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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Expats

I saw this really interesting post on Expatica France, written by Maria Foley. You should check out her blog I was an Expat Wife. I think #5 and #6 particularly resonate with me. Since my re-entry into the US since September 2012, I realize increasingly that I’m a better person for having lived abroad several years in France. It has prepared me well for many things.

What other habits do you find helpful in adapting to and succeeding at expatriate life?

I was an expat wife: The 7 habits of highly effective expats
Maria Foley takes a look at effective habits that make expats cope with integration into a new life and culture when moving abroad.

On Monday I presented my interpretation of Stephen Covey’s seven habits as seen through the lens of expatriation. Today all I’m borrowing from Mr. Covey is that iconic title. Here, then, are seven of the habits cultivated by highly effective expats:

1. They prepare: They take the time to study the new culture before they get on the plane, and get a head start on learning the local language. Either by reading, talking to other expats, or taking cross-cultural training, they develop an understanding of culture shock, learn how to recognise its symptoms and how to manage them. They’re then able to form realistic expectations of what lies ahead.

2. They introspect: They examine their own values, strengths and weaknesses. They gauge their tolerance for ambiguity, take stock of their resiliency reserves, and assess their patience levels. The work they did above shows them what’s coming; the work they do here shows them how they’ll respond to it.

3. They keep an open mind: They accept that things will be different and that constant comparisons to their home culture is counterproductive. They peel back the layers of their preconceived notions and stereotypes until there’s nothing left. They resist judgment. They don’t automatically blame everything that goes wrong on the country or its people.

4. They connect: They establish a strong in-country social support system of both expat and local friends. They nurture their family relationships. They keep in touch with loved ones back home, just not 24/7. They make a point of surrounding themselves with positive people, limiting exposure to the bitter and the bigoted expats.

5. They bend: They consciously adapt their behaviour to meet local norms. They’re flexible, but they know where to draw the line so they don’t compromise their values.

6. They take (reasonable) risks: They try new foods, activities, and experiences. They make mistakes and learn from them. They maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder that keeps them engaged in the here and now.

7. They keep a sense of perspective. Effective expats know that life has its ups and downs, no matter where you live. While they’re grateful for the chance to swim in a different pool, they know it comes at a cost. And yet they accept the downside as the price they pay for the richness and texture of expatriate life.

What can you add to my list of habits?

Maria Foley is a Canadian who lived and raised a family as an expat for many years. Aside from writing for Suite 101, Foley still writes about her expat life on her blog, I was an expat wife, and is currently working on a book about overcoming the challenges of repatriation. You can follow her on Twitter at @iwasanexpatwife.

Increase in expat positions globally

As published on Expatica, Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) found that “Over 70 percent of companies expect to increase short-term assignments in 2013.” Very interesting article and report.

Excerpts below. For full article, click on Expatica link above.
If you’re an expat abroad, how long has your assignment been?
If you’re a prospective expat, how many years would you be comfortable living abroad?

(full disclosure: this is not an ad for Mercer).

The report showed that 55 percent of companies expect to increase long-term assignments and highlighted that, for the last two years, there has been an increase in the overall number of international assignments. The report found that China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia are the priority destinations in their respective regions for expatriates.

Mercer’s Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP) also found that more than half of companies reported an increase of long-term (52 percent) and short-term assignments (53 percent) in 2011 and 2010. The WIAPP report presents the latest trends in international assignment programme management, policies, and practices data.

Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s global mobility business said, “International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions, and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers. Mobility and HR directors now face great complexity in the number and type of international assignments that need managing.”

According to Mercer, the top five reasons cited for international assignment programmes are; to provide specific technical skills not available locally (47 percent), to provide career management/leadership development (43 percent), to ensure knowledge transfer (41 percent), to fulfil specific project needs (39 percent), and to provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38 percent). Close to half of North American (45 percent) and European (46 percent) companies indicate career management/leadership development as one of the main reasons they have international assignments. In the future, worldwide, 62 percent of participants anticipate an increase in the number of technical-related short-term assignments, 55 percent anticipate an increase in talent development assignments, and half anticipate an increase in key strategic assignments.

