Archive for January, 2009

New Canadian Citizenship Rules Coming Into Effect April 2009

Posted on 31. Jan, 2009 by in Announcements, Blog, Expat Life

All Canadian expats and TCKs need to be aware of the new Canadian citizenship rules going into effect on April 17, 2009.

1. These new rules will significantly impact second-generation Canadians born abroad, as they will not be Canadian citizens by birth. This means that if you, a Canadian citizen, were born outside Canada and also gave or will give birth outside Canada, your children born abroad will not be Canadian citizens.
This rule also applies to Canadian citizens who adopt foreign-born children.

2. On the other hand, the Canadian government is taking steps to clean up the 1947 Citizenship Act mess. People who lost their Canadian citizenship back then, including war brides and many British subjects, will automatically reacquire their Canadian citizenship.
People born abroad to a Canadian parent on or after January 1, 1947 will also become Canadian citizens, even if they never took the necessary steps to become one.

3. Foreign-born children who were adopted on or after January 1, 1947 will be eligible for Canadian citizenship without having to become permanent residents first (under the previous rules, only children adopted after February 14, 1977 were eligible).
This also applies to foreign-born children who were adopted by someone who will reacquire Canadian citizenship under the new rules (see 2.)

There are many exceptions and nuances, many of which apply to diplomats or government employees and military personnel.
You can see the complete rules on this Citizenship and Immigration Canada page.

Expat author Robin Pascoe further discusses the impact of these new rules on expat families and TCKs on her blog. She also links to a helpful Powerpoint file that can help you determine whether your children or grandchildren born abroad will be Canadian citizens.

If you have questions about the new rules, please let me know in the comments and I will research them further. Hopefully together we can try to make all this clearer and faster to understand.


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Interview with Danielle LaPorte

Posted on 29. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Interview, Musings & Inspiration

The brilliant Danielle LaPorte (of Style Statement fame) offered to interview fellow bloggers and readers of her new blog, White Hot Truth.
The idea is that each blogger agrees in turn to interview his or her own readers who are interested, and so on. So if you would like me to interview you, please take a look at the rules below and leave me a comment here.

* leave me a comment saying: “interview me”
* all comments will be published
* I will e-mail you five questions of my choice
* you can then answer the questions on your blog {with a link back to my blog}
* you should also post these rules, along with an offer to interview anyone else who e-mails you wanting to be interviewed
* anyone who asks to be interviewed should be sent 5 questions to answer on their blog
* it would be nice if the questions were individualized for each blogger

And without further ado, 5 Q’s from White Hot Truth for Emmanuelle:

1. What is your form of genius?

Reframing: I am really good at helping people see a different perspective or unexpected opportunity. I love opening up new possibilities.

I am also very adept at researching, sorting through and interpreting large amounts of information, be it practical or conceptual.

2. What do you want more of?




Raw-milk cheeses.

Now that I think of it, more shoulder rubs would be nice too.

3. In your opinion, what was David Bowie’s best phase?

Wait, you mean David Bowie has gone through several phases? No one ever tells me anything…

[What’s with the Bowie references all over the place lately, by the way? Is the Flight of the Conchords song single-handedly causing a revival?]

Back to the original question: Music-wise, he definitely was on top of his game in the early seventies, so I would have to pick the Ziggy Stardust phase.
Mind you, as a composer/performer/actor/chameleon, he was amazingly prolific in the eighties too, culminating in the feathered-haired and glittery gloriousness that is Labyrinth… so I guess it is a tie between Ziggy and the Goblin King.

4. Who inspires you and why?

– Pharaoh Hatshepsut, an amazingly strong woman who was also an excellent diplomat. Her reign brought peace, prosperity and stability to Egypt.

– Hildegard von Bingen, for being such a multi-talented author, herbalist, linguist, composer and mystic (among other things). I cannot read about her, or listen to her music, without feeling the urge to get up and go do something meaningful with my life!

– Felines in general, and cats in particular, for their grace, their independence and their ability to combine deep relaxation with constant alertness.

