A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

  • 07 Dec 2015 6:04 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    photo care of access.nl

    By Lauren Owen

    It’s always exciting to meet the person behind the book that changed your life.

    Maybe this is an exaggeration, but in the world of global nomad literature, it’s not too far off from the truth. For global nomads and expats, there’s something extra exhilarating about seeing your feelings described in precise detail by someone you’ve never met or to read about someone across the globe whose experience mirrors your own.

    That’s what it felt like during the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) book signing event.

    The book signing brought together all attendees of the FIGT conference and provided the opportunity to interact with people who have shared their expat voices for the sake of the global community.

    Authors Across Ages

    One aspect that made this event particularly unique was the breadth of ages, experiences, and topics addressed. Among the authors present were Keynote speaker Doug Ota, whose recently published book Safe Passage addresses the educational support systems necessary for global nomads; Marilyn Gardner whose recently published memoir Between Worlds showcases a beautifully written TCK experience; and 2015 Parfitt/ Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR) scholar Taylor Murray, whose book Hidden In My Heart, published at age 14, tells the honest story of crossing cultures to Japan.

    Behind each author’s writing is a passion to serve expats. When asked about her book, Taylor commented that she, “never intended to be published... [but] wanted people to understand that they are not alone.” For this young writer, a personal journey became a way to help others through what might be a similar experience.

    A Book for Every Season

    Not only did authors range in ages and purpose, but so did book topics. Brittani Sonnenberg’s book Home Leave represented the novel genre. Linda Janssen had compiled her most recent research into the book The Emotionally Resilient Expat, which was just one of several other research-based books available.

    Trisha Carter and Rachel Yates’s book Finding Home Abroad showed their desire to help expats process the transition experience by providing a carefully crafted journal. The text they included prompts writers to journal their thoughts through each stage of the move, as well as describing why they feel a certain way at each stage.

    Books were not the only items available for purchase – Anne Copeland presented collections of Reflection Photos. This set of 100 photos is intended to help people process transition by reflecting on their reactions to pictures.

    What Books?

    Books sold at the FIGT conference must meet specific criterion in order to be eligible. These criterion include:

    1.      Written by an FIGT member or conference speaker
    2.      Published in the year prior to the conference

    Even though the book signing at FIGT ended after an hour, the resources present in the bookstore are available online via Amazon or the FIGT online bookstore.

    Books highlighted at FIGT included:

    • B at Home, Valérie Besanceney, Summertime Publishing, 2014
    • Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere, Lois Bushong, Mango Tree Intercultural Services, 2013
    • Finding Home Abroad, Trisha Carter and Rachel Yates, Summertime Publishing, 2014
    • Between Worlds, Marilyn Gardner, Doorlight Publications, 2014
    • Slurping Soup and Other Confusions, Gemmer, Wilshire, Afnan Ahmad et al, Summertime Publishing, 2013
    • The Emotionally Resilient Expat, Linda Janssen, Summertime Publishing, 2013
    • Hidden in My Heart, Taylor Murray, BottomLine Media, 2013
    • Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between, Christopher O’Shaughnessy, Summertime Publishing, 2014
    • Safe Passage: How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, Doug Ota, Summertime Publishing, 2014
    • The Worlds Within, an Anthology of TCK Art and Writing: Young, Global and Between Cultures, edited by Jo Parfitt and Eva László-Herbert, Summertime Publishing 2014
    • Insights and Interviews from the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference: The Global Family Redefined, edited by Jo Parfitt, Sue Mannering, and Dounia Bertuccelli, Summertime Publishing, 2015
    • Expat Teens Talk, Dr. Lisa Pittman and Diana Smit, Summertime Publishing, 2012
    • The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, Tina L. Quick, Summertime Publishing, 2010
    • Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, Julia Simens, Summertime Publishing, 2011
    • Letters Never Sent, Ruth Van Reken, Summertime Publishing, 2012



    For further information on Families in Global Transition www.figt.org

    To order books available at the conference visit www.figt.org/page-1291451

    For books specific to expats and TCKs visit www.summertimepublishing.com


    This article was edited by Dounia BertuccelliWith thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.

  • 20 Nov 2015 3:48 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    A big faux pas occurred in July of 2013 when a salesclerk in a handbag shop near Zurich, Switzerland declined to unlock in a display cabinet and let the client, Oprah Winfrey, see and touch the expensive handbag, $38,000.  Ms. Winfrey felt she had experienced racist treatment, although the store management denied any discriminatory behavior.

    Not being present, it is difficult to comment on the events, however customer services varies significantly around the world.  In many countries a person should only ask the price of an item or ask to have it taken from a display case if they plan to buy it.  Conversely, in other places you can look at any and everything without any obligation to buy. Behavior by one sales assistant might be perfectly normal in one location but can perceived as rude and unacceptable by one person or insincere and intrusive by another.

    Consider the following two examples:

    My husband and I went into a furniture shop to look for a new living room table.  We wanted to look around to get some ideas about what was available.  After asking one question about the type of wood, the salesman followed us throughout the store; he was eager to answer all our questions.  While he was trying to be very helpful and informative, I was annoyed by the fact that he always directed his answers to my husband.  Did he think I wouldn’t understand or did he believe my husband made the bigger financial decisions? In some cultures it is more respectful of the couple to address the male of the pair but for someone from an egalitarian culture it can be frustrating.

    Robert walked into a shop but he was completely ignored, no acknowledging nod or smile from the sales assistant.  The employee was helping someone else.  Robert wondered why the clerk couldn’t simply say “I’ll be right with you”.  This is the type of customer service that he was used.  However, is this a reasonable expectation?  Perhaps the sales woman has been trained to give 100% to the patron in front of her.  Would you want the clerk to interrupt your service to focus elsewhere, especially if an additional 10 additional customers entered the shop?  It is never easy to serve multiple customers, so who should be served first?   

    Frequently, when customer service is different than we are used to and all too often we assume that the sales person is slightly us, because of ethnicity, gender or economic status.  However, it may be much less sinister; it may be simply another approach to customer service. Was Oprah justified in her reaction or should she have wondered if there was cultural reason for the actions and more innocent a foot?

    Tell us about the customer service experience that surprised you.