Expatica: Exploring Paris First arrondissement

Expatica has an interesting historical and cultural peak by Thirza Vallois into the 1e arrondissement (1st arrondissement) of Paris.

Some excerpts below. Happy reading!

Around and about Paris: The First arrondissement
26/07/2011

As tourists snake their way to the Louvre Pyramid, or pack beneath, you may crave some relief in the nearby gardens of the Palais Royal, an arcaded haven of tranquillity, especially in the early hours of the morning. Expert Thirza Vallois offers a historical tour.

Between 1784 and 1830, on the other hand, the Palais Royal was the bustling centre of both intellectual and dissolute Paris. Cafés, restaurants, game-houses and brothels flourished under its arcades.

Whores and courtesans came here from all over Paris ‘faire le Palais’, as the saying went, among them the Pompadour’s mother. No wonder Casanova rushed here upon his arrival in Paris.

Palais Royal: Construction

In the late 18th century, the landlord of the palace was Philippe d’Orléans. Deep in debt, he built the arcades with shops running beneath as a rental business, drawing substantial profits in particular from the gambling houses and the brothels.

The newly converted Palais Royal was opened in 1784 to the satisfaction of all. The Palais Royal was the intellectual centre of the capital, studded with cafés where such prominent figures as Diderot used to sup and where dangerous new ideas circulated…

Bad habits to avoid as an expat abroad

This article comes from Expatica and talks about the behavior of “ugly Expats” rather than the stereotypical “ugly American” image.

You’re probably familiar with the expression “Ugly American,” a pejorative and stereotypical term for US expatriates who alienate the locals with their loud and disrespectful behaviour. It comes from the 1958 book The Ugly American, a cautionary tale that tells the story of corrupt and ethnocentric American bureaucrats in Southeast Asia.

One of the characters in the book characterizes Ugly Americans like this:
“A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious.”

Ugliness: it’s not just for Americans anymore
This being the age of globalization, it seems unfair to single out Americans as the champions of boorish behaviour abroad. In the spirit of inclusiveness, I’d like to propose we retire the expression Ugly American and replace it with Ugly Expat. Cultural disrespect is an equal opportunity sport, after all – one the entire world is eager to play.

The habits to adopt if you’d like to be an “ugly Expat” are below. They are also the habits to avoid if you want a rich cultural experience. I advise the latter!

I have many French friends (indeed, my girlfriend of three years is French) and believe interaction with the locals is key in my experience here. Not only does it help my French language skills, it helps me understand the different cultural perspectives that are at play here. That does not mean I do not mingle with expatriates, as I actively do. I just don’t limit myself to a certain group.

Being at the cross-roads of cultural interaction can be confusing at times in terms of identity (which country do I call home?) but in the end I think it’s rewarding.

Keep an open mind when moving abroad. There will be awkward times, misunderstandings and sometimes discomfort, but that’s part of the learning experience.

1. Don’t waste your valuable time researching your destination or its people before you move – a country’s history or dominant cultural values are no concern of yours. And for heaven’s sake, don’t throw away your money on any of that cross-cultural training mumbo jumbo – everyone knows what a scam that is.

2. Likewise, don’t bother reading up on the causes and symptoms of culture shock, or how to alleviate it. That’s what Valium is for. (Pack lots!)

3. Isolate yourself. Shut yourself up in your compound/condo and refuse all contact with local people. If there’s an exclusive expatriate club nearby, rejoice: you’re saved! Choose your new friends with care, weeding out any prospects who have ‘Gone native’. (Being too chummy with the locals is a dead giveaway.) Successful candidates will have already aced the 12 steps and will embrace you as a kindred spirit.

