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.

  • 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.


    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




    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.

  • 17 May 2014 4:16 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The global life cycle has turned the full wheel for this particular Third Culture Kid (TCK). At 11 weeks old my granddaughter, who lives in London, became a transatlantic traveller. She came to stay with us in Houston while her parents celebrated a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas. It was the greatest gift my daughter could have given us: a chance, as new global grandparents, to get to know our granddaughter, night-time feeds and all.

    After a difficult six years during which five of our family have died, Ava is a reminder that life, no matter where we live, is a wonderful and precious continuum. Along with the realisation that somehow along the way I have become one of the older generation, all my children’s grandparents now being dead.

    Many aspects of expatriate life, when the concept is being sold to the new and unwary, are focused on the benefits. There are lots, and not just of the pecuniary type. We see parts of the world that may never have been open to us; we learn of cultures and traditions wholly different to our own; we have the opportunity to speak a new language and to experience truly more than the sanitised version of our new home that the tourist brochures tout. It is a privilege to be invited to someone else’s country, and for a few short years to share, on the periphery, another’s customs.

    There are, however, significant drawbacks: educational disruption; familial dislocations; friendships sometimes diluted with distance, both geographical and metaphysical; and death.

    Dealing with the death of our parents at a distance is hard, and no matter that we console ourselves with the platitudes of “I could have been in the next room and not been there when he died” or “she wanted us to see the world” or “I went back as much as possible”, there is still a lingering guilt that we were on the other side of the world when death dealt its hand. But because human nature is as it is, we grieve and then slowly let the pieces of our life, that one we have chosen, envelope us as we learn to manage and live with the sorrow.

    Contributed by Apple Gidley, a full-time writer, now based in Houston, who has relocated 26 times through 12 countries.  Author of Expat Life Slice by Slice and a former FIGT board member and keynote speaker, she is known to thousands as ExpatApple thanks to her popular blog at the Daily Telegraph.

  • 04 May 2014 2:00 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    etworking seems to be the key to finding most employment wherever you may live in this globalized world. Following are some ways that expats “network” in many countries:
    1. Official receptions, National days in embassies, farewell or welcome parties in companies, UN, NGOs.
    2. Social and private events and gatherings Dinners, parties, functions, cocktails, formal and informal drinks, Sunday lunch, coffees, teas, bars, clubs. Make yourself known and promote your skills as much as you can. Let people identify you as a “professional person” as much as possible.
    3. Private invitations Invite someone or get invited.
    4. Ask for professional meeting Meet people at a social level (dinner, party), then call back your contact and ask for a professional appointment (with an Ambassador, a manager…)
    5. Sports activities and clubs Mainly sports clubs, golf clubs (inside info and contacts for senior positions), gyms, mountain climbing clubs.
    6. Meeting someone by chance Expats seem to visit the same restaurants, same supermarkets.
    7. Go to the “in” places Markets frequented by expats, popular restaurants, coffee shops, and others.
    8. Through accompanying spouse’s contacts Getting inside information from spouses (of international employees), spouse’s contacts and spouse’s current or former colleagues.
    9. Friends Through friends in similar fields.
    10. Professional events Go around, check what is happening and attend meetings and conferences.
    11. Identify groups Professional groups are good ways of networking, including women associations, clubs and committees, professional groups, sectoral professional associations.  Join groups, penetrate them, participate in their meetings, talk to someone attending, try to be included on their mailing list.
    12. Through colleagues Former colleagues, former contacts from previous jobs.
    13. Word of mouth The expatriate community is big and very concentrated in some areas of the capitol city, so word of mouth is a very direct way to get information. The expatriate community is not hard to penetrate.
    14. School Expatriates’ children go to the same schools.
    15. Places of worship Widely used by locals, also some expatriates. These places are havens for networking. 
    16. Internet Electronic resources listed throughout this blog and recommendations by others in the country.
    17. NGO network Someone you contacted in an NGO can mention you to another NGO or share with you the opportunities in another NGO.
    18. Canvassing Someone who knows you will push you and promote you in a position.
    19. Conferences Attend conferences, workshops, seminars  (select those that are targeted to your career or where you know there will be HR professionals and executives.) Get the info in newspapers/magazines/ advertisements, Internet, the expat community, the Chambers of Commerce.
    20. Clubs and associations for expats Spouse organizations, such as the Local Expatriate Spouse Associations (LESAs) set up by UN organizations that are focusing on support for dual career couple, the Association for American Women Abroad, and other associations that are focused on expat communities.
    21. SMS, mobile phone calls Landlines can be challenging in some countries, so SMS and mobile are increasingly widely used and are an easy way to network (easy to send a message to several recipients). It is common in many countries to take your phone and say: Hello, I have heard you are doing this, could we meet?
    22. Email Widely used also in many countries. Same logic: Easy to send short messages to plenty of people.
    23. International hotels lobbies: info on meetings, seminars, conferences Check the event announcements in the lobby of the major international hotels, which host conferences, seminars, activities, meetings, which are often regional or international and are attended by many international staff. Also keep in mind that many expats frequent large hotels for their restaurants, bars, social activities, swimming pool, and other resources.
    24. Mingle with locals Leads developed through locals and expats.
    25. Extracurricular activities. Weekends away, safaris, cinemas, vacations at the beach, skiing trips.
    What tips would you add? Add your comments and tips here!