5. What are 3 books that rocked your world?

Only three? Oh that is a tough one for a bookworm like myself!

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome
Yes I know, purple prose and all that. Yet I have always found this book hilarious. I first read it in French when I was a little girl and I must have re-read it close to 15 times since!

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Another book that I first read in French as a child. I remember being mesmerized by the way Kipling played with words and sounds and alliterations and repetitions… my first exposure to a writer who had a very distinct voice and who was not afraid to use it.

The Search for Omm Sety by Jonathan Cott
A fascinating biography that poses more questions than it answers. Dorothy Eady, aka Omm Sety, bridged the gap between modern and ancient Egypt. She chose to leave everything behind and moved from England to a tiny hamlet in Upper Egypt, in order to spend the rest of her life near her beloved Temple of Abydos. Her story never fails to inspire me as a coach, especially when I work with clients who feel stuck and are doubting their own dreams.

and a bonus Q, just for you:
what advice do you give most often?

Hmm. You know, I try to refrain from giving too much advice. I am more of the “listen deeply and make it easier for people to listen to their own wisdom” school of thought. After all, each one of us is the expert at living his or her own life and I can only speak for myself!

In my coaching, I will often suggest “Sit with this for a while and see what comes up”. Life is not just about constantly doing and/or analyzing stuff. Sometimes it is good to just notice what is going on inside and simply allow it to be there, without rushing to “fix” it.

I will take an insightful question over a piece of advice any day. Much more powerful.

Your turn now! Please leave a comment if you would like me to interview you next.


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What Is An Expat, Exactly? – Part III

Posted on 27. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

In this last post in our series, I will attempt to give my own definition of an expat.

The dictionary and most academic definitions of the term leave out the psychological and emotional impact of being an expat. Predictably enough, I beg to differ!
As a coach, I find the human aspect of expatriation extremely important. In attempting to introduce this dimension, I am ultimately answering the question “As an expatriation coach, who do I work with?”

I can see three main factors:

1. The people I work with self-identify as expats- or immigrants, global workers, global nomads- the label does not matter. What matters is that they acknowledge that they have certain experiences, emotions and needs in common with other expats;

2. The people I work with have lived abroad long enough that some of their patterns, behaviours and worldview have shifted. There is no prescribed length of time before this shift occurs. A stay in a foreign country, even a long one, does not make you an expat if the experience does not change you internally in some way. On the other hand, some people become expats the second they learn they might be moving overseas- their habits change, their patterns are disrupted and powerful emotions emerge;

3. A “fish out of water” feeling is present to some extent. Obviously there are many degrees, from the pain and disorientation of severe culture shock to the fleeting moment of homesickness experienced by long-time, fully integrated immigrants.

A perfect counterexample would be my Belgian-born mother, who moved to France in her late twenties after meeting my French father.
She is so entirely assimilated that she does not even think about Belgium anymore. She does not have the slightest hint of a Belgian accent. Last time she went back to Brussels, she felt like a foreigner there. She certainly does not think of herself as an expat or immigrant, and neither do I think of her as one. For all intents and purposes, she is a Frenchwoman who happens to have been born in Belgium.

By contrast, I will always be an expat/immigrant in Canada. Even though I am very happily settled in Vancouver, have made my life here and love it to bits, I am aware of being both Canadian and European.
Every time I open my mouth, my accent is there to remind me that I actually was not born here. Then there are all those TV programmes I have never watched, all those nursery rhymes and children books I did not grow up with, all those references to long-ago political events I do not fully get. I do not feel at all like an outsider (I definitely feel very, very Canadian and a Vancouverite to boot)- I am simply an expat.


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What Is An Expat, Exactly? – Part II

Posted on 24. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

Today we continue our exploration of what makes someone an expat.

Setting aside the antiquated notion of expatriation as banishment or exile, we come to the more general meaning of the term according to Merriam-Webster:

to leave one’s native country to live elsewhere.

