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 the entire expatriate family. Contributions are welcome from current members, please contact admin@figt.org for more details.
  • 01 Aug 2013 7:56 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)






    I am new here.

    Who am I now?

    Where do I fit?

    Not with the blonde mothers with buggies

    and toddlers,

    grandparents in tow.

    Not with the clean-shaven men,

    passes on blue lanyards

    tucked into top pockets.

    Not with the freshly-wed,

    brightly starting expat life

    with a Club-Med posting.

    How do they see me here?

    The criss-crossed creases on my neck

    show I am between worlds;

    a decade since proud granny

    clutched my toddler’s pudgy hand.

    Too old and too young

    for the sanctuary

    of the shaded shallow pool,

    letting my brown legs dangle in the cool,

    blowing up arm bands

    rubber rings.

    I wear my empty nest

    like facial hair –

    with embarrassment.

    I bow my head,

    stare at my feet,

    see only the cracks in the pavement.

    Where is my community?

    Where will they not see my age?

    Where will I not feel out of place,

    in the wrong year at school?

    If I am to be a sore thumb

    then tell me where I’ll find my salve.

    Might it be beside the mud-blue sea,

    where six stripes of breakers

    fold and froth cream claws

    towards a latte shore?

    And then a soft breeze whips teen tendrils

    against my lips.

    Palm trees beckon with lithe fingers,

    hearts’ tongues nod

    because they know

    as do I, that

    my soul finds friendship with the trees,

    the cicadas’ hum,

    the mystery of the surf,

    rough sand between my toes

    and in the smiles of strangers.

    FIGT regular, Jo Parfitt, is a poet and publisher who has lived overseas for 25 years now. Earlier this year she joined her husband on a three month assignment in Brunei. This was their first time without children, as theirs are now at university and in Brunei Jo found answers, solace and an outlet for her creativity in writing a blog called Briefly Brunei. The poem below is one of her first entries and will resonate with anyone who has been new in town.

  • 15 Jul 2013 6:00 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Are you a slipper person?  Do you remove your shoes when entering someone else’s home?  It seems to be quite a sensitive topic and one you need to pay attention to when moving to a new country.

    We wore slippers at home when I was a child in England, but it was definitely a comfort thing, like changing out of your school uniform or work clothes into something loose and comfortable.  Wearing slippers or taking off your shoes in someone else’s home would have been very presumptuous, like helping yourself from the fridge and almost bordering on an insult.

    When I first arrived in Canada it was mid-winter, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw plastic boot trays inside the door of every Canadian home.  In fact I thought “What a great idea!” given the slushy and salty streets of Toronto.  But as summer rolled around and the boot trays disappeared the habit of removing shoes did not and I quickly realized it was a huge faux-pas to keep your shoes on in a Canadian home.  Walking around in stocking feet or barefoot was the accepted norm for visitors.

    When we moved to Azerbaijan I found they also had the shoes by the door habit.  But they took it to the next level and provided a selection of slippers for guests to wear.  My cleaning lady looked at me in horror when she realized I didn’t have any for her to change into.  Although we couldn’t communicate verbally I definitely got the message and quickly rushed off to the local bazaar to buy a supply of cheap cloth slippers in a variety of sizes.  The students who came to me each week to practise their English had their favourite pairs and would even argue if someone took “theirs.”

    In the UAE which was much more multicultural, many people didn’t even keep their shoes inside – they’d be relegated to the porch or hallway if it were an apartment building.  And the steps of the mosques would be a jumble of hastily doffed footwear 5 times a day.  How frequently did someone end up with the wrong pair, I wondered?  Was it always a genuine mistake?

