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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.

  • 26 Apr 2022 4:37 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Thank you to FIGT Member Cath Brew of Drawn to a Story for being our Artist in Residence at FIGT2022. Here are Cath's three visual reflections on this year's conference.

  • 14 Apr 2022 5:18 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Ema Naito-Bhakdi shares how FIGT2022 helped her address the "shoulds" in her life and build new resilience and hope.

    By Ema Naito-Bhakdi

    If you ask me what caused me the most anxiety, the most worry these last two years, it was that my children couldn't go to school and have a "normal" middle childhood.

    These were supposed to be some of the best years of childhood: Starting first grade and making friends, playing and learning together. Relaxing into fourth and fifth grades, knowing that middle school was still two years off. Graduating from elementary and entering the more grown-up world of middle school.

    It was also supposed to be a stable period. Stability in childhood was something I dearly wanted to give our children because I myself treasured the five stable years I spent in one school in a childhood marked by moves between Japan and the US.

    Those five years in my small Japanese school were magic. There, I could play and argue and study with the same kids and became one of the older-timers. The security of those five years gave me the strength to keep going through my bewildering teens. And so I wanted that stability for my children.

    But instead, my children had to move countries twice within a year, be out of school for a term, enroll in school only to have it go online (seven months at the longest stretch and then sporadically for a day here, a week there), lose friends who moved because of the pandemic, and live a full year in limbo until we decided where to settle.

    And I was suffocating in all the "shoulds"—we should be seeing my ageing parents, the kids should be in school with their friends and not online, I should be helping my children more in their schooling, maybe I should be spending less time on my own work (the new solopreneur work that I was loving)....

    Ambiguous loss

    Marilyn Gardner's Deep Dive at FIGT2022 gave me a name to all this: ambiguous loss.

    Ambiguous loss, as Marilyn explained, is loss that doesn't come to closure. It could be when someone is physically present but psychologically absent, like in dementia. Or it could be a physical absence with an emotional presence, like when we miss our family and friends when we move or live across borders.

    Listening to Marilyn, I extended the people in ambiguous loss to events. My "shoulds" were the emotional presence of the pieces of life as I envisioned it, in face of their absence.

    Marilyn suggested five steps to healing:

    1. Name the ambiguous loss

    2. Use "both/and" thinking that lets you hold two opposing thoughts at the same time

    3. Find meaning in the present

    4. Reconstruct identity

    5. Build resilience & discover new hope

    Where am I?

    So here's where I am:

    Step 1: I've named my ambiguous loss (see above!).

    Step 2: Both/and thinking: I hate that the kids aren't in school but I also enjoying spending more time with them. I hate that I can't give my full attention to their online schooling needs but I love that I have my own work. As a queen of positive thinking, it's usually harder for me to accept that things aren't all great. I'm telling myself that it's ok to have these opposite feelings.

    Step 4: I can begin to reconstruct my identity by reconstructing what I see as being "a good parent."

    I'm stuck, though, with step 3, "finding meaning in the present." That means working the present into my personal and family narrative. But what if I don't know what those narratives are?

    Where do I go from here?

    FIGT2022 asked us, where do we go from here? 

    My logical brain accepts that even these ambiguous losses of the pandemic years could become part of a personal and family narrative. Maybe it's a narrative of overcoming adversity. And that kind of story, like our favorite fairy tales, gives us the security of being in a familiar and comfortable bigger story.

    So while my emotional brain doesn't quite follow all this and I don't know how to start, I know I want to begin identifying the narratives of my life and of my family. 

    And I want to tell these stories to my children. Because maybe giving them that security, comfort and familiarity will give them the stability, the continuity that I so want for them.


    Session: Marilyn Gardner, "A Global Pandemic and Ambiguous Loss" (Deep Dive)

    For ideas to self-regulate and reflect, the ones I watched so far (more to watch!):

    • Shellee Burroughs, "Posting Daily Post Its" (Say It in 5)

    • Eleni Vardaki, "Self-Soothing Tapping Skills" (Deep Dive)

    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual adult third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She's been living in Bangkok for 17+ years and is an FIGT volunteer. You can find her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com and very occasional musings on cross-cultural life at www.CrossCulturalFamily.com.

  • 13 Apr 2022 4:27 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sarah Kobrus shares how FIGT’s online conferences have helped her CRAFT* a thriving life through the pandemic

    By Sarah Kobrus

    “Resilience is not innate, it is built.”

