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 use our online submittal form below.


  • 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
  • 03 Nov 2013 4:53 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I have just listened to the wonderful interview hosted by Paulette Bethel in her global teleseminar series, in which she talked to Kilian Kröll about FIGT, the annual conference and the process of submitting a presentation proposal. As ever, Kilian was articulate, erudite and passionate in input, but one thing that really struck me was a comment by Paulette.

    She referred to her own RFP (Request For Proposal) submission, and how she didn’t expect to be selected. Which made me laugh out loud, because that was exactly how I felt when I put in my first proposal. The goal was to complete the paperwork and submit, never thinking that a global organization like FIGT would be interested in hearing what someone like me, a so-called ‘trailing spouse’ had to say.

    One of the unique things about FIGT is the diversity of its community, not just in terms of cultures, geographical locations and backgrounds, but in terms of experience. Yet it manages to greet each individual with a warm welcome and find value in every voice, every experience and every journey.

    It’s one of the reasons you should consider submitting a proposal to present at the 2014 annual conference. This year’s theme, The Global Family: Redefined, aims to unite the expertise of those serving the expat community with those who are living a life in global transition, from the perspective of thought leaders, authors, researchers, educators, cross-cultural trainers, destination service providers and expats and their families themselves.

    For me personally, it was a voyage of discovery. Past conferences have showcased the talents and tales of diplomats, corporate employers, parents, partners, Third Culture Kids, talking around topics from resilience to repatriation, mental health to moving on, and everything in between. But what I gained was confidence; both in the validity of my story and my ability to participate in shaping the transition experiences of people I will never meet.

    There is only one thing missing; you and your story. Whether you want to share insight, innovation, inspiration or information, here’s your opportunity. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

    Listen to Paulette and Kilian discuss their FIGT experiences here.

    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.

  • 15 Oct 2013 7:42 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I did a brief presentation at the Families in Global Transition conference in Washington, DC, for internationally mobile families about taking special needs children overseas. These are my “top 5″ tips based on years of experience working with international families as an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC).

     

    1. Do not expect that international schools will always offer services for children with learning disabilities. Furthermore, even though the school may be known as “the American school”, American schools overseas do not have a federal mandate of IDEA to provide special education services like they would in the United States.

    2. Many children with learning disabilities also need other wrap-around services, i.e. physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, that may or may not be available overseas. This must be investigated.

    3. Those who offer services are often expats themselves – if you identify their services, they may not be there when you arrive, or may not stay in the foreign location for the entire time of your stay, or have openings for new students. Check before going.

    4. Some families realize their children are struggling after they arrive. Sometimes this is due to transition and resiliency issues, so you want to give things time to settle down. However, it is also important to get these students a quality psycho-educational evaluation as early as possible. The younger a child is when his/her needs are identified, the more effective the intervention can be. Do not wait too long before getting help.

     

    5. The most successful students are those whose parents are extremely well-informed and pro-active – researching options, finding resources, getting their kids help, and if no adequate resources are there at that location, then a boarding school that specializes in learning differences, or offers support to students with learning differences, may be a viable option.

     

    Here another article on this topic, or go to http://rnginternational.com/articles-interviews-blog

     

    Special Needs and Schooling Abroad

    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 Oct 2013 7:46 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    There are many considerations when launching an international job search. You need to think about including what you want to do versus what opportunities are available, who are your potential contacts, where to look for potential openings, and how to apply for jobs. Here are a few tips you may not have considered:

    1. Understand your competition. When searching for a job as an expat in another country it would be helpful to remember that your competition will mostly likely consist of locals. There are many foreign-educated localscompeting for the best jobs in most countries; even though there may not be many expats in the market, and despite the fact that in some countries scores of locals may be leaving the country to pursue better lives abroad, there is still a good base of qualified locals to fill the best positions.

    2. Be prepared to negotiate in a culturally-appropriate way. Getting things done in some countries can be tricky. Negotiating can come in handy when dealing with government employees and tough employers. Just be careful not to cross the line; cash is often considered a bribe, but gifts may be appropriate in some countries and cultures. Learn the culturally-appropriate ways to negotiate in your destination country, including how to communicate appropriately, how to ask for someone’s time, how to negotiate a salary, and how to find out about job openings. You can find some information online, such as at Kwintessential, for tips on how to do this.

    3. Create a solid network of contacts. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very applicable in most countries. Meeting people in a new country can be challenging, but in most cases, there should be no shortage of chances to make contacts. You can most likely find exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and roundtable discussions open to the general public. Finding them is relatively easy if you know how to connect with the expat and professional community. Attending the events is a perfect opportunity to make new professional contacts on neutral turf. Expat Women has an excellent list of expat groups around the world.

    4. Know the business environment. More and more international companies and organizations are entering into emerging markets, creating opportunities for expats and locals alike. Stay connected with what has been happening through the Chambers of Commerce in the country.

