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.

Culture Affects the Brain

In the Asian Journal of Social Psychology, Chinese researchers point out a neurological difference between East Asians and Westerners regarding the representation of significant others (e.g. mother). Whereas self-representation can be traced to the ventral medial prefrontal cortex for both, representation of significant others is influenced by culture. It occupies the same location as the self in only East Asians, whereas it is seperate in Westerners. Click here to read the full article.

April 11, 2011

Indian Diplomat Recommends Pre-Departure Cultural Training

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Now here’s a forward-thinking diplomat! Dr Subhakanta Behera, India’s new consul general in Australia, is encouraging Indian students planning to study in Australia to undergo cultural training before they leave. He wants them to better understand and manage Aussie culture and lifestyle differences. The Times of India reported on Dr. Behera’s visit to Amritsar, where he met with Punjabi students who had returnred from Australia in ‘Orientation course vital for students going to Oz’. Read the full article here.

April 10, 2011

TV Shines a Light on Issues in Our Diverse Society

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I don’t have a TV, and haven’t since high school. I’m not a big fan of it and I don’t feel like I need TV in my life. But I also know that this choice comes with a sacrifice: a huge gap in my familiarity with current events and pop culture. TV catch-phrases seep naturally into our lingo and people are always quoting TV moments, expecting you to understand the context. TV is also often the medium that educates and enlightens. I’m not just talking about Discovery Channel or PBS. TV often takes on the difficult or fringe topics that face or that divide our society. For example, take gay marriage in “Modern Family” or obesity on “Huge”. TV is a “non-threatening” medium through which we can be exposed to the individuals behind the labels, and become familiar with the topic from another perspective. It shows us the other side of the coin, and leads, subtley, to understanding and acceptance. At the same time, it exposes our taboos and our prejudices. Yes, TV exaggerates, but it also is a mirror of society and a window into how the other side lives. So, as someone who believes in respect for cultural diversity, I was very happy to learn about “Little Mosque on the Prairie“, a show that portrays a Muslim community in a small town in Canada. Because with so much uncertainty and prejudice surrounding Islam, this show can be one of the channels educating the rest of us by showing us the other side of the coin. In the Los Angeles Times article
‘Cultural Exchange: The world cottons to ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’, Marcia Adair points out the disappointing fact that the subject is clearly so taboo for US audiences, that it is not yet shown in the US. But that doesn’t exclude people in 83 other countries from watching it. If I had a TV, I’d be one of the first to watch this show in order to counter my ignorance and begin to understand. Luckily these days, you don’t need a TV. It’s enough to have a computer, and I will be watching all the YouTube clips of the show that I can find.

April 9, 2011

What Should TCKs Do as a Living?

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Donna Musil shared her tips on the best careers for TCKs, on TCK Academy. Click here to see the full list or listen to the audio file.

April 8, 2011

Is There an “Expat Culture”?

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Is it possible to spot an expat in a crowd? What sets expats apart? Is there an “expat identity”? Sarah Steegar, writer and anthropologist, considers the possibility of there being an “expat culture” in her blog ‘Being “one of us‘. I love to people watch and pride myself on spotting various cultures by shoes and clothing, body language, hair styles and hand gestures. But I have to admit that I have never spotted an expat. And yet, I am sure that expats have their own culture and identity.

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!

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