Tag Archives: USA

Gift Giving, Tipping and Bribery – A Cultural Understanding

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

T.W. Anderson of Marginal Boundaries discusses gift giving, tipping and bribery, and why it is important as an expat to understand cultural differences.

I am still annoyed with tipping in the US despite having living there for 7 years, especially in Manhattan.

Tipping the doorman to get a taxi for you when it rains, or helping putting  groceries in you car is OK for me since it is extra service but mandatory tipping when the service is not good is less acceptable for me than the automatic service included in most European countries.

For me living in Japan was such a relief from the tipping headache in America not knowing how much or when to give. In Japan service is included everywhere.

In Russia where I live now, some people will be offended if you tip them for the job they are supposed to do. In restaurant and cafes it is about 10 to 15% tips. I don’t know yet about favors or gift giving in a business context but I understood giving gifts when you are invited by Russians is good manners not necessarily bribery.

So agree with the article to assume nothing and ask in context what is appropriate and legal or not.

What is tipping and gift giving practices in your country ?

See on www.marginalboundaries.com

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/

Expat Life: Finding Home Abroad

Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populou...

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My definition of a home as an expatriate includes: the architecture, the layout, the light and energy vibes of the house, the neighborhood with its schools , the sport facilities. the shopping, the recreation zones, restaurants, support groups and communities, possibility to work as a spouse, public transportation, commutation time.

Choosing the right home is a crucial piece in the success of an expatriation, yet most of the time expats learn at the last-minute they will relocate to another place, usually they only have one week maybe two to find a home with a relocation company hired by the company. If the new country is too far, like Japan from France, it is rare to have a pre-visit paid by the company so expats usually stay in a business hotel or furnished apartment until they find a suitable home.

All my expat life (20+years) I have followed that pattern every three years on average. Of course the definition of my home changed along the years starting as a young student couple followed by an international double career with no kid (or DINKs), then we became a family of three with my son and I quit the corporate ladder for becoming an entrepreneur  while my husband is still climbing at it.

I am going to share some of my experiences about what it means to make “home” abroad for me.

In Japan we have lived in 4 houses at different periods of our lives between 1990 and 2006. Our first expatriation to Japan was in 1990-1991, we were post-Doc students and around 25-year-old. We were outside the “yamanote line” ( the train line in a circle that marks the limits of the center of Tokyo), in a small town called Oimachi. We had a pretty new apartment but with a traditional Japanese room with new tatami mats and futons(beddings used at night but put in closets during the day to make a living room). I still remember the smell of rice straw and reeds,  the natural and biodegradable materials that make a tatami.

At that time outside the Yamanote line no English or roman letters were used in the trains or in stores, so we learned survival Japanese pretty fast as it was not an expat area or even a place for international college students. I fall in love with Japan and this tatami smell is part of what made me at home in Japan. This first experience had a tremendous impact on the choices of our other homes in Japan.

Because this first experience was linked with wonderful experiences both about the culture and the Japanese people, we always felt at home in all of our houses and apartments in Tokyo in very different neighborhood such as the vibrant Shibuya or the very calm Komazawa-Daigaku and Shirogane

What we experienced in the USA was very different but still what made me most at home were places where I had strong emotional bonds and feeling good with people around me.

In NYC we had a relatively “big” apartment for Manhattan (3 bedrooms) on 38th street an 1st Avenue. with a tiny kitchen with no table or sun light. It was very noisy all day and night long with car horns, police and ambulance sirens. The fruits and veggies were not very fresh compared to Japan and more expensive. Yet I adored NYC ! I could walk like in Tokyo, no need for car, I was feeling free, arriving in July 2001 expecting my son to be born 1st week of October. I was just enjoying the relocation process without the usual rush to be settled quickly. For some women having a baby makes them seeing everything in pink and I was one of them and even if our apartment was far from being the ideal home, it was my home and I liked it. My baby was delivered in the NYU hospital with great doctors and nurses although it was only 12 days after 9/11. I was blessed to become a mom as that time and felt strongly connected with New Yorkers and other people during this dramatic event.