    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 atPassportCareer.com
  • 14 Apr 2014 9:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    One of the highlights of the 2014 FIGT Conference – and believe me, there were many – was the introduction of the first ever group of Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writers. This illustrious group is named after Robin Pascoe and Jo Parfitt, two luminaries in the field of writing and publishing books which speak directly to the experience of living and raising families across cultures in a globally mobile world.

    As an expat author and writer myself, I’ve devoured every single book by Pascoe (including a couple no longer in print) as well as at least a half dozen by the prolific Parfitt, my writing mentor and publisher, learning about everything from culture shock and raising global nomads to finding the humor in sometimes difficult cross-cultural situations and creating a location-independent career. Individually and together they have contributed greatly toward the genre that is now expat literature, from which so many can glean so much.

    Knowing these two talents, it is only fitting that the benefits to the writing residents are not limited to a splashy title, new entry on their resumé and attending the FIGT conference sessions at a reduced rate. As conceived by Parfitt, founder of the expatriate press Summertime Publishing, the residency offers much more. The four recipients – Cristina Bertarelli, Dounia Bertuccelli, Justine Ickes and Sue Mannering – received in-depth training on writing articles and getting them placed for publication in an online course developed and led by Parfitt prior to the conference. Once there, they hit the ground running – or note-taking as it were – working nonstop. The residents split up and ensured press coverage of all joint conference and concurrent speaker sessions, which they will write about for the inaugural FIGT Conference Yearbook, due out later this year. The Yearbook ensures anyone interested in the 2014 Conference can immerse themselves in the panels, presentations and discussions of the cutting edge issues addressed.

    Intrigued by what brought these four writers-in-training to the Pascoe/Parfitt Residency, I also wondered what they might have learned at the conference they weren’t expecting and what other projects might be on the horizon. I had the chance to interview them shortly after the conference.

    Cristina, an Italian who has lived in Switzerland, France and the US, is married to an Italian-American Third Culture Kid and raising two TCKs. For her, the drive to write is a ‘passion and the willingness to acknowledge the voice that resides deeply in my soul,’ as well as a ‘desire to inspire other people with my journey respecting the challenges and enjoying the opportunities received by a privileged itinerant life.’ On her way home from the conference she announced this was ‘the first time of my nomadic life where I felt welcomed, understood and part of an authentic family.’ As a professional coach, she was also astounded by ‘the entire body of presentations, books, research and discussions around the theme of the ‘Global Family: Redefined’, and looks forward to learning more. In addition to her contributions to the Yearbook, Cristina would like to continue her ‘dance with the expat life’, blogging about ‘exploring new rhythms and spreading the energy within the community of expats’ at www.cristinabertarelli.com.

