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.

  • 14 Sep 2014 6:36 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Recently, I was in Toronto. Toronto is known as the most diverse city in the world, with more than half of its population being foreign-born. What a treat for me to spend some time speaking with other career professionals who regularly work with high-skilled, job-seeking international professionals. We discussed many issues facing this population, but I want to share with you the top 3 areas that were discussed regarding what international professionals need to research in order to be effective on the job search. These 3 areas apply to you whether you’re an international student wanting to continue to work in your host country, the spouse of an international assignee, or an immigrant or expat in the country.

    1. Work permits.

    You need to know the laws governing your ability to work (and in some countries, your ability to volunteer). It can be confusing to find this information online, and it’s often recommended that you seek an international immigration law firm to assist you with the process. However, you can find some general information and links at the Permits Foundation– http://www.permitsfoundation.com/links.htm. This is an excellent site for spouses/partners of international employees, but also provides links for anybody seeking visa/work permit information.

    2. Career information and options.

    You’ll need to know what types of employers are in the city where you’ll be living. Will you be in a rural area of an emerging country where most nonprofit organizations operate? Or will you be in a bustling metropolis that is bursting with multinational companies? Some of this research can be done online, but you can get better information from others who have lived there or are currently living there, which takes us to…


    3. Network/contacts.

    It may be challenging to develop a network from scratch, but there are many ways to build an effective network within a month or two. You’ll need to research to find out what networks exist. You may find formal networks, such as Chambers of Commerce. Or, you may find online networks through Facebook or LinkedIn or on many of the expat websites. Or, you may find informal networks, such as a women’s group, or expat sports club. Making contacts is critical to an effective, international job search. Check out our guidance on developing your network on the blog post Get Globally Connected! http://www.passportcareer.com/blog/get-globally-connected.

    Contributed by Susan Musich, Executive Director & Founder of Passport Career, a comprehensive, online global job search support system.  She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of FIGT and blogs at PassportCareer.com

     

  • 07 Sep 2014 5:59 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    Mum and Dad are disappointed; I’m not making the grade

    I’ve been sent to Melbourne Uni and the bills have all been paid.

    But my work ethic is poor and I’m barely scraping by,

    “It’s my tutors, they’re all dicks” to my poor parents I lie.

    My friends all seem to manage; it’s no problem at all

    to go out every evening, and still get H1’s overall.

    I close my door to study… get cosy with my work

    but I wind up on you tube, watching Miley twerk.                          (youtube it!)

    I’ll sit down with the intention, of crossing “to do’s” off

    but before I’ve even started I’m pre-drinking for Toff.                   (local club)

    “You’re wasting your degree” my parents mournfully scorn

    "We've been dishing out the cash since the day you were born."

    Their pocket’s rather empty, after Melbourne Uni fee’s

    and that’s not even including Dear Old Col, Trinity.

    “Look, at least I’m at Uni, I could be doing worse,

    there are countless alternatives” is how I begin my verse

    “I might sleep in all my lectures; I might doodle in my tutes

    but at least I’m not on stage in latex knee high boots”

    “There are poles I could be dancing on, oh the outfits I could wear

    Did you know they make nipple tassels out of real horse hair?”

    “I could be doing heroin, I’d make buckets dealing weed,

    but no, I scroll through facebook, checking my news feed

    so be thankful for my H3’s and P’s and 64’s

    because I could be on the curb, pimpin out my whores,

    still think you’re wasting money, I guess I could drop out”

    “No sweet-heart, we support you!” they both hastily shout

    “Oh darling, keep it up, we couldn’t be more proud

    of your average grades and mediocrity, we both are truly wowed”.

    And that’s how to get your parents, to fund your degree

    Manipulation, that’s what I’ve learnt, at University.


    Alice Coates 20

    Theoretically British and Irish - would like to be Canadian!

    Countries lived in ... The Netherlands, Bolivia, Chile, China, Singapore, Canada, Spain and Australia...

    Adaptable - Artistic - Game

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.

  • 01 Sep 2014 6:20 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This post is for teens. First off, you should know I tried my best to make a YouTube video undefined because that seems to be the thing these days–but I can’t edit it. So until that is ready, I am communicating with old-fashioned writing.

    So, here goes. I am an educational consultant, a former school psychologist (grades k-12!), and a Third Culture Kid (TCK) myself.  I was in three high schools in three countries, so I do consider myself something of an expert on this very topic.

