Tag Archives: Expatriate Life

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


Summer is already here and for expats in transition toward a new destination it is the time to put your resilience at work.

Here a popular post I wrote about one year ago with tips on how to develop your resilience and keep your sanity while moving to a new country or going back “home”

Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach

Are Expats More Resilient?

By Guest Contributor

June 16, 2011

by Anne Egros

 Anne is in the middle of move #12, back to the USA in New Jersey, after two years in Brussels, Belgium and asks if expats are more resilient ?

 “Resilience” is the positive capacity of people to survive and “bounce back” after failures and adversity. I think it is a pretty complex topic. In addition, what makes you thrive and happy, may be stressful for somebody else. However, no matter what the nature of the stress, resilience can be developed by learning adaptive coping strategies.

I am just now in the middle of move #12, going back to New Jersey, USA, after two years in Brussels, Belgium. The fact that I have been a serial expat for 20 years, between Europe, Japan and USA does not make the packing and the administrative work easier but psychologically…

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Dump Facebook, Keep Your Friends: A Step-By-Step Guide


When you are a long-term expatriate like me (20+ years in the air), Facebook is a fantastic tool, mainly for two reasons:

1-To stay in contact with friends and family from all over the world, who can provide emotional support when you feel lonely and experience “culture shock”

2-To contact other expatriates and people you don’t know who can give you vital information such as schools, neighborhoods, medical support etc. to help you make an informed choice regarding your next International assignment and make contacts even months before your move. Read more about “5 Tips on how to connect with people yo don’t know”: 

However there is a big problem,especially  when you work from home. In my case Facebook takes more time than it should and it kills my productivity and I cannot stay focused on important things. I can always argument that it is for the reason #2,  I mentioned above,  but it is not 100% true.

I have tried various tools such as a simple kitchen timer or switching my PC on only after the main tasks were done, which is not practical when your clients are communicating online with you. I even try something more sophisticated like  “StayFocusd” a great application but you can always delete it if you feel frustrated that the 60 minutes you allocated on social media for ” not-so-important stuff” is over.

So when I came across the title of this article from FastCompany.com, I saved it on  Scoop.it  Global Leaders my online magazine, which is an excellent tool to keep important educational articles and ultimately save your time.

Then I started to  experiment some of the basic tips:

You don’t have to say goodbye to your friends in order to keep the good parts of Facebook and avoid the constant distraction.

I started to look at the information on my news feed and deleted many pages that were just noise, I sometimes just liked pages to please others but completely out of my sphere of interests. I realized I liked 600 pages in 4 years ! Way too much and the pruning will be a long but necessary process.

Then I have changed my email notification to keep getting “Semi-important Stuff Coming Via Email” as recommended in the article.

The ultimate step is the  weaning process that keeps you away from Facebook website. I know one friend who did it and I will see if I really need it.

How do you stay focused, productive AND keep the best of social networking ? 

See on www.fastcompany.com

Guess What Posts Were Most Read In 2011 ?


If you have a blog:

  1. What were your 11 most read posts in 2011 ? See table 
  2. Do you think those most read posts reflect your expertise or interests? I think I do 
  3. Do you write for your audience or for yourself first and then see what sticks ? Both
  4. Do you have a content strategy ? Yes but need more interactive content

Please share your own comments 

Here my top 11 Most Read Posts in 2011(click on the link to read the article)

5 Tips on How to Connect With People You Don’t Know (Part II)
Stay-At-Home Dads: A Recession Effect or Positive Choice?
Cross-Cultural Non Verbal Communication
Expat Life: Returning Home and the Grief Cycle
Social Media Usage Across Cultures
Desperate Ex-Career Expat Wives: Do Not Patronize Them!
Klout Score: Content Is Key !
How to Develop Cultural Intelligence? Intercultural Dimensions
What Leaders Can Learn From Japan’s Earthquake ?
How Is Expatriate ROI Defined In Global Companies ?
Does Raising Bilingual Children Make Them Smarter ?