    ‘FIGT… is the first time of my nomadic life where I felt welcomed, understood and part of an authentic family’

    For Dounia, a Lebanese-American TCK who has lived in six countries and is married to an Italian TCK she met in high school in Paris, she had two considerations: ‘looking for ways to grow her writing career, especially within the TCK and expat community,’ and ‘meeting people who are part of this community and having the opportunity to learn from them.’ She was especially pleased to be selected as a resident writer because ‘it allows me to do both of those things while receiving personal mentoring from someone who has done exactly what I hope to do.’ Surprised by both the variety of topics being discussed and how quickly she felt comfortable and a part of things, her greatest lesson was ‘the intensity of emotions at the conference, mine included. I didn’t expect to feel such a connection to so many of the stories that speakers and attendees shared.’ Dounia was particularly touched by Lisa Liang’s one-woman show about growing up as a TCK: ‘she made quite an impact, and I didn’t expect the resurgence of emotions.’ She would like to expand her writing portfolio, concentrating on articles on TCK and expat topics, especially ‘research with other adult TCKs to understand how our experiences growing up play a role in our decisions and choices as adults.’ Her blog is Next Stop: Musings of a Third Culture Kid (www.tcknextstop.wordpress.com ).

    Having lived and worked in more than twenty countries, Justine describes herself as ‘a native New Yorker with a Mediterranean soul married to a Turkish man I met while teaching English’, raising their two Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs). Justine had previous knowledge of Summertime Publishing ‘and one of Jo’s authors – Jack Scott – and his hilarious memoir about his expat life in Turkey.’ She writes and blogs (www.cultureeveryday.com ) about cross-cultural cultures, was looking for like-minded writers, and would like to publish ‘a collection of essays as well as a non-fiction handbook for people in intercultural relationships.’ FIGT and the Pascoe/Parfitt Residency were the perfect match for bringing together ‘my personal passions and professional interests.’ As a trainer and curriculum designer (www.justineickes.com ), she had organized and attended many conferences, and was impressed by FIGT’s ‘focus on networking and allowing time and space for attendees to really connect.’ Although it has been years since she’s lived overseas, in being part of a cross-cultural family Justine was ‘surprised at how much I could relate to the TCK and global family issues and challenges.’ She has plans to create and launch a new micro e-course to be published under her Culture Genie imprint, and is looking for input on the pilot course so welcomes interested FIGT folks to contact her.


    ‘FIGT was different in the focus on networking and allowing time and space for attendees to really connect.’


    The child of an adult CCK – her father migrated with his family from India to Australia as a young boy − Sue and her Australian husband raised three TCKs while living in the Middle East; now situated in Singapore, she splits her time between there and Sydney, and blogs (www.singaporefooddiaries.com ) about empty nesting, travel and what to do/see in Singapore. Sue attended one of Jo Parfitt’s ‘Write Your Life’ workshops in Singapore last year, so when she learned of the writing residency, she applied. Passionate about writing since a small child, Sue ‘saw the residency as an opportunity to hone my writing and to have Jo Parfitt mentor us. Jo inspires people to do things.’ Unfamiliar with the meaning of the term TCK, she didn’t think TCK issues would be relevant to her now grown children. ‘I could not be more wrong. I am looking forward to discussing a number of issues with my ATCKs in a positive way.’ Sue aspires to getting published articles around the expat experience and issues, as well as general articles on travel and living in Singapore. ‘I also have ideas for a novel. It’s brewing’; she’d like to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in November) and better her previous progress of 20,000 words.

    Having spent time with and interviewed the Pascoe/Parfitt Writing Residents, I believe the FIGT 2014 Conference Yearbook is in good hands. The residency namesakes should be very proud

    Contributed by Linda A. Janssen, recently repatriated to the US after four years in the Netherlands. A Resilience and Cross-Cultural Transitions consultant/trainer and author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures, Linda manages the online and onsite FIGT bookstores, and blogs at www.AdventuresinExpatLand.com

  • 02 Apr 2014 9:52 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Global citizens are often more aware of circumstances than those who remain in the routines of home. Inspired by Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl’s words, Norman Viss offers five thoughts to help us cope with times when circumstances overwhelm us.

    By Norman Viss

    Admit it: All of us tend to be influenced by our circumstances.

    A two year old just knows his life is ruined if he doesn’t get that second pancake. A thirty-seven year old just knows his life is ruined if……well, I’ll let you fill that in. 

    A year ago I read for the first time a fascinating book by Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust concentration camp survivor Viktor E. Frankl. The book is called Man’s Search for Meaning, and it is a powerful testimony to man’s ability to overcome his circumstances. 

