Tag Archives: Belgium

Expat Women Confessions

When I first heard about the new book “Expat Women Confessions – 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad” launched today May 5, 2011 by the founder, and the director of  Expatwomen.com and book author Andrea Martins, I thought that the word “confession” was a very appropriate word to readjust the “glamorous” image of real expat women by sharing “the good, the bad and the ugly” of being an expat woman.

My own confession to you is that although I am very proud of my achievements as a professional, a wife, a mother and the woman I became today after 20 years of expatriation, I must admit I have a tendency to minimize and hide my personal struggles and over-emphasize my successes and the benefits of being a corporate international assignee or a local foreigner.

By becoming a career  and life coach with many expatriate women as clients, I realized that we do share similarities in our lives regardless of nationalities, countries, age and even social status.

I wrote two articles I want to share again with you to give you an idea of the importance and big impact of the role of women in the expatriation failure or success:

Those topics are very well-developed in “Expat Women Confessions

Still today I feel kind of “failure is not an option” trying to balance all my roles. I have also the perception that the self-imposed pressure to succeed as a mom, wife, business owner, coach and managing current relocation is partly due to my guilt of moving away again from family , friends, clients and sadness to leave behind my best kept secrets about Brussels:  my favorite restaurants, cafe, boutiques and many other nice places and people I enjoyed.

In addition this time we are moving back to the USA after two years in Belgium but we chose our own destiny: we are not following any company and we can only blame us if something goes wrong , right ?, well wrong! In all decision-making processes you have to deal with the loss of the other options. It takes time, there is no magic recipe. During this “in between” periods just after the final decisions have been made and when there is no turn back options, I feel the most vulnerable especially after all the excitement and adrenalin shots I had for the last two months !

Not only I encourage you to buy  the book (it is on Amazon.com), if you are an expat-to-be or a veteran expat woman or have a family member who is one of them, I also encourage you to participate in the $5,000 Book Launch Competition , you can win coaching sessions including those with me at  Zest and Zen international

For more resources visit: http://www.expatwomen.com/

The Secret Powers of Time and Cultural Differences


In the video below you will see interesting perspectives of time perception through the eyes of different cultures, countries, generations, religions.

According to Professor Philip Zimbardo, people look differently at time based on cultural and individual values:

  • Focused on the past  (negative or positive): people remember all the good old times, successes, happy birthdays while other people focus
    only on regrets, failure and all the
    things that went wrong.
  • Focused on the present ( hedonists and fatalists) the hedonists live for pleasure and avoid pain. The fatalists are present oriented because they say, “It doesn’t pay to plan”  My life is fated by my religion – fated by my poverty – fated by the conditions that I’m living under.”
  • Focused on the future depending on your religion life begins after
    the death of the mortal body. To be future oriented you have to trust that when you make a decision about the future it’s going to be carried out. For example : If you have great inflation you
    don’t put money in the bank because you can’t trust the future.
  • Sense of duration : how much time has expired while you’re sitting in a dentist’s office before they start drilling? How much time has expired when you’ve been waiting in line? how much time has expired when you’re having fun? Time duration is totally a function of whether you’re bored, in pain, excited or not.
  • Pace of life: for some people time is money and think it must be spent wisely and are multi-tasking oriented,  while for others, time is not limited and they focus more on people and building relationships than being on time for an appointment.

With these perspectives in mind, I found interesting to compare time perception between North Americans and Europeans as there are huge differences.

Most Europeans enjoyed more than 4 weeks of vacation per year:  almost 8 weeks in France or  6 weeks in Germany in addition to bank holidays. In America, the majority of small business owners work seven days a week and more than 12 hours per day and many American employees have only 2 week or even less vacation.  In the United States,most  people can be reached by their company even when they are on holiday. Thanks to the smart phones and other tablets, Europeans employees too can be reached during non business hours but it is tolerated that they don’t answer during their private time.

In many European countries paid maternity leave is 4 weeks before delivery and about 6 weeks after. In the US I have seen many women working until one day before delivery and going back to work few days after the baby was born.

It is not uncommon to see French spending 2 hours for a business lunch and even more for a dinner and Germans have a break and get breakfast  at work around 10 am.

I lived and worked in Manhattan and the contrast is big, people walk faster than in Paris. Most people  go to a salad bar or get  a sandwich and eat in front of their computer. Almost everywhere in America,  you have business lunch meetings where employees have pizzas and coffee available while listening and talking.

In the United States, most shops and restaurants are open on Saturdays and Sundays and you can shop 24/7  if you want. This is same in Japan but in many European countries, almost everything is closed Sundays and in Belgium most restaurants are closed for lunch on Saturdays.

You can watch the whole lecture by Professor Philip Zimbardo here:




Breakfast Seminar for HR Professionals October 5, 2010

Leo Verhoeven- Christine Van den Berghe- Karine Vandenplas

Kindly invite you to our free

Breakfast Seminar for HR Professionals

October 5, 2010-Brussels, Belgium

Expats and family—Coaching for a successful expatriation-Anne Egros

What does it take to be a succesful expatriate ?  How a company and its employee can maximize the benefits of an expatriation? With this aim in mind, we will guide you during this session through a number of supporting processes, such as expat coaching, spouse employment and managing intercultural differences.