    -Laura Wells FIGT 22.

    I was blessed to have attend FIGT conference live, in Amsterdam (2016). But, physically and financially, this is no longer an option for me. In the two weeks preceding FIGT 22, I thought I might not be able to attend even virtually because of an intense flare up of the Fibromyalgia that I suffer with. This cruel, invisible disability includes chronic fatigue and pain, as well as adversely affecting my ability to speak and think. I survived cancer but don’t have a thyroid, which regulates the body’s energy production and immune system at a cell level; potentially lethal combinations of hidden health hazards in these Covid times. 

    Fibromyalgia flares are often triggered by stress. So, what was I thinking when I signing up to facilitate a Kitchen Table Conversation about Emotional Logic and resilience? I’m a public speaking phobic. How could I talk about resilience, when I was struggling to even get out of bed? 

    But, I’m also passionate about helping others, which is why I’m a social worker and coach. I was determined to do what I could, joined the second day of the conference from my bed, resting between sessions and still in my PJs. First stop was a Deep Dive with Marilyn Gardiner, which transformed my “ambiguous loss,” my disability struggles, into the CRAFT that I needed to thrive at FIGT 22.

    *CRAFT =

    Crisis management, safety first.


    After shocks.

    Forging ahead with baby steps.


    Marilyn’s wisdom became my FIGT 22 rallying cry. “It’s not about closure, it’s about resilience.” Resilience is my superpower, after all.

    Let me take you on a journey through some Mother’s Day resilience building–all from the safety and comfort of my kitchen table to yours. Spoiler alert! I thoroughly enjoyed sharing Emotional Logic with FIGT folks from literally my kitchen table–that has lived in France, Holland and Qatar and is now my work desk in Cumbria, England. 

    A computer on a desk Description automatically generated

    Mother’s day March 22nd 2020

    The day before the first UK lockdown. I was on a video call with my oldest ATCK, Beth (then 25). “Don’t worry poppet! I miss you, but understand? Did I tell you how my job interview went?” 

    She’s a primary school teacher in London, 300 miles away–our first mother’s day apart. “Mum! You’re just not getting it! You’re at serious risk from Covid.” 

    I was in denial about my looming isolation, thinking about my plans to get back to work now that my nest was empty. “Surely the government can’t expect us to stay in until they’ve got a vaccine? God knows how long that’ll be.” 

    “MUM, YES!” She shouted. “If you want to stay alive!”

    Mother’s day March 14th 2021

    My first mother’s day with none of my three ATCKs at home, because they’re now pandemic front-line workers in London. I’m counting my open nest blessings:

    1. Still alive and had my first vaccination! 
    2. Entered and won a writing competition; the prize being publication of my expat memoir with Summertime Publishing.
    3. Refreshed my training and skills with many online courses and taken my coaching business online.
    4. Reconnected with my international self and family.

    I celebrated British Mother’s day 2021 by joining in FIGT’s conference, which was now financially and physically accessible for me because it was online.

    Mother’s day March 27th 2022

    No more self-isolating because I’m double vaccinated, had my booster and research has proved that they work. I’ve almost finished a second book; helping globally mobile folks cope with loss, grief and trauma the Emotional Logic way. I honoured my commitment to run a Kitchen Table, thanks to wonderfully helpful sessions during the conference. 

    A few of  my connecting, innovating and thriving highlights of FIGT 22 were:

    • Eleni Vardaki’s self-soothing tapping, which calmed my emotional and physical nerves. 

    • Dr. Krish Kandiah’s compassionate keynote reminded me of my other superpower–empathy. The joy in the realisation that we can get Emotional Logic translated into Ukrainian to help refugees–as we did with Arabic for Syrian refugees. Connecting with my Polish family, currently helping Ukrainians in Warsaw, to get this done ASAP.

    • Being moved to tears by Sa-Eun’s cheerleading, to give voice to our hidden, broken, hushed, oppressed parts. To celebrate and love my disabled but unique ‘body suit!’ It’s the only one I’ve got, this side of heaven, so I might as well let it SHINE!

    I’m casting my vote early for keeping FIGT conference virtual, so that it continues to be financially and physically accessible–not just for disabled folks but also those forced to be globally mobile; for refugees. Our beloved Ruth van Reken summed up all the connecting, innovating and thriving blessings that FIGT conferences have given, in just one word. “Unbelievable!” 