    The book inspired me to look at my life again, and accept the challenge to change myself instead of beat my head against my circumstances. Frankl writes:

    “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

    As I’ve been processing this book for myself, I thought of five things we can learn from Frankl that we should remember when circumstances overwhelm us, as his certainly did him. 

    1. Look around carefully at where you are 

    Frankl was in a concentration camp. That was obvious. Our circumstances might not always be what we think they are. Be sure your thoughts about where you are are accurate. 

    2. Understand what the problem is

    Frankl’s obvious presenting problem was the camp, but he couldn’t do anything about that. He looked for the problem he could work with – his attitude and those of his fellow prisoners. What is the real problem you are facing?

    3. Determine what tools you need to overcome

    Frankl used his medical, psychiatric and psychological training and experience to attack his problem. What tools, training and experience do you have to help you now?

    4. Search for meaning

    Frankl quoted Nietzsche approvingly: ‘He who has a Why to live for can survive any How.’ Have you thought about ‘Why”?

    5. Take action

    Frankl again:

    “Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

    Right action and right conduct give and bring hope. Frankl tells us: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.”

    Global citizens are often more aware of circumstances than those who remain in the routines of home. We have to be, because almost all of our circumstances are new and different. 

    Global citizens are people; our circumstances can take our lives captive. Perhaps these five things to remember can help you be, think and do right, and live in freedom.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    Norman Viss is an expatriate coach who has many years of broad international experience working with people from a wide variety of cultures, including a 10 year span of living in Nigeria, West Africa, and 22 years in the Netherlands. Currently he lives in the Philadelphia, USA and blogs at the Everyday Expat Support Center

  • 02 Mar 2014 8:00 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    2014 FIGT Annual Conference Speaker, Ray Leki, was gracious enough to respond to a few questions for FIGT social media. Mr. Leki is the Director of the Transition Center, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State. His keynote address will be occurring on Friday, March 21st at  6:30pm.  Tickets for his talk are being sold separately. In order to register, please visit: http://www.figt.org/2014_conference .

    1.   What is your expat story?

    My parents were immigrants from post-WWII Europe. I grew up within ethnic enclaves in Chicago and had the luxury of lots of cross contact across ethnic groups because of playing soccer in a league that featured teams with bizarrely pure ethnic identities and socializing in clubs that supported those teams: Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Italians, plenty of Germans and Poles and teams from many of the states of Mexico, among lots of others.

    2.  What made you choose safety/security as the topic for your book?

     I had worked on the idea of a book on personal travel security in an international age for some time, but it wasn’t until a publisher came to me to ask for a book on that topic that I forced myself to give birth to the book. As someone intimately involved in the expatriation experiences of huge numbers of people, the book (Travel Wise: How to Be Safe, Savvy and Secure Abroad)  provided an opportunity to share what I had learned from their experiences as well as my own.

    3.  What sparked your interest in resilience?

    International lifestyles can be grueling, particularly when the foreign destinations include war zones, areas of civil unrest, conflict, high crime, and natural disasters. Some expats thrive and some grind through losing their enthusiasm, empathy, and ability to enjoy their travels. The idea of understanding an international lifestyle from a resilience framework had obvious applications for the client groups I deal with. How can we inculcate resilience in ourselves and others became a key question that remains the focus of much work, both on the research side as well as in applications to the working world.

    4.  What are 5 tips for expat success that you could share?

    1. Develop and nurture your natural sense of human empathy.

    2. When you lose your curiosity, your being is telling you it is time to slow down and recharge your resilience batteries.

    3. Drink (alcohol) less and reflect more on you and your experiences in country.

    4. Stay out of expat enclaves – nurture a strong bias towards intercultural interactions

    5. Read Travel Wise

    5.  What changes have you seen over the course of your career in the Global family?      

    The last 35 years represent a huge transition in the expat business. Family structure itself has changed, the emergence of the BRICs, telecommunications – am I the last person who remembers the once ubiquitous aerogram? – the globalization of information, all of these things have had an enormous impact on families involved in international lifestyles.

    Contributed by Mary Margaret Herman , a dual-citizen with an Irish and U.S. passport who has taught in France and works in the post-graduate education sector.  She is currently serving on the board of directors for Families in Global Transition

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