4. Show off your wealth, especially if you live in a developing nation. Your baubles and fancy toys will breed admiration and respect among the impoverished masses, who will revere you as a role model.

5. Under no circumstances should you eat local food. They eat that unsanitary crap because they don’t know any better; you do. (You can’t be too careful – who knows what you might pick up?) If you’re offered anything unrecognizable, be sure to show your disdain by peppering your refusal with terms such as “dysentery” and “intestinal worms.” Gagging noises are optional.

6. Let everyone know how backward the country is, and how much better things are back home. I can’t stress this enough – never let an opportunity to compare the two countries pass you by. It’s your duty to teach the local populace a thing or two, and opening their eyes to their own inferiority will endear you to them. (Bonus points if you can insult cultural and religious icons or other objects of reverence.)

7. Speak your own language exclusively, especially if it happens to be English. (If the locals haven’t bowed to global pressure and learned it already, that’s their problem.) In a pinch, speaking very s-l-o-w-l-y and very LOUDLY should help them understand you. Trust me; they’ll love being talked to as though they were five years old. If they still don’t understand, throw your hands up in disgust and walk away, muttering under your breath. There’s some body language that won’t get lost in translation!

8. Don’t try to understand – much less accommodate – local customs. If it’s not The Way Things Are Back Home, it’s irrelevant. (Let them know they’re not fooling you with that siesta thing, for example. Everyone knows daytime napping is nothing but sheer laziness. The steaming midday temperature is just an excuse.)

9. Treat your household staff like the servants they are. They don’t need a day off, and you and I both know that hot water would only spoil them. Since it’s for their own good, I’m sure they’ll thank you later.

10. Social networking was invented for people stuck in godforsaken places like this. Spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, and email, lying about how much fun you’re having. Then log onto Farmville and spend some quality time doing whatever it is people on Farmville do.

11. Drink. A lot. It makes life so much fun, both for you and those around you.

12. Take your frustrations out on your husband. It’s all his fault, anyway. If it weren’t for his precious career, you’d be back home among people who matter, instead of wasting the best years of your life in this hellhole.

Women in business; top French SME’s with women in control

In honor of the 100th International Women’s Day (Journée da la Femme) The French financial newspaper La Tribune had a special report with several articles yesterday on women in business. They paired up with the group Women Equity for Growth for the special. Links to the articles are below (in French). La Tribune also organized a Women’s Awards night in November.

The Economist also put out a series of charts on women in society: in politics, on boards, at business schools, in work. These compare the position of women in several countries. Very interesting and pertinent study. As the article states, despite significant progress and opportunities for women in the past century, “…the difference in male and female employment rates in many countries is still large and persistent. While progress has been made, there is a long way to go before gender equality is reached.”

Expatica also features an article on “Four trends helping women in business move ahead.”

Meanwhile, a European Parliament group released a report on gender inequality and called for the European Commission to cut the gender pay gap by 1 percent per year.

La Tribune articles:

Article on Top 50 SME’s with women at top
PDF list of the Top 50
Les Editions Belin publisher adapting to 21st century technology
Interview with Union Plastic President Florence Poivey

There were also several special TV programs dedicated to the day:
“Dans le coeur des femmes” (special show with debate and discussion by feminists, journalists, business leaders, philosophers…), not yet available online
“Une semaine sans les femmes” men trying to manage the family without their wives
Chabada show to celebrate women (with songs, etc)

The benefits of raising expat kids

January 24th, 2011 7 comments

This is a reflective article published on Expatica.com recently by a former expat mom. What are your experiences raising children abroad?
Do you have “third-culture children”? Excerpts below.

Why expat life was good for my kids

Nervous a child’s life abroad might lead to problems as an adult? Relax, blogger Maria Foley tells how expatriating her family brought positive character to her kids.

