May 11, 2011

I am a “Lovepat”

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At the FIGT conference this year, I was talking to another presenter, Carolyn Vines, about identity, accompanying spouses and expat life, when she mentioned the word “lovepat”. A huge bell started clanging in my ears as I realized the word was perfect to describe one part of me – the one that decided to settle down in my husband’s country. And so I decided to write about it. This is the article that came out of that decision. As personal as it is, it seems to be touching others, seeing the comments that it is engendering. So needless to say, I want to share it with you too.

May 6, 2011

Who Cares About Reverse Culture Shock?! I Do, and So Should You!

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Suite101 has a great series on Work/Study abroad which features several articles on expat life by contributing writer Maria Foley. Since I’ve been focusing on reverse culture shock a lot lately, I wanted to share these two articles by her, with blurbs from various interviews with expats who have gone through the experience, and references to a great piece by Sheila J. Ramsey, PH.D., and Barbara Schaetti called ‘Re-entry: Coming “home” to the Unfamiliar’. Maria’s second article offers solutions on how to manage reverse culture shock, which are practical and important.

May 2, 2011

More Reverse Culture Shock!

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The information on reverse culture shock just keeps coming. Last week I blogged about it and included various sites and articles I had come across on the subject. Since then, there have been many more. I have shared a few, but don’t want to inundate you with this topic. However, I think this is a good one and worth a mention. It’s from last year, but it’s as relevant as ever. In it, Expatica features a good summary of reverse culture shock – what it is, how it shows itself and how to manage it. With information drawn from various sources and other websites, it does a good job of explaining how it happens, what it is and how to cope. Read the full article here.

April 29, 2011

Should You Take That Job Abroad?

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Here is an excellent article from Fortune in the style of an advice column. Annie Fisher is Fortune’s advice columnist in “Ask Annie”, and she has some good things to say. “Not Packing Yet” writes in to ask if he should bother with the offers given to him by his company to take an international assignment in Spain or Latin America (because he speaks Spanish). The article summarizes current trends and offers solid advice based on those. The trends are changing, and the current situation shows that more managers are being sent abroad this year. And although it’s easier to stay in touch with the home office these days thanks to the internet, there are still challenges faced when returning home and finding a place for yourself professionally. The article offers up both points of view and even features Thunderbird professor Mansour Javidan, who is extremely active in researching and promoting effective work across cultures for executives and managers. He is heading Thunderbird’s Global Mindset Project. Read more about him and the project here. The main point of the article is that taking on an expat assignment should be preceded by thoughtful consideration and preparation. Just jumping in could lead to failure and running away could mean losing out on some of the best experiences of your life, as well a successful career, especially if you have C-level ambitions.

April 28, 2011

Top 10 Expat Concerns

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This two-part series on Shelter Offshore website is a solid and thorough look at the Top 10 concerns expats have when taking that assignment abroad. It’s based on the HSBC Expat Explorer series of surveys reflecting the top concerns of expats going abroad, and Shelter Offshore website offers solutions for how to handle those concerns and overcome the challenges.

April 26, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock – Coming Your Way

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I’ve become more and more interested in and concerned about the effects of reverse culture shock. I myself have gone through it countless times, most significantly when I moved “home” to the US to go to college. Not only did I leave my beloved Thailand, home for 5 years and all of high school, but I also said goodbye to my parents who moved to Nigeria for the next five years. I lost everything in that moment, but I eventually worked things out, as I always did. Now with social media I am seeing more and more blogs, websites and articles on repatriation. They say that repatriation is the hardest part of expatriation, and from the looks of it, it’s certainly something we need to pay attention to, as expats and professionals; whether in multinational HR departments or as providers of services to expats. Here are a few examples of mentions I have recently come across. There is no reason why so many deal with the US and Asia, it just turned out that way.

Here is a blog from a young woman who taught for a year in Korea. This is from an American woman living in China and her experience visiting the U.S. Another is from an American woman coming to terms with being back in the US after living in Japan. Here is another from Jennifer Kumar, a cultural adjustment coach, and yet another from blogger and traveler, Amanda Kendle, who wrote a feature article on vagabondish.com. To top it all off, here is a full article series from Expatica NL, which is dedicated to covering all aspects of repatriation, including an article re-entry shock. I could go on and on with this list, but I think this provides a good overview of what you can find online.