    Sarah is a UK registered social worker, certified counsellor and Emotional Logic coach, specialising in loss, grief, trauma and resilience. She loves working with accompanying partners, teen TCK’s and ATCKs. Her book Good Grief: The Emotional Logic way to Hope, Healing and Wholeness after loss. For the Globally Mobile and her memoir Count Only Sunny Hours; my Journey to Hope will be published this year. https://sarahkobrus.com/ sarah@sarahkobrus.com

  • 13 Apr 2022 3:40 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Doreen Cumberford reports on her experience attending FIGT2022,  a conference that is a "banquet for the global soul!"

    By Doreen Cumberford

    The FIGT conference 2022 felt to me, much like a banquet for the global soul!  From the title of the conference, “Where do we go from here” all the way through to the closing session there seemed to be a constant conversation between where are we now and where would we love to go. I very got the sense that we were like bobble toys balanced and grounded on the bottom but slightly unsteady on top as we considered a wide variety of topics, we were in motion and constantly pivoting.

    The question for the weekend was of course designed to invite us into the next great possibility. It could be answered in many ways from the personal, as applied to groups, in collaborations and as an organization as a whole. 

    There was a mixture of surprise and great delight in observing us all discover the Kumospace interface.  It was like watching a group of international kids discover a play gym.  We shared spaces, made dates, met each other in the bar, the cafe, the lobby, the lounges, and the pool. The bookstore was a fun place to meet up it was thrilling to see all the offerings in the global mobility lanes. I laughed when I heard plans for an airport lounge and sleeping pods next year – what fun to look forward to.

    We clicked on drinks, grabbed a doughnut, moved over to make the piano play, made the fire crackle, and generally enjoyed a level of fun that is rarely found at online conferences.  I believe this delight and playfulness compensated for many of us still grieving the loss of in-person gatherings – it also created a sense of joy and relief at being together. 

    This sense of fun also served to balance our more challenging subjects which we as a community bring to the table.  The pandemic, complicated grief, trauma, mental health, transitions, loneliness, and fear were all tackled with sensitivity and compassion. On the other hand, well-being, renewal, resiliency, thriving, self-soothing and bridge building were offered with optimism and grace.

    As a community it seems like we continue to explore the differing stages and very diverse experiences of geographical diversity as economies and cultures respond, reopen, and rebuild. Our personal stories of dislocation, separation and upheaval were heart-breaking on many levels, yet I always felt that kind ears were present, willing hearts were open and gut level empathy leaked out of us and flowed like a river from room to room.

    In answer to the big question of Where do we go from here? I heard commitment and determination take many forms. From “we go forward to a new normal”, to “name the losses”, “Keep telling our stories”, “deploy empathy”, “disrupt then unpack”, “get curious instead of furious”, “shift our language” and “continue to reframe and reflect”.  Ladies and gentlemen strap on your seatbelts because we have much to do!

    Meeting new people and reconnecting with so many from past FIGTs was delightful, soul food at its best!  If nothing else FIGT demonstrated that we are all walking, breathing humans seeking a world that works for all while constantly healing as we go along. I look forward to us opening the tent to consider subjects like rewirement, retirement and repatriation.

    This global hearted banquet was served in various courses through deep dives, kitchen table conversations, keynotes and say-it-in-fives.  The familiar structure mixed with a dash of innovation and fresh perspectives certainly fed my soul, stimulated my brain and stories constantly reminded me of the preciousness of being human. I look forward to reviewing many of the sessions and the list of books to order is a smorgasbord to enjoy.

    If I were an alien from another planet and had arrived at this conference with little preparation I believe I would have left with the idea that planet earth was in very good hands! 

    Doreen Cumberford works with expats, global nomads and returnees to create happier, easier and more successful transitions while globally mobile. 

    A Certified Coach, and 30 year licensed Practitioner, Doreen speaks, writes and teaches about the principles and practices necessary to navigate global mobility while maintaining vitality through health and well-being.

    The author of Life in the Camel Lane, Arriving Well and Home Again, Home Again – Jiggedy jig she is currently compiling her second book on Repatriation.

    A native of Scotland, her experience in 8 overseas postings over 3 plus decades, on 4 continents have enabled her to constantly create new lifestyles and trained her to constantly move with ease and grace. 

    Doreen helps globally mobile people master transitions, relocate well and find joy in-between.