    This weekend I saw an online discussion on the topic.  It was interesting to see different nationalities line up on each side of the debate.  Strangely both the shoes-off and shoes-on supporters argued that their custom was more clean and hygienic.  Are bare, sweaty (and sometimes dirty, bleurgh) feet preferable to shoes worn in the street?  Is it insulting to ask someone from a shoes-on society to remove their shoes in a shoes-off home?  As someone who quickly adapted to the shoes-off rule, I was surprised at the strong resistance many had to it.  Should you adopt local customs, or is it OK to keep your own when it comes to your personal living space?  Is there a happy medium?  I’m not sure I have an answer.

    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.

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  • 01 Jul 2013 11:38 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Our family was preparing to leave our expat posting after six years of life there.  Our four children ranged in age from seven to thirteen.  When the weeks of the ‘last times’ came, I began to be embarrassed by my 13-year-old son’s behavior.  A friend, teacher or other significant adult friend would come up and say to him, “Goodbye,  good luck, and it’s been really nice having you as a friend.”  He would look the other direction, act very uncomfortable, and then walk away. I was angry at him for being, what I considered, rude.

    Upon further reflection, I realized that he had never been in a position before where he had had to say goodbye as an older child.  He actually did not know the words to say goodbye.  I had thought through what I wanted to say in farewell to people I knew in various roles: close friends, acquaintances, my children’s teachers, co-workers, co-members of groups and associations, household staff.  But I had never helped my children think through those words of farewell.

    As parents, we teach our children all the polite words of our culture.  “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, “Hello, how are you?”, “I’m fine.”, etc., are all words and phrases that we remind our children of practically in our sleep with the purpose of enabling them to function in polite society.  But I had not taught my children what to say when you are leaving someone who has been your best friend, and the likelihood is that you will never see that person again.  I had not given them those tools.  So, along with being sad and probably angry that he had to leave his home, my son was in an unknown place when it came to voicing the words that make up ‘saying goodbye’ in various situations.

    In addition, I believe that saying these words provides a psychological ‘ending’ to verbalize passing through the ritual of  farewell.  It is acknowledging out loud the close of a chapter in our lives; reinforcing in another way that this is really happening, and helping us move through the experience in a more positive way.  When they don’t have these tools, our children will have feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness on top of the other difficult feelings that leaving prompts.

    How can we work with our children to teach them these words?  What can we do to help them think through to whom they need to say goodbye, and what is appropriate to say in each instance?  This may change a bit from culture to culture, and also depend on the situation they are leaving behind.  But I do not doubt that a little thought and preparation in this area will go a long way in assisting your child through this time in their lives.

    Here is an article you might find helpful, from the weblog of The Forum for Expatriate Management.

    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

  • 16 Jun 2013 10:13 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I can’t pretend to be a child development expert, nor a global relocation counselor, but having transitioned two children through a total of 15 schools over 3 continents in 11 years, I’ve worked out a few basic rules of my own for getting from A to B while minimizing tantrums, traumas and general rebellion. (These rules relate to the emotional transition rather than the physical ones – for my (dubious) wisdom on the rest, see the Basics – Family section.)

    1. Keep them informed, but not overwhelmed.

    My mother spent many years working in child development, which included doing the dreaded ‘puberty’ talks. Experience taught her that the earlier you give them information, the less intimidating it becomes and that they only absorb what they are emotionally capable of taking on, so you may have to repeat things later. This advice holds true for relocating; once you know you are moving, include them in the planning and discussions, and let them have some control over their own lives. The amount of information and input will vary according to the age of the children concerned – see the Basics – Family section for more specific information.

    2. Move at the end of a vacation, not at the start.

    The biggest mistake we ever made was moving to the US at the start of the summer vacation, thinking it would be exactly that – a vacation. Instead, we were swamped with paperwork, house hunting, car and home furnishing purchases and generally no-fun stuff – all with two very lonely, grumpy and unhelpful children in tow. We learned our lesson, and on the next move, we spent the summer in our old location, with the kids fully occupied with friends and us free to do a great deal of the planning, packing and paperwork in the comfort of our own home with internet, friends and leisurely goodbyes. We arrived rested at the new location, with five days to get oriented. It was enough to unpack essentials, register at school and meet a few people before the kids headed into school  and I could get on with the grunt work of establishing a new home. Within days they had friends, play dates and a routine that made them feel more secure, and within six weeks, I was once again Chief Transportation Officer for their many and varied social activities..

