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 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

  • 15 Feb 2014 9:26 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    For more than 15 years, Families in Global Transition has been the global leader in cross cultural education and training to support the entire expat family. It does so on a continual basis through its informative annual conferences, ever-expanding educational website, and year-round benefits such as access to webinars, presentations and ongoing research through its Membership Program.

    As the leader of an active and growing global network, FIGT promotes the positive value of the international experience, empowering the family unit and those who serve it before, during and after international transitions. FIGT knows the value of the written word, and is committed to bringing you the latest and greatest information from fellow expatriates, TCKs, global nomads, serial wanderers and repatriated souls. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its efforts to make available the widest array of books, handouts and other written material to pique your interest and honor your global transitions, celebrate your victories and soothe your concerns, offer tangible advice and unswerving support.

    This year’s conference theme is ‘The Global Family: Redefined’, and offers many opportunities for you to connect with words which will serve you well.

    Prior to the welcoming reception and keynote speaker in the evening of Friday, March 21st, FIGT is priming the pipeline of future writings by offering a fabulous and free Writers’ Forum from 12:00-4:00 pm. Co-hosted by a pair of longtime expatriates in author, publisher and writing instructor Jo Parfitt and translator and eloquent linguaphile Eva Laszlo-Herbert, this event is for novices to novelists, aspiring writers to accomplished wordsmiths, newbies and published authors and everyone in between. The interactive program will encourage participants to explore, express and share their stories – important not only for the individual but also for the broader global community – through presentations, small group discussion, a writing exercise (sharing optional) and a panel of experienced authors to field your questions.

    Throughout the conference FIGT will run an onsite bookstore where you can peruse a wide range of titles germane to the expatriate experience and globally mobile way of life. Saturday afternoon the bookstore will be abuzz as authors in attendance congregate and chat with customers at a collegial booksigning.

    In keeping with the value placed on the words which educate, enlighten, inform and uplift, not only for our members but also the vast audience of interested expatriates living across cultures worldwide, we’re in the process of expanding and updating our online bookstore as well. Feel free to recommend additional titles which have meant something to you in your global journey. We know you have many options when it comes to where and how you buy books, and we hope you’ll think of the FIGT online bookstore throughout the year as each sale – at competitive prices – helps raise much-appreciated monies directly benefitting the Pollock Scholarship Fund.

    FIGT believes in the capacity of the expatriate and repatriate family to transition successfully, to leverage the international experience for all of its human and global potential, and to share our stories along the way.

    [For additional information on the 2014 conference schedule, Writer’s Forum, or the FIGT policies regarding selling your book(s) in the onsite bookstore and/or participating in the author book signings, check http://www.figt.org/2014_conference.]

    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

  • 01 Feb 2014 6:43 PM | Judy Rickatson

    “Men come and go. But after age 50, a woman should have five good girlfriends,” says Maxine Harris from Texas.

    The support women feel from girlfriends “steadies me and keeps me going,” says Susan Dougherty of Anaheim, Calif.

    I can remember being in my apartment in Baku, looking at some garbage stuck  in the leafless trees outside my window, and feeling very alone – husband off to work, son at school and me left behind, wondering if this was how it would always be.  And then the contrast when I made contact with a group of expat women who met once a week for a “stitch ‘n bitch” sewing group and suddenly I was surrounded by camaraderie, close friends and a feeling of “belonging.” 

    I’ve often heard newly arrived women say they’ve had to fill out a form asking for an emergency contact, and suddenly had a gut wrenching moment when they realized they knew no one.  In Dubai I started running a weekly coffee morning for an organization called ExpatWoman, which quickly grew from just half a dozen of us to a group of 40 or more, completely taking over a local coffee shop once a week.  A multinational mixture of newcomers and long term expats, it always gave me a thrill to see a woman arrive, visibly nervous and shy, and by the end of the morning she’d be exchanging phone numbers and arranging to meet up with the women she’d been sitting next to.

    No matter where I’ve lived as an expatriate, once I’ve found a good friend, the friendship has deepened quickly.  It is as if we knew we didn’t have the luxury of time because we might only be there for a year or two.  Having someone to share the frustrations of settling in and homesickness has been the best cure for culture shock. 

    The two quotes at the beginning of this post come from an article about people finding love after 50, but they reminded me of how important my expat girlfriends have been to me while living overseas.  I think they hold true no matter what your age and are doubly true if you’re an expat.  The girlfriends I have made have been one of the best things about being an expat.