  • 11 Mar 2022 1:31 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT community welcomes incoming Sponsorship Director, Jane Ordaz, to the Board. Here, Jane answers a few questions about herself and what excites her about her new role.

    Can you please briefly describe your FIGT role?

    In a nutshell I’m here to build relationships between FIGT and businesses. AKA Sponsorship Director.  Generating income is vital to the success of FIGT, and one of the ways we do this is to bring on sponsors who are vital to the work of FIGT. My role involves the stewardship of current sponsors, researching out to other companies who may be aligned with us, and making approaches to explore if we might be a good fit for each other and working across FIGT to develop a strategy that will work to grow our sponsorship offer.

    What inspired you to stand for office?

    Before I moved abroad, I actually knew nothing of the globally mobile community. NOTHING. And I ask myself why? (I have theories but no evidenced based concrete research, so bear with me.) I think there is a sense you have to be in it to know it. But how do you know what you don’t know, especially when you moved independently, outside of corporate structure. My journey was rocky and by a series of coincidences I met people involved in supporting our community and ultimately members of FIGT.  It was like a light went on. I want to be part of helping put that light on for others.

    What’s your favourite thing about being a part of FIGT?

    The people. The range of experiences, knowledge and cultural backgrounds is immense. It makes me stop and think.

    Any wisdom you can share with other FIGT members, or globally mobile people in general? 

    Each journey is individual. There are too many moving parts, variables, individual circumstances, personalities, backstories and differing country experiences. Remember this because while it’s great to share commonalities you are unique, which means your experiences will be too. Go easy on yourself.

  • 16 Feb 2022 4:51 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    After FIGT member Brandi Goode experienced the sudden death of a loved one while living abroad, she sought help through the grieving process. She shares her journey in this FIGT Focus for February, Grief.

    By Brandi Goode

    This article discusses topics such as suicide, grief and loss. We acknowledge that this content may be difficult to read. If you believe that you will find the discussion to be traumatizing, you may choose to not read the article. We care for the safety and well-being of the members of our community.

    It was 5 am in Tokyo, and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Groggy from a late night out celebrating my husband’s birthday, and just into my 7th week of first-time pregnancy, I reluctantly picked up. 

    Ready to (mildly) berate my family for forgetting the time difference yet again, I was jolted awake by my stepmother’s greeting: “Brandi, you need to wake up. Your mom died.”

    Writing these words, I’m transported back to that moment, a heavy stone settling in my core. I collapsed on the floor and crawled to my husband’s side, reeling from the news. I didn’t understand how could this happen; I had just spoken to my mother the day before. Surely there had been a mistake.  

    Processing Grief, Internally and Externally

    Though I had lived abroad for the better part of my adult life by then, I had never experienced the sudden death of a loved one. Especially not the person who knew me best in this world. As the story of my mother’s death unfolded in chapters during my journey to the airport, flight around the world, and car ride to my hometown, each revelation ripped a new hole in my heart. My mother had died by suicide.

    In the months that followed, I attempted to process the loss, the most intimate encounter with death I’d had in my charmed life till then. Preserving my mental and physical health were vital, considering the tiny miracle growing inside me. 

    I recognized that I needed to find some personal, spiritual way to quiet my raging grief. This I found through prayer on our leafy patio. My mom was deeply religious, so this daily practice soothed my soul and made me feel more connected to her.

    Finding Help Where You Least Expect It

    Still, there was a bigger need to fulfill as part of the grieving process. It’s so important to talk with people about your loss and the feelings that come with that. Phone conversations across continents didn’t satisfy that need, and I was too ashamed to share the true story of my mom’s death with my closest friends in Tokyo at the time.

    I did end up unexpectantly sharing my story with the wife of my husband’s colleague one evening. I barely knew her, but she had recently had a baby and seemed genuinely interested in helping me get through this as a fellow first-time mom abroad. Turns out, her mother suffers from manic behavior and depression, much as mine did, and she could completely relate. 

    In the expat world, you often don’t know the full story of the travelers you meet along the way. If you’re brave and honest enough to speak up about your issues, you really never know who could become a trusted friend in time of need. 

    Choosing a Counselor with Whom You Connect

    Japan, like so many countries, has long held suicide as a taboo subject. Most of the time I wasn’t even sure how to broach the subject when people asked about my mom. Part of me was terrified that by talking too much about it, I would unleash a torrent of emotions that would send me spiraling into a depression that could threaten the viability of my pregnancy.