It is interesting to note that most authors and academics who write with expats in mind use a much narrower definition. Indeed, many of them work under two assumptions:

1. Expats are being sent overseas by a sponsoring organization (a corporation, church, government, NGO or the military)
2. Expat assignments are limited in time; expats will eventually move onto their next international assignment or go back to their country of origin.

In other circles, including online forums and many expat clubs, the definition seems somewhat broader: people who relocate without a sponsoring organization and have no plans to leave their host country are counted as expats, whereas academics and authors might contend that they are really immigrants.*

* Which theoretically would make me an immigrant and not an expat, as I relocated independently and have no intention to leave Vancouver anytime soon. Yikes. Does that mean I have to change my branding as an expat coach?!?

There are many more nuances to the “expat-but-not-really” status. Even though our PC-obsessed societies may be reluctant to acknowledge it openly, these nuances often rest on social and economic criteria. Refugees and migrant workers, for example, are not likely to be called “expats”, even though they have all left their native country to live elsewhere.

Here the assumption seems to be that expats have at least some financial means (in relative terms) and also that they have some degree of choice with regards to expatriating themselves- the alternative to expatriation is not persecution, famine or extreme poverty.

So, what would you call yourself? An expat, an immigrant, something else?

In the next post, I will attempt to synthesize these various definitions and introduce my perspective as a coach on what makes someone an expat, mentally and emotionally.


Related post: What Is An Expat, Exactly? – Part I

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What Is An Expat, Exactly? – Part I

Posted on 22. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

The question came from left field: “But how would you define “expat”, exactly?”

I work with expats, write for expats and talk to expats all day long, yet I never took the time to come up with my own definition of the term. What made the question even more puzzling is that the friend who asked is the perfect example of a TCK: Daughter of a diplomat, born in Africa, grew up in Asia and Europe and has spent her entire adult life in Canada. Without ever applying for Canadian citizenship.

The easy answer would have been “Well, you as a child and your family?” That is not much help to those who do not know my friend, though. And visibly, she is not the only one who is wondering, as I have seen this question crop up on various message boards since.

So this is where I roll up my sleeves (in spite of today’s icy fog and below-freezing temperatures- the things I do for you!) and try to tackle that beast of a definition. Actually, this may take several posts.

First, let me say that our trusted friend the dictionary does a less than stellar job in this particular instance. For one thing, it insists on the starchy “expatriate”, when every single expat I have ever met calls him- or herself, well, an expat. On top of that, here is what good old Merriam-Webster has to say about our fate:

transitive verb
1: banish , exile
2: to withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one’s native country
intransitive verb
: to leave one’s native country to live elsewhere ; also : to renounce allegiance to one’s native country

Seen this way, we certainly do sound like quite the unsavoury crowd, don’t we? All of this reeks of being sent to the colonies on felony charges – or possibly worse, of abandoning the motherland for some selfish reason.

Nevertheless, I think these definitions leave out a crucial dimension of the word Expat, (or Expatriate if you want to be all Merriam-Webstery about it): its socio-economic connotations.
Just think about how we use the word in everyday conversation. We would definitely call the wife of a foreign diplomat an expat, but would we apply the term to a refugee from the same country? Not necessarily.
An executive on an international assignment? Expat. A migrant worker? Not an expat.

PC or not, there seems to be a certain aura and a specific set of expectations surrounding the term Expat. I will explore them in more depth in my next post. In the meantime, here is your chance to sound off on this sometimes controversial topic- the comment box awaits you!


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Expat Interview: Aliye Kurt – From Turkey To The Netherlands via Canada

Posted on 20. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Interview
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Today I bring you the first in a series of expat interviews, beginning with my friend and fellow coach Aliye Kurt, who recently relocated to Amsterdam. The interview below is a short version- you can read the full interview here.
If you would like to see your own expat story featured on this blog, please leave a comment here, or send me an email at coaching[at]winningaway[dot]com.

1. Could you tell us about your background, where you have lived before coming to The Netherlands, and what your new life in Amsterdam is like?