The second time that we came back to the USA was in Atlanta. At first I hated this place that was not a real city for me where you have to take your car for everything: drive in pharmacy, drive in Starbucks and Mac Donald. It was the first time I did not have time to explore and do my homework to find a house and I regretted it. It was a true culture shock as I thought I already knew how to live in America because I spent 3 years in NYC. I did not like the house I chose although I had one week to find  it with a relocation agent. I did not feel safe in this house because I had a wooden backyard, and my husband was travelling often. The heating system broke in the winter and we could not find a good handyman to fix some other stuff that were not working. I look at my new house in Atlanta with all negative filters, it was a big one but with an empty heart !

Hopefully we had a happy end like in most American movies. After 6 months, we moved to a small community of 30 houses with very nice people in Buckhead and I really loved it. It felt home because it was only 15 min drive to the school, the sport club, 5 minutes to shopping mall. I had time to make friends at the International school and I started studying how to become a professional coach and registered my coaching business Zest and Zen International there  and  got some clients before moving to Brussels.

Reference: At Home Abroad:How Design and Architecture Influence Overseas Living: http://www.interchangeinstitute.org/files/At_Home_Abroad_final.pdf

How To Select A School Before Moving Abroad ?

In my previous article “How To Meet People You Don’t Know” I was talking how to overcome your  fears about networking with strangers and strategies to meet new friends in general.

In this article, I would like to be more specific and give some tips on meeting people before you move abroad focusing on getting information about schools . In many cases expats don’t have time to visit the schools physically, so my message to new expats is:  educate yourself as much as possible before putting your destiny in the hands of relocation companies or real estate agents who do not necessarily understand what is best for you as a foreigner.

If you Google : Living in or  moving to your “destination” you will get tons of general information from history, population, climate, visas, school systems, real estate, studying  and so on which is great but easily overwhelming and sometimes very subjective.

I know the feeling : you have everything you need right in front of you on the internet but you don’t know what fits YOUR NEEDS !  So you want to talk to real people and make personal contacts living in the places of your choice.

How To Choose A Place To Live  With Children? Searching criteria about schools and neighborhoods that match your needs  is the first thing you will need.

Here  some questions you may ask yourself:

  • Do you want a public or a private school ?
  • Looking for International Baccalaureate programs PYP, MYP or IB  ?Those programs are recognized around the world and ensure adaptability and mobility for IB students.
  • Are you looking for a competitive or caring environment?
  • Do you have kids with learning disability or ADHD ?
  • Is the ratio student teacher important for you? for example in France 30 kids for 1 teacher is the norm
  • What about the languages ?
  • Do you want a religious school ?
  • Do you need extended day care if you work ?
  • Can you find your  children’s favorite sports and  after-school activities nearby ?
  • Do you need school bus?
  • What is the maximum time you want to spend on commute ?
  • Do you need public transportation?
  • How close is the nearest International airport?
  • How long do you plan to stay ?
  • Do you want to buy or rent a house or apartment?
  • What is the  average home sale prices ? Even if you don’t buy you will pay local taxes and living in a $1 million  average sale district will cost you more than a 400,00 but may have better schools.
  • How much are the local taxes ?

Before contacting anybody I suggest you put everything that you want and  that you don’t want  as well as an “I don’t know” in specific  lists.

Even if you want your children in private international schools, learn about the public school systems as in most cases your address will determine which schools you can go . This is the case in France and US for example. It is wise to live in a sector that has best rating public schools in case you need to become locals and cannot afford the high fee of an international school. On top of that, you want your kids to play with local kids and make sure you have a nice environment that suits your lifestyle

Once you have located the school districts look at homes that you can afford and are available for rent or to buy so you have your list ready to contact people living in the towns you think are a good fit for you.