    So, I opted for a more anonymous approach. The language barrier was a challenge, but fortunately there was a local nonprofit that offered counselling sessions in English. I attended these sessions dutifully each week, crying my heart out to a sweet Japanese woman who listened well but said little. 

    In the end, while I’m certain talking about my mother’s death was necessary, I’m not sure how much that counselor truly helped. I believe it would have been more beneficial to talk to someone with whom I felt a cultural affinity, and/or a counsellor specializing in grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide. Counselling is a healthy way to process grief, but finding a therapist is not a one-size-fits-all affair. It’s critical to find a counselor or therapist with whom you connect to get the most out of grief counselling.

    Harnessing Technology to Share across Borders

    Today, eight years on, there are so many individuals doing online counselling and organizations offering grief support groups. Personally, I’ve found comfort in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Healing Conversations program. Speaking to someone who has been there helps immensely, particularly in the immediate aftermath of loss, when the doubts and questions can be overwhelming. 

    I’m so thankful for the proliferation of video chat that has made it easier to find just the right person to talk to in any part of the world. Time zones aside, this is such a gift for expats, particularly those with fragile or non-existent support systems abroad, or those living in a country whose language and culture differ substantially from their own.

    Erasing Expat Guilt

    Expat guilt is another emotional battlefield I had to navigate when my mother died. I felt extremely guilty that I wasn’t physically there for her in the weeks and months leading up to her death. She died alone, and that will forever sadden me. 

    It’s inevitable to question your path as an expat when facing illness or death across the ocean back home. I often wondered in the months following my mother’s death if I should have recognized her state of distress and gone home before she took her life. 

    However, I came to recognize that my intelligent, ambitious, vivacious mother would have wanted me to pursue my dreams and happiness wherever they may lie. That reality dawned on me when I gave birth to my son seven months after her passing. I believe my mother—like any loving mom anywhere in the world—wanted me to live my best life, a life that would make her proud. In continuing to chart my own path and follow my heart, I’m honoring her each day.

    Brandi Goode is a storyteller with an incurable case of wanderlust. Born in Louisiana, she lived in South America and Asia for 15 years before moving to her current home in Switzerland. Brandi works for a digital marketing agency and is finishing her first book titled Powering through a Pandemic: How COVID-19 Shaped the Lives of Women in 32 Countries. You can connect with her at www.brandigoode.com.

  • 15 Feb 2022 6:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sarah Korbus tackles this month's Focus, Grief, by sharing with our community how to talk about loss and the feelings around it, and how we may become stronger for it.

    By Sarah Kobrus

    For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

    Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

    So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain.

    Give it purpose, use it. -Amanda Gorman

    “Mummyyy?” Jonny(4) piped up from the back of our Land Cruiser on the way to school in Doha

    “Yes, Jonny.” I wasn’t really listening, focusing on surviving the mad rush hour traffic.

    “You know yesterday… ah’mmnn talking bout you being poorly… and having hoperation?” He now had my full attention. 

    My eyes locked with his in the rear-view mirror as he asked a bombshell of a question. “Mummyyy. Are you going to die?”

    When I moved to the Middle East over twenty years ago, talking to my three kids about cancer was definitely not in my travel plans. Like most parents, I wanted to protect them from loss and grief-and definitely from pain. Yet, before they reached double digits, they’d been with both grandfathers when they suddenly died, seen their mum become very ill and were living in their 3rd country: a cocoon of compounding loss. 

    Talking about tough stuff

    Talking about loss and grief isn’t easy, often uncomfortable and even painful. Our urge to dodge pain is a natural human reaction. But, comes at significant cost. As the renown mental health expert, Dr Gabor Mate, says. “When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our capacity for feeling emotion.”*

    As well as being an accompanying partner and TCK mum, I’ve been a social worker and counsellor for over thirty years-talking about the toughest stuff with the most vulnerable. One thing I know about grief is that if loss is hidden, unnamed, unconsciously experienced, this is when it’s harmful for our mental, emotional and physical health. Numbing or hiding the tough stuff also dulls and blunts the good stuff. We experience loss in our bodies, minds and souls because it’s so closely related to all that we believe and value; that central paradox in life - we grieve because we love

    The transforming power in loss and grief

    Because loss is part of any change, globally mobile folks have so many everyday opportunities to practise talking about tough stuff. When loss and grief are explored openly, honestly and gently, they can become an energetic force for good, building deeper connection and compassion within ourselves and with others. This also show us how to build robust resilience; because practising on smaller losses means we will know how to handle the bigger stuff that everyone will face in life. 