Most Commented

Desperate Ex-Career Expat Wives: Do Not Patronize Them!
Lady Gaga: Are Leaders Born That Way ?
Klout Score: Content Is Key !
What Can We Learn About American Culture From Captain America ?
The Secret Powers of Time and Cultural Differences
3 Sure Ways To Never Be Happy
Resilience During Disasters: Are Expats Better Prepared ?
Is It The End Of Expat Executives ?
How to Manage Anger, It Can Be Very Positive And Incredibly Destructive
Do You Work Too Hard ? Some Cultural Perspectives
Social Media Usage Across Cultures                   

Why don’t you make a similar compilation in your blog and post the link here in the comment section? It is shameless promotion for your blog and we can cross-post feedback about the posts-thank you,

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How To Move On After Moving In ?


English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

Any move to a new home, either next door, next state or across continents is a “moving” experience in more than one way.

No matter how often you changed residence before, moving brings a variety of emotions. I have been moving 12 times and still no matter what, I experience the same emotional pattern starting from excitement about discovering new places, new friends, new school and neighbors to discouragement when you start being frustrated that after about three months you still have cartons non-open, you start to lose confidence in your ability to start a new life, find a best friend, re-start a business and fit in your new community.

The good news is that in most families the new experience usually brings member closer as they cannot rely on external support yet. However when the trailing spouse realizes how hard it is to lose a career, a purpose and  trade a glamorous status for SAHMs or SAHDs things get more complicated. Children often mirror their parents’ emotional status so if the couple is happy, usually kids are fine too.

In his book “The First 90 Days”,  Michael Watkins explains that you basically have three months to take visible actions that have immediate results so people turn from skeptical observers to enthusiast supporters. This may work in corporations, but 90 days for expats or new comers are really nothing. You cannot re-build a life, a social network and a safety net in such short time. High achievers are more likely than others to suffer from too much pressure and stress they put on themselves to prove they are highly adaptable.

There is also an element of grief. No matter how eager you are to move, there will be places, things, and people you will miss.  Many family members experience emotional ups and downs.

Moving is a challenging and difficult experience for a family, especially for children. It is natural, therefore, for parents to be concerned about the effect of the move. When faced with a move, it is important to remember that reactions from children will vary depending on their personality and developmental age. The personality of the child is important because it influences the time a child may take to adjust to the move. Some children are naturally outgoing and will be able to make friends immediately while some other children may take months.

To summarize in a nutshell the concept of “moving on” after “moving in” follow these three steps:

1-Recognize you need time to adjust and that the speed of adaptation varies greatly depending on the age, the status and the personality of the family members

2-Acknowledge any loss you had by leaving your previous home but consciously decide to look to the positive aspects of your new situation and what you can gain by discovering your new place and avoid comparing “before ” and “after” the move.

3-Use the transition period to clarify your values, your vision and purpose in life. Think out of the box and have a personal project that brings you joy and happiness such as going back to school, volunteering, starting a business or improve your fitness level, Choose something specific that is aligned with your values,  who you truly are and what you really enjoy to do, do not chose a project because you have to. Find partners and friends to help find resources and keep your motivation high.

Is You Accent Ruining Your Career ?


An accent is a way of pronouncing a language in a certain group of people.. It is therefore impossible to speak without an accent. The influence of your accent on your career is not as important as it used to be before the era of globalization and internet where billions of people speak English as a non-native language. But do accents still matter? Absolutely, especially if it is interfering with you capability to communicate well with customers, peers or your boss.  Even a subtle accent can misrepresent you, and possibly even hurt your chances of getting hired.

TV , the internet and movies create stereotypes for both foreign and regional accents. There are many American accents, each with its own distinct stereotypes. Certain American accents carry the stereotypes of being “uneducated” or not suitable for a customer services or sales job. Some studies have shown that a south-east accent is the best one to get ahead in finance for example. Most people have negative attitudes toward Individuals with non-standard accents. Researchers consistently show that people with nonnative or foreign accents are judged as less intelligent, less competent and less educated.

In almost any business, it is an advantage to be a clear communicator, it doesn’t mean that you have to change your accent as long as people can listen to you effortlessly. Some result of experiments published in the “Scientific American” Journal demonstrated that accent might reduce the credibility of non-native job seekers, court eyewitnesses, or college instructors for reasons that have nothing to do with xenophobia per se but instead related to “cognitive fluency” that means the brain preference for easy way to process information.