    3. Fill the void.

    For the first month or so in our new location, I plan activities geared around the children, including many things that I would ordinarily avoid like the plague. I do this for two reasons; firstly it helps to remind my children that I once was good at something other than nagging and gets them desperate to make friends and escape family outings, and secondly, it fills the time void with things they have chosen to do in the local area (and hopefully have planned themselves). I also make sure that they have unlimited texting on their cellphones (cue eye roll) and access to email and Skype, so any extra time can be filled moaning to their global buddies about just how lame their parents are. It’s a strange form of normal, but it bridges the gap remarkably well..

    4. Expect issues.

    The more they transition, the more they understand the process of relocation, but sometimes that works against you, and you get a stubborn, unwilling teenager on your hands who can make your life a living Hell. I’d like to offer sage wisdom to get you through it, but all I can really say is that it is our fault so deal with it as best you can.Robin Pascoe’s excellent books are a great place to start, and in most cases it will work itself out once they start to make friends and establish their own life. If necessary, get counseling for whoever might need it – either with a local family therapist, or via online expat counseling.

    Finally, bear in mind that you are under a great deal of stress, and so you will almost certainly be taking this very personally. Sadly, no-one has written the definitive, foolproof instruction manual for raising children in a static environment, let alone a nomadic one, so just give yourself a break, remind yourself that no-one is perfect, and we are all doing the best we can. If you need evidence of how badly the rest of us are doing at the whole global parenting thing, check out theTrailing Spouse  blog. You are in excellent company..

    Contributed by Rachel Yates, 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.  She is currently serving as an FIGT Board member and writes at Defining Moves.
  • 01 Jun 2013 6:13 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    You're wearing that?I’m happy to announce that our latest research study, “What to Wear Where: Mishaps in the Presentation of Identity Across Cultures,” is now available. In it, we explore an important mode of non-verbal communication: our physical appearance and the messages we send about our identity, both knowingly and unknowingly, when we get up in the morning, fix our hair, slip on our shoes, pick out our jacket and walk out the door.

    People transmit signals about who they are in countless ways – including fashion and physical appearance. Bright colors vs. black, neatly trimmed hair vs. scruffy-chic, modest vs. revealing clothing – all of these choices send a message about the kind of person we are, at least within our own culture. But what happens when we move to a new land?

    Drawing on the participation of 152 men and women who spanned a range of nationalities and ages, all of whom had lived in a country other than their own, this study first confirmed the fundamental hypothesis that people make assumptions about others based on their physical appearance. When asked about their first impressions of six photographed models, there was a striking consistency among the participants in their assumptions about the models’ personality, interests and skills.

    When crossing cultures, however, physical appearance signals can get misinterpreted. The message received may differ from the message that was intended. Losing this non-verbal mode of communicating identity can be unsettling, especially when it takes one by surprise. “What to Wear Where” seeks to quantify this issue and highlight its importance both for those living an expatriate life and those seeking to support them.

    When asked what they were trying to convey through their appearance, the participants from 32 countries around the world most often reported the desire to project an air of elegance, competence, and beauty, but recounted many stories about how their appearance had been mis-interpreted when in a new country. The suit that felt chic to the wearer was met with disdain by co-workers in a new country who saw it as inappropriate for the workplace. The casual shorts and T-shirt, comfort clothing to some, were met with jeers by neighbors in a different culture.

    Cultural values clearly play an important role here. Respondents judged the appropriateness of others’ outfits more leniently if they were from cultures that value individual freedom and emphasize egalitarian relationships with peers and superiors. For participants from collectivist, communitarian cultures, clothing was an inherent aspect of identity, to be protected and defended, whereas, for those from individualistic cultures, clothing was less connected to their core identity.