    A therapeutic coaching tool that has helped my family do this is Emotional Logic (link below). This is a system of practical coaching tools that gave us a shared emotional language and a guidebook to navigate through loss. 

    How to talk about tough stuff 101

    • Be prepared for grief, educate yourself about loss then pass this on to your loved ones.
    • Keep it simple. 
    • It’s ok to say. “I don’t know-yet.”
    • Don’t make any promises that you may not be able to keep.

    Back to that car journey. My first reaction was an inner cry, **** why didn’t he ask me last night? But thankfully, my professional voice kicked in. “That’s such a good question, Jonny! Let’s pull over somewhere safe, then we can talk.” As I looked for a layby, Beth (9) jumped in. 

    “You know what, Jonny…” She tickled him until he squealed. “We’re all going to die!” The last bit was delivered with such over the top drama that they both burst out laughing. Which was too much for Alice (5). Her eyes filled up over her constantly sucked thumb. 

    Pulling her into my lap, I bravely cheered. “But not yet!” 

    Who knew that the chats we’d had, the books we’d read and pictures we’d drawn after the loss of their Grandfather’s would return to bless me in quite this way? We were prepared. We had the words and the safe place in our relationship to talk about anything. 

    The useful purpose of loss and grief

    This journey through loss-that I wouldn’t have chosen for my kids-expanded their hearts and their souls. Their resilience grew because of how we embraced our pain, with the bonus that their compassion for others also flourished. My TCKs are now in their twenties; loss and grief gave them the purpose that they use every day. They’ve all chosen careers that help others; a teacher, trainee art therapist and life sciences undergraduate; alongside plotting to resume their globally mobile life as soon as the world opens up again. 


    *Gabor Mate: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts




    A picture containing tree, person, outdoor Description automatically generated

    Sarah is a UK registered social worker, certified counsellor and Emotional Logic coach, specialising in loss, grief, trauma and resilience. She has a private coaching practice, details below and loves working with accompanying partners, older TCK’s and ATCKs.She is also a writer and will publish Good Grief: 7 Stepping Stones to Peace, Hope and Wholeness for the Globally Mobile later this year. She was awarded a publishing prize with Jo Parfitt, Summertime Publishing during the pandemic and is working on her memoir Count Only Sunny Hours. Sarah has lived in America, Bahrain, Qatar, France, Holland and is currently in Cumbria, England. She is presenting a tabletop talk, ‘Recover, Reset, Renew your Resilience,’ introducing the Emotional Logic method during the FIGT conference in March 2022.



  • 15 Feb 2022 4:50 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In the second part of this two-part series, FIGT member Ema Naito shares how, with a few thoughtful choices, your slides and posters can reach a greater audience.

    By Ema Naito

    If you missed Part 1 of this article, find it here.

    Tips for writing: Slides & posters

    Some of us will have slides and all presenters are invited to submit e-posters, so here are additional tips for writing.

    1. Stick to one key message per slide, per sentence. 

    Use short sentences, no more than 15-20 words long (on average—for variety, you make some shorter and some longer).

    It makes the sentences easier to read and understand.

    (Source: “How to write plain English,” Plain English Campaign.)

    2. Say WHO is doing WHAT

    When writing in English, make sure you make it clear WHO is doing WHAT.

    That often means you should try to use the active voice.

    Passive: The challenges were acknowledged (by zombies?).

    Active: We acknowledged the challenges.

    If you can add “by zombies” at the end, that may mean it’s in the passive voice :)

    In passive voice, WHO is doing the action can get easily hidden. Unless the focus is on WHAT was done, make sure you’re clear on the WHO.

    3. Keep the WHO & the WHAT close

    Following from the point above, you also should try to keep that WHO and the WHAT close to each other in the sentence. It will help readers from getting lost.


    People from across cultures as well as corporations, small businesses, international schools, relocation services, diplomatic corps, non-profits, academia, media and the arts come to this conference. 

    [By the time you get to the WHAT (“come”), you’ve forgotten about the WHO (“people”).]


    People come to this conference from across many cultures. Participants also come from corporations, small businesses, international schools, relocation services, diplomatic corps, non-profits, academia, media and the arts.

    You may also need to cut the sentences into two.