“…Raising kids is a crap shoot: you do your best, but there are no guarantees they’ll turn out well. Throw in a parenting choice that’s the slightest bit unconventional — moving to another country with your children, for example — and you’d better steel yourself for the self-doubt and parental angst that’s coming your way.

It’s a rare expat parent who doesn’t have at least one major crisis of conscience over the decision to uproot their children and replant them on foreign soil. I wrestled with the bad-mommy demon countless times.

Halfway through third grade we moved to France, and all her old fears and insecurities came back with a vengeance. The first day of school was a disaster.

Soon, though, she began once again to shed her old skin and become someone new. She made friends in both languages, and surprised us all by becoming the best French speaker in the family. There was no school bus in Bordeaux, so she conquered the transit system instead. Most amazingly, she began to perform, taking part in piano recitals and the school talent show.

“I love living in France,” she said.

Exposure to different cultures has endowed them with remarkable maturity, adaptability, a sense of independence, and an open-minded approach to life — not to mention top-notch language, social, and cross-cultural skills…

New poll finds the French “world champs” of pessimism

January 19th, 2011 3 comments

I enjoy living in France, but it is true that even the French make fun of their complaining as the national pastime. This article comes from Expatica (Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica) and speaks in depth about the poll. Excerpts below. I do have friends who are optimistic, driven and talented, but in my experience here, there is definitely a collective malaise. Cheer up, you have it very good compared to many others!

French are world champs in pessimism
A poll completed early this month shows the French even more pessimistic than violent-ridden countries around the globe, but what’s their reasoning?

Paris –The French live in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, yet they are global champions of pessimism, fearful of the future and longing for the past, according to a survey published early January.

“The French are afraid. They feel the present is less good than the past and that the future will be worse than the present, and that their children’s lives will be harder than their own,” said commentator Dominique Moisi.

“There is a morosity, a real phenomenon of clinical depression,” said Moisi, the author of the 2009 book “Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World.” Moisi was sceptical about the BVA-Gallup poll published that suggested that the French were more pessimistic than people in Afghanistan or Iraqi who daily face high levels of violence.

But he conceded that it had some substance. He and other commentators said several factors were to blame. France’s comparatively generous welfare state is no longer perceived as sufficiently protective in the face of the ongoing economic crisis here, they said.

“The French behave towards the state like teenagers with their parents. On the one hand they rebel, but on the other they want ever more protection,” said Moisi. French pessimism is nothing new. The French are Europe’s biggest consumer of anti-depressants. But their gloomy tendencies have been made worse by rising unemployment and a tense social context that in recent months has seen millions take to the streets to protest raising the retirement age from 60 to 62…

He said that it was above all the middle classes who were being affected by pessimism. They see their jobs as becoming less and less secure and fear their quality of life will be reduced. “The French are sensualists, epicureans… and we are seeing a discrepancy between the little individual joys and the collective malaise,” said Delevoye….

…The BVA-Gallup poll described the French as the “world champions of pessimism.” It found that 61 percent of French thought that 2011 would bring economic difficulties, compared to an average of 28 percent in the 53 countries surveyed. Sixty-seven percent believed unemployment would rise again this year, a more pessimistic view than than in every country except Britian — 74 percent — and Pakistan — 72 per cent. Thirty-seven percent of French people polled said this year would be worse than 2010, making them considerably less optimistic than Afghans — 14 percent or Iraqis — 12 percent. Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica

Christmas events in Paris, Coldplay’s new Christmas song

December 15th, 2010 No comments

Tis the season, n’est-ce pas ? In addition to the events listed by American Clubs of France, you can find more events in Paris for the holidays at this website.

According to Expatica:

“The new comprehensive english speaking guide on what’s on in Paris during Christmas and New Year’s Holidays. Where to eat, special Christmas menu; nightclubs for the best New Year’s Eve or celebrate at the theatre, ballet, opera, cabaret or burlesque: find the most amazing and unique Christmas gift with a Parisian flavour and much much more! Find out a new tip every day from now until Christmas 2010.”

