Tag Archives: Expatriate
In this globalised world, communicating in intercultural contexts is not as easy as it may seem…
When you don’t understand someone’s behavior in intercultural context, ask questions, don’t guess through your own perception.
Be aware of your own cultural bias is a good start then listen to other people and notice similarities or differences on how messages are perceived and understood by making sure there is no misinterpretation either in words, voice tone or body language.
Good demonstration at the end of this article using Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide.
See on www.spaces.nl
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 word ! Probably 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 ?
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.
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
The New York Times Just published this article : Making Choice to Halt at Door of Citizenship
I think the article is misleading giving the wrong message that green card holders are taking all the “good things” America has to offer: jobs, education, big houses, quality of life or else but they don’t want to become American citizen for ideology, trivial reasons or because they can’t speak proper English. Really ?
I don’t need a passport for feeling “home”, I am a global citizen, and “home” is where I live with my family but I have spent enough time in the US to understand that after reading this article most Americans would be enraged to read that some legal aliens are saying they do not feel proud of becoming US citizen! A passport makes you free to live in a country as long as you want and to vote, that is the difference with a green card or a temporary work permit.
I have been a serial expat for more than 20 years, moving every 3 years across three continents. I have lived 7 years in the US but not in a row so I am not allowed to apply for citizenship yet as I am living abroad. I am a European and French citizen so I can apply for US citizenship and keep my current passport. As US permanent residents (other name for green card holders) we pay ALL our taxes on every dollars we earn anywhere like US citizens even if we live abroad. So we don’t take anything from our American friends by being green card holders, quite the opposite.
In order to keep my green card while I am living abroad, I will have to renew my re-entry permit EVERY YEAR I live outside the US more than 180 days. That means spending enough time in the US somewhere, for one month or two every summer vacations in order to make tons of paperwork until I spend again more than 6 months in America. Even doing this does not even guarantee I can keep my green card before its expiration date. Fair enough some people might think but the U.S. Tax Department might not agree with their immigration colleagues.
We want to keep the green card because our son has dual citizenship as he was born in the US. He is bilingual English/French but only 12. He has always attended American or English schools and in Grade 6 it is too late to switch him to the French system so there is a good probability that I will choose to live in the US for the last 3 years of High School and College years unless we stay abroad too long then we will lose our green cards and we will have paid a fortune in US taxes without getting anything in return not even the freedom to one day call America “home”.
If You have been a serial expat and green card holder did you make the choice to give it up or tried everything to keep it ?
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.
This article posted in www.expatica.ru is giving a great overview about cross-cultural training
Expatriate failure is defined in literature in a variety of ways, with intentions to leave listed prominently
Tailoring cross-cultural training programmes to the individual’s situation
Cross-cultural trainings should start by the selection of the best candidate for a specific international assignment. Succesful international leaders share some personality traits such as:
-Active listening skills
-Global strategic thinking with understanding of local issues/market
-Life long learner
Expectations and goals should be clearly defined as well as the key performance indicators including both contribution to local and global performance with in mind long-term impacts of the decisions taken during a short-term (2-3 years) mission. Including colleagues of the host country in the decision process is also a good idea.
Ideally, the family should be assessed too or at least get pre-departure cross-cultural trainings and transition coaching
See on www.expatica.ru
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