    4. Consider readability

    Readability isn’t about making things look pretty. It’s about making your slides and e-posters accessible to your diverse audiences.

    (And it will help make your slides and e-posters more inviting, so people will want to read them.)


    Pick fonts that are readable and use a legible size.

    • For presentations: 28 pt or bigger (but some fonts are easier to read than others so choose wisely)

    • On screen: sans serif fonts are easier to read (because they have evenly thicker lines)

    • Use only two different fonts, max. (unless you know what you’re doing)

    White space

    “White space is thinking space.”

    Don’t cram everything you can onto your slides or e-posters. It’s

    • difficult (if not impossible) to read
    • overwhelming
    • uninviting—who would want to read it?

    Less is more. Use only key words and simplified graphics.

    That way, the audience can listen to you (the screen doesn’t compete for their attention). 

    It doesn’t overwhelm your audience (imagine if you had anxiety or were stressed). It makes it easier for anyone using a screen reader to follow.

    And it forces you to focus on your most important messages.

    (You can always add links where people can learn more if they want.)


    Be careful of the colors you use.

    Consider the following: 

    People can’t read this—the colors are too stark (and anxiety-inducing!) or the contrast is too weak.

    How about this:

    Also consider if someone is color-blind. It will look different.

    So if you use red to mean “bad” and green for “good,” make sure the information is conveyed in other ways too. Don’t rely only on color.


    So! To sum up:

    When speaking

    Choose your words

    • Avoid slang
    • Avoid jargon & abbreviations – but if you must use them, explain the word first
    • Use plain words

    Focus on action

    • Use active verbs (rescue the actions from the nouns)

    Speak SLOWLY!

    When writing: Posters, slides

    Be selective

    • Stick to one key message per slide, per sentence

    • Write short sentences (15-20 words per sentence)

    Design for readability

    • Use big text & legible fonts

    • Use white space

    • Consider contrast


    There are many great resources out there on all the points above.

    Plain language 


    Design basics


    * Many thanks to Sarah Black, Athru Communications, for the accessibility & inclusion resources.

    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She now lives in Bangkok, is an FIGT volunteer, and will be hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation at FIGT2022. You can find more of her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com

  • 03 Feb 2022 5:10 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In Part One of this two-part series, FIGT member Ema Naito shares how, with a few thoughtful choices, your written and spoken presentations can reach a greater audience.

    By Ema Naito-Bhakdi

    FIGT brings together globally mobile people. That means many of us have plenty of experience talking to people from different parts of the world.

    Then why are we talking about how to use clear English at FIGT conferences?

    It’s because FIGT wants everyone—that includes you!—to feel they can fully take part in FIGT activities and that they are valuable, contributing members of this community.

    And using clear English is one of our tools to create that space.

    (I loosely define clear English as English that is understandable and accessible to as many people as possible.)

    And of course, clear English will also help us, FIGT2022 presenters, be trusted and understood by our audiences.

    What’s in this article:

    • Our audience is diverse

    • Tips for presenting & speaking

    • Tips for writing

    • Resources

    A reminder: Our audience is diverse

    Without an audience, our presentations are nothing.

    We all know that FIGT audiences are diverse, in cultures and religions, languages, passports, socioeconomic backgrounds, identities, and family structures, not to mention experiences of trauma, disabilities (physical and mental, temporary and permanent), and current stress levels.

    All these affect how we understand and engage with the world around us.

    But also remember that FIGT2022 audiences are diverse in experiences of mobility and familiarity with FIGT.

    • We have different experiences of mobility. Some of us move countries every year; some haved lived abroad once. Some cross cultures daily through family, school, or work. Some choose to move; some are forced. All different.
    • We have different levels of familiarity with FIGTOur organization is remarkable that members stay for decades, but we also welcome many new faces each year. Remember that the words and ideas we casually use (e.g., “TCK”) may be new to many.

    Tips for presenting & speaking

    So! Here are some things to keep in mind to more effectively communicate with our FIGT audience.

    1. Be aware of your word choice

    Avoid slang, figures of speech, cultural references

    In slang and figures of speech, the literal meaning of the words do not match the intended meaning.

    “I chickened out” (got scared and didn’t do something).

    “It’s so whitebread” (plain).

    “He wears his heart on his sleeve” (shows his intimate emotions honestly).

    (Can you find all 27 English figures of speech in this drawing by graphic artist Ella Baron?)