Social Networking– Charlie Crouch

We have all heard about using social media for sharing with friends and family.  But what about your professional life ?  Can social media help you advance your career in these challenging times ?  Is using social media dangerous, will it prove embarrassing or worse ?  Isn’t social media just for young people ?

Master of Ceremonies:  Dirk Haesevoets, The House of Trust

How to register for the seminar :

You can register until September 16, 2010 via events@ackroyd.be

Note that the number of participants is limited.

Date : October 5, 2010 from 8:00 to 10:00

Location : KBC, Grote Markt 18, 1000 Brussels.

Free breakfast.

After registration you will receive a confirmation with plan for directions to the location-Parking will be available.

Expat Life: Returning Home and the Grief Cycle

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For every change, positive or negative, people go through various emotional stages. Dr Kubler-Ross described those stages as the “Grief Cycle (On grief and grieving By Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, David Kessler). Those stages are the following:Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

Most people resist changes, it is part of our primitive brain which triggers the release of all the stress hormones to prepare the body for the unknown and the fight or fly mode.

For example, repatriation can be very brutal and stressful, much more difficult than expected. In my experience, very few repatriation cases are success stories. Usually, returning “home” equal loss of status and independence, lower salary and benefits. Beside the materialistic losses, it is really hard for the repatriate to “fit in” again in an organization that does not care about your experience abroad despite all the positive changes you made for your company and yourself. It is not rare that the repatriate quits his job or get fired within the first year of repatriation.

The emotional roller-coaster described in the Grief Cycle can be very similar if you loose a loved one or your job. It is important to recognize and acknowledge where you are in the process and seek specific help.

Planning ahead is not always possible however if you are aware of the risks before embarking in your expatriation journey, I suggest you start the first days of expatriation identifying and cultivating your existing connections, build new networks, seek for friendship and professional support, look at added-value trainings and keep good relationships with colleagues left “home”. When expatriation is over, maybe take this as an opportunity for a career change or consolidate your value proposition among recruiters and people in your networks. With unemployment rates skyrocketing, lay-off can happen to anybody, expatriate or not and knowing the Grief Cycle may help you getting the right support.

Quick Tips On Social Networking For Business

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I have listened to this complimentary webinar and I found it very valuable and clear on what is in it for you to use social networking for business.

Audio/slides presentation from George Kao: http://www.georgekao.net/choice.html

Here a brief summary of key learnings for me and my own observations.

1-Work Less ! spend energy on:

  • Current partners who can help you reach your ideal audience,
  • Current and previous clients
  • New partners leading to potential new clients

2-Don’t get distracted by new gadgets, don’t be a tester and avoid the shiny new things

3-Less is more: Be better at what you are best rather than trying to reach new niches

4-Don’t update too often: you don’t need to update your blog  regularly or send tweets everyday  and work yourself to death:  Know your partners and focus on maximum 3 platforms: for George Kao it is FaceBook, Linkedin and Twitter. For me it is only Linkedin and Twitter. FaceBook is too much maintenance for me and low ROI as professionals I target do not use FB for business.

5-Use you personal name as a personal brand in profiles or account names. Social networking is about making meaningful and authentic conversations. It is always better to connect on a  personal level. I recommend you add a nice professional picture, people like to see real people. I don’t like cartoons, birds or logos.

6-Tell stories about who you really are: people want conversations from real people they can trust and with whom they have something in common. It does not mean that you should share personal information if you don’t feel it, do what is most appropriate for your business.

7-Optimize your profiles for automatic lead generation: search about key words that give you a good ranking on search engines, add them to your profiles to be found by your potential clients and partners. Do not forget your own name and company name, your location if that matters to your audience, anything unique about you and your business.


I think Linkedin should be your #1 platform as a professional or business owner. Even as a passive  job candidate, you should always update your profile and show up in some groups to build your expert image. It is also a great tool to know what your competitors are doing and your industry new trends. I recommend you to test all the applications on Linkedin and use what is best for you to communicate about you and your business. For example I like blogs, Powerpoint presentations,  Amazon.com book lists.


I am using Twitter to get new ideas from an infinite number of great people who are experts in their fields. I  survey opinion leaders like Guy Kawasaki or George Kao for example and I share (RT) with my own networks including my blog and my Linkedin groups.  At first look  I did not find Twitter very attractive :  too much irrelevant  information, too much time to build very few true connections. Then I started using tools like Hootsuite or socialoomph to automate some functions like programming posting or managing people.

I have now reduced greatly the  time spent on both Linkedin and Twitter and get better results as George Kao said.

In this article: Four Ways Social Networking Can Build Business” http://ht.ly/27suk you will read about four professionals who used social networks to change the game. William Baker, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University, surveyed 1,600 executives and found that firms that rely heavily on external social networks scored 24 percent higher on a measure of radical innovation than companies that don’t. Online networks can help you hire the right people, market your product — or even find a manufacturer.

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