I was born and raised in Turkey, and lived there until my mid-20s until I moved to Vancouver for graduate studies. I started working as a full-time faculty member at a psychology department after completing my doctoral degree at UBC. In the past year I have also been working as a professional coach. After maintaining a (very!) long – distance relationship for four years between Vancouver and first Berlin, then Frankfurt, I decided to move to Europe last summer.

I was really excited about moving to Amsterdam – which in my mind was the “perfect introduction to living in Europe” with its diversity, open-minded/tolerant attitude, nice European flair with its cafés, canals and amazing architecture, and of course with the convenience of using English in daily life, as well as in coaching and teaching. And so far, I was not disappointed – except for the two months of rain in summer (maybe to make the transition from Vancouver easier??). My life here is much more active in terms of attending to cultural events – the offer is very broad with museums, galleries, festivals, concerts, and talks.

Amsterdam has also been great for my coaching practice. Based on my background and life experiences, I work a lot with internationals and expatriates. Both its own international/expat community and, its closeness to other similar cities such as The Hague, Brussels, and Frankfurt make Amsterdam a strategic spot for my coaching and training business. I also run a coaching retreat program on sailboats in Turkey in summers, which has become more feasible by living in Europe. What can I say ~ so far so good!

2. What has life abroad taught you? What skills have you found most helpful?

I think the best learning for me was to realize how relative my (or my culture’s) “right way of doing things” was. That realization could bring about confusion, or even shake one’s identity a bit. But if you are open – minded, you will grow tremendously. Now I am much more aware of the cultural lens through which I experience the world, and question my perceptions of people and events more.

One of the skills that I have found to be vital, especially to optimize the benefits of being in a new environment without “losing it”, is to anchor yourself with social support. When I think back, each time I moved to a new city, the shift from anxiety, longing for the familiar, and dissatisfaction to a positive mindset/emotional state happened by meeting one or two people who anchored me with something familiar. In most cases that familiar thing was culture – I ended up meeting like-minded people from Turkey. And that happened even though I did not consciously seek out Turkish people, and never had an exclusively Turkish social network. That familiar element, which I believe restored my sense of security, then served as a springboard for me to start adapting to my new environment and enjoying my life abroad as I formed a broader, more diverse social network. For other people the anchor might be their work, a particular activity, nature, their favorite hobby, or whatever restores that sense of security – but as a social psychologist I suspect social support would be more effective since it does more than just being an anchor.

3. What did you find most challenging?

For me the most challenging part of living abroad is being away from family and close friends. Especially moving frequently means we don’t get to grow roots at any place, which has recently started bothering me. I try to deal with that by visiting my family more often and creating opportunities to do projects in Turkey.

And this time – as an accompanying partner – another challenge is my career. Luckily, I do not have a problem with a work permit, but a full-time teaching position similar to the one I had in Vancouver is very difficult to find in the Netherlands. My solution to that is teaching part-time for now, and focusing more on my coaching practice – which I hope to transform into a portable career that I can take with me no matter where I live!

4. What advice would you give to people who are considering living overseas, or to fellow expats?

My tip number one is manage your expectations! As I have described before, my expectations about living in Amsterdam were quite high, and I hadn’t taken the weather factor into account – my initial experience of my life here was dominated by a negative mood due to the disappointment around “the terrible weather in Amsterdam!” Set realistic expectations about how your new life might look like, but don’t underestimate the power of some optimism! Anything that would increase your intercultural awareness – from books to workshops – would also help to set realistic expectations. Of course number one requirement for this one is to know your priorities really well.

Related to the above, try to be open-minded/ don’t get stuck with the same perspective. After years of teaching psychology, I am still amazed how our mindset and perceptions can shape our experience. After two months of rain, I said to myself, “it is September…now, it is Okay if it rains” and I was not as bothered by the rain anymore…Of course magically, we had a golden autumn to reward my new attitude! Doing that is not always easy especially when you are stuck with a particular perspective – then please seriously consider working with a coach who will not only help you with different perspectives, but will also be tremendous social support. I benefited a lot from working with my coach – with her help I’ve realized how I was letting weather (something completely out of my control) to spoil my experience of this wonderful city!