    Also watch out for cultural references, like referring to TV and film, sports, fashion trends, celebrities, and music.

    These can make it difficult for people to understand what you are trying to say.

    They also are often used to signal that we’re members of the same group—but if we don’t understand the reference, we feel left out.

    Avoid jargon & acronyms – if you must use them, EXPLAIN

    This one is especially important for our researchers and specialists! We can get so used to using certain words that we forget: not everyone knows what those words mean.

    For example, post-colonialism, translanguaging, TCK.

    Try to use as few of those special words as possible.

    If you must use technical words, have the courtesy to explain them the first time you mention them.

    Offer a simple definition. Formal definitions can often be too technical, so choose something that will let your audience easily understand and remember the concept.

    And remind people what those words mean from time to time.

    2. Use short “plain” words

    Don’t try to sound “sophisticated.” Use the shorter words.

    See “The A to Z of alternative words”, Plain English Campaign, for more.

    3. Find the action: Find the verb

    Often, we “smother” (hide) the action as nouns. But actions are more interesting and engaging, human.

    So rescue those verbs!

    If you can put the “I” and the “you” back into the sentence, then that’s even better. 

    4. Speak slowly

    Remember to speak slowly! Practice and time yourself.

    Speaking slowly will give the audience a chance to understand what you are saying. If you go too fast, more people will get lost or overwhelmed.

    Also, don’t be afraid of pauses. They can give precious space for the audience to think, feel, process what you’re sharing.


    So! To sum up:

    When speaking

    Choose your words

    • Avoid slang
    • Avoid jargon & abbreviations – but if you must use them, explain the word first
    • Use plain words

    Focus on action

    • Use active verbs (rescue the actions from the nouns)

    Speak SLOWLY!


    There are many great resources out there on all the points above.

    Plain language 


    Design basics


    * Many thanks to Sarah Black, Athru Communications, for the accessibility & inclusion resources.

    Find Part 2 of this article, here.

    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She now lives in Bangkok, is an FIGT volunteer, and will be hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation at FIGT2022. You can find more of her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com

  • 01 Feb 2022 5:25 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is thrilled to announce that longtime Gold-level sponsor Patterson Partners Ltd/CrossBorder Living is now our Platinum Sponsor! 

    What made Managing Partner and Visionary Jennifer Patterson decide to sponsor this year at the Platinum level? She spoke of her journey with FIGT, growing out of founder Ruth Van Reken’s vision, and how she’s shared what she’s learned with her international financial advisory and wealth management clients:


    “Truthfully, I think that I owe a lot to FIGT and its broader worldwide community.”

    When I was considering increasing our commitment to FIGT, I thought back to 2007 when I first attended the conference in Houston. I resonated with the story of gathering around Ruth's kitchen table to brainstorm, comfort, seek to understand - and how that – gathering around a table ‒ was (and still is) an elegant solution for achieving a positive impact in someone's life.”


     “Over the years I have witnessed the idea of conversations at a single table grow to many conversations at many tables around the world. In addition, the conversations expanded from issues arising from mobility to include issues and situations arising in multi-cultural and multi-national families. Inclusivity has always been the rule.


    “As an individual, it helped me understand that my initial experience with being an expat was "normal". When I started expanding that conversation for myself to include the legal and mental transition from "expat" to "immigrant", I found that again, I was not alone. And as a cross-cultural parent having this context for myself helped enormously, in addition to the many resources that have come through the years.


    Once I understood myself better, I started engaging in the conversation more with clients ‒ ultimately dedicating my professional work to what I started referring to as cross-border financial planning with a few financial planning peers who were also cross-cultural and multi-national. My conversations with clients and peers started focusing on how to adapt and adjust the financial aspects to handle the transitions while keeping focused on the long term too, even if it's not clear exactly what that looks like.


    Sponsorship is just one small way of saying: Thank you for helping me so many years ago. Thank you, Ruth, for the inspiration to do more and be more. And thank you for all the positive work being brought forward to our global village by the leadership and members of FIGT."

    FIGT thanks Jennifer and Patterson Partners Ltd/CrossBorder Living for their immense, ongoing support of our organization, and of our broader globally mobile community. 

Families in Global Transition
C/O Campbell Rappold & Yurasits LLP
1033 S Cedar Crest Blvd
Allentown, PA 18103, USA

Phone: +1 (703) 634-7400
Email: admin@figt.org

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