Archive for the ‘Life Abroad’ Category

Different vs. Wrong – Life abroad lessons

admin | Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

I needed to address this lesson today.  It was one of my first major hurdles and things I grasped within my first year of living abroad.

Why today?  Because I keep getting “slapped” in the face with this lesson from others who haven’t gotten it yet for themselves or view it differently.   I refer to it as the “Comparison Game” for my love immigrant clients. And it is my own growth being challenged because I find it angers me.  Not helpful to anyone.   It partly angers me because I expect others to grow from their experiences like I have – and yet I KNOW that each person finds their own path and self awareness and grows at their pace.

So yes I am human too.  That is part of what has made my journey so amazing.  That thankfully, eventually I remember that!

So I will share something that may help some of you tighten your learning curve if that sounds good.

Other cultures I have found do things “differently” than the way I was brought up in the mixed culture I experienced.  Mine was influenced by Southern California in the 60′s and 70′s with Canadian Immigrant parents and a Grandmother who was raised in London, England.

So when I moved abroad to the Netherlands in 1998 I found a lot of things shocking, silly, stupid, ineffective and down right rude.  There were also things I fell in love with, made sense, excited and inspired me and rewarded my wanderlust needs I had since I was a wee “Jule” on my Dad’s knee.

In that first year I met expats who had lived abroad for many years and were bitter, hateful and miserable.  I did not want to be like them.  I met immigrants, like myself, who wished they had never left their homeland.  I didn’t want to be regretful either.   I studied what worked and didn’t for others and examined what worked and didn’t for me.

I quickly learned that in the beginning our whole world and values and beliefs can be shocked (no new term there) but for me the key was to understand that it was just different and not wrong.

Also, I was constantly being “told” my first year that what “You American’s” do is wrong, stupid, prudish, fill in the negative adjective, I heard it.  Thanks Mr. Clinton for your sex escapades for a lot of that!

Those judgments from Dutch people and other expats living in the Netherlands was an opportunity for me to realize that how I was viewed was often totally incorrect and messed up by the locals perception of Americans by the misinformation reported on the news.  No I was never a member of a California gang, nor had I shot anyone or had family members beating each other up on a Jerry Springer show.

WHAT AN AWESOME LIFE LESSON I WAS GETTING!  At the time it just made me feel defensive and annoyed at how ignorant I thought a lot of people were.  Ultimately though it helped me grasp something to my core that I think I have always known and frankly hoped for!  YES, hoped for.  What makes other cultures magical to explore is the fact that they ARE different!

Now I don’t agree with some things.  Abusive and violent practices in my opinion (often directed at women and children) have no place in any current day culture.

The creme de le creme crowning moment for me was to realize that it is OK, normal even to go through a period of “WTF” thinking and judgement and confusion and reality checking.  BUT and this is a big one… at some point acceptance that different is not wrong needs to take place.

It needs to for your sanity and most important your enjoyment of the new culture.  And if that can’t happen.  If you can’t accept it and live in it with an adventurous and fun spirit than I strongly encourage you to move somewhere where you can.

And you know what.  That’s OK!  It’s not about failure.  It’s about understanding there is a new journey ahead for you.  Not everyone is meant to flourish in every culture or continent.

I have had the greatest pleasure in helping many clients see this.  Return home with self respect and dignity and find great peace in their decision.  I have also helped clients flourish where they were, building a magnificent life in a new land that made them laugh with joy and excitement.

So figure out where you are on your path and ask yourself, “Am I judging because it is easy to do or is something really bothering me?”

And avoid those miserable expats and immigrants who may never be happy wherever they are…  (and call me asap if you are one of them so we can get you off that unhappy sinking boat!)

Thanks to those who have helped me remember this today. I mean that. It softens my heart and helps me be grateful for the lessons I have learned and the ones I know that are coming as sure as the weeds in my backyard will continue to spring up!

Find them.  Pull them.  Smile.  Move on.

 

Friends Along the Way (repost from previous blog)

admin | Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 | No Comments »
Luc Jonker and Julia at his Family Farewell Party

Luc Jonker and Julia at his Family Farewell Party

Developing a supportive circle of friends is ESSENTIAL in the success of any relationship while living abroad.

