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.

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 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 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.

April 7, 2011

Culture Night at International Network of Norway

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Employees of Statoil, Oslo Handelskammeren and DNV participated in the 3rd bi-annual Culture Night at INN, presented by Kulturtolk. They discussed topics such as unique aspects of Norwegian culture, intercultural communication and adapting to a new culture as an expat. Stay tuned for the next Culture Night in the fall!

April 6, 2011

Making Friends the Key to Expat Happiness

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We who work with expats know that far too many assignments end early or end badly, mostly due to cultural differences and unhappy families. And we also know that relationships are probably the single most important factor in feeling content and at home in a place. If you aren’t able to connect with people, you will most likely have a negative impression of your expat home. In the article “How to Make Friends Abroad: Ideas for Lonely Expats”, the author states that “an unhappy expat is far more likely to give it all up and head for home than a happy expat with plenty of friends. So, if you want to succeed abroad, you owe it to yourself to find ways to make friends and meet people.” Not a truer word was spoken. We can’t just wait for the natives to be friendly. We have to be a friend to the natives ourselves, or at the very least to other expats like ourselves. To read the full article, click here.

April 5, 2011

House Sitters for Expats

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Here’s a great idea for both expats who have homes in several locations and global nomads who don’t want a home, but need a place to roost for a while – as long as they are responsible enough to be the guardians of both home and garden, including pets. The Guardian article “Keeping your home and pets safe when away” describes Andy Peck’s innovative house-sitting service for expats and second home-owners with pets.

November 19, 2010

Northern Exposure – how to survive the Scandinavian winter

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Anna Maria’s article (second of a two-part series “Seasons in Scandinavia“) on how to survive the light and dark dichotomy of Scandinavia has been published on ExpatArrivals. The second article focuses on the effects of darkness on Nordic inhabitants and expat survival tips for winter. This follows her article “Got light? – The Importance of Sunlight When Living in the Nordics“, and what to expect in terms of climate and culture. As winter approaches (some would argue it’s already here), the temperature drops and the dark envelops the inhabitants of the north. These extreme changes in climate can wreak havoc on the unassuming expat. The best way to survive the winter is to have the right expectations and be prepared.

Kulturtolk welcomes its new partner, INN!

As of today, Kulturtolk is happy to announce INN as its newest partner. INN is a daughter organization of the Oslo Chamber of Commerce and as such, provides services to expats through their member program.

INN offers relocation services and expat support throughout the expat lifecycle. Their members receive many benefits, including:
* INN® Expatriate Handbook
* Weekend suggestions
* Counselling
* Events – cultural and social
* 24 hour emergency line
* Support for accompanying partners

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