There are many more, but lastly, make sure to do at least one thing that makes you feel confident about yourself. Next to social support self-esteem is an invaluable resource that helps people bounce back successfully from challenging situations.

And one not-to-do: Do not hang out with people who are consistently negative and who always complain how terrible life is in your host country!

Dr. Aliye Kurt – Suedhoff is a social psychologist and a professional coach. Having lived in Turkey, Vancouver, Berlin, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, she enjoys being part of diverse expatriate/ international communities.

As an academic she specializes on self-esteem, cultural differences in self-views, emotional intelligence, and the importance of balancing independence and interpersonal closeness for well-being. As a professional coach she brings together her solid psychological expertise, her coaching training, and her international experience to assist individuals and organizations in functioning at their best.

She currently lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and works globally through her coaching & training company, Set Sail Coaching.

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Expats, what impact do you have in your world?

Posted on 17. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration, Tools & Resources

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you consciously decided to live your expat life to the fullest. You value personal growth and self-discovery. You are probably aware of the importance of setting goals and working on a personal project.

Now let us add another layer: Are you aware of the impact you have in your world?

That is right. Through working on your personal goals and living your own life, you also get a chance to inspire, motivate or change other people’s lives.

If this sounds way too lofty or downright silly (a sure sign that your Inner Critic is at work, by the way!), try asking yourself: “What do people get from being around me?”

Maybe you have a knack for cheering up others when they are feeling down. Maybe you are a great listener, confidante and sounding board. Maybe your adventurous, positive and ambitious personality inspires others to tackle their own challenges.
You get the idea. Your style of relating to other people is one of your personal talents. It is a gift you can give simply by being you.

How can you bring even more of it to your world?

My impact: Reframing

Through various coaching exercises, I came to realize that my personal talent is reframing.
I have no idea why it took me so long to see it. It may just be that I never took the time to ask myself what impact I have on others. In hindsight, reframing has always been a major theme in my life.

Friends often come to me when they feel stuck or preoccupied, knowing full well that my input may be a little irreverent, humourous and- hopefully- insightful.

When I work my clients, I help them see different perspectives and new opportunities. They thank me for creating new possibilities in their lives, but in fact I did not. I simply helped them shift the way they think about themselves.

Come to think of it, I sometimes even give myself a dose of my own medicine. When I feel scared, upset, unmotivated, what have you, I will often start an internal dialogue that sounds like “OK Emmanuelle, looks like we are going through a rough patch here. Now what are the facts, and what is so upsetting about them? What are we not seeing? What is a different way to look at the situation?”

The bottom line: Don’t just stand there, go have an impact!

As a coach and business owner, knowing I have a talent for reframing is not about boasting, or writing marketing copy. It is about knowing my impact and making it my mission. Look, I hate bloated, empty “mission statements” with the fire of a thousand suns. I will not be “proactively leveraging assets to create synergy” anytime soon. But saying “I will reach out to as many people as I can to help them reframe and have a positive impact in their lives”? Now that is a mission I can live with.

Your turn now! As an expat, you are ideally positioned to bring a different perspective, to open people’s minds, to be a breath of fresh air. How can you take your personal talent and share it with your host country, your community and the people around you?
Will it be through work, volunteering, being the best neighbour and friend you can be? The possibilities are endless…


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Of Incorporation, Birthdays And David Bowie

Posted on 15. Jan, 2009 by in Announcements, Blog

The incorporation certificate for my expat coaching company, Winning Away Coaching Ltd., arrived today. The official incorporation date is the 8th of January, which also happens to be David Bowie’s birthday.

The coincidence fills me with glee, because

1. I am a big Bowie fan
2. I am silly like that
3. What better symbol of adaptability, creativity and staying power than Mr. Bowie himself? Not to mention his ability to listen for what his audience will want next and his talent for reinventing himself (yes, more reinvention- how timely!)