    Tip 1: Get involved…out of the box style

    Get involved. Do I sound like your mom? Okay, pretend you only have heard this from me. But yes, this is your chance to get involved in any number of activities. There are multiple benefits here. One, you will hopefully meet people. Don’t be surprised if you only meet one or two, or even zero BFF’s. But you will be “out there” getting to know people. People in international communities are super good about including newbies and if you put on a friendly face, you will surely be invited to events and happenings where you can meet more new people.

    The second goal of getting involved is to get busy. Almost any time spent out of the house, and away from the Internet and video games, is time well spent. 

    As far as “out of the box”… I would encourage you to look beyond what your school has to offer because that is where things can get interesting. When I moved to Oman (age 14), there were exactly 9 people in my sophomore class. 3 girls, 6 dudes. The girls were great and I also made friends with the girls in grade 9. But the teeny tininess of the school forced me to also look elsewhere for activities.

    For example, I got involved in the local stables and a Dutch girls’ field hockey team. I don’t remember meeting any BFF’s in either activity, but it gave me somewhere to go, something to do, and new social groups. I learned I loved riding and was lousy at field hockey.

    If you have an interest for which you can not find an outlet– make one! Interested in working with a charity or costume design?? Reach out to local embassies, international schools, even Facebook, and I will bet you find a few others who would love to form an interest group.

    Tip 2: Choose your friends wisely

    I won’t get too much into this because I think the point is obvious. But you know how they say you are what you eat? Well, that’s true but what’s more true is you are who you socialize with.

    In other words, yes, you are new and have no friends. But never, never compromise on your standards to make friends. You will find others with whom you connect. Until then, don’t feel like you have to hang out with, well, losers. Friends should lift you up and inspire you– make sure you choose them wisely!

    Tip 3: Develop strategies for Bad Days

    This is probably the most important advice I would like to impart. When you have a bad day, the worst thing to do is to retreat and isolate in order to avoid your problems or ruminate (go over them again and again in your mind). This means disappearing into the Internet, losing yourself in movies, wasting away while playing video games.

    It’s one thing to cultivate alone time–I am introverted and I get the value in this. But, we must be our own best friends and monitor ourselves for when restorative alone time becomes trying to escape my problems time. Other signs of bad days common in teens: overeating, undereating, severe irritability and moodiness.

    Having any of these symptoms is totally fine and normal. It is what you do about them that makes all the difference. The number one thing to do is reach out. A school counselor, trusted teacher, parent… I would recommend a peer, but sometimes they are going through the same problems, so they may not be able to provide best advice.

    When I was a school psychologist, I often had small groups of friends stop by for a chat and I loved that. They got to learn from each other, as well as have a check in with me. If you are reluctant to approach a counselor, see if a friend will accompany you.

    Finally, if you have a question for me, please reach out!

    What’s your favorite tip as a transitioning TCK teen?

    Disclaimer: This advice is for general consumption and not a substitute for professional mental health advice. If you or someone you know is experiencing extreme distress, seek professional medical and/ professional mental health advice immediately.


    Contributed by Rebecca Grappo, an educational consultant and the mother of three grown expat kids. Becky has lived almost 30 years as an expat in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Portugal, Jordan, Oman, the UAE and Israel. She is now based in Denver, Colorado and blogs at RNG International Educational Consultants.

  • 24 Aug 2014 10:00 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Grant, a 14-year-old TCK, shares his view of his globally mobile life.


    My whole life, I have been moving from country to country, bouncing between cities like I’m in a pinball machine. Though it has at times been very hectic at times, I’ve always enjoyed the fun in pinball. So to answer the question where are you from, I would have to say that I am from a 'pin ball machine flying house'. I’ve been in all climates, handled numerous different currencies, and can recite the safety instructions given on commercial plane rides. Countless times I’ve been asked the question, ‘Where are you from?’, and it’s always been a tough one to answer. Eventually, I’ve come to tell people I am from the earth: from Australia, to the U.S., to Indonesia, to Nigeria, Thailand, and beyond. Everywhere I go feels like home to me.

    When I heard this question, I imagined a hot air balloon full of all my belongings: drifting aimlessly through the air without a care in the world. That is what I would do. It has been my dream to see it all, to live life with no regrets, and achieve all I can achieve. In my flying house, I would wander the world, visiting places I’ve been, picking up some old faces of mine as well as past memories, and take them with me to wherever the wind takes me. The hardest part about a life overseas is the fact that nothing lasts forever. You can never know if it is your last year in one place, and whether or not you have to say your good-byes. With my flying house, I would take back all those good-byes and turn them into ‘welcome back’. Time seems to get away from you on earth, before you know it, a year has passed and great things come to an end. In my hot air balloon of a home, time won’t faze me. I would be far above the push of everyday hustle and bustle. There wouldn’t be an end, only beginnings; each day, the first day of an everlasting vacation to a new destination.