    Read our Executive Summary of this report now, or download the full 25-page research report, including a description of research methods, a detailed discussion of findings, and summary of participant responses.

    Contributed by
    Anne P. Copeland, PhD, founder and Executive Director of The Interchange Institute, a non-profit organization focused on the understanding and support of people and organizations in intercultural transition.  For many years, Anne was the Program Director for FIGT.  She blogs at The Interchange Institute
  • 15 May 2013 8:59 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The list of where I've been is long, from Papua New Guinea to Equatorial Guinea with many countries in between. It's been a nomadic life that started with my first posting – at one month old – to Kano in Northern Nigeria: a life of expat living. An exciting and privileged life full of different cultures and peoples, a roaming life. 

    But for the expat, dying is different. 

    Distance precluded the drama of my grandparents dying. Forty years ago there was never any question of flying back from the depths of Africa. Flowers were sent, quivering lips stilled and life in a foreign land continued stoically.

    But with the jet age has come the need to attempt to get "home" in time for death. Assuming, of course, it is anticipated. When it is not the guilt of living la vida loca is palpable.

    And death sometimes occurs the other way around. When the expat is doing the dying, the agony is often deeper and angrier, for those at "home".

    Along with the ease of travel has come an expectation that we can get wherever we need to be with the swipe of a credit card and a hastily packed carry-on. But life and death don't always play fair. 

    For the past few years, I have been part of what the experts call "the sandwich generation". My children became young adults based in England along with their five grandparents, and we were across the Atlantic.

    No amount of preparation is enough for the phone call that bounces through the stratosphere and death five times in the last four years has been difficult.

    "Cancer. A couple of months," the doctor told me. "No need to panic, get here when you can, but probably sooner rather than later." 

    My work in Houston is not vital. The stock exchange will not shatter, the bayous will not dry up. And the beauty of being a writer is that a notebook, whether electronic or paper, can be taken anywhere. 

    But I was stymied by a volcano with a name that few broadcasters on either side of the Atlantic can pronounce, spewing angry ash into the heavens. Airspace was closed but it was OK, I had two months. Maybe. 

    I phoned the hospital daily for four days. My father sounded more relaxed now he no longer had to pretend all was well. 

    "Hi Pops," I said when I phoned. "How are you doing? Are the nurses nice?"

    "Hello Sweetie," he replied. "Yes they are very kind. I'm allowed a glass of whisky in the evenings now."

    "Oh that's great! Taking your pills without it would probably kill you," I joked.

    He laughed. "Are you coming soon, Sweetie?" 

    "Yes Dad, as soon as the ash clears I'll be there." 

    As we signed off, promising to speak the next day my father said: "Those bloody Icelanders – first their bank and now their volcano!"

    I laughed and I never spoke to him again. The next morning, as airlines and governments deemed it safe to fly, he died. Five days after his diagnosis, and prognosis. 

    "Thank God, it was mercifully quick," my mind says. "No, no, no," my heart cries, "I didn't say goodbye." 

    Being on the first flight out of Houston meant nothing. My mother's words came back to me as I watched the flight map blip across the Atlantic, far south of its usual route. 

    "It's just the way it is, Apple," she'd said through tears 45 years ago, after the telegram was delivered by a Malay on a bicycle, telling of her stepmother's death. 

    As someone who has also chosen to live a nomadic life I have no right to complain and I don't. But what is certain is that no amount of excitement can compensate for a lost moment. A chance to say goodbye. 

    It is an expat life we choose, but expat death is another story. And no one will ever call me Sweetie again.

    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.

  • 01 May 2013 7:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was a challenge to leave Texas. In some ways I could have spent my entire Senior Gap Year here. The Road Trip could have been done in this state alone; but, my focus was on driving as much of the actual route my fore-parents had done as pioneers....though, I repeat: they did in a Conestoga Wagon and my husband and I preferred the Nissan 2012.This Texas is aland where the state flag has a legal right to fly at the same height as the national flag. It's a land, and a state of mind with an outlook so different from any other in America. 