I created a few groups in the Netherlands; Expats with Dutch partners and the International Mixer Utrecht were two of the most successful.

In addition, I joined groups for expats and trailing spouses, country specific groups and non profit groups all in an effort to increase my chances of connecting with kindred spirit friends.

And I did. I made some amazing friendships that continue today even though some of us are in different time zones, countries and even mental places. In other words, the situation and location that may have brought us together no longer exists but the work and time spent on developing these friendships created bonds that will last a lifetime.

One such friendship felt like a sistership to me. A younger American who also fell in love with a Dutchie came into my life and along the way we assisted each other with our weddings, supported each other with the crazy expectations of our new extended families (well they often felt crazy to us), attended “hen parties” and baby showers and eventually witnessed the relocation and repatriation of both our families.

The amazing thing is that back in the US we found ourselves living in two different states and while the distance was not realistic for convenient short visits, we still have managed to remain close. Heck we even worked on a Presidential campaign together and supported each other when our choice was not put in office.

This has required additional effort on our part. And for myself, I know I don’t see her or her family (which has continued to grow with additional precious little Jonkers) near as much as I would like to.

I just know however, that the bond is always there. I will always think of Clarity as a younger sister to me, I will want to see her and her Dutchie succeed in life and we will continue to support each other as needed.

You may find the love of your life in another country and gain the friends of a lifetime along the way!

Is there someone you would like to contact whom you haven’t spoken to in awhile? Don’t delay, email or ring them today. Then share with me here how it felt.

By the way, my little sister continues to do amazing work in the political arena and I am so PROUD of her. Today she assists campaigns with software support. Check out her company and pictures of her with Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and other political leaders. www.wanderingstar.com

Hugs and health,

Julia

A Love story begins (repost from previous blog)

admin | Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 | No Comments »

What an amazing journey to be had by falling in love with someone from another culture and country!

As if a new relationship isn’t challenging enough, when you factor in different languages, new customs, who moves where and many other unknowns – the additional strains can take their toll on any relationship.

In April, 1998, I relocated, immigrated actually to the Netherlands to take on such an adventure. 4 years later, I had coached 100′s of individuals on how to make such a relationship work and when to throw in the towel. (throw in the towel = give up).

I also had taught myself a new language, Dutch, developed a huge network of international friends and contacts, been published in multiple National newspapers and benelux magazines, been interviewed on the radio in England, and written for a variety of Expatriate websites and magazines.

Let’s just say my learning curve benefitted others and I was pleased to see my experience giving others hope and clarity.

In April 2002 I returned to the US with dual citizenship, my Dutch husband and a lot of health problems. The last few years I have been grateful on most days to have the US healthcare system available to me and also grateful that whilst living abroad I learned to fend for myself and become proactive in exploring alternative methods to healthcare.

Today I miss my friends and family spread out across the globe and absolutely love receiving continued updates from prior clients and their recent successes.

I hope this Survival Guide blog will provide an additional outlet for me to inspire, assist, encourage and educate individuals who want to explore their own journey of multicultural long distance love and/or love abroad.

It’s harder than you ever imagined
and easier then you ever dreamed.


Hugs and health,

Julia

The Family Ties that Bind

admin | Monday, July 20th, 2009 | No Comments »

Julia with her Dutch in laws and family

Julia and Maarten with his family in Lochem, The Netherlands

You know so many of my clients struggle with their in-laws or other family members.

I think one of the main reasons is fear.

They (your partners family) are afraid you are going to steal them away by requesting you and your love move back to your home country.  A “foreigner” daughter or son in law poses a bigger threat of unknown values and expectations.

Another reason is they are annoyed that they have to stop being what they perceive as “normal”.  Weddings, special occasions etc. require that they often make accommodations to ensure you feel included or at least acknowledged.  So now they have transitional issues too.

The worst problem is the family members who actually don’t care if you feel like an outsider and make little to no effort to understand your transitional struggle let alone do anything to make it easier for all concerned.

In Holland I heard over and over again from female clients and friends that their inlaws said something along the lines of “you live here now and must do what we do”.