One of the most helpful posts is perhaps the list of illuminated neighborhoods in Paris (see below).

Joyeuses fêtes !

Neighborhoods illuminated:

Rue de Richelieu, Paris 1
Rue Montorgueil, Passage des Panoramas, Paris 2e
Old streets of the Temple and Britain, Paris 3e
Rue Saint-Paul and Rambuteau, Paris 4e
Rue Mouffetard, Place de l’Eglise Saint-Médard and place of Contrescarpe, Paris 5e
Boulevard and the Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Rue du Dragon, Paris 6e
Rue de Grenelle and Boulevard Raspail, Paris 7
Carré de Castellane, rue Royale and François 1er, Paris 8th
Streets and Vignon Caumartin, Paris 9e
Marché Saint-Quentin and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris 10e
Rue Oberkampf Paris 11e
Rue de Charenton and the Viaduc des Arts, Paris 12e
Avenue des Gobelins and Italy, Paris 13e
Streets of Alesia, Daguerre, and Brézin Didot, Paris 14e
Lecourbe streets and Cambronne, Paris 15e
Streets Duret, Lesueur, Pergolesi, des Belles Feuilles, Annunciation and Avenue de Passy, Paris 16e
Rue de Courcelles, Levis, Poncelet and avenue des Ternes, Paris 17e
Place and Rue des Abbesses, rue Lepic and High Montmartre, Paris 18e
Secretan Street and Avenue of Flanders, Paris 19e
Rue de Belleville, Jordan and the Pyrenees, Paris 20e …

Lastly, I leave you with my new favorite Christmas song, “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay, filmed in London.

Rick Steves: “Become a temporary European”

This article was originally posted on Expatica’s website, written by renown travel author Rick Steves.

It’s targeted more towards travelers abroad but has relevant implications for expats as well, especially those recently settling in. Excerpts below. How do you think it is best to adapt to your new country?

…Once you figure out where the locals hang, check out where they live. Ride a city bus or subway into the suburbs, then wander through some neighbourhoods to see how residents live when they’re not wearing lederhosen and yodelling. Visit a supermarket. Make friends at the launderette. Or mill around area schools and universities, checking out the announcement boards and eating at the cafeteria. Be alert and a little bit snoopy. If you stumble onto a grade-school talent show, sit down and watch it. You can even visit a university’s English-language department and ask about hiring a student (who’s learning English) as a private guide.

Even if you’re not a regular churchgoer, consider attending a European worship service. An hour in a small-town church provides an unbeatable peek into the community, especially if you join them for coffee and cookies afterwards. I’ll never forget going to a little church on the south coast of Portugal one Easter. A tourist stood at the door videotaping the “colourful natives” (including me) shaking hands with the priest after the service. You can experience St. Peter’s by taking photographs, or you can do it by taking a seat at Mass…

Tips on eating in France

This piece from Expatica, written by Vanessa Couchman, gives insight into eating meals in restaurants in France, with interesting details and advice especially for the newly arrived. What are your tips about making the most of French gastronomy?

Excerpt below. For full article click here.

Surely you always eat well in France? Well, actually, no. We have had some mediocre meals in restaurants with pretensions to haute cuisine. Equally, some of the best meals we have eaten in France have been at establishments that are less than prepossessing at first glance. France rightly has a reputation for its cuisine. Sometimes, however, it rests on its laurels. But there’s no reason why you should put up with that. Here are my 10 top tips for enjoying a meal out….

1. Avoid the tourist honey pots
You visit a picturesque town – possibly l’un des plus beaux villages de France – only to have your day spoiled by an indifferent meal. I’m not saying that all restaurants in such places are bad. Far from it; but you are more likely to feel ripped off and encounter poor service in a place where they rely mainly on passing trade. Go to the next village, which is likely to have a restaurant, and eat there instead….

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