    5. Market your expat status. As an expat you have certain qualities and skills that will be valuable to many companies. Your knowledge of the business environment in your home country could be very useful in another country. Your language skills or university education can be very attractive to potential employers, and your different take on business, ethical, cultural, and political issues will certainly help your colleagues to develop a more well-rounded view of the world. Living and working in another country will allow you to learn and teach at the same time.

    We’d like to hear from you! What tips do you have to share with others on an international 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 atPassportCareer.com

  • 15 Sep 2013 8:57 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    Galileo Galilei was born in Italy in 1564. He was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, whose thinking and discoveries laid very important foundations for our modern world.

    We can hardly imagine someone believing that the earth is the center of the universe, but Galileo lived in a time of huge controversy over exactly that question. The reigning political and ecclesiastical authorities believed that the universe revolved around the earth – after all, that’s what you see every day, right? – and were willing to give anyone who thought differently a rough time, as Galileo and others found out.

    Do you remember the story of Galileo carrying out experiments on gravity from the leaning tower of Pisa? Although this may never have happened, one old version of the story relates the reaction of the authorities:

     “This meddlesome man Galileo must be suppressed,” murmured the University fathers as they left the square. “Does he think that by showing us that a heavy and a light ball fall to the ground together he can shake our belief in the philosophy which teaches that a ball weighing one hundred pounds would fall one hundred times faster than one weighing a single pound? Such disregard of authority is dangerous and we will see that it goes no further.”

    Galileo is also known for inventing the telescope.

    Actually, he did not invent the telescope. He improved it.

    In the spring of 1609 he heard that in the Netherlands – ahh those Dutch are always showing up, aren’t they? – an instrument had been invented that showed distant things as though they were nearby.

    By trial and error, he quickly figured out the secret of the invention and made his own three-powered spyglass from lenses for sale in spectacle makers’ shops.

    Others had done the same; what set Galileo apart was that he quickly figured out how to improve the instrument, taught himself the art of lens grinding, and produced increasingly powerful telescopes.

    In the fall of 1609 he began observing the heavens with instruments that magnified up to 20 times. With his telescope he saw for the first time:

        Four of Jupiter’s moons

        Hundreds and thousands of stars that had never been seen before

        The rings of Saturn

        That Venus has phases also, just like our moon

    Although he never proved Copernicus’ theory that the universe did not revolve around the earth, his research supported Copernicus.

    And for that he got in trouble with the Pope. He was called before the Inquisition, and was pronounced to be ‘vehemently suspect of heresy’.

    As he was condemned to life imprisonment and made to abjure formally, he is reported to have whispered: “Eppur si muove” (“And yet it moves”).

    He never went to prison and was not tortured. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest, continued scientific research and died at home in 1642.

    What can Galileo teach expats about discovering new worlds?

    1. Keep looking – don’t stop exploring.
    2. There is always more to see, learn, discover.
    3. Improve the tools you have been given.

    When you find yourself going against the stream of public opinion or authority, whisper to yourself:

    Eppur si muove.

    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

     

  • 01 Sep 2013 2:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    Learning how to parent from people in other countries is all the rage on the best-seller list. From Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Americans are learning how to help our children get all A's and play Bach with fervor. FromBringing Up Bébé, we are learning how to sit and chat with a friend in a café while our bébé plays happily at our side, crunching some arugula for fun. And from How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, we are learning how Kenyans live without strollers, Lebanese families stay close, Japanese let their children fight, and more. As a parent (of daughters in their 20s), I read this literature with a certain bemused distance. Alas, it's too late for me to use the tips to Improve My Girls.

    But as an interculturalist, I'm at once fascinated, excited… and disappointed by these accounts of parenting in other cultures. Their descriptions of what parents say to and do with their very small children are a virtual gold mine of information about how cultural differences are formed … but they leave it to us to connect the dots.

    In each case, the message is roughly, "Here's a new and superior way to raise your children; the result is better than what you're doing; try it, you'll like it." But nowhere do they describe the deep values underlying the parenting choices, the ultimate goals for the kind of adult parents are trying to raise, or the cultural milieu into which the children will be expected to grow.

    Take Pamela Druckerman's engaging account in Bringing Up Bébé of how she got her preschool son to stay in the sandbox area so she could sit and chat with her friend rather than continuously chase after him. Her friend teaches her to be authoritative with her "Non!" and pretty soon bébé is, indeed, sifting sand safely at her side. The reason the French approach is a surprise to these American authors – and strikes such a chord with the American reading public – is because Americans parents have been so focused on something other than obedience. They've (we've) been busy tending to Junior's independence of thought, ability to express himself, sense of mastery and self-esteem. Note: this is how, for better or worse, the US became the most individualistic culture in the world. Alas, many think we've gone overboard, and are attracted to advice on how to attend to the collective needs of a family, which Druckerman beautifully provides us: believe that your child is not the center of the universe and communicate it clearly.