They don’t seem to grasp that who you are is what makes you YOU!  No longer celebrating Christmas or Thanksgiving (whether in October or November depending on where you live in North America) isn’t something someone just gives up.

Nor should it be.

They also seem to overlook that the values, traditions and upbringing in your home country created the person their son or daughter fell in love with.

This all may sound dire.

I am here to tell you from both personal experience and from working with clients that those who stood true to themselves and their traditions built a stronger relationship with their partner. They found ways to continue their rituals and other events by either educating and including their family or with other expats and new friends.

The key here is that they acknowledged whether home or abroad, family ties often run deep and to ignore them can be detrimental to their love relationship.

They got over the hurdle of blame and anger and defensiveness based on their own cultural biases and looked for common ground.

And eventually over time they realized that the ties that bind their partners family together now included them too.

What can you do differently to include your new family in rituals or holidays important to you?

Perhaps it’s better to find ways to celebrate with people that understand and benefit from celebrating with you.

If so, how will you organize that next time? What is your first step?

Remove the fear of losing yourself and stop trying to be someone you aren’t. There are ways to be both multiculturally open minded and true to your culture. Make the effort. The growth along the way may be surprisingly joyful.

What part of you are you willing to let go of?

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

Let go of a part of ME?

Yes!

When you move to another country and begin to understand and assimilate the local culture you will find certain parts of your personality/beliefs/values/thinking patterns no longer feel comfortable to you. Or that you are being challenged on a lot of levels both good and bad.

Good because you are growing personally and expanding your world view.

Bad because you may feel attacked, disliked, overwhelmed and judged.

Compromise is a popular word in a successful love immigrant relationship.

But I am talking about something bigger here. Not compromise but internal change.

For me one of the biggest things I chose to let go of was my intense nationalistic view. I had always been a global person, however I had not realized how American I was in some ways and totally international in others. Being constantly challenged as an American living in Holland allowed me to accept the parts of me that were American and let go of my need to defend them at all costs.

I learned to pick my battles and take on an International citizen view. I worked (and still do) to let others struggle with their opinions of what they classified as an American and only participate in discussions with others that wanted open minded conversation and not negative culturally stereotypical hate fests.

Now this didn’t happen over night. It took time, self exploration, angry arguements with locals and other expats and the eventual slow simmered reality check that I didn’t want to waste my energy and mental health on such arguements.

I was also willing to let go of the part of me that always felt an eye for an eye…thus believing in the death penalty. Today I no longer do. A result of living abroad and hearing other cultures and most all other western governments views against such punishment.

Now if this sounds preachy/lecturish (yes I still make up my own words) that is not my intent.

The reality is that you will be living in another culture than your own, you will find that they do things differently, that things you haven’t thought about in a long time or ever suddenly become issues for you and that in order to make a smooth, positive transition, letting go of a part of you is worth it!

Words to Know on the Go – Word #1

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

APOSTILLE – french term meaning certification

Aaaghhh the dreaded apostille.   All Love Immigrants (LI’s) need to learn, grasp and be on top of this word! I can not emphasis this enough. Many a love immigrant has ignored my plea only to be told at a crucial time (applying for marriage license, citizenship, residency) that their birth certificate or other required legal document was not acceptable because it did not have an “apostille”.

I know first hand how rude and shocking it is to have someone hold up your birth certificate and say, “this is not legal”. “Yes it is I demand”, no no it is not, you have no apostille. What the (&(*&)#$& is an Apostille???!!? And I thought I had asked all the appropriate questions BEFORE I arrived in the Netherlands. Don’t assume, ask more than one person in a position of power your question, (It’s amazing how the answers change from person to person) and always get any legal document with an officials signature on it apostilled!

Some LI’s have tried to argue with me that they know best or what is legal and what isn’t. Some have tried to tell me that having a document notarized is enough. Well great, its your time, money, patience, stress level, health and well being. You can either wing it or accept that there are laws that everyone must comply with, you included.