    Contributed by Elizabeth Vennekens­Kelly, an intercultural trainer, consultant and author. Elizabeth helps individuals to be prepared for their expat assignments and she encourages assignees to exam all aspects of expat life so they have realistic expectations. Elizabeth combines her familiarity of expat living and intercultural knowledge to help people to develop the knowledge and skills to be successful in multicultural situations. She is a member of various organizations: VOKA, VIW, FAWCO, SIETAR and FIGT. For more from Elizabeth go to  http://www.crossculture-training.be/

  • 13 Nov 2015 8:47 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    Interview with Kilian Kröll

    Written by Lauren Owen

    Edited by Dounia BertuccelliWith thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.

    Wherever he goes, Kilian Kröll plays many roles. Whether serving as the chair of the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) board, facilitating Ignite sessions, or supporting students and faculty at an international school, Kilian continues to be passionate about the people he leads.

    Despite his many jobs and commitments during the FIGT conference, Kilian was never too busy to engage in conversations with attendees, which included an interview at the end of the conference. FIGT is fortunate to be led by a person as strategic and intentional as Kilian, and whose own cross-cultural background has contributed to his ability to guide FIGT into its next phase as a global organization.

    Cross-Cultural Beginnings

    Kilian’s upbringing as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) contributes to his ability to lead such a diverse organization as FIGT. Born in Germany to an American mother and a German father, both classical musicians, Kilian grew up bilingual and spent summers in Florida with his maternal grandparents. At the age of 12, Kilian and his mother moved from Germany to Austria – one of the most formative moments of his life. “I cannot conceive of myself without that move,” he said.

    This single move encompassed several transitions: a physical move between countries, moving in with his new step-father and baby half-brother, coming out as gay, and a change in his mother’s career. Of these transitions, Kilian identifies the physical move as the most impactful.

    “I would open my mouth and be identified as German,” he remembered, articulating his lack of preparation for the culture shock he would face. Looking back on the transition, Kilian can now see the skills he gained from the transition. “It gave me an understanding of what it means to be an outsider and not have access to the local culture.”

    Kilian would later be able to use this outside perspective to help other people in cross-cultural environments.

    Connecting with FIGT

    Kilian walked onto the FIGT stage somewhat unexpectedly. Even with his TCK upbringing, he did not connect with the expat network immediately. “As a gay person, I never thought of an expat community as a safe space,” he admitted.

    After studying and living in the United States for over a decade, Kilian moved to Denmark on a whim at age 30. Without a network or a career, though, the stint was short-lived. Like many adult TCKs unaware of the impact of their upbringing, his life lacked direction and he lacked a home. Moving back to the United States, he sought a career, not just a next job, and returned to Philadelphia because of a support network already in place.

    Instead of distancing himself from the expat community, though, this move ultimately put him on the road to integrating his life and connecting with FIGT. While in Pennsylvania, a friend suggested he consider a career in coaching. The coaching role combined many of Kilian’s strengths – from people to strategic planning – and he found himself in the field of transitions coaching. It was during one of these seminars that he first heard the term TCK.

    “That moment changed my life,” he remembered. He’d found his tribe.

    The coaching network connected Kilian to FIGT, and in 2011 he applied to host a Kitchen Table Conversation about supporting LGBT employees in global transition. Despite the tardiness of the application, Program Director Anne Copeland approved it, recognizing the necessity of opening up a dialogue surrounding the topic.

    The reception to the Kitchen Table Conversation confirmed for Kilian that he had found his tribe. State Department, military and corporate representatives talked about changes being made to provide necessary support to LGBT colleagues. “For the first time, it made me feel I could bring to the table all parts of who I am,” Kilian commented.

    Since then, Kilian has attended every FIGT conference, and joined the board shortly after.

    Looking back, Kilian has been able to see how different pieces of his life have prepared him for board leadership. He’ll be the first to admit he’s “not an expert”. Regardless, experiences such as reading financial statements as a bookkeeper, coaching others, and strategic thinking have contributed to his success as an FIGT board member.

    Within the board, Kilian has carried out a variety of roles. Prior to serving as president, Kilian acted as treasurer, chair of the scholarship committee, and co-chair of the program committee. Within each of these, Kilian has used his skills to propel FIGT forward – under Kilian’s leadership, for example, scholarship recipients become well-connected to each other, conference attendees and the board. As president, Kilian coordinates meetings and action-based agendas, and he plans for the strategic growth of FIGT, as evidenced in aspects such as the launching of the new FIGT website.

    FIGT 2015

    As president, Kilian saw FIGT 2015 with different eyes than the average attendee, and highlighted at least two shining moments of the weekend:

    First, the FIGT 2015 ‘graphic design revolution’. In addition to commissioning the redesign of the FIGT logo and website, the communication team also created a program cover design contest. Kilian was especially proud of the chosen submission. In Kilian’s words it “brings FIGT to where it needs to be”.

    Kilian’s second highlight of the weekend was the content, especially Norman Viss’s Ignite session and Doug Ota’s closing Keynote. Norman’s take on the spiritual aspect of transition spoke to a piece of transition often neglected.

    Doug Ota’s closing Keynote was “literally a dream come true for me,” Kilian reflected. In speaking with Doug, they noticed a typical conclusion to the FIGT conference involved people leaving early, getting emotional, and essentially avoiding goodbye.

    “This organization doesn’t know how to do goodbye,” he realized, to which Doug made the ultimate suggestion: “what if we do a goodbye ritual?”

    Taking care of oneself includes a ritual, and through Kilian’s and Doug’s partnership, FIGT closed with one. The ritual that resulted exceeded expectations.

    FIGT Looking Forward

    Change is already imminent for FIGT as it relocates to the Netherlands for the next two years. Kilian’s positivity and optimism about this transition are contagious. “It shows that we are global and will make bold choices,” he asserted. He looks forward to closing out his final year on the FIGT board and opening the door to someone else.

    As FIGT transitions, he hopes it continues to give service providers of global nomads tools to take to the people with whom they work, whether through research, practical tools, books, or teaching. FIGT has already begun this step through its new website.

    Kilian also sees the global nomad community as something bigger: “we who have privilege and language around these issues are able to connect with populations outside this particular community… and create a cross-disciplinary dialogue.” As a result, FIGT has focused on building networks to ignite change. For example, the Pollock scholarship committee has made a conscious decision to focus on people working with immigrants and refugees.