    Or take Mei-Ling Hopgood's description in Eskimos of "how Buenos Aires children go to bed late." Her emphasis is on how her social life changed when she began to allow her 2-year-old to stay up to midnight – something that doesn't hold much appeal to me. But hidden within this description is the blueprint for how polychronic cultures differ from monochronic ones! She writes of her fellow parents in Argentina: "…spending quality time with relatives and friends is more important than getting their kid to bed at the same time in the same place every night." Interculturalists, extrapolate! Having solid, known, deep connections with business partners is more important than sticking to the agenda and starting meetings on the dot.

    Plus, she tells us how it's done. Argentine parents don't enforce a bed time; they let their toddlers fall asleep wherever they like (including in their arms, their bed, at restaurants); they let them (!) sleep in till 9 or 10am; they and their friends entertain them to keep them happy. From infancy, Argentine babies are nurtured into a different sense of time and relationships than US American ones. When they grow up and run their businesses to a different drummer, why should we be surprised?

    Nobody thinks cultural differences are in born. They're learned, somehow. These books tell us how! I'm having fun mining these books for their insights about how cultural differences are formed. Send me your thoughts!

    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 Aug 2013 7:59 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    Most of us do not like to dwell on the ‘m’ word (menopause) which is why I thought a safe place to mention it might be here, in my blog. Are men just as likely to be effected by issues of middle age? The term ‘mid-life crisis’ typically conjures up images of men in fast cars who ‘ought to know better at their age’. I should go no further without admitting to owning a sports car. Am I embracing my inner mid-life crisis or denying it? What I do know is I enjoy driving the car and notice occasional admiring glances as I wait for the lights to change; the looks are at the car, not its driver, but its still fun!

    So do the sexes have anything in common in this regard? Clearly men and women do NOT have the same experience when they go through the menopause, men don’t have to come to terms with the undeniable knowledge that they are infertile. And yet men’s and women’s bodies are always ageing. Hormonally the changes are slower and more subtle for men, and so the physical symptoms are less profound and noticeable. To call it a male menopause at all is considered by many misleading. So how is it that a woman who feels perfectly normal around the time of mid-life, might notice her male partner is changing and having a crisis?

    It seems lifestyle factors (rather than physical ones) are at play and can impact on both sexes. These are more likely to be the cause of mid life crisis in men, while women are experiencing physical changes to their bodies as well and can be hit by both – joy of joys – as if thirty years of monthly cycles wasn’t tough enough! The lifestyle factors that often impact at this time might include;

    • Heightened levels of stress caused by more responsibility at work and home
    • Noticing one’s own physical ageing; facially and bodily, experiencing wear and tear on the body, more aches and pains
    • The reality of our own parents ageing or dying
    • Simply knowing that we have arrived at mid-life can be a sobering thought even if we feel all is well

    The outcome of this mid-life reality check can result in less than positive symptoms for both sexes; here are a few of them:

    • Loss of libido
    • Stress
    • Depression
    • Anxiety.

    If you have any of these symptoms and need help, a sensible place to start would be to share them with your doctor.

    Many people will experience less serious symptoms in the form of negative thoughts, such as:

    • What’s it all for?
    • I feel I’m just here to pay the bills or take care of the domestic scene
    • I’ll never be at my best again
    • Never look young again
    • Or dance without looking silly
    • Or go back packing
    • Feel it’s all downhill from now on
    • Or stop worrying…and the list goes on!

    At this time of year many of us can find ourselves marking the passage of time as our children have a long summer break from school. For me, this brings into awareness how my children have changed in the last year and what we are doing differently this summer as a result. In my case, two of them have reached new levels of independence, phoning friends to make arrangements and only needing help from me to get them there! That’s natural, they are maturing as they should be, but it also reminds me that they are growing up and I am growing older. I know one day they will no longer need me on a daily basis, maybe that time has already arrived for you? Embracing that life change and shift of identity can be challenging.

    If you are an expatriate reader, there may be added stresses that come with living a mobile lifestyle. Perhaps missing out on regular access to long term friends; people who you could share your feelings of ageing with, joking about greying or thinning hair and so on. You may not have the benefits of a well established social life in place. If however, you have stayed in the same locale you will probably notice those around you ageing with you, which can help normalise your own. If there is no acknowledgement, even in jest, it can lead to feelings of isolation. You may not be isolated (I hope you aren’t) or you may think you are unaffected by issues of mid-life. Either way, it might be something to consider as awareness is the key to good self care.

    There is plenty of advice out there, it’s not rocket science; good diet, limiting smoking and alcohol, regular sleep pattern and exercise combined with time to pursue whatever makes you happy. Ask yourself what this is? No matter how significant, it could be anything from stroking the dog to excelling at something you know you are good at.

    Accept what you cannot change and embrace the positive aspects of ageing; knowledge, understanding, inner peace, increased self esteem…perhaps you would like to add your own comment to this list?

    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

  • 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.

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