What shall I do to celebrate this good omen? Crank up the stereo and play Hunky Dory or Space Oddity on repeat? The neighbours might disapprove… maybe I will go watch the hilarious parody of classic Bowie songs by Flight of the Conchords instead…

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Reinventing Yourself As An Expat- A Few More Thoughts

Posted on 13. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration, Relocation

A couple more thoughts about reinventing yourself crossed my mind.

Reinvention does not have to involve a crazy Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type transformation. So hold off on getting that blue mohawk*! No need for anything outrageous but try and be mindful of what forgotten / never-acted-upon aspirations rise to the surface. You have been handed a more or less blank slate and you get to choose how to fill it, you lucky duck.
* Unless you really want one, of course. Who am I to say?

Moving to a new country gives you plenty of opportunities to be creative with your own life.

– You will probably need to adjust your daily routines to your new living conditions. While you are at it, how could you tweak the rest of your schedule to make time for something you crave, like a weekly tennis game or a candlelit bath before bed?

– You can completely change careers if that is what you feel like doing- and let’s face it, you may simply have to if you happen to be an accompanying partner. Only this time, you get to choose what you want to do. Not your parents, your teachers or a career counsellor. You.

– You may also find that the culture of your host country makes it possible, or at least easier, to explore new possibilities. Moving from France to Vancouver certainly did that for me.

Here is how: in general, Vancouverites tend to be far more open to spiritual and New Age-y stuff than your average Frenchman. This made it much safer for me to explore my spiritual side and find my path, without fear of being judged for doing so. It also allowed me to dabble in and eventually embrace yoga, which is now an important part of my daily life.

Canadians also tend to have different / more relaxed views of gender roles and what is or is not “proper” for a woman to do. This led to my foolish daring decision to try my hand at this most unladylike of sports, rugby, when I first arrived in Vancouver. I was not a natural for the game and prudently decided to retire after a while, but at least I was able to try it, instead of sitting at home wondering what it would be like.

Finally, no one in Vancouver batted an eye when I said that I would love to learn how to paint. This was a big stretch for me. My French friends would doubtlessly have found it hilarious, as they all knew that I could not draw to save my life. Thankfully, none of my Canadian friends knew that I had never gotten past the stick figure stage, so no one made a big deal out of it. There were no particular expectations that I would fail miserably, or that I had to be amazing at it or else (well, other than my own expectations, that is, plus those of a small army of Inner Critics…) So I was able to gradually expand my comfort zone- first doodling, then colour-blocking on a canvas, then actually trying to draw.

In all these different ways, living in a new country made it easier for me to grow and acquire new skills. No matter where in the world you end up living, new possibilities will present themselves. You can stretch yourself a little by trying new hobbies, or you can stretch yourself a lot by making major changes and redesigning your life from the ground up. Your call. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but it would be too bad to miss all these opportunities for growth.

How much have you changed since you arrived in your new country? How did the local conditions and culture influence your choices? Anything crazy or funny you would never have tried back home?


Related post: Reinvent Yourself

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The Expat Life: Reinvent Yourself

Posted on 10. Jan, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration, Relocation

One of the most common clichés about expatriation is that it is a chance to reinvent yourself. There is a lot of truth to that. Yet, many people (including yours truly) find this phrase so trite that the statement loses a lot of its impact. So let’s see if we can come up with something a bit more meaningful.

Reinvent yourself- what is that supposed to mean anyway?

What if you like yourself the way you are and have no desire to “reinvent yourself”, thank you very much? You see, this is exactly why I dislike this phrase. It makes it sound like you have to change internally, as if all of a sudden, by virtue of your living abroad, something was wrong with you.

There is nothing wrong with you. However, your individual circumstances changed when you became an expat and this is why you need to adjust externally to your new life.

Reinventing yourself does not mean “lose your identity and become someone you are not.” It means “do not cling to outdated external markers of identity; be flexible and consider new possibilities.”

To me, it mostly means that you get to choose what you want for yourself - in a conscious, deliberate manner. Which sounds rather good to me.
What do you think?


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