    “My hope for everyone at this conference is that they […] cultivate opportunities in their lives to experience integration and purpose every day,” Kilian said in closing. “We are in the position to have an enormous impact on the planet.” This feeling translates into how global nomads tell their stories, connect across perceived divisions, as well as find meaning in the work we accomplish.

  • 08 Nov 2015 3:23 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Led by Nina Sichel & Patricia Linderman

    By Beth Hoban

    Edited by Dounia BertuccelliWith thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.

    “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

    This quote is a favorite of mine and especially reflects my global nomad lifestyle. Our sense of ‘home’ is complex. Home may be where we are from, where we have lived, loved, or even lost. Capturing a vivid sense of place through the written word keeps home in our hearts and gives us the power to take a homecoming journey when we read them again. In this hands-on session, Nina and Patricia facilitated a series of guided writing prompts and shared their personal tips to create a vibrant, intense description of place.

    Nina Sichel is co-editor of Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global (2003), and Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (2011).  Her work has appeared on-line at the Children’s Mental Health Network, and in Among Worlds, International Educator, the American Journal of Nursing and elsewhere. Nina grew up in Venezuela and ‘repatriated’ to the USA for college and beyond; she is a writer, editor, and leader of memoir-writing workshops in Virginia.

    Patricia Linderman is co-author of the Expert Expat: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad (2007), co-editor of Realities of Foreign Service Life, and editor-in-chief of the online expat literary magazine Tales From a Small Planet. She is the currently elected president of the American Association of Foreign Service Workers, the US Foreign Service family member association. Patricia is American and first lived abroad as a graduate student in Germany. She has lived in six different countries including: Trinidad, Chile, Cuba, Germany, and currently resides in the DC area. Helping authors develop a strong sense of place in their writing has been one of her passions.

    Session Kick Off

    Patricia began the session by inviting us to close our eyes and visualize ourselves as a ‘glowing dot’. “Now think about all of the glowing dots that are together in this room. Visualize the journey lines that brought us all together. You are here in this room. Do you smell anything? Feel anything? Think of the richness of details” you would use to describe this place.

    The places we have lived in or traveled through are infused with emotional meaning. They tell us where we’ve been and who we are at a specific point in time. They inform and enhance our evolving cultural identity. Rich, descriptive settings give your narrative shape and meaning to your work with specific detail, and how to capture a vivid sense of place.

    “Through describing smells, shapes, colors, sounds, textures, light, touch and movement, we give the experiences of our senses to others.” – Tristine Rainer.

    Nina shared this quote and invited us to pull our readers into our stories by tapping into our senses. Nina challenged us to “write through your senses and look past the obvious”. She went on to say creating context through the senses “establishes an emotional connection so the reader can be in that place with you. It’s much richer.”

    Tap Into Your Senses

    Patricia and Nina suggest the following prompts to tap into your senses as you write.

    Visual – What does it look like?

    • Landscape – geology, seasons, light, architecture, street scenes, art, design
    • People – physical details, facial expressions, body language, clothing, what they carry with them, health
    • Flora and fauna – plant life, insects, birds, pets, agriculture, wild animals, habitats
    • Spaces – intimate/ public, distance between people, close/ distant views

    Sounds – What do places sound like?

    • Nature – birdsong, insects, wind, thunder
    • Human activity – traffic noise, machinery, crowd sounds
    • Language – dialect, accent, pitch, dialog, slang
    • Intimate/ public – music, songs, prayer, lullabies, clock ticking, tapping of keys

    Smell/taste – What smells stand out to you?

    • Outdoors/ indoors – familiar, exotic, attractive, repulsive
    • Personal – body odor, soaps, perfumes
    • Food and drink – aroma, flavors
    • Local smells- plants, rain, pollution, the sea

    Tactile – What do you feel? 

    • Skin, air, clothing, texture, humidity, touch, intimacy

    Cultural/ historical references – What context is important?

    • Historical context – news, politics, holidays/ festivals, cultural manifestations, environmental changes, crime
    • Trends – fashion, music, transportation, appearances
    • Families – size, nuclear/ extended, traditional, religion, education, values
    • Ethnicity – Language, ethnic groups, immigration, TCKs
    • Values/ Beliefs – aspirations, social recognition, religion, superstitions, work, taboos, sayings, reputations, stereotypes
    • Technology – communications, household, transportation, public spaces

    Prompt #1 – Physical

    Think of a place you’ve called home. Dig deeply into your memories of this place and time, and write down some vivid, specific details. Start with visual images, and then move through your other senses. What sounds do you identify with that home? What smells? What physical sensations? What tastes?

    Prompt #2 – Emotional

    Think again about the place you chose for your first prompt. Why did you choose this place to write about? Did something significant happen there? How did you feel in this home? Is it a feeling you want to recreate as you move into a new space? Write down some of the feelings and turning points you experienced in this place, as well as the emotional factors that made it home for you. Then write down some ways in which you can carry this sense of home with you in the future (totems, possessions, photographs, traditions).

    My Response

    As I responded to the prompts, I was transported back in time 10 years to my first expat home in Seoul, Korea. I remembered nervously arriving at my new home on a cold, windy, December evening. I got out of the embassy transport van, with my four-month-old son tightly bundled in blankets in his basket car seat. My community sponsor led me up the dim walkway and unlocked the heavy, grey, metal front door and took me inside. I slowly entered my new home, a cement block duplex house built in the early 1960s. I could feel the rough texture of the brown industrial carpet in the living room. The hard cement walls were freshly painted a bland eggshell color and the paint smell still lingered. The dark cherry wood Drexel furniture seemed formal and reminded me of my grandmother’s living room. Every item in the house was brown, tan or cream. There was not a spot of vibrant color to be seen. I hesitantly thought to myself what have I gotten myself into? Then I looked out the window and in the distance I saw the lights from Seoul Tower glimmering on top of the mountain. I smiled to myself and began to wonder what this city had to offer.

    Tips for Budding Authors 

    • Take 10 minutes to write everyday
    • Write about whatever you want to
    • Take yourself seriously – others around you will see you as a writer
    • Don’t judge your writing – just write and then come back to it



    Tales From a Small Planet www.talesmag.com


    Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global, Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel (Editors), Nicholas Brealey America, 2003

    Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids, by Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel with Faith Eidse and Elaine Neil Orr (Editors), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011

    Expert Expat: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad, Melissa Brayer-Hess and Patricia Linderman, Intercultural Press, 2007

    Realities of Foreign Service Life, Patricia Linderman and Melissa Brayer-Hess (Editors), iUniverse, 2002

    The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guided and Expanded Creativity, Tristine Rainer, Tarcher, 2004 

    Your Life as Story: Discovering the “New Autobiography” and Writing Memoir as Literature, Tristine Rainer, Tarcher, 1998

    Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal, Alexandra Johnson, Bay Back Books, 2002

    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, Anchor, 1995

    Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, James Pennebaker, The Guilford, 1997

    The Way of Transition, William Bridges, Da Capo Press, 2001

    How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, Michael Gelb, Dell, 2000

    Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser, Mariner Books, 1998

  • 01 Nov 2015 3:48 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Change and Fear. Fear and Change… they go hand in hand like brother and sister.

    “If I had listened to every story I heard about Asia, I would have never boarded the plane from Iceland. Fear is tricky, if I would always listen to it, I wouldn’t do a thing!” (Dagný og Davíð)

    Photo of people walking down a dirt road... Where Does the Road To The Future Lead?

    Where Does the Road To The Future Lead?

    Fear is tricky. So true, fear IS tricky. It fools some people into missing every dream they ever dared to have, and yet for others, it becomes a non-issue.

    I am thinking back to the day I arrived in Baku. I wish I had taken pictures. (Of course, if I had  you would probably be seeing me with my head down in an airsick bag in Baku airport… ewww!)

    At that moment I had left my life behind in America and struck out on my own in Baku, Azerbaijan. Why wasn’t I afraid?

    I had friends “on the inside” so to speak and so I had confidence that everything I was to experience had a safety net underneath. I embraced change in my life and change in the lives of those I hoped to transform. I wanted to bring hope to young people in a time when there was very little hope to go around. That was all I needed in those days.

    “Fear can be good, but ya gotta take it with a grain of salt. I am amazed by travelers. It takes a special type of person to embrace it all. I am not that type of person.” (commenter Terre Pruitt)

    Am I that type person?

    I find more and more that I like doing new things (changing up my routine) but I don’t really want my “places” to change.

    I like the old Baku that reminds me of when I was a risk taker, when I had all the time in the world to recover from a mishap- missing a plane, getting my money stolen, having my apartment sold (while I was on vacation!).

    I loved the connection I made with old Baku, when people were sweet and open, when they looked at me with wonder, like I was something new and special.

    Old Baku was waking up after a 70 year nap. The brother and sister duo of fear and change were walking hand in hand across the squares and parks everywhere. It wasn’t so much courage that came along and changed the city as it was (I believe) unfortunate money. Money can buy lots of things, but rarely authenticity.

    I liked change when I was bringing it. I always thought I had the good of these kids at heart, helping them learn job skills and find jobs to support their families. When money comes along, though, we call that change “progress”. I find I don’t like change when it is accompanied by the darker elements of greed and cultural disrespect. I’m afraid of that kind of change.

    I look at the pictures friends are posting of new Baku and I have mixed emotions. I want to experience that new city, but I admit I am afraid.

    I don’t want to lose the connection with those special memories I have of watching a generation mature from pre-teens to young professionals leading their country into the modern age. It’s what I said I wanted to contribute to. I did, and now I want to scale it back. I am afraid of what comes next for them. I am afraid of what will become of Azerbaijan’s unique culture when it gets homogenized with everything else in Europe and America. Such is the by-product of globalization.

    Remarkable talent and artistry from German prisoners of war, Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences building

    Remarkable talent and artistry from German prisoners of war, Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences building

    And this is the conundrum. We want to experience culture as it was, when it was unique. Yet every time we visit someplace new, we share what our home is like, our ways contrasting their ways, not realizing that our ways may come to supplant their ways. “What have we done?” we ask when we see the first glass and steel structure replace old sandstone carvings.

    America has these places called living history museums, like Williamsburg, Virginia where you can step back in time and watch people clad in 18th century clothing, going about their 18th century lives- threshing grain, milking cows, making their own shoes- trying to be very authentic (until they take a cigarette break and pull out their cell phone to check in for an after-work dinner in town with friends).

    But watching a vignette of history isn’t the same as seeing people who are preserving their culture by honoring it everyday, with no smoke breaks or cell phones.

    Am I being pretty hypocritical here? Am I being “that” kind of tourist?

    I realize I am not afraid to travel. I am afraid to travel to where I already live, to see the homogenized world culture that is of everywhere and yet nowhere.

    I want old Baku to greet me. I want authenticity in my travels. I don’t want to get off a sanitized cruise ship to see “culture” that can be found at the end of a gangway.  I don’t want to buy matryioshka dolls in Moscow bearing a “made in China” sticker on the bottom.

    Am I being unrealistic? Is it impossible to keep our cultures unique, while at the same time moving forward in an ever-shrinking and increasingly inter-connected world?

    I guess I’m not afraid of change as much as I’m afraid of loss.

    To paraphrase Dagny and David’s quote  at the top (thank you for the inspiration, Dagný og Davíð- There Is Another Way ), fear is tricky. If I would always listen to it, I would never have gathered these wonderful  memories.

    Hmmm, maybe I should travel more, not less.

    Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…

    Contributed by Jonelle Hillary who writes about My Life lessons on her website What the World Taught Me

  • 18 Oct 2015 12:34 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Led by Trisha Carter and Rachel Yates

    Reported by Taylor Murray

    Edited by Dounia BertuccelliWith thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.

    “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is bitterest.” – Confucius.

    Successful business partners Rachel Yates and Trisha Carter based their 2015 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) session on three factors: reflection, imitation, and experience. Engaging a brimming audience from expat entrepreneurs to seasoned business owners, Rachel and Trisha explained how to create innovative services, sell your expertise, and effectively reach target customers in an ever-changing world. By sharing their own experiences and strategies, they introduced a wide range of flexible marketing ideas appropriate for reaching today’s continually transitioning market.

    Trisha became an expat when her family moved to China for her husband’s career. She experienced cultural challenges for the first time and became fascinated by the way culture shapes the workplace. After relocating to Sydney, Australia, she began to work extensively with families and multi-cultural team members and managers, increasing their ability to adapt, work effectively, and thrive across a range of diverse situations. As an expat, organizational psychologist, and certified cultural intelligence (CQ) facilitator, she is also co-author of Finding Home Abroad: A Guided Journal for Adapting to Life Overseas. She is the founder of CICollective, a website providing online resources and support for a successful global life.

    Rachel also moved overseas as a ‘trailing spouse’ or ‘accompanying partner’, relocating to Kenya for her husband’s career. Prior to expat life, she was a registered nurse in the UK. She and her husband have lived abroad for over a decade, travelling through three continents, eight homes, and five locations. Rachel is a writer, speaker, and founder of the Expat Life Line. Co-author of the Expat Journals series, she combines her personal and professional experience to design systems and resources for relocating individuals and families, blending tools, training, and long-term planning strategies to build a secure international life.

    Part One: Reflection and Strategy    

    The foundation of a successful business is a strategy. And the foundation of a strategy must be self-reflection and self-evaluation. “I came to expat life at 30,” began Rachel with a wry smile. “I thought I was going for a year, and I spent the first six months crying because I felt like there was no support. But then I started blogging.” Through blogging, Rachel discovered a community of expats with similar needs. “I’ve been blogging for four years,” she continued. “I’m still an expat. I began to think about how to support myself and earn my own money. I didn’t want to be a dependent spouse, and I needed to find some way to allow my voice to find itself. I began self-reflecting.”

    Discovering Your Passions

    To begin self-reflection, Rachel and Trisha firmly believe you must first ask yourself three questions:

    ·        Who am I? “You need to become very clear with who you are before you can discover what you want to do,” Trisha said. In order to do so, you must think back on your own story. Examine how your past experiences have prepared you to help others. Pinpoint the things that fascinate you in order to align them with your skills and training.

    ·        What do I want to do? Only after answering the question ‘who am I?’ can you begin to discern your desired job. Determine your passion and distinguish the best way to market your skills. “When I moved to China,” Trisha recalled, “I felt like I ‘lost’ my skills. But my expat experience helped me discover what I really wanted to do.”

    ·        Who do I want to serve? Finally, determine who you want to serve and how you want to be perceived. Decide whether you are selling business to business or business to consumer. “Figuring out your niche is very important,” Rachel added. “I might be reaching an enormous amount of people, but my message might be muddy and unclear. Don’t try to please everybody, finding your niche later.” Using a diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Trisha and Rachel asked their audience to correlate companies and job positions with each category. They called the diagram the Global Mobility Flow of Care. Rachel explained how this process gives you a clear, visual picture of your fit in the current market, the needs your services meet, how the Global Mobility industry works for you, and who you want to be aligned with. “Knowing who sits around you is a vital thing you can do to enhance your business,” reminded Trisha. 

    Doing Your Best Work 

    Rachel prompted her audience to discover what might stop them from accomplishing their best work. “What are your monsters?” Trisha questioned. She explained how our inner monsters ‘come out’ when we step into who we want to be or what we want to do.

    Rachel shared a poignant childhood memory that created reluctance to pricing and receiving money. Although she had figured out who she was, her niche, and what service she wanted to offer, she was hindered by this single event. “What is limiting you?” She asked her audience. “It’s important to build a sustainable voice.” 

    Part Two: Bringing Reflection to Reality

    After explaining how to self-reflect in order to create a foundational strategy for your business, Rachel and Trisha provided practical tips for creating copy, writing proposals and pitches, and networking.

    Creating Copy

    Rachel addressed the ‘three C’s’ for creating copy that sells:

    ·        Clarity – “Be clear on your message,” she stressed. “A lot of people are not clear on what they are doing or who they are.” Rachel suggested carefully reviewing your material. “Is it easy for people to buy your service and understand how much it costs?”

    ·        Consistency – “Trisha sells her services on many different levels,” Rachel said, “but she is always consistent on who she is and what she sells.” Although your language may differ depending on who you are talking to, what you are offering does not.

    ·        Connections – “Remember, we buy from people who we know, like, and trust,” Rachel reminded. She emphasized building relationships on these three factors.

    Proposals and Pitch

    Rachel and Trisha highlighted the importance of well-written and concise proposals and pitches. In order to write a successful proposal, Trisha recommended including six features:

    ·        Needs

    ·        Values

    ·        Solutions

    ·        Costs

    ·        Relationship

    ·        Actions


    Lastly, Trisha described two methods of networking:

    ·        Networking in person – In order to broaden your face-to-face networking circles, she recommended joining the expat community Internations. “Ask people to tell you about events so you can network. Tell people what you do. Remember, where depends on who.” She suggested attending several expat events to find your business partners. Describe your services and ask what they need. Get to know them better. “It’s a numbers game,” Trisha said. “The more people you talk to the more opportunities you have.” 

    ·        Networking online – Trisha emphasized the positive effects of social media on your business. She recommended regularly networking online through Wordpress, Linkedin, Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook.

    Trisha and Rachel recognize the difficulties and uncertainties that emerge when starting your own business and creating services that sell. In order to be successful, they highlighted the importance of remembering your priorities and never forgetting your own goals. “Honor your voice. Honor your family. Honor what you do.”



    For further information on CICollective visit www.cicollective.com

    For further information on the Expat Life Line visit www.theexpatlifeline.com

    For further information on the Expat Journal series visit www.expatjournals.com

    Join Internations at www.internations.org


    Finding Home Abroad: A Guided Journal for Adapting to Life Overseas, Trisha Carter and Rachel Yates, Summertime Publishing, 2014


  • 07 Oct 2015 2:18 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Moving abroad can ignite a whole host of emotions. From elation and a sense of adventure and freedom, to the insecurity of missing familiar people, places and routines. The practicalities of the move, both packing up and saying goodbye, and organising our new life, can be stressful too. Something that is almost never at the forefront of our minds during this exciting and dramatic time though is taxes.

    The consequences of neglecting tax obligations can be severe though. Furthermore, moving abroad, in the case of US expats, doesn't mean that we are no longer liable to file a federal US return, the US being one of just 2 countries that taxes by citizenship (and/or possession of a green card) rather than by residence. So Americans moving abroad become subject to the tax and filing obligations of 2 governments, rather than just one.

    The good news is that the US has double taxation agreements with lots of countries, and has various other provisions in place to prevent the same income being taxed twice. We still have to file though, and there are some extra filing requirements especially for expats too (lucky us).

    So my first piece of advice for those moving abroad is to take a little time to find out what the requirements are, for both your old and your new countries of residence. Once you know these, you can plan.

    This can be normally be achieved with an online search. The first things that you'll want to find out are filing dates and tax rates, and whether you can file online. In most countries you'll need to register with the national tax authority too, so you should find out how to do so early on. If you are already employed when you arrive, your employer should be able to help with this.

    For Americans, any taxes owed must be paid by April 15th, the same as for those living in the US, however the filing date for expats is June 15th, with an extension available until October 15th which you can request online.

    The Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) meanwhile requires US expats to attach a form 8938 to their return declaring any overseas earnings and assets.

    Furthermore, US expats who have at least ten thousand dollars in total in bank accounts outside the US at any time during the tax year must also submit an FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) declaring their overseas bank accounts. In practice this is form 114 which from 2016 must be filed online by April 15th, though again an extension will be available until October 15th.

    My next piece of advice is to find out what if any tax treaties exist between your old and new countries of residence to prevent you paying tax on the same income twice. Typically, you pay tax on income in the country where it's earned. Again, an online search ought to fairly quickly shed some light on this.

    Next, find out which exemptions you are entitled to claim. For Americans these might include the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which relieves US expats from paying tax on the first $100,800 (in 2015) of income earned abroad, the Foreign Tax Credit, and the Foreign Housing Exclusion.

    With the help of tax treaties and the various exclusions and allowances available, most US expats won't owe the IRS a penny, although they still have to file.

    If you own (or are starting) your own business, there'll be corporation tax to pay too, so don't forget to look up corporation tax rates and what is deductible too. Again it's unlikely that you'll have to pay taxes on your profits twice, but the key is to understand the rules, as what exactly is tax deductible can vary from country to country. So can the 'tax year': in some countries it's fixed (e.g. the calendar year), while in others it relates to the date of incorporation or first filing.

    If your situation isn't straightforward, or if there's anything that you aren't sure about, seek help. This will normally mean a separate accountant for both your country of residence and your home country. In your new country of residence, seek a recommendation from someone that you trust. For Americans, consult a company that specialises in US expat taxes.

    Contributed by H J Lesser of Bright!Tax, a specialist online US expat tax return preparer with clients in over 100 countries.

  • 03 Oct 2015 3:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Taylor Murray

    “Hello,” Teja Arboleda greeted his audience warmly as he walked on stage. “Konnichiwa,” he bowed deeply at the waist and continued his greeting with an almost imperceptible grin, “Ni Hao.” His tone switched to a thick, German accent, “Hallo!”

    Laughter rippled through the audience. Teja chuckled with us. “People usually ask me ‘what are you?’” he began, “Not ‘who are you?’ or ‘where are you from?’ but ‘what are you?’”

    Teja is a multiethnic, multicultural, and multiracial American. His keynote address at Families in Global Transition (FIGT) 2015 was inspirational and touching as he shared his life journey. From childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood, Teja described the defining moments of his life that shaped him and impassioned him to bring awareness to race and cultural diversity.

    Teja’s presentation was light-hearted and humorous as he re-enacted stories of cultural differences and travel experiences with loud, unabashed accents. It was emotionally stirring as he recounted his long-lasting search for identity and belonging. It was thought-provoking and aggrieving as he spoke about the racial discrimination that marred his childhood and complicated his upbringing. We empathized with Teja’s struggles and resonated with his doubts and fears. But in the end, when the question ‘what are you?’ resurfaced once again, we were able see how both the good and the ugly of Teja’s story had uniquely equipped him to answer this simple question.

    A Little Bit of History

    Teja’s father’s father was Filipino- Chinese. At the age of 15, he became the head of the household. He spoke four languages and supported his family as a rice farmer. ‘Finding out’ about America one year later, he moved there with hopes of a better life. He met Teja’s grandmother, who was an African-American/ Native American. They fell in love and were soon married.

    “The act of love between two people of different race resulted in violence,” Teja sadly explained. They were taunted, pressed to separate, and experienced severe racial discrimination despite their obvious affection for one another.

    Teja’s mother’s father was German-Danish. His grandmother was German. When World War One raged, Teja’s family joined separate sides. “I had grandfathers all over the world literally killing each other,” he said. This realization brought Teja to question his identity as a teenager and young adult. “Who am I?” he asked himself. “What am I? And why am I here?” He felt rootless and ashamed. Many people call Teja Hispanic, Black, or Asian. These assumptions of heritage are always coupled with the conclusion that “it must be interesting to be of mixed race”. But Teja had been born into a legacy of racial discrimination, heartache, and poverty. 

    Author of 15 books and co-author of 12, Teja’s father was exceedingly accomplished. But despite these successes, Teja’s father could never find a job because of his ethnicity. Teja remembers that his father, burning with anger, never smiled. “If you look into someone’s face,” Teja said, “you can tell there’s a little bit of history.”

    Culture and Crayons

    Teja was born in Brooklyn, New York. Six months later, Teja’s father realized he could no longer afford to raise his children. He sent his two sons to Germany, where they lived with their grandparents for the next two-and-a-half years. Teja’s first language was German.

    When Teja and his brother moved back to America, their transition was painfully difficult. They soon discovered American children didn’t want to play with them because they dressed and acted German. Loneliness and insecurity settled in Teja’s heart, while restless confusion and unanswered questions seeped into his mind.

    “The color of your skin has no bearing on your culture,” Teja reflected. He talked about the time, years later, when he discovered Crayola was marketing ‘multicultural’ crayons. “I called Crayola and said I could help,” he laughed. “But the problem is… there is no such thing as a multicultural crayon!”

    When Teja turned six, the racial discrimination in America grew worse. Fearing for their safety, Teja’s father moved his family to Japan. Teja traded traditional German clothes for a Japanese yukata. But despite his attempts at cultural assimilation, Teja’s world saw him as a gaijin, or ‘foreigner’.

    Soon, Teja began attending an international school. As Japan became more ‘Americanized’, his studies were primarily focused on the United States. By the time he had turned eight, Teja wanted to be an American. He believed that it was better to be “blonde, blue-eyed, and white”. One day after school, Teja drew a picture of himself with white skin. “I believed that I would be a better person if I wasn’t who I was,” he said.

    My Own Country. Where Would That Be?

    As years passed, Teja’s search to discover his true identity and heritage grew desperate. The unanswered questions that had accumulated in Teja’s mind over time weighed heavily. Yearning to belong, he decided to become a Japanese citizen. Now, he wanted to be Asian. But Teja’s Japanese friends disagreed. They told him to go back to ‘where he came from’ and to return to his own country.

    “My own country,” Teja laughed ironically. “Where would that be?” The world had yet to offer the acceptance that Teja longed for. When he turned 16, Teja’s parents approached him with terrible news. They had decided to divorce, and he must choose whether he wanted to stay in Japan with his father or go to America with his mother.

    “This was the hardest decision I have ever made,” Teja recalled. He felt pulled between worlds, and his heart longed to settle in both places. Finally, he decided to stay in Japan. It was a country he loved, and a decade away from his birthplace had changed his perspective. America now appeared distant and foreign.

    Teja stayed in Japan for the remainder of his high-school years. He graduated and, leaving his Asian home, decided to move back to America for college. But despite his determination to grow deeper roots and ‘fit in’, Teja continued to struggle. He left America soon after his college graduation. Restless and unsettled, Teja traveled the world in pursuit of a place to call ‘home’.

    Eventually, Teja returned to Boston. His search had proven unsuccessful and instead of finding a place of security and belonging, Teja was homeless. “I spent four months sleeping on benches and stealing what I could.” A heaviness deepened Teja’s voice he as described this time in his life. “I was angry.”

    “Finally,” Teja continued, “I figured out how to make a phone call to ask for help.” Teja’s future slowly brightened as he began to find enough work to support himself. It was then he began to realize how difficult it was for people to accept others. This awareness grew, penetrating his spirit, as Teja truly settled for the first time in over a decade.

    Months later, as Teja walked down the steps of his home one afternoon, his soul searching was finally answered. There, at the bottom of his steps, was a large package addressed to Teja from his father. Inside were all of the things his father wanted Teja to remember from his previous life. A diary, written for Teja by his father, was one of these keepsakes. Discoveries about culture, race, and identity leapt from these pages. “Once you add a word [about race],” Teja learned, “it quickly becomes a barrier or a conduit.”

    As life continued, Teja found that the dreaded question still resurfaced. ‘What are you?’ people would ask and he would ask himself.

    Teja smiled.

    “Having this experience of being of mixed race,” he said, “living in Japan and visiting all of these different countries… it all comes down to speaking the truth. And when everything else is taken away, what is truth?”

    Teja’s two ending words resounded throughout his captive audience with confidence, ringing of roots dug deep and identity rediscovered.

    “I’m human.” 



    For more information visit www.tejaarboleda.com


    In the Shadow of Race: Growing Up As A Multiethnic, Multicultural, and Multiracial American, Teja Arboleda, Routledge, 1998  

    Edited by Dounia BertuccelliWith thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.
  • 19 Sep 2015 5:05 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Your child at boarding school calls you to say they are unhappy. What should you do? Educational consultant Rebecca Grappo reassures parents not to panic. The first thing is to assess whether it’s a true crisis call or a reaching out for support, and then act accordingly.

    By Rebecca Grappo

    I recently received an email from a worried parent who told me that after only three weeks at boarding school, her son seemed unhappy and kept talking about missing his friends back home. She naturally wanted to know if this was normal and what to do.

    Having had a child in boarding school myself, I knew that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that comes from being far away and not being sure about what was really going on. So this is how I answered her.

    It's normal to have ups and downs

    It is not unusual for a student to have ups and downs. Sometimes they call home during the low points, unload their unhappiness on their parents, end the call and then go off to be with their friends. They feel better having unloaded on their caring parents, but now it’s the parents who are left holding the bag of their child’s emotions, not sure what to do with it.

    Social media and electronics also make it easy for kids to stay in touch with friends back home. It might be necessary to set some boundaries and create expectations so that the student invests in their new school friends and community.

    Getting the call: Crisis or not?

    The first thing to consider is whether the distress call is truly a crisis call or merely a “reaching out for support” call. Indicators that your child is in the former category will be different from child to child, but the key difference will be his ability to think clearly.

    If he is so overwhelmed that he cannot calm down, it’s best to take a directive approach. Perhaps you instruct the child to find their advisor or counselor or school nurse or maybe you can call this person. Your parental instincts will likely guide you on what to do in this situation.

    Should this merely be a “I am really stressed out call,” my advice to you is to focus on acknowledging and validating your child’s concerns and feelings. Listening and reflecting often does wonders, and it’s important to remember that boarding school is a huge transition for almost every child. A spectrum of feelings, from elation to loneliness, are all to be expected and are normal. Remind your child that he is not alone in his feelings or in his support system.

    What’s really going on?

    One way to find out what’s really going on is to stay in touch with the student’s advisor. This is the person who sees your child on a regular basis to talk about how school is going in every area, from his classes to activities, from friends to roommates. This is the “go to” person for most things, and your child not only meets with the advisor individually, but also in advisory meetings with a small cohort of fellow students.

    Most boarding schools also have meetings among the teachers who are advisors. These meetings are a place for advisors to discuss students and share observations.

    If your son is having an issue in one particular area, then the advisor or other teachers, coaches, and residential life deans can raise the concern to see if it’s being noticed in other areas, too. The advisor should be able to assess your child’s well being across domains and provide feedback to parents.

    If your son seems to be happy, engaged, participating, and interacting with peers and friends, chances are there is nothing serious to worry about.

    On the other hand, this safety net exists to catch problems before they become major issues. Maybe teachers observe that a student is becoming withdrawn, seems sad, is not participating in class, missing assignments, or is struggling with academics. Perhaps the residence life representative at the table notices that something seems off in the dormitory or dining hall. The school nurse might notice the student seems to be visiting for somatic symptoms on a regular basis, or perhaps the school counselor knows something that needs follow up.

    By sharing notes, school personnel can be on alert and observing all kinds of interactions to ascertain whether or not your son is experiencing normal adjustment issues or something more serious that merits further investigation.

    The advisor also remains in communication with you as parents so if you hear something that concerns you, you can bring it up in your correspondence. Most advisors are also very happy to discuss any issue of concern in more detail by phone, as long as it is at a mutually agreeable time.

    Occasionally, an adolescent will try to “push their parents’ buttons” by making them feel guilty and worry about them. Sometimes they want their parents to let them go home to their friends, when really that’s not in their best interest. At that point, it really might be necessary for you as parents to issue a statement of commitment to the child’s education, at that school.

    The best advice I can give you is to not panic with the distress call. Hopefully the school was chosen wisely for its support system as much as for the academics, and there are many adults watching and supervising all the students. If something needs attention, there are many ways that you and the school can work together to support your child. Hang in there!

    Rebecca Grappo, M.Ed, is founder of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC. RNG International provides comprehensive educational consulting, including boarding school placements, to students and families around the world.

  • 12 Sep 2015 6:47 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Lauren Owen

    A conversation with Doug Ota feels as though you’ve been invited into his living room and have known him for at least 20 years. He is one of those people who remembers your name and your face, even if only after a two-minute elevator introduction, which was how I first met him. Generous, responsive, and sincere, I was honored by Doug’s willingness to sit down for an interview shortly after delivering the concluding keynote of the three-day Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference.

     Doug currently lives and works in the Netherlands, where he is a psychologist. His own cross-cultural story has spurred much of his research and writing, and his recently published book Safe Passage offers a guide to structuring effective transition support within international schools and organizations. Originally from California and biracial by ethnicity, Doug has spent his life crossing cultures. From the United States, he transitioned to the Netherlands, where he continues to work in psychology and cross-cultural issues. It was a privilege to sit with Doug and hear his story leading up to the publication of the book, as well as his past and present involvement with FIGT.

    Outside of the Box 

    Doug’s life shaped him for the cross-cultural experience. An Asian and Anglo-Saxon hybrid, he always knew he looked different, but was never quite sure what caused it and found himself constantly wanting to look like ‘the other kids’ he lived among in California.

    “What’s your ethnicity?” his classmates would ask.

    “They needed to have a box for me,” Doug said. But no one could come up with  a box.

    When Doug’s stepfather entered his story, Doug began to live the importance of rituals, noticing how they gave him a place. Doug’s biological father had left the family when Doug was three years old, acquainting Doug with transition at an early age. With his stepfather, though, Doug felt comfortable. The two of them would go to baseball games together, and attend church services. These rituals provided safety and security, providing a framework to live in.

    Even with these rituals, though, Doug continued to feel he didn’t belong. He realized he would have to come to terms with being different. He didn’t fit into a box, and would have to find his own way.

    Moving to the Netherlands

    Doug continued to feel like a stranger as he moved from the United States to the Netherlands as an adult. Graduating from Princeton University before moving to Europe, he had grown accustomed to the academic culture in the United States . American culture valued competition and individuality.

    As he began to study psychology in the Netherlands, though, he discovered the Dutch culture was very different. The Ivy League degree he had obtained held little importance in Dutch culture, where students tend to downplay successes and strive to fall in the middle of a category.

    “It was a difficult and dark period,” Doug admitted, describing how he struggled to adjust to the new set of academic norms. He continued to strive to be a good student, but the difficulty of not fitting into the Dutch academic box was wearing.

    Despite the difficulty, he continued to work and study, ultimately opening his own private practice in 2009.

    Connecting with FIGT

    We can thank Ruth van Reken for her role in connecting Doug with FIGT. While traveling to Holland, Ruth wanted to organize a preconference workshop on transitions teams in an international school context. Due to Doug’s work on the transitions program at the American School of The Hague, Ruth invited Doug to present.

    Two years later, Doug was invited to give the opening keynote at the 2009 conference. Now, attending FIGT feels like coming home.

    Safe Passage

    My own personal excitement for interviewing Doug came from the fact that I had just finished reading his recently published book entitled Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. As described in the title, the book describes the impact global mobility has on people, but also outlines steps to building a program to aid in transition.

    Tied together by a nautical theme, I assumed Doug had a nautical background due to the prevalence of sailing references. Despite sailboats functioning as a defining metaphor, I discovered he has no affinity for water.

    “I get terribly seasick,” he chuckled. The idea for the theme had emerged from the restaurant he and Ruth van Reken had met at, which sported sailboat decorations. The theme fit and became the defining feature.

    When asked about the process of writing the book, Doug looked off into the distance for a minute.

    “It was something I had to grow into,” he admitted.

    The idea had been birthed in 2005, with writing starting in 2006. At the time, 30 people were working on the project; Doug was lead editor.

    “It ended up being a cataclysm,” he confessed. The book did not emerge.

    Not to be put off, he tried again a couple of years later, this time with a team of approximately six people and the help of Barbara Schaetti and Ruth van Reken. The context was different, but the results were the same: ideas and no book.

    Despite the multiple failed attempts, though, the book bug did not go away. In April of 2012, Barbara Schaetti gave Doug the nudge he needed: “you still can”.

    “I needed to grow into being ready,” Doug explained. He realized this was his story to tell, and he needed to tell it. No one could tell the story for him. “I didn’t really have a choice.”

    Doug expressed his goals for the book on both the individual and macro level. “I want people to be able to find themselves,” he said. “They don’t have to go through what I went through.” He also wants to equip international schools and organizations to support individuals encountering transition.

    “This book focuses on schools,” I mentioned as we concluded our interview. “What about other organizations that support transitioning people?”

    “The sub-title is insufficient,” Doug admitted. “It should read, how mobility affects people and what international schools and organizations should do about it.”

    In closing, Doug shared the following pieces of advice for people who are involved in cross-cultural work:

    • Don’t try to do it by yourself
    • Be patient
    • Be persistent, but don’t go away
    • Find people who are like-minded



    For further information about Doug Ota’s book visit www.safepassage.nl

    For further information about Doug Ota visit www.dougota.nl


    Safe Passage: How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, Douglas Ota, Summertime Publishing, 2014

    Edited by Dounia Bertuccelli. With thanks to the sponsorship of Summertime Publishing and the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency.

Site Search:

Mailing address:
Families in Global Transition

C/o Campbell Rappold & Yurasits LLP
1033 S Cedar Crest Blvd
Allentown, PA 18103


+1 (703) 634-7400
Skype: figt.administrator

© Families in Global Transition, Inc.