Posts Tagged ‘Love Immigrant’

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.

 

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!