    My pin ball machine - flying house will go everywhere. I wouldn’t be out of the comfort zone of my own home, because everywhere is home. One thing people sometimes forget is that a home and a house are different. The world is my home. My house is just storage, a home is much greater. But in my flying house, I would not just store my clothes, gadgets, and idle play things; I would keep my friends, my family, everything that matters most to me. Where would I go with all this? It wouldn’t matter to me, as long as I am with the people that matter most to me, and going somewhere, anywhere. As for now, my flying house is simply a plane, moving me from location to location, dropping me into new memories and new faces. Though this is not my ideal flying house, it is all I’ve got. It has given me many unique experiences, countless stories, and have allowed to live the dreams of many, many people. The life of a third culture kid is chaotic and electrifying; and though they already live in a flying house, they sometimes wonder where they would go if the choice was up to them. Some choose to pop their balloon and stay where they are, and some choose to fly back home. I would do neither. In life, I’ve come to discover that ‘where’ is not the first question to address. Memories are nothing if you do not spend them with the ones you love. In my flying house I would travel the world not only to create new memories to cherish forever, but also to bring back the old, for I would not be flying if it weren’t for them.

    Grant Simens

    14

    Australia, USA, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Canada

    This is one in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology. A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.

  • 15 Aug 2014 10:43 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Cultural differences are often enhanced in virtual communication. An intercultural trainer demonstrates how understanding culture and making minor modifications in our approach can help lead to rewarding and productive working relationships.


    When communicating with colleagues around the world, email, teleconference and phone calls are the most common methods. What happens, though, to the communication when those colleagues speak different languages, use different patterns of communication or have diverse work style preferences?

    One of the biggest challenges of virtual communication is the fact that cultural differences do not disappear just because we are communicating virtually – in fact, many times they are enhanced.

    Let’s explore some recent examples:

    Case 1

    In the midst of preparing for a 3-year assignment to Oman, Barbara had been repeatedly sending off quick and direct emails to an Omani colleague asking for information on her arrival accommodations and who would be meeting her at the airport.

    Unfortunately, there had been no response from her Omani colleague and Barbara grew increasingly frustrated. Barbara expressed her frustration during her pre-departure cross cultural training session and her consultant suggested learning more about Omani culture, their relationship orientation, greetings and formality.  Barbara also learned more about Ramadan, which was being observed at the time of her requests.

    Applying the suggestions of the intercultural business consultant she had met during the program, she tried her email request again. This time, instead of writing a one line email requesting the location of her hotel and details of her airport pick-up, she experimented with a different approach:

    Dear Mr. Abdul,

    It is with great pleasure that I look forward to meeting you and to my arrival in Oman. I am so eager to learn about your beautiful country, and hope that we will have time to share discussion about its history, traditions, food and sites that I must visit during my stay. I would greatly appreciate any information you can share about my living situation upon arrival and who I may look forward to seeing at the airport. I wish you and your family an easy fast and a peaceful Ramadan.

    Within five minutes she had received a response.

    Case 2

    Paula is Puerto Rican living in New York and working for a European company. She was struggling with weekly teleconferences with her French colleagues as they had strong opinions and expressed them forcefully, which made her uncomfortable. As a result, Paula stayed quiet, not wanting to further disrupt harmony in the group.

    Her colleagues rarely responded to her emails on time and didn’t ask her opinion often.

    During a two-day Global Team program sponsored by her company, Paula learned more about French communication style, and that argumentation can be seen as engagement and a way to demonstrate that you have good ideas and commitment. 

    She was nervous about it, but took a deep breath one day on a conference call and challenged one of her French colleagues openly; her colleague challenged her back. Soon they were discussing freely and the conversation was lively and engaging.

    It still didn’t feel comfortable, but Paula noticed that over the next few weeks, her colleagues began to include her in more email communication and seek her opinion. She was both pleased and amazed at how effective this small change in her teleconference behavior changed the tone of email communication as well.

    Case 3

    Christoph noticed that when conducting conference calls with his Chinese colleagues, there was often silence on the other end. He knew that some junior colleagues struggled with English, and that his own accent may have been a barrier, but he thought he was being patient and always spoke slowly. Still, he felt that no one was willing to share opinions or contribute to decisions.

