Tag Archives: expat

Is Expatriation an Addiction?


The last few decades has seen more and more people taking up a corporate expatriate posting, with all of the benefits and challenges an expatriation can bring.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.communicaid.com

After 25 years of expatriation, experiencing very different cultures such as Japan, United States or Russia,  I think I fit very well with the definition of an enthusiastic expatriate in this interesting article published by Communicaid : I feel comfortable almost anywhere.

I consider myself a successful “serial” expatriate and I think the following characteristics are very important :

1-Curiosity with a thirst for experiencing “otherness”

2 Humility with willingness to learn different ways of thinking

3-A strong family with high resilience and an adventurous spirit

4- Deep knowledge about who you are,  your strengths, weaknesses

5-Creativity and flexible attitude toward new challenges

6- Not afraid to step out of your comfort zone

7-Future oriented mindset

If expatriation is an addiction then by definition it means you can’t stop moving even if it would be reasonable to settle down. Sometimes this is called the  “Three Year Syndrome”: some expats, get bored, after 3 years, especially if they have no other job than being an expat partner and did not blend with the local culture by establishing a network of local friends.

There is another reason why some expats move so often: with the globalization and the development of virtual teams, with some exceptions, there is no need to have long term expats once the knowledge transfer has been done. There is also more and more people who work abroad  who are not sent by big multinational companies but hired locally. The problem is then to find ways to keep a job until you can retire.  Most of the time those people are forced to move to other countries where they can transfer their unique skills.

What type of expat are you ?

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

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Why employers value intercultural skills


New research shows that employers around the world value staff who understand the role of culture at work. Source: www.britishcouncil.org

What do employers understand by ‘intercultural skills ?

  1.  Ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints.
  2.  Respect for others’ and ‘adapting to different cultural settings
  3.  Accepting cultural differences
  4.  Speaking foreign languages
  5.  Open to new ideas and ways of thinking

 How do employers evaluate job candidates for intercultural skills?

  1. Strong communication throughout the interview and selection process
  2. The ability to speak foreign languages
  3. Demonstration of cultural sensitivity in the interview
  4. Experience studying overseas
  5. Experience working overseas

 What Is Your Company Doing To Develop Intercultural Skills ? 

See on Scoop.itInternational Career

Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


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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

The “How Are You?” Culture Clash: Americans v.s. Russians


How Are You ?

The answer Americans give, of course is, “Fine.”

But when Russians hear this they think one of two things: (1) you’ve been granted a heavenly reprieve from the wearisome grind that all but defines the human condition and as a result are experiencing a rare and sublime moment of fineness or (2) you are lying”.

True for French people too, they don’t always understand that “how are you?” is not a question, just another way to say “hi” in the United States

Read more on : The ‘How Are You?’ Culture ClashBy ALINA SIMONEJAN. 19, 2014

 

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:

The Dangers Of Slang For Non-Native Language Speakers


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I have had interesting discussions with linguists and intercultural coaches after publishing an article,  “You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors”,. The debate was mainly around  words and cultural context.

The most recurrent question was:  Is it the cultural context or environment that impacts the way we attribute meaning to words and then produces thoughts that trigger certain behaviors ? or is it actually the language itself that makes us think and react in a certain way ? I would say both based on differences between regional variations of the main language such as English spoken in UK or American English or Spanish from Spain and South America.

Nobody really found a satisfactory answer as there are too many factors involved in a communication process including personal preferences. However some interesting comments highlighted the differences between native speakers and non native speakers.

I just experienced something quite typical for a non-native English speaker. I use a “curating” tool:  “ScoopIt” that helps compile different articles and blogs organized by specific topics. You can use ScoopIt to automatically quote an article in a WordPress blog then make your own comments, edit text, add images or links to additional resources.

For my previous post I found an article from “Fast Company” about networking and I kept the original title without feeling that something was wrong. One word I did not know sounded “soft” slang to me. The initial title was Yes, It’s Possible To “Network” Without Being A Scumbag … Yes, I know now, that is a really, really BAD wordProbably you were shocked to read that in my blog ! Hopefully I have an American friend who is also a regular reader of my articles who suggested that it was maybe a word I would never use in my language, especially in writing  (Thanks Barbara !). So I look at the translation for this word in French and I felt it was disgusting, obscene and vulgar. Yet when I read the title again in English I do not feel that bad, the word doesn’t trigger any emotional reaction that probably native speakers learned when they were little boys and girls watching the faces of their parents and other adults with a horrified look after they said it.

So English might be the most common language in the business world but I guess few people learn slang and profanity in their English as Second Language (ESL) classes. In every cases I would recommend to learn some slang and other swearing words to understand fully a conversation between natives but would not use them especially in writing.

Back to language and behaviors, many expats report that they behave differently when they think with words from their mother tongue or think and speak using their second language, unlike true bilingual people who learned two language simultaneously. It is clear that emotions and feelings linked to a sound or a word are learned very early in the development stage of babies and young children. It is also true that people who are exposed to technical and international  business English feel much at ease in a professional environment than some native language speakers who do not know specific jargon and didn’t learned leadership skills in English for example

How about You ?

Can you share examples of foreign words you used that were inappropriate ?

What was the reaction of people around you ?

Finding Happiness as an Expat Wife


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Are you struggling with life as an expat wife? InterNations shows you how to avert an identity crisis and how to find happiness as an expat wife.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Maybe you took a break to raise your children or manage an expatriation or both, but now you feel it is time to find a job.

It is always better to know in advance what are the job market and regulation to get the right visa but if you got noticed of your new destination at the last-minute it is not always possible.

You can take this transition time as an opportunity to explore in-depth your skills and talent and find out what you really want to do.

Not all expat wives are happy with a “demotion” and want to have same or better career while living abroad and acquire intercultural competencies that international employees and global managers need nowadays.

Using a career and transition coach who lives in your place has numerous advantages especially for building your brand, helping you design resumes, supporting your networking efforts with local professionals and elaborating job search strategy that matches local job market.

See on www.internations.org

 

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