April 25, 2011

It’s All Relative

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Recently, in January, there was a big scandal in Norway regarding the deportation of a young Russian national back to Russia, as she was living in Norway as an illegal immigrant. The backlash was intense and the Norwegians were up in arms about the unjust treatment by the government of this young woman Amelie, who had lived in Norway for years illegally after going into hiding when her request for asylum was rejected in 2003. She managed to get her Master’s, and wrote a book on her experiences.

Deportation of anyone in Norway is seen, at least through the media lens, as victimization. It’s an embarrassment for such an “open”, “advanced” and “tolerant” nation. It was easy to sympathize with Maria Amelie and root for a reversal of the decision. She became the face of the faceless refugees who come to Norway’s shores for a better life. But I wonder if she would have had as much support and publicity if she had been a refugee in Russia? I am quite certain the answer is no.

At times I get a real impression that we live in a fish bowl, where we only see our own reality. Always on the inside looking out. I hear so many complaints from expats, immigrants, refugees and even concerned natives living and working in ie. Sweden (and the EU), Norway, and the U.S. (countries with which I am very familiar) about the bureaucracy, long waits, laws and regulations limiting their ability to gain residency or citizenship in said countries. I don’t mean to belittle the frustrations felt in the pursuit of belonging, a basic human need and, I believe, right. I too have had to wait in line, fill in paperwork and come under scrutiny for years in order to gain a residency or a citizenship I felt should be my birthright.

But when I read an article such as this one about the situation for foreigners in a country such as Saudi Arabia, I get angry. These are people who have lived for generations in the Kingdom. Can this be right? It is scarcely believable. In comparison, how can we possibly complain?! And Saudi Arabia is far from being unique in this. Look at the rules for Japan, Thailand, or even Russia. In comparison, getting residency in Scandinavia or the US is a walk in the park – on a sunny day, in spring! The rewards surely make the wait and the worry worthwhile.

I know that I could get unhappy responses from those who tried to go through the legal process (including my husband), who did nothing wrong and were still denied work, residency or citizenship for a seemingly random reason. I realize I am making a general point. But I hope you see it. I want you to be aware of what hoops others have to go through. As for Maria Amelie, she returned to Norway April 16th with a work permit, thanks to new legislation brought about by the uproar her case caused. Now THAT is democracy at work. And again, that is something we should be grateful for, and which the Indians and Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia can only dream of.

April 24, 2011

TCKs Redefined and Redefined Again

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A brilliant, heartfelt little gem of a response by Ruth V. Reken to an article written on edexpat.com on who a TCK really is. Her response was in order to clear up some misperceptions regarding TCKs as adult “victims” of a global childhood. I’ve never felt like a victim, though I can truly say I identify with the TCK lifestyle and process, both as a child and now as an adult. I was thrilled to learn that Ruth only began journaling at my age (39) to try to discover why certain reactions and behaviors kept repeating themselves when she felt that she had lived such a great life. So I guess it’s never too late! Thanks in part to her work, though, I figured it out a lot sooner. This piece speaks for itself.

April 17, 2011

Cultural Differences From A German Perspective

German experts answer the question “Was passt?” (What fits?) and give advice for Germans how to overcome cultural differences when doing business abroad. Click here to read the full article in German.

April 13, 2011

Preparing Future Global Leaders – OWN

Kristin Hayden is my heroine of the day. She is the founder of OneWorld Now! (OWN), an organization committed to developing the next generation of global leaders. They provide language skills, leadership training and study abroad opportunities for youth. We need more people with Kristin’s vision and dedication. She understood a long time ago that “if Americans are going to engage with the rest of the world better, they have to start with young people. Language is a gateway to communication and understanding. Travel is transformative.” Mandarin and Arabic are important languages that are largely ignored in U.S. public schools. Jerry Large, columnist for The Seattle Times, explains more about the program and Kristin’s mission in his article “Program gives kids global connections, understanding”. Click here to read the full article. On a side note, I have often wondered why, in addition to French, German, British and American schools, we don’t have Chinese and Indian curriculum schools for expats. Nothing wrong with those in place, but if we are to keep up with the world and its growing population, we should be offering more. Not only are more Indian professionals going abroad, but we know that their school systems turn out highly educated graduates.

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