    His supervisor suggested a technique that had worked for him: start the meeting, present the topics he wanted feedback on, and then pause the meeting for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the Chinese team to speak amongst themselves.

    This allowed the Chinese to check comprehension with one another, ask each other questions instead of losing face in front of the group, and come to a group consensus on what the answers and opinions should be. It also helped them honor hierarchy by letting the most senior person act as the spokesperson.

    Christoph also tried a similar technique of sharing the agenda with specific questions to be addressed a couple of days in advance. His meetings became much more productive and had the added benefit of the Chinese colleagues prioritizing his future requests.


    The techniques and solutions above required an understanding of culture and a willingness to adapt the approach to virtual communication according to the unique demands of the situation. While changing behavior is never easy, experimenting with minor modifications in our approach to working with colleagues virtually can lead to rewarding and productive working relationships even when face-to-face is simply not possible.


    Contributed by Charisse Kosova, Director, Intercultural Training and Development at IOR Global Services.

  • 10 Aug 2014 3:34 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    What can you tell from my face?

    My clothes?

    My movements?

    How much can you know before we speak?

    Female. White. Young. Pretty.

    Well-dressed. Confident. Wealthy.

    Worthy?

    Yes, we speak.

    What else can you find?

    Friendly. Intelligent. Aloof. Polite.

    Cultured. Talkative. Educated.

    But where?

    I know.

    You don’t know.

    You can’t tell.

    Can you guess?

    British? French? American?

    No, not quite. What accent?

     It’s confusing.

    I’m sorry.

    Let me explain.

    I’m different.

    It’s embarrassing.

    Oh really? I see. I understand.

    No, I don’t. Not exactly.

    Tell me again.

    Born Texas twang.

    Raised American generic.

    Educated London posh.

    Lived broken Japanese.

    That explains it.

    That doesn’t explain it.

    Your accent keeps changing.

    Strange. Suspicious.

    I don’t realize it.

    I realize when you notice it.

    I’ll try to control it.

    But which accent should I choose?

    Accents should be tied to your hometown.

    You should speak like your parents and the others where you’re from.

    But I haven’t lived there in years.

    My parents speak differently.

    I cannot remember it.

    This feels forced.

    That’s not me.

    What do you mean?

    Then who are you?

    I’m from Texas.

    I’m American.

    But I want to return to London. I belong there.

    I miss Japan. It was my home.

    Why do I have to choose?

    I cannot place your accent.

    Accent confusion.

    Identity confusion.

     

    You’re right.

    That’s true.

    Where is home?

    Where am I from?

    How should I speak?

    How should I dress?

    How should I move?

    You are young. You have time.

    You are female. Someone will guide you.

    You are pretty. People will forgive you.

    That’s not an answer.

    I can’t find the answer.

    Tell me the answer.

    Who am I?

    I cannot say.

    There’s not a category.

    Keep searching. Keep asking.

    Yes, I’m searching. Always searching.

    My words sound strange.

    They define my identity.

    Both are changing.

    Keep watching. Keep listening.

    You will know me.

    Lauren S. Power

    Age 25

    USA, UK, Japan, Singapore

    Initiate-Influence-Improve

    www.laurenspower.com

     

    This is the first in a series of excerpts from the soon-to-be published The Worlds Within TCK Anthology.  A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to the FIGT David C Pollock Scholarship Fund.

     

     

  • 03 Aug 2014 2:47 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I was just forwarded this list of books that build character from our colleague and friend, Dana Dean Doering.

     

    I love this list because there are dozens (hundreds?) of titles, with levels denoted along with what aspects of character they focus on. The list is based on the 6 Pillars of Character, as posited by the Josephson Institute. I think they are pillars we can all get behind.

     

    From their website:






     

    T R R F C C
    Students can use this acronym to help them remember that people with good character are terrific:
    T rustworthiness
    R espect
    R esponsibility
    F airness
    C aring
    C itizenship

    I regret to observe that these values are sometimes lost in today’s educational landscape… the hustle and bustle of testing, grades, and building compelling resumes. But, Becky and I are huge believers in character education– direct and also indirect. You can be the most brilliant anything in the world, but it’s all for naught without an ethical foundation. 

    Do you recognize any titles on the list? Of course, we all know Aesop’s “The Boy who Cried Wolf.” I LOVED “Summer of my German Soldier” when I was young. Many on here I am unfamiliar with… what are you favorites, on or off this list?? What other themes surface in these books that complement the noted 6 Pillars?

    Enjoy and happy reading!