    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 Jan 2014 8:03 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    One job requirement I love about being an educational consultant is that I have to get out and visit schools. Although I have seen over 175 different boarding schools, I grab every opportunity I have to learn about new schools so that I can better serve my students and families. After just visiting another five American boarding schools, I am more enthusiastic than ever about the huge range of students served and the opportunities these schools offer. What is so remarkable to me is that each boarding school has its own unique character, culture, student profile, and niche of students they serve. And each school is mature and self-confident enough to know exactly who they are and who they serve best, so they don’t even attempt to be all things to all people. I like this approach, because I feel that ultimately, it’s the student that is best served.

    All of these schools welcome international students as well, and do their best to make them feel at home.

    Some schools offer fantastic learning support, while others emphasize a classical approach to education while acknowledging that it’s not for everyone. Some schools have a very experiential approach to learning, and all schools seek to take advantage of their geographic locations to maximize learning opportunities for students. I spoke with administrators, counselors, and teachers about the teaching and learning experience at these schools, but it was the conversations I had with students that thrilled me the most.


    My favorite question to ask students is, “What will you take away from the experiences you have had at this school?” Here are their answers – let them tell you why boarding school is an option they have loved!

    ·       College is no longer daunting for me because I know I’m ready

    ·       I’m more willing to try new things

    ·       I was exposed to many more experiences as well as culture

    ·       I’m more open-minded

    ·       I love the sense of community

    ·       I got to be in leadership roles

    ·       The academics

    ·       I like going away from home and being with my friends in the dorm, and will be a proctor next year

    ·       I learned organizational skills

    ·       I became more independent

    ·       I learned how to manage my time and my things

    ·       I realized there is always help around from teachers and other students

    ·       I learned study skills

    ·    I loved the relationships with my teachers – the biggest class I’m in has 12 students

    ·       I like being able to build relationships with my teachers and the ability to quickly get help and quick extra study sessions at night

    ·       Here the teachers really care about their students

    ·       The teachers are our friends, too

    ·       I learned how to manage my time and be self-disciplined, and that will help me in college

    ·       I learned how to find resources on my own, and not just go to my parents and my brothers

    ·       I have had to relate to other people and groups that are different from myself

    ·       The work is hard but I’m more interested

    ·       I like being able to introduce my new friends to my old friends back home

    ·       With only 8 kids in my class, I’m more invested in my own learning

    ·       This school taught me how to think

    ·       I feel good about myself

    ·       I can participate in a lot more activities

    ·       I like the family feel here

    ·       I became a self-starter

    ·       I now think about something greater than myself

    ·       I learned how to be a more “faithful, hopeful, loving person”

    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 Jan 2014 4:44 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I met God the other day.

    She was riding on my metro car, sitting next to me by the window.

    I know what you are thinking – how the heck did you know it was God?

    Well, I didn’t, at the beginning. She looked like a tired young lady just trying to get home after a long day’s work between Christmas and New Year. She touched my arm and said, “I know you. Actually, I used to know you quite well, but you’ve dropped out of my life lately. I haven’t seen you around anywhere.” 

    I did not recognize her at all, and said so immediately. And I made clear that I was an expat and had been traveling around the world for the last few years, so it made sense to me that she would have missed me – if it was true that we had ever known each other in the first place.

    She looked me in the eye and said quietly, “You have never seen me before. I am God. That’s why I know you but you don’t know me.” 

    “God?” I said. “God Almighty? Maker of Heaven and Earth and inspirator of the Bible?” 

    “Yes”, was her simple reply. “And I can prove it to you”.

    She leaned over and whispered in my ear for about thirty seconds. And what she told me was so fantastic in the absolutely unbelievable sense of the word that my doubts about this little woman being God Almighty melted away like the proverbial snowball in hell.

    “But how could you have not seen me these last years?” I wondered aloud. “I’ve been that tall redhead in China surrounded by crowds of curious children who just want to touch my hair. I was the only white person in that African village, the only gringo in that South American bar. I could understand being missed if I had been living in Ireland, but your tracking skills, however you pull that off, have let you down big time.”

    “I’ve had other things to do this year,” she said. “The NSA has made my job a lot easier recently, I only have to go down to one place to find and follow anyone I need to see. My work load will be a lot lighter in the future.” 

    “Yeah, I’m not too happy about that,” I replied. “But I do like the Pope Francis thing you did this year. He’s a popular guy, what with that ‘not judging’ and ‘trickle down economy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be’ stuff. You really pulled off a pretty good PR stunt there.”

    “Thank you. I’ll pass the compliment on to my guys who worked on that.” 

    “And I guess you had to take Nelson Mandela. His passing sure gave the world an amazing 10 days. Did you have anything to do with that sign language interpreter guy?”

    She smiled. “Of course not. That you would even ask! By the way, how’s 2013 been for you?”