Follow the information below and you will at least be prepared! Please note this is US specific. However you can check to see if your country was one of the signatory countries that participated in the 1981 Convention. If so, simply contact the legal department responsible for official documents and they will be able to provide you with the information you need to set you in the right direction.
THE APOSTILLE:

AUTHENTICATION OF OFFICIAL U.S. DOCUMENT FOR USE IN FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS:

Foreign countries often require “official” documents to be “authenticated”
before such documents will be accepted in the foreign jurisdiction. An
“authentication” is a governmental act by which a designated public official
certifies to the genuineness of the signature and seal and the position of the
official who has executed, issued, or certified a copy of a document.

In 1981, the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents entered into force in the United States. Under the
Convention, signatory countries (including the United States) agreed to
mutually recognize each other’s “public documents” so long as such documents
are authenticated by an apostille, a form of internationally recognized
notarization. The apostille ensures that public documents issued in one
signatory country will be recognized as valid in another signatory country.

The apostille, which is a French term for “certification”, is issued by a
designated government official of the country (or sub-national government
unit) that issued the document to be authenticated. The sole function of the
apostille is to certify the authenticity of the signature on the document in
question; the capacity in which the person signing the document acted; and the
identity of any stamp or seal affixed to the document. The apostille either
must be attached as an annex to the official document or placed on the
document itself by means of a stamp. The form of the apostille is prescribed
in the Convention and is mandatory. (A copy of the form is reproduced on the
reverse.)

For the purposes of the Convention, “public documents” that may be
authenticated by an apostille include documents issued by judicial
authorities, including those emanating from public prosecutors, court clerks,
and process servers; administrative documents; and official certificates
affixed to documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as
official certificates recording the registration of a document, notarial
authentications of signatures, etc. Documents executed by diplomatic or
consular agents, or administrative documents relating to commercial or customs
operations, may not be authenticated by an apostille.

Authorities in the United States that are competent to issue apostilles
include the Authentication Office of the U.S. Department of State; clerks of
U.S. federal courts; and secretaries of state for most U.S. states (for
Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah, the office of the Lieutenant Governor). Diplomatic
and consular officials at U.S. embassies, consulates, or missions may issue
apostilles in certain circumstances when requested by a foreign governmental
authority.

MODEL APOSTILLE

APOSTILLE

(Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961)

1. Country : _____________________________________________
This public document
2. has been signed by _____________________________________
3. acting in the capacity of _________________________________
4. bears the seal/stamp of __________________________________
Certified
5. at ___________________________
6. the __________________
7. by ____________________________________________________
8. No. ___________________________________________________
9. Seal/Stamp:
10.Signature:_____________________________________________________________

For additional information, contact the Authentication Office of the U.S. Department of State (202/647-5002), the clerk of the nearest U.S. federal court, or the office of the secretary of state in your state capital.

Summer Blues

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

Are you one of the few expats who didn’t take an extended summer holiday or return to the “homeland” for the summer with the kids in tow??

The summer months can be brutal for expats that choose to stay abroad or only take a short holiday/vacation.

Loneliness, envy, depression, guilt or feeling suddenly homesick are common complaints during the dog days of summer.

What can you do differently to turn your situation around? What adventures can your create for yourself or your family locally?

When I lived in Holland I was amazed at how few of the Dutch I knew (and I knew a lot since I married into a huge Catholic family!) visited places that were considered touristy. Yet whenever I dragged them along with me to these places they were always amazed at how fun or unique they were.

So perhaps its time for you to explore the local countryside, the off the beaten track national museums. A long weekend away at a bed and breakfast in the country you are residing and see it again through the eyes of a vacationer vs. the struggles of an expat!

Maybe now is a good time to get started on those photo albums whether scrapbooking or online. This can be a fun way to relive happy memories of past trips and get the family working on contributing to life long memories for the future.

Seek out a few expats that are around for the summer months and plan some activities together. Sharing costs with others can increase your outings and get you out of the house and doing things.

Remember, expand your contacts. We often make friends or meet individuals we wouldn’t seek out in our native land. However, using this time to make friends with new people can open doors to friendships and interests that you would have never allowed yourself to explore before.

Summer will be what you make it! Get creative, stop using the word “but” and just get out there and enjoy your summer!

Summer coaching is a great way to set goals and get active on lifestyle changes. If you want to meet the challenge of working with a coach and reinvigorating your life, contact me and we will get started asap to setting your dreams in motion!