    My friend Jacqueline, (photo in last blog entry) shared this story about her family's pastor, and his introduction to the Texas State of Mind. He had recently moved from Arkansas to Allen,Texas; and said he was in his front yard one day when a car was slowly driving by and the driver, having finished his fast food soda; tossed it out the window.

    Unfortunately (for the car driver) there was a truck right behind him, with a Texan behind the wheel. Immediately, the truck driver zoomed around the car and slowed up so the car would come to a standstill. 

    The truck driver's window opened up and out came a gun, pointing at the car.

    "Pick......it....up." said the truck driver, politely', firmly; and with a gun pointing directly at the car driver.

    "What!" exclaimed the car driver. 

    "I said, 'PICK it up-now!" the gun pointed to the offending litter of a large soda cup complete with straw on the street.

    The car driver jumped out of the car and scooped up the empty drink cup (and straw, taking no chances now), and quickly got back behind the wheel. 

    "Thank you," said the truck driver, pulling his gun back in the window. He then drove off, and so did the very rattled car driver.

    "Texans. They have their ways," said the Arkansas pastor. 

    Yes, they do; and I give thanks for what at times seems like a crazy heritage, but is beginning to make sense for what could be even crazier reasons.

    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 at KathleenMcAnearSmith.com

  • 15 Apr 2013 7:54 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    There are many things to consider when planning for a global career transition, regardless of the country you are moving from and regardless of the country you are moving to. Here’s a 5-step pre-departure job search checklist.

    1. Develop your action plan. 

    You will need to begin developing an action plan. Develop your action plan before you depart, if possible, and keep it handy because you will refer to it regularly throughout your transition and during your time in the destination country. As well, you will need to ensure your action plan refers to future transitions to other countries or back to your home country. Your action plan should include your career goal(s), your approach to your job search, visa/work permit info, resources, strategies, contacts, business culture information, and other relevant information.

    2. Get strategic about networking and identify target organizations.

    You will find many resources available to you in your destination country to make great contacts, such as expatriate groups/networks, Chambers of Commerce, international women’s associations, and many more organized groups. Try to avoid relying on just one or two resources. Using a variety of networking resources will help to ensure balance in your approach to your job search.

    Although it can be daunting trying to go through myriad online resources to find organizations in different countries, it is important to develop a list of 15-20 target organizations. There are many websites that have lists of organizations. The country-specific Chambers of Commerce can be found on the International Chambers of Commerce website. You may be able to find listings of companies and organizations by looking up the different country Chamber sites.

    3. Find out the restrictions and permissions for working in the country. 

    You will want detailed information about the work permit process, such as what documents are needed, how long each will take to process and whether your nationality may cause any delays, etc. You can contact the country’s embassy or consulate in the country where you currently reside. 

    4. Learn the business etiquette and communication culture. 

    You can learn the dos and don’ts for the destination country by keeping your eye on this blog. Members who have access to the password-protected Passport Career country portfolios should review the business culture sections for the destination country. There are also some great websites and books out there that cover this topic by country. Do not let this important knowledge/skill slip. You must know the key business culture to be effective with your networking and your job searchundefinedeven when connecting with the expat community!

    5. Create a networking resume/CV. 

    Create a resume/CV appropriate to the standards in your destination country to use for networking purposes and gather relevant papers that may be requested to be submitted with your CV/resume.  What documents might you need? Plan to take copies of the following: transcripts from your college, vocational or other educational institute (if you have numerous degrees, then you will need copies of each), awards and training activities, proof that you attended relevant conferences (usually only needed if you have a certificate from a training at a professional conference), and other related documentation.