You can get information directly from people living in your destination by posting questions on expat forums. I suggest you visit “expat expert” , Robin Pascoe’s website and look at her list of Links : http://www.expatexpert.com/ . Do not hesitate to engage  in personal conversations from people living in your target area who write a blog, post on Twitter, Facebook ,  Linkedin, Viadeo or Internations.org.

Here some information about school systems I have experimented with my son now in 3rd grade (CE2):

Schools In France: http://www.french-school-expat-guide.com

Schools In  Japan: Since most people who are first moving with family do not speak the local language, putting your child in a local Japanese school might not be possible. For young children however, if you cannot afford international schools and if you are working, I know a lot of  foreigners who put their children in local Japanese public daycare/preschools called  Hoikuen.  If you are students with kids, some universities have on campus nursery schools. You also need to check the enrollment procedures in your district(Ward). For older kids starting elementary schools and above,  you might check with your embassy resources about education.

Schools and neighborhoods in the USA: It is amazing how much information is available as free public statistics: you can compare schools and towns based on People, Cost of Living, Economy, Ethnicity, Housing, Health, Crime, Climate,
Education, Transportation, Religion, Voting etc.

Compare places to live:

The Boomer Boom On Social Media

Baby Boomers Haven

[tweetmeme source=”AnneEgros”]

Few months ago Mashable. com  posted :

Why Your Grandpa Is on Facebook ? “Old people” on Facebook: They couldn’t beat it, so they joined it

So by now,  you have probably noticed that  the Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing demographic on social media, especially Women 50 and older.

More than 25 percent of Americans 50 years and older stay connected using sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, according to new research. Reuters Life

So, who are those Baby Boomers turning 50  in 2010 ?

Look at those  13 celebrities who are turning 50 in 2010 such as  Hugh Grant or Antonio Banderas and what about those sexy stars 50 and older like Sharon Stone or Madonna? Definitively not the look of  my grandpa or grandma !

So the Baby Boomers characteristics are :

  1. Age:  46-64
  2. Represent 40 % of the adult population in the USA
  3. Represent the wealthiest  and largest market segments in the USA, UK and Australia.
  4. Control 60% of the discretionary spending in the US
  5. Own 77 percent of the U.S. assets in their name.
  6. Own 80 percent of the U.S. savings dollars in their name.
  7. Women live longer than men , so the women 50+ represent 52 percent of the total population of  Baby  Boomers

According to the latest survey by AARP on social media usage by boomers 50 and older, social networking is becoming more and more of everyday life of Americans 50+ and specifically the Boomer demographic.

  • Two out of five (40%) adults age 50 and over consider themselves extremely (17%) or very (23%) comfortable using the Internet.
  • The majority of those 50+ who access the Internet do so from a desktop computer (57%).  One-quarter use a laptop (26%), 4 percent use smartphones/blackberries, 4 percent use mobile phones, and one-quarter (27%) do not access the Internet.
  • Approximately one-quarter of all those 50+ use social media websites (27%) with Facebook being by far the most popular (23%).

Boomers not only spend more money in general, they also tell others about their experiences more often. They are typical word-of-mouth customers and are the most wiling to share their experiences online.

According to,  Social media examiner.com, Boomers are using social media  to help them live longer and better lives and keep them connected to family, friends, co-workers and, eventually, healthcare providers” .

I am myself a late Baby Boomer, not yet turning 50,  but I am very active on LinkedinTwitter and more recently on  Facebook.  I have seen a switch on Linkedin : more and more global executives 50 and older are making a profile and participate in discussions.

On both Linkedin and Twitter Boomers are often  “activists”, willing to make new connections with like-minded people for their personal and professional networks.

Facebook remains #1 for sharing news with friends and family, but as it  is including more and more connections  with Twitter and other platforms, a growing number of  big  and small companies use Facebook to gain insights about their customers and to provide  information about their businesses through Facebook’s fans pages

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