Stereotypes? I’d never do that!

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

Amazing how when you move abroad suddenly all these people have opinions about what defines you, your traits and characteristics.

In fact it can be down right insulting, hurtful and damaging.

The key here is not to fall into the trap.

Do you find yourself saying “oh well back home we do it like this….”
“we don’t do it that way”, ” that’s not the right way”, “Only people from …. do that”

Maybe you don’t say it aloud, you just think it quietly….

Perhaps you find yourself cussing, saying lots of nasty words and throwing a nationality at the end of the remarks???

We all do it. We may not mean to. Sometimes it comes out as a way of acknowledging differences, almost a process a new expat goes through in realizing the differences between themselves and the host culture.

The key here, remember if you don’t like it done to you, others will feel the same.

How can you learn from this habit to identify, judge and categorize others?

First don’t feel bad, people from all cultures, countries and walks of life stereotype.

We make generalizations and sometimes it helps us in dealing with others in business matters.

However sometimes those assumptions made on stereotypes are wrong and inappropriate.

My suggestion, work to see each individual as just that, an individual with a unique way of expressing themselves and experiencing life.

It is important to learn about other cultures. Instead of getting it second hand, try asking someone from that culture how they themselves see their culture.

Learn from the source vs. make assumptions based on generalizations.

Coaching action step:

Share here what assumptions you’ve made and how you have been stereotyped in the past

Who are you? Are you recognizable back home?

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

Might seem like a silly question…

Fact is, many expats find themselves behaving in ways that don’t match up with their beliefs, values and goals in life.

Some of us just get lost in the whole “expat thing” and stop listening to our hearts and souls.

Who are you? Can you be that person in this country? If not, what is making you behave differently than you normally would? When you repatriate will you be recognizable back home?

Simple question for you today:

What are you doing in this country that doesn’t feel right for you?

Action step:

What 3 things do you need to do today to get yourself back on track and honouring your values and beliefs?

Are you Accepting Less Than You Hoped For?

admin | Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | No Comments »

Some people call it “settling for less”, others say “giving up, giving in”.

Either way it can cause long term stress that eats away at your self esteem and happiness.

Living abroad can put us in situations where our choices don’t feel like options we want to pick. The result is we are left feeling trapped and upset.

Sadly, we usually have other options we are not seeing because our own inner voice and cultural conditioning often put up walls blinding us to our big picture options and the truth.

The worst scenario is the one whereby we really do have only a few options and none of them are what we would pick for ourselves “back home”.

This is where it is so important to give yourself the chance to explore your values, determine your limitations and see what type of compromise you are willing to make.

If you can turn your situation around and view it as making a compromise, putting yourself back in the power seat, it can do a lot for relieving the mental stress you are feeling.

The key here is that I am not suggesting you just change the wording. I am suggesting that you actually pick the option that is best for you even though you don’t like it and find a way to actually turn it into a compromise.

Perhaps it means giving yourself permission to return home sooner than you planned because you are miserable and your health comes first. So, “I hate this location and I have 16 months to go in this contract”… becomes “If I work for another 6 months here, the money I make will be enough to purchase that house back home, I will choose to work here for that time and then make arrangements to move back early and find a job better suited to my goals and interests”.

Ok, is a gremlin yelling at you right now….quit the job…. is Julia nuts? Maybe. You tell me.

Which is nuttier, to stay in a situation that is causing you sadness, anger, frustration, eating away at your health at the cellular level causing long term damage, negatively affecting your relationships, possibly your partner or kids, OR seizing the opportunity, taking control of your destiny and reshaping how you choose to go forward.

Never forget. NEVER forget this is YOUR life.

Who are you putting in charge of it? Yourself using your values and beliefs to guide you OR Society, your boss, your spouse, a bad situation.

If you answer yes to the title question of this post, ask yourself the next question: How many more days are you going to tolerate choosing to remain in this situation?

How many more days will you throw away?

Ready to change?

First step. What are you tolerating?
Second step. What would the situation look like without the toleration?
Third step. What do you need to do right now to change this?

If the fourth step for you is getting help with this – I am here for you. Let’s get it done!