    Preparing for job seeking in another country requires a lot of work, but your preparation will reduce the frustration once you arrive at your new destination. Many people fail to prepare well when crossing borders with their careersundefinedeither because they don’t have the time, they don’t think about it, or they simply do not know what steps to take to prepare adequately. However, we strongly encourage you to spend some time on these 5 steps before you depart so you can get started with a solid step forward in your job search. 

    Good luck with your global job search!

    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

  • 31 Mar 2013 9:16 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Diet strategies are always news and it seems we are hooked on learning more, and yet for thousands of years the problem for humans was not so much about over eating, it was more likely to be not having enough to eat, and the real challenge was staying alive. 

    Long term scarcity in supply of food is thought to be the reason we now store energy from food at a significantly quicker rate than we can lose it.

    It seems the majority of us have evolved in a way that shifts the odds in favour of survival, but not everyone’s metabolism works in this way – you probably know at least one person who can eat more or less what they want and still look like a ‘runner bean’ or maybe you are one of those fortunate people? If not, you can comfort yourselves with the notion that should food ever be in short supply, those with an inclination to store fat, will survive longer than the skinnies amongst us

    The reality of being spoilt for choice and bombarded with high fat/sugary foods, often with little or no nutritional value, means this biological gift of efficient storing is now working against us (at least in the western world); a point that was highlighted to me when I attended a three day course for therapists entitled ‘Emotional Eating’ run by Professor Julia Buckroyd.

    Fortunately, Julia Buckroyd has also written a very helpful book about our relationship with food and specifically disordered eating. Her book Understanding Your Eating discusses the reasons behind those patterns which cause us distress (usually when they are experienced as beyond our control) whilst also shining some much needed light on why diets don’t usually work as a long-term solution to being overweight.

    Many of us will recognise the process of being able to galvanize oneself for a short period of time to lose weight, only to put it all back on afterwards; it is extraordinarily wearing and  leaves some feeling desolate.

    Weekly weigh-ins and support groups offer encouragement and support, but what happens after the target weight has been achieved and you no longer attend? Many people struggle to maintain their desired weight because their emotions are entangled with their eating habits, and unfortunately that issue is no more resolved at the end of the diet than it was at the outset.

    “Are you eating your emotions?” is a question posed by Julia Buckroyd. If we reflect honestly on the feelings that have accompanied significant fluctuations in our weight, we may realise we have a habit of ‘eating our worries away’. When we find ourselves experiencing high levels of stress, over eating or not eating enough, can be a way of channelling our unmanageable feelings.

    Having control over our food intake, when another significant aspect of our life is very much beyond our control may be an unconscious source of comfort – a coping mechanism of sorts, even if this means eating significantly more (or less) than our body requires.

    For me that moment came when I had moved continents and found myself isolated, and unable to follow my profession. Suffering a loss of identity, the wakeup call came a few months into the posting after complaining to my family, “that American washing machine is shrinking all my clothes”. Hah! Everyone else looked blankly back at me; I was the only one struggling to do my jeans up and the washing machine was working just fine…

    Eventually, our sea container arrived with our worldly goods and as I was reunited with my bathroom weighing scales, the unpalatable truth emerged – I had achieved a significant gain in weight without even noticing I was eating more than usual.

    With hindsight, I can see I struggled to come to terms with my new situation and in the throes of culture shock and isolation I had taken to self soothing, with rather a lot of nibbles… The unspoken message rebounding in my head; I deserve it, don’t I?

    It was helpful to acknowledge the relationship between my body and mind as symbiotic, remembering they cannot operate separately, particularly as my initial reaction to focus on calorie intake alone, was not helping.
    In addition to  ’eating my emotions’ another contributing factor was confusion over the food value of what I was consuming. If you have moved countries you will be familiar with the adjustment required when you first encounter the local supply of food in your new ‘home’.

    A number of staples in my diet were different from those I was used to or simply not available in my local Houston supermarkets. I remember low fat/low sugar yoghurts seemed difficult to find and encountering more sugar in bread was another unexpected difference. I soon learned to live without the yoghurts and bread by supplementing with replacement items – I ditched my toast and marmalade and became a committed porridge eater for the rest of the posting! Big deal, not a great hardship… After all some of the new dishes I was trying were exciting and delicious (Tex-mex and prawn gumbo being two of them!).

