Posts Tagged ‘expat’

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!

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

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!

Unexpected Opportunities of Living Abroad

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

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
– Thomas Edison

The Expat lifestyle can often be chaotic and overwhelming. I have worked with many individuals who felt they spent a good portion of their time abroad simply getting by.

Sadly, this meant when opportunity presented itself they often saw it as an additional burden to their already tough schedule or lifestyle.

What are some common opportunties that are missed?

* Making friends with people from different cultures
* Learning a new language versus only immersing oneself in the expat community
* shifting ones work habits from overworked to balanced and healthy
* Exploring interests and hobbies in a new setting or environment
* Starting that business you always dreamed about versus complaining about your unhappy situation or inability to find a job
* Keeping a closed mind about the new culture

Living abroad can certainly make daily chores more complicated that they would have been in our home or passport countries. It may seem like you have less time than you did just to get through the needs of the day.

However, allowing yourself to experience the struggle, go out on a limb and try new things and approach the day with excitment about the unexpected provides untold opportunities that may change your life forever by enriching it in ways you never imagined.

What opportunities do you think you may have already missed? Do you want to go after them now?

How can you change the way you approach what appears like work and make it fun?

The good news is that you can adjust your approach today and start out each day as an explorer.

Opportunity may be knocking. Let’s answer the door!

Success!

admin | Saturday, July 11th, 2009 | No Comments »
Is this your idea of success?

Is this your idea of success?

Success is different for everyone.

When I lived in the Netherlands, I found that the Dutch say, “Success” where in the US we typically say, “Good Luck”.

Good Luck is certainly nice, well wishing. But success! Well that feels good doesn’t it? Nothing left to chance or luck here.

And that is the approach I take with my clients across the globe. We can sit back and wait for “luck” to find us, help us make new friends, teach us the local language, remove the isolation or loneliness, drop a job in our lap, learn to understand our collegues from all sorts of cultures OR we can define what success in this situation would be for us and then take action to achieve it.

It sounds simple and in many instances it is. My success comes in when I am able to assist you in clarifying your needs, taking the necessary action, receiving unbiased support and providing my resources and connections to ensure you reach you goals

The whole coaching experience has made me realize what my potential is and far beyond. With the Expat coaching, my achievements were even more special to me because I was outside of my natural element; a different language, different culture and a different system. Grace Davis, Canadian Expat

It also comes back to me when I have a previous client send me an update from their part of the world. An art gallery opening featuring their work, an article they wrote published in a magazine, their latest assignment in a new country being a lot of fun!

So I tend to use Success all the time now.

Whatever the outcome, may it be successful.