    “Not bad, thank you for asking. I ended my stay in China and moved on to Argentina. Did you know China was ranked as the #1 expat location by the HSBC Expat survey this year? It’s booming economically and is a great place for a good work-life balance. And a surprisingly good place to raise children

    I’m not so sure about Argentina, I’m still finding my way around. The economic situation isn’t so great, but that makes the cost of living a bit cheaper, if you are careful. What I really love already so far is the entertainment. It’s wonderful!” 

    “Glad to hear that. I’ve always enjoyed those local South American bars, restaurants and night clubs myself, when I have a chance to get there, which hasn’t happened this year. It’s been a frustrating year for me. You people can’t seem to get the economy going in the West, and the wars in Syria and Sudan leave me disgusted.”

    “I was going to ask you about that. Why don’t you do something about war, starvation, sickness, AIDS, poverty etc?”

    “Actually, I came here to ask you the same question. When are you all going to do something about those problems, for Heaven’s sake? I’ve given you all the smarts and resources you need. You’ve landed a little car on the moon this year, and cloned human stem cells. Those of you that have garbage disposals throw enough food down them to feed millions of poor people. I’m not blaming you personally for that, because you don’t have a garbage disposal. But when are you going to get your act together, and why are you waiting for me to do something? You know I don’t work that way!” 

    “Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I was figuring that you as God Almighty could just reach down and fix things for us. Are you on Twitter yet?”

    “Well there are a couple of impostors pretending to be me: @TheTweetOfGod, @god, @TheGoodGodAbove, @GodPosts. I see they all have thousands of followers, so I must be popular. There is talk of a Twitter Bible, but I think that is fake also. Sounds like fun, though:

    In the beginning, God tweeted:
    Day 1: Lighting system installed. BRB.
    Days 2-6: Some assembly required: sky, plants, cows, people. Left humans in charge, LOL. 
    Day 7: Siesta

    But no, I’m not on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or You Tube. I have been investigating Mashable lately. Sounds like a concept I could use, but I don’t really understand how it works. It’s a generation thing, I’m afraid.

    Anything I can do for you or expats in general in 2014?”

    “As soon as I found out who you were I was going to mention a few things. We don’t like Christmas when it is hot. Sometimes it’s impossible to get the sports or TV shows we like. Skype is great for communicating back home, but it doesn’t substitute for a real hug. Homesickness is an issue, as well as the Centigrade/Fahrenheit thing. And the language problem is killing us. Why couldn’t you have thought of another solution to the Tower of Babel problem?”

    “Sorry about the Babel thing. I acted in haste and regret it now, but once the deed was done there was no turning back….”

    I interrupted. (Imagine that, interrupting God Almighty!) “But all those things seem a bit petty now. I feel kind of bad even mentioning them.”

    God gave me a friendly wink, touched my arm again and said, “Well here’s my stop. Got to get off. I enjoyed chatting with you. Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2014! And – make a difference this year, OK?”

    And with that, God got off the bus, opened her umbrella, gave a short wave and smile and disappeared in the crowd.

    I wondered whether I’d ever see her again. I hoped so.

    I resolved that if we did meet again I would be able to tell her that I had. Made a difference, that is.

    Contributed by Norman Viss, 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

  • 15 Dec 2013 3:41 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I am a Christian, BUT I have to say if behavior demonstrates beliefs; then you could be forgiven for thinking that what Christmas means to me is a shopping list!

    I am changing. Had enough! Enough already, as my New York friends say. This year we celebrated Advent- not bad for Brethren Boy (husband) and Baptist girl (me). We aren't big on anything hat smacks of established church. Maybe our fore-parents wanted to make it clear that we weren't .........................................(fill in the blanks as to your personal choice of established faith). I am descended from Amish on one side and French Huguenots on the other. 

    What has this got to do with baking? Everything.

    I reflected on my actual behavior around this season, and decided to make changes. BB (husband) and I attended a beautiful Advent Service to kick off the season. It’s a big deal to forgive the Anglicans for hundreds of years of persecution; but don't they do a great Christmas service?!

    We focused on the light in dark places I was a little concerned lest I burn the hair of the person sitting RIGHT in front of me at St Andrews as we all held our candles in the night, singing Silent Night. We came out of that service with not a little awe; and wondering what we missed all these years when we skipped this season to head to the High Streets. (Main Street, but the UK English gets the alliteration)

    And for presents....we are not stoics. We love presents! I think my husband actually has a spiritual gift when it comes to presents. And I was bold to ask for my present from him this year: six cooking lessons!

