find first emotionally and physically rewarding activities. For my personal balance beside working and taking care of my family, I spend my free time doing Zumba and socializing with my friends (foreign or local) rather than learning Russian intensively. As a result I may speak a broken Russian to survive but certainly be a much happier, relaxed spouse and mom.

Lie #5 Homesickness is not for serious expats This is probably the biggest lie. Almost everyone gets homesickness at some point or another. Some because they have left their aging parents behind or got frustrated not to find some specific products or fed up with the local weather or being treated as a stranger. Again, this is perfectly normal to feel homesickness even when you just move from New York to Atlanta. It is usually a cyclic pattern: you have nostalgia, want to go back home, you spend few weeks there and then you start missing your “new home” because the experience is not what you expected in your dreams. During those mini-repatriations you get a taste of what is called “reverse culture shock“: nobody is interested by your experience abroad, old friends, colleagues and family have strong opinions about the country you left and no matter what you say, they won’t change their views. At the end, you have reverse homesickness: You miss your foreign home and friends…a vicious circle, serial expats know well.

I maybe took extreme cases to illustrate my point against the “perfect expat”, but I hope I can help some expats who feel guilty and ashamed of not enjoying their “glamorous life”,  to talk about it without being afraid of being labelled as “ugly expat” and seek eventually professional support.

 

Intercultural training important to expats’ success


See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

Intercultural training programs are designed to develop cultural awareness and speed the transition process, by providing employees and their families with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to effectively interact across cultures.

See on www.chron.com

%d bloggers like this: