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.

  • 30 Aug 2015 8:51 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The four stages of post-move adjusting is fairly well known--but reality isn’t quite so tidy. one global nomad, Naomi Hattaway, tells us about the real stages of moving abroad!

    By Naomi Hattaway

    If you have done any research on culture shock, you likely know about the noted four stages: Elation, Resistance, Transformation and Integration (also sometimes called Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Mastery).

    There are also noted and recognized stages of transition back into your home country (or your passport country, whichever situation you find yourself in). Those stages are Settled, Unsettled, Chaos, Resettling, Settled (click on the below image to enlarge).

    Imagine standing on a very solid road, with firm footing underneath you. You have a warm cup of tea in your hand, and in the other, the arm of a loved one. This is SETTLED. It is your current state, comfortable and content.  Ahead of you is a bridge and you can clearly see a storm brewing in the middle of that bridge.

    Watercolor, Mia Hattaway

    As you set down your tea, and begin to cross the bridge towards the storm, you can see the sunshine and firm road behind you … and the sharp, shocking lightning flashes ahead. As you progress towards the storm (UNSETTLED), the bridge begins to sway. Nothing is where you remember leaving it and everything feels out of reach.

    Right in the middle of the bridge, where there is no sure footing, the climate around you is dark, rumbling and gray, this is CHAOS. Gone is the feeling of contentedness and you’re not sure whether it feels safer to turn around or forge ahead.

    BUT soon after chaos comes RESETTLING. You’ve stepped off of the swaying bridge and the lightning has diminished to almost non-existent. You’ve likely landed in your new home and while you can still very much feel the after-effects of the chaos brewing behind you, you can see the rainbow stretching over the expanse of the bridge you’ve just crossed.

    Slowly, but surely you regain your steadfast footing and cross onto flat and strong land again. SETTLED!

    Doesn’t that sound (while a bit daunting in the beginning) relatively surmountable? It’s all fine and good and is quite a nice description of how it sometimes feels to move (whether abroad for the first time, relocating as an experienced expat or returning home). However, I believe there should also be an acknowledged set of stages that pertain to the moving process as a whole!   

    Based on our personal experience (as well as the collected input from several well-traveled friends), here are the “Real Stages” of moving abroad:


    • You and your spouse or partner (or just you possibly) know there is a change brewing. 
    • You spend what feels like every waking moment poring over the details and options.
    • Most likely you cannot talk to anyone about this, so your ability to process is limited.
    • There will be stress in your home, as you can also NOT let your children become aware of the potential move, as it would completely disrupt their world.


    • You’ve made your decision, and now it’s time to wait for the formal offer, or perhaps time to wait for the approval process for your relocation package.
    • You still cannot tell anyone and you’re on hold still with telling your children.
    • The stress in your home will multiply because at this point, you begin to second-guess your choice and decision.
    • Your children, friends and family cannot figure out why you seem to have something bothering you, yet you can’t share the reasoning behind it.
    • You start to disassociate with those around you because you are subconsciously (or consciously) starting to disconnect and move on.
    • You’re in a complete state of limbo, you can’t book anything, you can’t make forward plans or holidays, you don’t know whether to re-register your kids (if you need to) at school, your gym membership is about to expire, your car registration is due, as is your mobile phone contract, you don’t want to commit to anything that will lock you into a new contract or unnecessary expense if you do end up moving.  You know there’s tons of things you could be doing in readiness for the potential move but you can’t so you’re chomping at the bit and can’t do a thing … except … the limbo!



    • Let the hard work begin! Whether you need to sort out schools for your children, find a home, sort out insurance or simply vaccinations, it can be confusing, exhausting, tiring, thrilling, painful.


    • This (for me anyway) starts out being a really fun part of the process!  It’s spring cleaning on steroids and often I start out gung ho. Several weeks later however, I found my motivation waning.
    • You will use several different colors of sticky notes to designate whether a specific item goes in the air shipment, the sea shipment or into suitcases.
    • You will also invest in several packages of black trash bags.  NOT clear, black! When you discover loads of things that you can recycle to a new family, the black bags ensure that your children won’t remove those items, while declaring “You’re not getting rid of THIS are you?”
    • If you’re experienced at this whole moving gig, your purging requirement becomes less and less as you go, however your treasures begin to accumulate. The gorgeous prayer altar from Singapore, the bamboo vase from Thailand and who can rival the camel cart coffee table from India.
    • Deciding what to put in storage, what to give away, not to mention what to do with the reality that once you’ve relocated more than once, you get bitten by the “sentiment bug” – that inkling inside that ceases from allowing you to get too close to anything of sentimental value so that you don’t have to purge or pack it in the future.
    • Sue brought this to mind: The first time the movers came in, I was so stoked about their efficiency. The second time not so much and by the last time we moved/unpacked, I was downright irritable about their presence, not to mention the HORRIBLE sound of packing tape.

    The Mattress Stage

    • This is when likely, your spouse has left for the new country and you are sleeping on mattresses.
    • The packers come and in a whirlwind like effort, completely decimate everything that you thought was your home, relegate it to hundreds of boxes and leave you with a cheery “see ya tomorrow when we load up!”
    • Kiddos are missing their daddy/mama and the spouse left behind is exhausted, while the spouse who has already moved is second-guessing this decision and missing home.

    Saying Goodbye

    The Landing

    • Wide-eyed, jet-lagged and a bit shell shocked, you land in your new country
    • Depending on where you’ve landed, this can be a relatively smooth landing, or it can be

    The Slump / Crash

    • Often the rush and hype of moving overseas bitterly overshadows the realization that you might not be as prepared for this move as you thought.
    • You are EXHAUSTED.
    • You’ve managed to go from a bazillion things, goodbye parties and other engagements, and then BAM, you have no friends, nothing on your calendar. It’s discomforting, this quiet, this initial lack of to-do-lists, your friends are likely asleep while you’re awake so you can’t even call anyone!  
    • And, then there’s the illness….moving to your new country means new germs for everyone AND it can take a long time to build up your immunity. We spent a good bit of time with nebulizers (our new best friends in Delhi), with home doctor visits because of Delhi Belly and the like and let’s not even discuss Chikungunya (which I haven’t blogged about yet in all of its glory).

    Making New Friends

    • This is easier said than done depending on your location, but regardless of the ease or difficulty, this is both a stressful and lovely piece of the puzzle
    • The need for immediate friends is fulfilled by the ease of finding some like-minded spirits. This might be new relationships based simply on the stamps in your passport, or the ages of your children or even your choice of drink at the bar that night. 

    Finding Your Way

    • Whether it is part-time work, volunteering, time at school or exploring your city, this is where it all comes together. You are flourishing and enjoying your days
    • Part of “Finding Your Way” may be REmaking new friends. Some of my moving experts all mentioned that those early friendships may not stand the test of time, and part of this piece of the puzzle may include taking time to find the things and friends you truly want to have. It may mean letting go/walking away from the early support systems you had and walking toward the things that are more meaningful to you.
    • Finding your way which is not just about part time work or volunteering but the having to REfind everything that you need to make you and your family feel as if this new place is home. Finding where to buy mincemeat or … toilet paper, or … some other staple that you need to get by. It took one of my friends a LONG time to find good bread in Delhi (probably located just before she found out they were moving again)

    Saying Goodbye (again)

    • This stage hits hard and whether you are saying goodbye to friends or doing the leaving yourself, it wreaks havoc on a settled household.

    What other stages can you add to this list? I haven’t exhausted all of the different pieces that come into play. Let me know what else we can inject into the stages that I’ve identified above.

    After living in several states in the United States, Naomi and her family moved overseas to Delhi, India and then Singapore. Now back in the United States and living in Loudoun County, Virginia, she enjoys making an impact - even if only with a small corner of her world - for the better. She is the founder of 8th & Home [http://8thandhome.com], a boutique real estate and relocation company and also blogs about relocation, life with itchy feet and living your best life at www.naomihattaway.com.

  • 16 Aug 2015 1:50 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It’s no secret that networking is an integral part of find a job and furthering your career.  So why network and how should you go about it? Firstly, why network? There are a couple of reasons.

    Firstly, most jobs are not advertised.  You read that right- most jobs are not advertised.  These unadvertised jobs make up what we call the “hidden job market”.  Depending on what job market you are in up to 85% of jobs may not be advertised.  85%!  That means if you’re relying on advertised positions you are only accessing a small percentage of the job market.   Networking is one way you can access this hidden job market.

    The second reason you need to network is that whether you are applying for an advertised job or have cold-called a potential employer it helps to know people in the organization (or who know people who know people in the organization).  Renowned author Richard Bolles of What Color is Your Parachute? calls these people “bridge people”.

    So, who is your network? Here’s the good news for those of you who move around a lot- you have a BIG network!  Just think of all the places you’ve been to school, places you’ve worked, groups you’ve volunteered with, sporting teams you’ve been on, professional associations and alumni groups you are a member of, events you’ve attended, community groups you’ve been part of in all of the different places you’ve lived.  I’m betting you know a lot of people.  Chances are you’re already networking with a lot of them either because you see them regularly, stay in touch via email or are connected with them on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn or you can reach out to them via this method.

    Now, as important as it is to cast your net far and wide when considering who your “network” is it is also important to think quality over quantity when it comes to your career network.  Networking from a career perspective (as opposed to your personal networking) needs to a planned effort with some idea of what you are hoping to achieve and contribute. Focus on those who work in the field you want to work in, or, if you’re still in the exploration phase, those who share the same interests as you.  If you have already created a list of organizations you’d like to work for reach out to those who work there (or who might know someone who does).

    Talented international speaker and advocate for the benefits of community Chris O’Shaughnessy recently made the fabulous analogy between social networking and junk food.  According to Chris social networking when used as a relational device is like junk food.  It appears to have substance but it’s really just empty calories. Chris was discussing social networking in terms of social interaction and friendship but it is equally applicable across the board of social interaction including career networking.  Online networking sites such as LinkedIn are an important part of career networking (more on this in a later post) but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that adding to your list of connections on LinkedIn or sending out emails to touch base with people you know is enough.

    Just like personal networking building your career network is building a community, but with a focus on career and just like your personal relationships career networking requires maintaining relationships and giving as well as receiving. In upcoming posts I’ll discuss how to network including using LinkedIn.

    Contributed by Amanda McCue, who has spent 20 years frequently moving, both around Australia and between Australia and the USA as an accompanying spouse to her Australian military husband. Amanda is passionate about empowering individuals (especially military spouses and other accompanying partners) to make satisfying career decisions that are compatible with other important aspects of their lives and she will shortly complete her post-graduate qualifications as a Career Development Practitioner. Sheblogs at www.careerswag.com

  • 02 Aug 2015 2:22 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    See the new environment

    Families often do not use their new school until the start of the school year. I always suggest to my parents who are moving to call the school and ask them if you can bring the children in to see their new environment. This often takes some anxiety off the first day of school, but it also allows you the opportunity to ‘run into’ other new families or those families that are involved with the school. These are both valuable resources. You can ask them, “Where do kids this age play or hangout?” as you point to your own children. You ask them, “What are you finding to do while your family is still in the rental apartment? Sometimes this on-site visit gives your child the opportunity to see what other kids are wearing so they don’t get completely surprised on that first day of school. This can be very important if the school does not have an uniform. Most kids just want to belong and not stick out too much.

    Get a local resource person

    Use the school secretary as a resource. Ask the school staff, “Where is the best playground around here?” – “What activities do kids in this school get involved in?” I have had students take a weekend class on pottery to find out that a child in that class would also be in their grade or classroom in a few days. Make sure your child understands how many sections or classrooms there will be with kids their own age. When a child moves from a huge school to a small school it is important for them to realize how important first impressions might be because there is a smaller pool of possible friends. This also is important if your child is going from a very small school to a larger school. Often the first days of school have grade level assemblies or school assemblies, your child needs to know if these will be in a group of 40+ or 400+. The more information a child has on their new environment, the more in control they might feel.

    Proper use of “Family Time”

    Use family time as “out of home time” not “bonding in your personal environment”. The more exposure your child has to get around the new town, eating at the local places close to school and knowing the names of the large streets or apartment buildings gives them more to talk about the first two days of schools when friendships are being formed. Often we are stuck in a service apartment while waiting for the shipment to clear customs. This means we have very little to do and can easily get on each other’s nerves. Take that energy and go out to explore the new environment.

    #1 Rule for Success

    My number one rule to all parents is – Do not show up late to the start of the school year. Friendships form so easily that a kid that misses out on the teacher trying to make class connections with peers, he/she will suffer. This also means do not show up to school with an overly tired child. Getting off a plane on Sunday to start school on Monday can set up a child for social failure. As parents of global families, what has been your “rule of thumb” or “success strategies” that work for you family? I’d love to hear them.

    Contributed by Julia Simens, an American writer who has lived on five continents and raised two TCKs. Her book "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family" is commonly found in many international schools and embassies where she gives talks to parents, teachers and families living a global lifestyle. Find her blog at http://www.jsimens.com

  • 19 Jul 2015 1:54 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    My expat life is glamorous.

    It is!

    It is foreign travel, amazing functions, often with diplomats and Ambassadors.  It is amazing shopping, beautiful photo opportunities and a pretty stand-up education for our children.

    It is phenomenal attire on the women that adorn the sidewalk at pickup time.  It is being chauffeured around the city without a worry or a care.  It is lunching and dining at brilliant establishments.  It is having your sundries delivered daily and your home cleaned by someone that you employ.

    It is fundraisers with floor-length gowns, saris and more bling that you’d ever think possible.

    It is Indian weddings, Chinese celebrations and claddagh dancing. It is personally knowing friends that hail from more than 50 different countries.

    It is wall decor that captures images of camels, nose piercings and vivid cultural celebrations.  It is cupboards full of TimTams, cup’o noodles from various locations in Asia, coffee mugs from four different international schools and spray cheese from the United States.

    It is remarkable volunteer opportunities where you can either teach English to barely literate children or physically rescue girls from the sex trade.

    It is a new group of amazing friends every three years (on average).  It means an ever-widening circle of phenomenal people to meet up with in the future.

    It means an ever-widening circle of phenomenal people that will inadvertently teach your family how to say goodbye – in time- without tears that cloud your vision.

    It means uprooting an entire family and reassuring them repeatedly, the whole time that it will be ok.

    It is boxes that are packed over and over, favorite items that are tucked away with sachets of lavender and those packets of plastic balls (I’m still not really sure what they are for).  Those packets often end up ripped open and you find them invading your basket of tea bags.  Tea bags are indeed an awesome place to find little balls of fake, plastic preservatives.

    It is trying to remember to pack the important things in your suitcase as opposed to the box that is unpacked LAST by the moving crew.  It is stressing out about your poor dog who has to reside in an unfamiliar quarantine facility for longer than you could ever stand to do the same.

    It is navigating the bowels of managing finances from different time zones and trying to remember important due dates and birthdays (FOUR weeks before the day comes so that cards arrive on time), and planning ahead for the Halloween costumes (purchasing one size up in April, and hoping that they still fit, come October.

    It is spending more time away from your beloved than you ever thought should be allowed.

    It is getting used to the cycle of a 10-12 day business trip, with 2 days home in between.  It is adjusting to having the family under one roof – just for a weekend – just in time for the suitcase to be repacked, and the taxi called, and goodbyes said again.

    It is flying solo when it comes to parenting, so much so that you forget how to parent together when the time comes again.

    It is about missing special days because of a work obligation, forgetting to change your time zone on your phone and missing flights, and paying out the nose for a bottle of wine because you forget to buy from duty free.

    It is about finding fellow expat wives whose husbands travel just as much so you can feel normal around them when you decline an invitation to a couples’ dinner, on a repeated basis.

    It is invigorating, addicting and satisfying.

    It is lonely, sad and exhausting.

1.  full of glamour; charmingly, fascinatingly attractive, especially in a mysterious/magical way. 2. full of excitement, adventure, and unusual activity.

    If you use only the above definition, my life IS indeed glamorous (yet not extravagant or exorbitant).  It is choosing to live a life of raising children abroad, giving them the world, and learning more about yourself than you might not have gleaned otherwise.

    It is worth it.  It IS glamorous.

    Contributed by Naomi Hattaway. After living in several states in the United States, Naomi and her family moved overseas to Delhi, India and then Singapore. Now back in the United States and living in Loudoun County, Virginia, she enjoys making an impact - even if only with a small corner of her world - for the better. She is the founder of 8th & Home [http://8thandhome.com], a boutique real estate and relocation company and also blogs about relocation, life with itchy feet and living your best life at www.naomihattaway.com

  • 01 Jul 2015 6:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    How do expats grapple with the need to belong when we seem to belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time? Can we ever go “home”, even after repatriaton? Jonelle Hilleary ponders the question.

    By Jonelle Hilleary

    Expats, by and large, tend to be team players. The nature of our work and assignments almost guarantees this.

    We are people who like to be part of something.

    When faced with challenges we look to our friends and colleagues for help finding answers. We solve problems.

    And, from what I read, expats find great satisfaction in belonging. I know I do.

    Expats also tend to self-identify in groups fairly readily. It isn’t very long into any conversation when you find out “who has seen the elephant” and who has not.

    Being an expat is certainly more complicated than this, and not everyone is a cookie cut with the same cutter. But these are a few of the qualities, or mindset, that differentiate expat personalities from others.

    The expat experience marks you as unique

    That’s the effect of belonging. It’s like having a tattoo or a brand-mark that says “You’re one of us.” There’s a security in knowing you’ll be understood, that there is this common language somewhere between two.

    I think the need to belong is a strong one — and by “belonging” I mean experiencing the peace that comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves.” (Maria Latham-Foley)

    “The Land of the Midnight Sun cannot escape the inevitable Noon Moon. Twenty-four hours of daylight in the summertime; twenty-four hours of darkness in the wintertime. To cope, residents of Norway put up black-out curtains just to fall asleep in July. In January, light box therapy helps some fend of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). We know two seasons: summer and winter; celebration and survival. These are things to which only people who have lived in-country year-round can attest, an invisible line which binds us together.” (Audrey Camp)

    “Living now in Uruguay, a country made up of mostly immigrants from Europe, we fit in a little better.  We are surrounded by people with German, Swiss and Italian last names.  There is some blonde hair and plenty of pale skin.  People are used to those who speak Spanish poorly since everyone has a grandparent or uncle who never really got the hang of their new language. After years of living abroad in countries where we really didn’t fit in (India, Japan, Mexico) Uruguay feels just about perfect.  I am now at peace with my “outsiderness” and understand that if I fit in perfectly it would not feel quite right. Home is where I am a little paler, mostly misunderstood and look like I am wearing someone else’s clothes.” Tom, Expat Alley

    Is there a place like home? 

    Once part of this expat experience, can we  really “go home again”? (If only we had those magic ruby slippers to make it easy.)

    Can we find satisfaction striking out on our own? What is it about coming home, repatriating that gives us so much trouble?

    Part of the difficulty in repatriation is the loss of community, like being the only one with a particular tattoo or brand-mark. Being on the outside looking in. Alone in a sea of people, having no group to belong to.

    Being identified as one of the “others,” the one that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t talk or sound like a different group called “us”.

    The dilemma of belonging everywhere, and nowhere

    We can go anywhere; just want to be at home somewhere; yet truly belong nowhere.

    For me, being born into a Navy family meant never being at home anywhere. I am from a family of Texans, but being born on a base in California meant the Texans didn’t “claim” me, and being Texans meant the Californians looked sideways at us as well… Being from everywhere meant belonging nowhere.

    I finally found a place in a temporary and unlikely corner of the world called Baku. I had work to do that was rewarding; independence that meant confidence; and my own money which meant freedom. I was part of a small core of expats who ate together, played softball together, raised money for charity together, and cared for each other.

    Until it was time to leave.

    Living with loss, being better for it

    I never really understood what it meant to have a group like that.  And most expats will tell the same story about their own corners of the world, each one as special as mine, if not more so to them.

    Here’s what Maria Latham-Foley said in a post about expat loss:

    “The revolving door. It never fails: you move to a new country and make a friend. Not just any friend, but a great friend, the best you’ve ever had. Once you’ve arrived at the point where you’re swapping clothes and finishing each other’s sentences, she packs up and leaves for the next assignment. (Or you do, which is just as bad.) … As an expat, it’s understood that saying goodbye is part of the deal… but that doesn’t make it any easier.” (Maria Latham-Foley, I was An Expat Wife)

    “I can totally relate to the part about the loneliness and missing a friend when they move. One of my dearest friends had moved abroad and I miss her so much. It’s also much harder to make friends when you’re older.” (comment posted by ‘bookjunkie,’ on I Was An Expat Wife)

    It wasn’t until I had been home 8 years that I finally started to figure things out.

    (Had I known there was a real process for doing this, I might not have transitioned the Hard Way.)

    It was only by reading and sharing with other expats, both still abroad and recently repatriated, that I was finally able to put the pieces together on what had been happening. And to realize I was not alone. And neither are you!

    Through groups like the Expat Partner Coffee Online, Project World Colors/World Colours, conversations with other bloggers, learning new social skills (the “new” kind, not basic comportment skills… smile) through others willing to teach, I enjoyed the camaraderie that was missing. I gained confidence in my place “at home” (this new home I’ve chosen, though at times it still seems like a new expatriate assignment!)

    Others have also commented how valuable new groups are, that they’re replacing the loss of community. It’s gratifying for me to look back and see how much progress I have made over the past year.

    As we start this New Year, 2014, unbelievably I will be marking 10 years home. And I can say for the first time, “this is beginning to feel a lot like home.”

    I’d just like to know what took me so long?  (smile)

    Jonelle Hilleary writes about My Life lessons on her website What the World Taught Me.

  • 21 Jun 2015 2:06 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Most people love lists, particularly some of us, as we get older; without a list things wouldn’t get done.  I was recently advised when contacting the media about news items that it would get more attention, if it included a list such as ‘the top 10 tips for traveling abroad.’ Similar to ‘top’ lists, dos and don’ts lists are equally popular because it puts information into nice, neat categories that are easier to remember.   While there are certainly benefits to dos and don’ts, they are less effective for areas where vast degrees of variation exist, such as cultural etiquette.  

    We know that people greet each differently depending on factors including: age, familiarity, situation, and culture. The first time we are introduced to someone we are making a first and potentially lasting impression so most of us strive to do it well.   Bill Gates' recent cultural faux pas of shaking the president of South Korea’s hand while his other hand was in his pocket is an example of the challenges with dos and don'ts. Cultural guides frequently provide advice about proper greeting etiquette by country, but I have never read one that reminded readers of the importance of not having your other hand in a pocket. People always want cultural dos and don’ts but this is a great example of the challenges with such lists. Lists can never be exhaustive.

    Bill Gates’ big faux pas is newsworthy because of who he is. It is doubtful that is will have any long-lasting negative effect on him or Microsoft, however, the ramifications for other individuals who make a cultural faux pas while conducting business across cultures might not be as negligible.  Everyone interacting with people from other cultures needs to develop some cultural competence, either through training or reading and apply the golden rules of being respectful and non-judgmental.

    What is your opinion about dos and don’ts?

    Contributed by Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly, 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. 

  • 16 Jun 2015 7:57 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The most recent Affiliate meeting was held on June 5th, 2015, featuring  Diane Lemieux discussing her book (co-authored by Anne Parker)The Mobile Life. This meeting was hosted by Webster University, The Netherlands, the only U.S.-accredited university in The Netherlands offering both a BA/BS and MA/MBA education. Webster ensures high quality learning experiences that prepare students for global citizenship and individual excellence. Check them out online at www.webster.nl.

    This event was also co-hosted by Expat Nest  which provides ‘counselling without borders’ as it offers emotional support for expats and their families online (via Skype, Facetime). Check them out online at www.expatnest.com 

    Despite the gorgeous Dutch weather, the (indoor!) meeting was attended by approximately 25 participants coming from all corners of the country. Diane sparked a lively discussion around the definitions we apply to individuals who are part of the expatriate community ("trailing spouses, TCK's, expats, immigrants," etc.). There was also excitement in the room, as many of the affiliate participants are eager to learn more about the upcoming FIGT conference taking place in The Netherlands! The next NL affiliate meeting will take place in November.

    For more information about the FIGT Netherlands Affiliate, check out their page on the FIGT website or contact Co-Creators Kate Berger, Kristine Racina or Vivian Chiona at netherlands@figt.org.

  • 06 Jun 2015 8:39 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    With all the career information available on the web it can be overwhelming to decide on what you should be doing to keep your career alive and on track.  I think it can be even more difficult for those of us who live a mobile lifestyle and whose careers are often at the mercy of someone else (did someone say posting order or PCS?!).

    Here are five things you can start working on right now to help your career whether you’re currently employed, looking at getting back in the workforce, preparing for another move to a new location or just looking ahead.

    1. Rethink your definition of career

    Many of you may still view a career as climbing the ladder in your chosen profession in a uniform, linear fashion and therefore may end up feeling like you failed if your career has been anything but this. It’s time to rethink career.  To quote one definition, career is

    “a lifestyle concept that involves the sequence of work, learning and leisure activities in which one engages throughout a lifetime.  Careers are unique to each person and dynamic… Careers include how persons balance their paid and unpaid work and personal life roles”  (Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners).

    In addition it is becoming less and less common for individuals to stay with the one employer.  The “job for life” concept is fast diminishing in our new knowledge economy.  So the gap between those of us who frequently move between jobs and in and out of employment as we relocate are becoming less marginalized and in addition have developed strong skills over the years which employers of today are actively seeking.

    You can take the pressure off yourself  by realizing that “career” isn’t the narrow concept we once viewed it as and that your career success doesn’t hinge on a single career decision made early in life.

    Start thinking about your career in broader terms than your paid employment history and be proud of your achievements in the various aspects of your career life.  Once you understand what you’ve achieved in your career life you’ll do a much better job of convincing a potential employer.

    2. Have the basis of your resume on hand 

    I say “basis” of your resume here because I am a firm believer that your resume (and cover letter) should be tailored to fit each job your apply for.  However, you should have a good catalogue of your skills, qualifications, experience and achievements at the ready so that you can write that tailored resume when opportunity arises.

    Spend time thinking about your career life (see above) and start cataloguing your history.  Start with the basics like titles and dates but then really think about what you did in each of your roles and highlight the achievements.  Quantify achievements where you can.  Don’t limit yourself to just paid employment.

    Even if you are not actively job searching this is still something worth doing.  You never know when an opportunity will arise (see 4 below).  It also keeps you thinking about your career life even during periods out of the paid workforce or when you have a job you are satisfied with.  This can be useful for understanding where you’ve been and where you are which in turn can help you stay focused on which direction you want to move in i.e it’s part of your career story.

    3. Cultivate your network

    I’ve discussed networking in a previous post but I want to reiterate here just how important networking is to your career.  When the “hidden” job market is purported to be around 80% of the entire job market  you need to be able to tap into opportunities via people you know (especially when you’re moving to a new area or moving back after a long absence). When you come across a job opportunity it can really help to know someone within the company ie. bridge people as Richard Bolles calls them. Networking is also a great means of professional development.

    Networking is a two-way street.  One of the best ways to expand your network and get the most out of it is to help others out.  Share information, volunteer your time and skills to help out on a project etc.  Be proactive!

    Importantly cultivate your network.  It’s not enough just to meet people.  You need to stay in touch, pass on information that you think may be relevant to them, send thank you notes, retweet their tweets, join in discussions in LinkedIn group etc.  Stay organized by having a plan.

    4. Be open to and prepared for new opportunities

    Mobile individuals are nothing if not flexible and I’m sure that most ‘accompanying partners’ have done at least one job they didn’t envision doing.  Moving around your country or around the world exposes you to so many new opportunities including career opportunities.  Your new location may not have the opportunity for you to pursue your chosen career path and this can be  frustrating.  However, this doesn’t mean your career has to come to a grinding half.  Be on the lookout for new opportunities or go out and seek them.   Maybe it’s the opportunity to work remotely when you tell your boss you’re moving but would like to continue working for the company, maybe it’s a volunteer opportunity in a field you have an interest in, or the chance to do something completely different in a location more willing to hire employees without a lot of experience, or the opportunity to start your own business.

    None of us can predict what the future holds.  As one career theorist says “unplanned events are a normal and necessary component of every career” (Krumboltz, 2009).  The key to managing unplanned events according to Krumboltz is to:

    “1. Before the unplanned event you take actions that position you to experience it

    2. During the event you remain alert and sensitive to recognize potential opportunities

    3. After the even you initiate actions that enable you to benefit from it.”

    Ref:  Krumboltz, John (2009).  The Happenstance Learning Theory.  Journal of Career Assessment  17(2) pp 135-154.

    Be prepared for new opportunities and when one comes up give it some serious consideration.  Even if you are working keep an eye out for new opportunities that may arise.  Sometimes some of the best things that happen to us are the ones we don’t see coming.

    5. Think ahead and in context

    Ok, I acknowledge that thinking ahead when you don’t know what is happening next month let alone next year or five years from now is difficult.  That’s just one part of what makes career management as a mobile individual different from mainstream.  That doesn’t mean you can’t set some short term and long term goals or at least a broad direction you want to move in (whilst still remaining open to new opportunities and unplanned events).

    We all know the many influences on our careers such as our skills and interests, a spouse’s job, family commitments, financial situation, geographical location, political climate etc.  All of these  influence our careers at some point and their influence will differ at different points in our career life.  Recognizing the influences on our career is an important part of managing it.  We need to incorporate all these influences into our career plan.

    Whether you are in a job you enjoy, out of paid employment by choice or circumstance or looking for a new job actively thinking about your career in the context of your lifestyle is one way to be proactive in managing it.

    It may help to speak to a career counselor or coach to help you clarify your career goals and how to move forward in the context of your personal situation.  When seeking a career development practitioner be sure to find someone who is qualified.  Organizations such as the Career Development Association of Australia and the National Career Development Association in the U.S are good starting points.

    Contributed by Amanda McCue, who has spent 20 years frequently moving, both around Australia and between Australia and the USA, as an accompanying spouse to her Australian military husband. Amanda is passionate about empowering individuals (especially military spouses and other accompanying partners) to make satisfying career decisions that are compatible with other important aspects of their lives and she will shortly complete her post-graduate qualifications as a Career Development Practitioner. She blogs at www.careerswag.com


  • 24 May 2015 6:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As part of adapting and adjusting, most expats find some combination of home and new; strange and different alongside the familiar and comforting. Jonelle muses on the most fundamental of our traditions—food—and what the quest for home foods was like for expats living in a country with few options.

    By Jonelle Hilleary

    This week as we have been discussing repatriation anxiety, expatriation transitions and what it takes to feel “at home,” I was talking with a friend from the old Exxon team about how we used to have to travel to remote assignments.

    Living in post-collapse Soviet Union

    To give you a little background, it was right after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and all the supply lines were in complete disarray. There weren’t many stores to begin with and the few they did have were of the Soviet Kollektiv variety — meaning lots of shelf space with not much on them.

    One sold cheese and shoes, another sold meat and sometimes nylon pantyhose… Whatever you could get, you could sell.

    The early teams used to stay downtown at the old soviet Intourist Hotelwhich we had been told, had been sold off a floor at a time, so your room amenities and accommodations might vary from floor to floor, though most every floor had the same indoor-outdoor carpet in one of three colors: grey with black zig-zag stripes, kelly-green with black bars, or royal blue with black and white ziz-zags.

    Each floor also had a key lady at a table near each elevator to collect and re-issue your keys each day. (No leaving the hotel with your keyyour room was openable by any and all personnel at anytime.)

    Oil companies and other service companies sent teams over for a few weeks at a time initially until office spaces were leased and a staff could be hired.

    The survival pack

    In order to “survive” we also had a fixed pack that someone always carried: 2 currency converters (step-down voltage converters for Intl-to-US electricity); small hotpots to boil water for instant soups or coffee; packets of sugar/sweeteners, salt, pepper, powdered creamer, freeze-dried entrees like “Beef Stew” that could be reconstituted by pouring boiling water over the contents in the pouch.

    Beyond this, the team was at the mercy of the Old Intourist Hotel dining room and it’s neon pink “bologna” type sausage that passed for breakfast meat, scrawny chicken that was virtually inedible, and pelmeni (Russian dumplings) for dinner.

    A situation common among expats is being homesick for home food. It isn’t always easy to get to a restaurant and decipher a menu in a foreign language. After a hard day of work, not all expats want the hassle with the language and culture barriers that present themselves at every turn.

    Sometimes you just want to go home and relax, even if you have to go hungry to do it.

    Bringing over food from home

    One trip home, our country manager jokingly asked if the next time we sent supplies, we could just skip the “packing peanuts” (the little styrofoam pellets), and substitute bags of popcorn instead.

    It turned out to be a pretty good idea! So each week I started going out to the supermarket and buying huge bags of popcorn, ramen noodles, tortillas, Pringles canned chips (crisps), dried soupanything light and non-breakable or crushable (like chips would have been), along with toilet paper and paper towels, magazines.

    This went on for several weeks, buying $300-$400 of supplies at a time, rushing out to the freight forwarder, dumping the popcorn and other goodies around our copier toner packages and water, soda and juice powders, and seeing it off on the late flight to Baku.

    Finally, one evening I was checking out with a cashier who had seen me come in several weeks in a row. Leilani stopped mid-stream and said in her most charming southern accent, “Honey, you do know you don’t have any real food in here, don’t you?”

    I laughed and, without thinking, replied that it wasn’t for my family, I was sending it to the former Soviet Union.

    Leliani looked very perplexed and asked, “Well, they-all hafta eat too, don’t they?”

    Once I got Leilani straightened out about what we were doing she became my biggest helper, suggesting new products that we might try out on the team overseas. (Everybody loved the new soft-cookies that we tried the next week!)

    The early food entrepreneurs

    Everybody could see the need, and a few took it upon themselves to jump in with solutions.

    One of our early entrepreneurs came up from Kuwait City and scouted out the needs and later returned with a 40″ ocean freight container box stacked floor to ceiling with file cabinets, some office chairs, copy paper, toilet paper, paper towels, and bottles of water. All the comforts of home…for the office. Dave and Sheila opened up the container and started selling to anyone who needed office supplies.

    From there they opened an expat-style restaurant complete with such American favorites as chicken-fried steak, shrimp gumbo, little personal-sized pizza, hamburgers and sweet iced tea.

    We could get salads that were washed and safe, soups that tasted like home (somebody’s home) and conversation in English along with American football games like the Super Bowl on Armed Forces network television.

    In short, they filled the void we needed to be filled.

    Enjoying the new and the familiar

    There is a fine line between hiding in an expat bubble, and using bits and pieces of home to bridge the culture shock divide.

    I’ve written before about expat couples where the spouse couldn’t make the adjustment, some who made interesting arrangements, and others who thrived as families.

    Choosing home-style foods isn’t the worst thing in the world to do, especially if it keeps our expats productive. But most expats, I think, recognize that on a permanent basis there will be a combination of home and new, strange and different alongside familiar and comforting.

    When I was working long hours at three jobs during the Russian financial meltdown, I would stop on the street on the way from the university morning job, just before going into my office for the afternoon work, and get a donersimilar to what you may find as gyro in Greece, or shwarma across the Middle East in a slightly different bread or wrapping.

    When I finally had a free night, I loved to go to the Sahil (seaside) restaurant for the hummus, cool and creamy tzatziki, and salty taramosalata to eat with breads, cheeses and vegetables like carrots and radishes. A perfect meal for me.

    Having fish, usually a variety of sturgeon with pomegranate sauce (narsharab) was another favorite for dinner out with friends.

    But, I’ll admit, when I was tired, many times I went home to my flat, dialed the Wharf and they delivered a little personal sized pepperoni-like pizza that was quite tasty when I was too tired to go out or cook.

    What it takes to feel at home

    As for the question of what does it take to make expats feel at home in our foreign postings, I can say from my experience that there were times it was easy to go too far, to get lazy about being out with people with whom I would have to speak in Russian or Azerbaijan all nightsometimes it taxed my brain too much and I would find myself making silly mistakes in conversation.

    But, with my third job running from about 10pm to 2am, there were also legitimately times when I really needed a night of English-language movies and pizza. Or to find an imported CD of familiar old music. Just to enjoy by myself. (I could get away with that luxury since I was aloneno spouse or kids).

    My rule of thumb was to try to be local all week, and then give myself a weekend night to recover, vegetate, relax without guilt. 

    I am glad there were international stores. I liked seeing what other countries found useful and, more importantly, I don’t think I would have been efficient living on the local economy, buying meat off the street or at the bazaar every week, doing all the made-from-scratch effort that local women were used to.

    Now that I’m back in the United States, however, there are many times in a month, I would give anything to have more fish and narsharab, or to be able to sit on that rooftop deck having a simple meal of bread and tzatziki and choban salat with lemon.

    I’m glad we have choices…it makes life interesting, no matter where we are.

    I hope, though, that people who don’t have many local choices at least have someone like Leilani to help families send fun things to add home spice to their days.

    Jonelle Hilleary writes about My Life Lessons on her website What the World Taught Me.

  • 10 May 2015 2:38 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Fellow expat-turned-repat Judy talked recently about being an expat who has gone soft. She discussed the stark differences between being an uber prepared, ready for anything individual while living overseas with the complete opposite once she found herself back home.

    I wonder the same thing about myself when it comes to making friends.

    Last night my daughter asked me “how many friends is the right number to have?”

    When I asked her what she meant by it, she went on to explain that she only (ONLY!) has 17 friends at school and she whined “they are all in the same class as me, I need friends from OTHER classes too.”

    She then asked me … as she often does … how many friends I have.

    What a hard question to answer.

    Does she mean the friends who know almost everything there is to know about me because they’ve been with me for the long haul and still love me?

    She may be talking about those I bonded so strongly with before we left for India.

    Or does she mean those who I Skype with, WhatsApp with and Voxer with?

    Or maybe her definition entails the women who are in my same zip code, who I could easily pick up and have lunch with, or who I see during the week because of our children’s mutual activities.

    Ah, maybe she means the women who live within a short flight away, those that I only see once a year but yet it seems as though no time has passed?

    I know – in my heart – that the combination of all of the amazing women that fall into those different categories make up a pretty major powerhouse of strength and moxie as they are all pretty empowered women with great qualities and traits.

    But I’ve apparently lost my mojo. I haven’t quite retained the same gutsy persona when it comes to making friends that find themselves under the same chunk of sky as mine. Like Judy and her emergency candle stash, I’ve gone a bit soft. I’ve become too accustomed to relying on Facebook for my friendship fix, my Trello for my emotional support, Twitter for my thoughts/tidbits and my phone gets used in place of physical conversations.

    Daryn Kagan (who I totally love) recently shared about her boobs (yes, it is related to this post, I promise). Read that, and then come back over here.

    (If you didn’t really click over, you need to. I’ll give you a second chance)

    When I read her piece, I realized that I need to quit worrying myself up over my small pool of friends who know what I wore today (and not because of a selfie). I am going to discontinue the stress about “everyone living so far away” and whining about not having opportunities to meet like-minded chicks here.

    The truth is, I have AMAZING women in my corner and I know that – without a shadow of a doubt – whenever I need them, they will show up for whatever the job may be.

    Boobs, tats, sushi, pedicures, weekends away or just a listening ear. My tribe is as diverse as the snowflakes in December, as beautiful as the colors at an Indian spice market and as wise as the best panel of speakers “on life” one could ever ask for.

    I haven’t lost my mojo, I’ve just forgotten to keep turning around – full circle – to see everyone.

    Contributed by Naomi Hattaway. After living in several states in the United States, Naomi and her family moved overseas to Delhi, India and then Singapore. Now back in the United States and living in Loudoun County, Virginia, she enjoys making an impact -- even if only with a small corner of her world -- for the better. She is the founder of 8th & Home [http://8thandhome.com], a boutique real estate and relocation company and also blogs about relocation, life with itchy feet and living your best life at www.naomihattaway.com.

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