    PS Reluctant reader? Check out my last post on unconventional ways to encourage readers at all ages.



    Contributed by Rebecca Grappo, an Educational Consultant and the mother of three grown expat kids.  Becky has lived almost 30 years as an expat in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Portugal, Jordan, Oman, the UAE and Israel.  She is now based in Denver, Colorado and blogs at RNG International Educational Consultants


  • 01 Jul 2014 6:15 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    I wouldn’t say that I love to cook, but I do love to eat.  Last night I hauled out a recipe book which was an expat leaving gift.  As I chopped, stirred and simmered I thought about how expat life has influenced the way I cook.


    Variety:  Although everyone eats more internationally these days than they used to, I’m sure that living overseas has broadened my tastes.  It’s not just been the cuisine of the countries we lived in, but also that of the many expat friends we made who have introduced us to their favourite recipes in restaurants and in their homes.


    Cleanliness:  For a number of years we lived in countries where the tap water wasn’t safe to drink and food handling was questionable.  I quickly learned to sterilize fruit and vegetables by adding a baby bottle sterilising tablet (or a teaspoon of bleach) to a sink full of water and soaking for 20 minutes.  One of the joys of repatriation is not having to do that any more, but I do continue to wash things a lot more carefully than I used to.


    Cooking from scratch:  Living without North American convenience foods was a blessing in that it forced me to learn how to cook many things from scratch.  Now I know how, and also how much better the food tastes, I’m reluctant to go back to bottled sauces, packet mixes and take-out.  Cooking “properly” does take more time, so I’m so grateful I can work part-time and indulge my passion for fresh vegetables and home-made dishes.


    Substitution:  Although it wasn’t much of a problem in Dubai, chasing down ingredients in Azerbaijan and Egypt was almost a full-time occupation; the “hunter-gatherer” approach to shopping a friend once called it.  As a result I became a master of the art of substitution and must admit I use it still when I can’t face trekking all over town for an unusual spice, or find I’ve run out of something half way through fixing dinner.  Here’s a list I made for myself of some of the more common ones.


    Eating less meat:  In 2004 my OH was being pursued for a job in Kazakhstan.  After 3 years in Azerbaijan I suspected the meat there would be equally problematic – of dubious provenance and tough as old boots – so I decided to add a few vegetarian recipes to my repertoire on the assumption that dried beans, lentils and legumes seem to be available most places.  In the end we didn’t take the job, but by then we found we enjoyed eating lighter, healthier, meatless meals.   We’re by no means vegetarian, but do eat a lot less meat than we used to.


    Of course, I was very much influenced by the particular countries I lived in, so I’m interested to know if people who lived in different countries also found their cooking style changed.   How did living overseas change the way you eat?


    Contributed by Judy Rickatson, a repatriate to Canada who has also lived in the UK, Azerbaijan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.  Judy manages the FIGT social media accounts when she's not working in real estate and blogs at Expatriate Life.

  • 15 Jun 2014 5:18 PM | Judy Rickatson (Administrator)

    As Susanne Taylor points out in her blog post “Why Getting Lost is Good for You,” it can be helpful to “get lost” in the culture of another country. Not to “be lost,” as Susanne points out, but to “get lost” by observing the nuances of the country and its culture.

    Learning the business culture in your new host country is critical to making a strong first impression as well as demonstrating professional behavior to your peers, whether they are locals or expatriates. The nexus of culture and job search is where you will ultimately achieve job-search success.

    Almost everything you do in your job search will have some aspect of culture tied to it and that’s where your keen observation skills come into play. Everything from how to greet somebody in a professional setting  to how you write your resume are intrinsically linked to the job search. Your ability to master the nuances of the culture will serve you well in your job search and throughout your career in the country.

    Below are five key business culture topics that you should observe and learn about before launching your job search.

    • Greetings and introductions: How do you greet others appropriately? How do you introduce yourself and introduce others?
    • Appropriate dress: What should you wear? What should you not wear? What is acceptable for women and men in the workplaceundefinedparticularly as an expat, when expectations may be different than for locals.
    • Communication--both verbal and nonverbal: What is appropriate when speaking with others? What do your body language and gestures say about you?
    • Time: What can you expect with regard to starting and ending appointments on time?
    • Gender/age issues in the workplace and other workplace norms: How are women viewed and treated in the workplace? How does society view young workers versus older workers? 

    Developing your business cultural knowledge in these five key areas will help you project a professional image as well as help with your self-confidence.

    Be sure to ask yourself the questions associated with these five key areas often during your job search, as there may be nuances associated with different organizations or different regions of the country.

    Cultural nuances are myriad and complex, so do not rely solely on one source; rather, develop your ability to observe and mirror others’ behavior in professional settings.


    Contributed by Susan Musich, Executive Director & Founder of Passport Career, a comprehensive, online global job search support system. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of FIGT and blogs at PassportCareer.com

  • 01 Jun 2014 5:48 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    One of the hardest things about relocating abroad is leaving friends and family behind. If you're finding it difficult to explain how conflicted life is as an expat, Rachel Yates has put together some pointers that you can share with those 'left behind.'

    By Rachel Yates

    Conversations about resilience and coping strategies at FIGT 2012 prompted a great deal of thought about the role of the people who we leave behind when expats relocate.

    In my '7 Habits of Successful Relocation' seminar, we talked about those who have invested time, energy and emotion into relationships with us, despite knowing that we may not be around for the long haul. Ruth Van Renken, author of “Letters Never Sent”, described it as “all of the grief, with none of the anticipation”. News of an impending transfer creates anxiety, stress and  uncertainty in more than just the immediate family.

    It’s a communication no-win situation. When we try to put a brave face on it and focus on the positive, it sounds like we are having a wonderful time and not missing you one bit. When we moan about how miserable we are, we can almost hear the phrase “sure, living a life of leisure in the sun with no work and plenty of help – it must be awful” sarcastically running through your mind.

    And if you have enough patience and understanding to let us vent for hours without telling us to shut up, at some point we start to hear how whiny and unpleasant we sound and really wish you had.

    The good news is that we do get though it, and the support of the people we leave behind is something that we value above all else. We may not speak to you on a daily basis, but I can promise we think about you often  and talk about you to our new friends, wishing you were there in person to join in.

    So for those of you who are leaving people you love, or are finding it difficult to explain how conflicted life is as an expat, I’ve put together some pointers that you can share.

    ☑ We are a confused mix of emotions right now, so please bear with us.

    Some of us are excited to be going on this adventure, but we are also quietly terrified of what lies ahead, and can’t show it for fear we won’t get on the plane. We feel guilty about leaving you, but it’s like going into school for the first time – we are trying to put a brave face on. It doesn’t mean that we love you any less – the opposite in fact. If we didn’t have you as a safety net, we’d never step out into the unknown.

    ☑ We need you more than ever, but it may not seem like it.

    Remember when you started school, and it took all of your energy just to keep track of where you should be going, what the rules were and who and where to avoid? That’s what relocation is like. We hardly know what time of the day it is, let alone our own phone number.We are just barely holding it together, and a text or email make a world of difference, especially if it makes us laugh.

    ☑ If you really love us, forgive us if we don’t answer immediately.

    We are overwhelmed, we don’t know anybody here, the paperwork is bewildering and every waking moment is spent trying to keep our heads above water. When we finally get through this transition phase (and we will), we will remember for ever the fact that you stuck with us.

    ☑ Birthdays and celebrations are always the hardest, especially for the first year.

    Remember how I moaned about having to cook the Christmas turkey, or that every birthday card reminded me that I was getting older? I was wrong. All those things reminded me that I have friends and family to share my time, my home and my life with, and without them, it can be very lonely.

    We do find new people to share them with, but if we could have one wish, it would be to have everyone we have ever shared those times with all together in one room.. 

    ☑ I may say ‘it’s fine’, but I’m being brave.

    Please don’t be fooled. But I also don’t want to waste precious time talking to you by sniveling about the woman at the school, and I want to hear what is happening in your life.

    Just talking to you makes everything seem a whole lot better, and hearing about your day helps to put mine back in perspective. It reminds me that we all have our good and bad moments, and the trick is to have friends to laugh, cry and share them with.

    ☑ You don’t have to write an essay – three words will do.

    Or a photo, if that is easier. What we miss most is the day to day interactions with you all – the smiles, the snatched conversations in grocery stores and school yards – the sense of connection and belonging.

    So don’t think you have to send a three page letter for it to be worthwhile (although we love those too) even the smallest contact lets us know that someone, somewhere is thinking about us, and is missing us too.


    Rachel Yates is a so-called trailing spouse who gave up her own career as a lecturer to relocate her life, her family and her dog on her partner’s first international assignment to Kenya, supposedly for a year. Ten years and three continents later, she is now in San Francisco, re-establishing her identity. Co-author of Finding Home Abroad and currently serving as an FIGT Board member, she writes at Defining Moves.

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