For people working in England for example:

Top 5 accents most likely to help your career:
1. Cambridge
2. Essex
3. Irish
4. London
5. Newcastle

Top 5 accents most likely to hinder your career
1. Glasgow
2. Birmingham
3. Manchester
4. Middlesbrough
5. London

For Foreigners living in North America certain accents are more “sexy” than others. In a new research study conducted jointly by the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, three thousand American men and women ranging in age from 18 to 54 were monitored to detect the attractiveness of different foreign accents. Here the results:

FOR MEN

  1. Italian
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. Southern
  5. Greek

FOR WOMEN

  1. Italian
  2. Spanish
  3. French
  4. Greek
  5. Irish

The impact of an accent is subjective, it depends on the context but you must be careful to express empathy with the person you talk to. For a job interview, you have to pay extra attention to your pronunciation the same way you should do about your body language and your clothes. In a previous article I spoke about the different meanings of colors in different cultures .The Power of Color In Doing Business Across Cultures, In another one I give some example of Facial Expressions Of Emotion Across Cultures  on how mimicking facial expressions helps you better communicate.

If people ask you too often to repeat what you are saying it might be a good idea to try to acquire the local pronunciation to be better understood. However accent is only one aspect of intercultural communication and its negative impact can be compensated by learning cultural traits and non-verbal gestures,

Here some tips for foreign people living in America to improve their communication skills in English without spending a fortune in accent reduction programs:

  1.  Self-training by listening to recorded materials or podcasts
  2. Listen to local radio and watch local news on TV
  3. Join your local toastmaster group (usually the meetings are free) http://www.toastmasters.org/
  4. Find networking groups with people sharing you interests (you can check Meetup groups for example)

Related resources:


Expat Kids: Motivation, IQ Test Scores And Future Success ?


This is a picture of an IBD (International Bac...

Image via Wikipedia

ScienceDaily (2011-04-27) –New psychology research demonstrates a correlation between a test-taker’s motivation and performance on an IQ test and, more important, between that performance and a person’s future success. Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology in Penn’sSchool ofArts and Sciences, led the research.

“IQ scores are absolutely predictive of long-term outcomes. But what our study questions is whether that’s entirely because smarter people do better in life than other people or whether part of the predictive power coming from test motivation” Duckworth said

Duckworth and co-workers concluded that people who get high IQ scores, probably try hard and are intelligent. But for people who get low scores, it can be an absence of either or both of those traits.

This is a fundamental question for any parent and educator as well. But for expatriate parents there is an additional question : what means “intelligence” in a multicultural context ? Are those IQ tests standardized in all languages and cultures? Many researchers think that it is almost impossible to develop a test that measures innate intelligence without introducing cultural bias. Others have demonstrated that meaning of intelligence across cultures are very different (Intelligence across cultures)

So if we cannot measure innate intelligence in a multicultural context, can we really make a difference in our children future life?  In a previous post: Praise and Incentives: Are Carrots Worse Than Sticks? , I described a recent study demonstrating that too much incentives may be linked to poor motivation, so what is the right balance ?  Again is motivation a universal concept ? Can we get individualized learning plans at school ? can we move to a more diverse education integrating various cultural sensibilities?

Many parents of third culture kids have demonstrated the benefits and the down sides of raising multicultural and multilingual children but in the era of globalization and intense migration across borders what is the future of an affordable intercultural education ?

Since my son was 3, he has been to International schools following the IB program (see definition below). However, most IB schools are private and if the company is not paying for the  tuitions it might not be possible to spend between 15,000 to 30,000 US$ per child and per year. IB schools are also not available everywhere, I was surprised to find no IB school in the Northern part of New Jersey while the curriculum was available for free in some public schools in Atlanta.

Description of the  IB program  : founded in 1968 and currently adopted in approximately 2,250 schools in more than 140 countries. There are 750 IB schools in the United States. There are three levels to the IB – the PYP (Primary Years Program), the MYP (Middle Years Program), and the IB (International Baccalaureate program).

“With the development of a continuum of international education, it is intended that teachers, students and parents will be able to draw confidently on a recognizable common educational framework, a consistent structure of aims and values and an overarching concept of how to develop international-mindedness”

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