    I am married to someone who was/is a European Master Chef before it was a television program and I am honoured that he agreed. What you see above is my first effort at real bread making. My life is transformed in an entire area of creativity! He is a patient teacher and we have fun in the kitchen-never thought that would happen as his standards are high, high,, high. 

    Now here is the Cross Cultural bit: my husband is teaching me baking using a scale. I am happy with this when it comes to learning his remarkable recipes.....but I am firmly holding on to my measuring cups when it comes to bringing out the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas cookies. Years and years ago, when I first started this expat life; you couldn't just buy those American items at your local grocers or dry goods store. I carried them lovingly in my carry on luggage across the Atlantic. It's a memory of my nomadic life, and I'm sticking to them-except for when Master Chef demonstrates his next lesson.

    Contributed by Kathleen McAnear Smith, speaker and author of Parents on the Move and Beyond Broken Families. Kathleen divides her time between Florida, the UK and Italy and blogs atKathleenMcAnearSmith.com

  • 01 Dec 2013 3:22 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    David C PollockThe David C. Pollock Scholarship Fund pays tribute to international educator, sociologist and co-author of Third Culture Kids, David C. Pollock, whose tireless support, vision and dedication to families in global transition impacted countless people in every corner of the globe.

    It provides highly motivated individuals working or studying in the intercultural or global family support field the opportunity to attend the FIGT conference. Attending the Families in Global Transition conference can be both career- and life-changing. The scholarship can help you get there financially and it can open even more doors for you.

    Here are 5 reasons why you might want to apply.

    1. The FIGT community members are quick to take you under their wing, offer assistance, engage in thought-provoking discussion, as well as recognize what you bring to the (kitchen) table (discussions)- I even got an FIGT joke in there! ;)

    2. If you want to network, the FIGT conference is the place! This is the network that keeps on going. There is no stopping their willingness to reach out to their contacts in order to help you in your career path.

    3. Conference attendance can be amazing, but being a part of it's success through volunteering makes it an extra special experience. It is the best way to really feel connected. 

    4. Often times, we go into an experience with one idea of what we will get out of it. My experience as a Pollock Scholar opened up a world of possibilities beyond what I had imagined. It was magical.

    5. As cliche as it may sound, the opportunity to make new friends. Even when I am super busy with life, the warmth and passion of my FIGT friends takes me back to an empowered part of myself.

    More information at http://figt.org/pollock_scholarship.  Applications are due at 5pm EST on December 15th.

    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

  • 17 Nov 2013 4:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    In a recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog, Grant McCracken wrote, after all, everyone in a homogeneous social world tends to know the same things. Interacting inside these worlds confirms this knowledge. It is when we interact outside the silo, with people with whom we have 'weak ties,' that good things happen. We effervesce.

    The post, and this quote in particular, bring forth thought regarding the essence of richness in the identities of transient individuals and their propensity for brokering relationships between people, cultures, and, metaphorically speaking, worlds even.
     
    The wealth of networks and the power of social capital has always been a hot topic in the realm of business. Subsequently, the birth of social media has caused this conversation to explode. Network expansion has meant something entirely different online as we are able to engage with so many more people than we had imagined. It has also made it acceptable for a complete stranger to "follow" you, but I digress. Everyone has a network and everyone has a network that is expanding, and globally at that. (You can measure your online influence with sites like Klout.) So, what makes globally transient people different?

    As the cultural diplomats that we are, we translate and relate experience through the knowledge we share, the food we serve, the cultural artifacts we display, and so much more. We simulate the experience for others in the form of brokerage. We are negotiating the experience for others and acting as a cultural agent. There are many of us who have sought to do this through our work, but many of us do this for the pure pleasure of it. There is value in creating a non-siloed environment, where diverse perspectives are shared.

    Now, to go back to the quote, there are moments in sharing these relics, tastes, smells, sounds, and stories, when we do not speak of the 'weak ties' that may have initially sparked our connection with these cultural symbols. However, it is the 'weak ties,' as McCracken says, that cause good things to happen. We celebrate diversity, yet we may not appreciate the adversity.

    In an article called "Ecstasy Without Agony Is Baloney," William H. Blanchard wrote, "...one does not go in search of the holy grail of personal fulfillment with full immunity from the dragons along the way. If the individual is really in search of awareness, he must be prepared for an ego-shattering experience in which there is genuine danger. One does not achieve great rewards without taking great risks."

    If what Blanchard and McCracken say is true, then it is the adversity that one faces in these global transitions which is truly of value. The adversity is what allows us to create, relate, and inform within our environments. The networks of socially mobile people are those born out of substantive experiences and they include individuals one would never have imagined meeting. Consequently, as social networks go, these are some of the most fascinating... the most effervescent.

    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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