    More challenging, were the difficult feelings I struggled to manage. Eventually they needed acknowledging and reconciling, and with help I was able to do this. In the process of regaining my happiness and equilibrium my eating habits returned to normal and I enjoyed being more active again.

    So do a few extra pounds really matter? Arguably not, unless you need to be slender for your work… a dancer perhaps. Most people would agree, that it begins to matter if the excess ballast you are carrying (or severe lack of it if you are significantly underweight) has become a threat to your health. In my case, it was simply another thing about myself that didn’t feel right at a time when everything else was unfamiliar. In short, the irony of putting on weight was that my sense of identity was further eroded by the reflection in the mirror – I did not feel ‘normal’ inside or out! So it felt important to get back to being my usual size.

    I believe our identity is in part wrapped up in how we look and what our body and our clothes unconsciously tell the world about us. For example, we might be keeping people at a distance by being very large or unconsciously defending ourselves from intimacy? Perhaps we are undernourished and too thin, what does that say about our self worth if we are starving ourselves.?

    These complex emotional issues involving misuse of food are explored by Julia Buckroyd as she aims to look at what many describe as an “ongoing battle with food”. I like the fact that her focus is ultimately on eating and not worrying about it and her findings are based on many years of research. Also included is a chapter specifically for men, who are often overlooked in terms of their specific issues around disordered eating.

    Contributed by Laura J Stephens, a British writer/psychotherapist connecting and sharing transitional wisdom.  Author of 'An Inconvenient Posting' an expat wife's memoir of lost identity Laura currently lives in the UK and blogs at http://laurajstephens.com/

  • 17 Mar 2013 5:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “If only I’d known then what I know now” is not something I say often, partly because I don’t believe in crying over spilt milk and partly because the world changes so rapidly that often today’s solutions just weren’t available back then.  But an upcoming webinar on portable careers for expat spouses has got me thinking about what I would do the same and what I would do differently with my career, if I were to do it all again today.

    Same: I would be a stay-at-home mom until my son finished school.  I am forever thankful that I had an opportunity to be both a working mum (before expatriation) and a SAHM (during expatriation) and to experience the joys and frustrations of both.

     

    Different: I would have studied more while I wasn’t working.  Distance learning when we first went overseas would have been difficult but not impossible, these days it’s just a mouse click away and the choices are almost limitless.

     

    Same: I would study the local language.  Even though I know now that hell will freeze over before I could work in another language, it is such an insight into the local culture and even just a few words and phrases make everyday life so much easier.

     

    Different: I would find a mentor or coach to brainstorm with from time-to-time.  Like many expats I had no idea how long we would live overseas.  Even those who have fixed term contracts often find they are extended or cancelled.  I had never heard the term “portable career” and I didn’t realize that once my spouse had an international resume, more international assignments would follow.  Years slip away before you realize what’s happening.  If I were doing it again I would conduct an annual review of my situation and goals, ideally with someone who has expat experience, an unbiased opinion and enough guts to tell me what I need to hear (in other words, probably not a close friend)!

     

    Same: I would do a lot of volunteer work.  Looking back I can see I learned a hell of a lot doing things I didn’t get paid for and with a bit of creativity they can be made to look quite impressive on a resume. Nobody ever asks how much you got paid. Description: )

     

    Different: When I did finally return to the paid workforce overseas I would have looked harder for something related to my original profession.  My personal experience, and what I’ve heard anecdotally from other expats, is that starting a new career when overseas often doesn’t translate well when you return home.  I found prospective employers here far more interested in what I did in Canada 15 years ago than what I did in Dubai 1 year ago.  But maybe that’s just me and Canada, and for those who never return to their country of origin it wouldn’t apply anyway.


    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.

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