Archive for September, 2009

Yay! World Blog Surf Day!

Posted on 30. Sep, 2009 by in Announcements, Blog, Expat Life

Do you have an expat blog? Then you may want to join in on the World Blog Surf Day fun!

The 3rd edition is now underway – signups are open until October 24.

The theme this time around is Holidays & Celebrations. I cannot wait to see what fascinating celebrations our prolific group of bloggers will introduce us to on October 31!

3rd WBSD

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember that the theme last time was food – an inspiring subject if there ever was one! I don’t know what was most enjoyable: reading all those great posts (and getting hungry in the process!), or getting to know new-to-me blogs and fellow expat bloggers.

Sounds fun? See this post for more details or visit the official WBSD site.You can sign up here.

See you here on October 31!


Credit: WBSD art by Beka

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Culture Shock, Language, And Expectations

Posted on 28. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

I didn’t intend to turn this month’s posts into a series, but it seems that all I want to write about at the moment is culture shock!

Last week, I met a British expat who had recently relocated to Vancouver. A bit uneasy, she confided that she would have expected the transition to be effortless, given the historical ties (we are, after all, in British Columbia) and the common language.

Instead, she found that it was almost as much work adjusting to life in Canada as it was back when she moved to Germany for her very first assignment.

British/US flags on Spanish balconies

As I am always on the lookout for expat success strategies, this got me thinking.

No one will dispute that speaking the language is a big asset – it makes your everyday life a lot easier and spares you untold amounts of frustration. But that doesn’t mean that you can sit back and think that your work is done. (more…)

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3 Strategies To Minimise Culture Shock

Posted on 25. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration, Tools & Resources

As I mentioned before, I don’t believe that culture shock can be avoided altogether. But it can certainly be lessened.

We all know one of those “lucky” expats who seem to adjust effortlessly anywhere, no matter what kind of a hellhole their sadistic HR department sends them to. The truth is, luck has nothing to do with it. These highly adaptable individuals have mastered a few strategies that allow them to navigate through culture shock efficiently, if not entirely painlessly.

A lot of it is common sense, yes. But you know what? Common sense can go a long way.

Hidden under the blanket

3 Strategies To Minimise Culture Shock


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Culture Shock: Can It Be Avoided?

Posted on 23. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life

Living abroad and never getting culture shock is like being an entrepreneur and never freaking out. Or organising a wedding and never having a meltdown.

It’s a nice little fantasy. You really want to believe it can be done. You go to cross-cultural training sessions and language classes. You collect travel books and online resources as if they were amulets that will ward off the big bad culture shock.

Sunset on Dubai

Unfortunately, information and knowledge alone are not enough. Not if you don’t know how to process them on the emotional, internal level. (more…)

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Culture Shock: Is It Such A Bad Thing?

Posted on 21. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

I am still thinking about that Bill Bryson quote that I found last week. What if culture shock wasn’t such a bad thing after all?

I am not – not for a single second – implying that culture shock is a pleasant experience. More often than not, it’s uncomfortable if not downright painful.

But there’s enjoyable, and then there’s useful. Just because culture shock is unpleasant doesn’t mean that it cannot be a positive experience.


Let’s try a different perspective for a second: we all agree that expatriation changes you as a person, and usually for the better. Expats share common skills such as greater adaptability, open-mindedness, resourcefulness, and, as a study recently showed, greater creativity.

How many of these highly desirable traits would you have developed or strengthened as an expat if you had never experienced culture shock? Would there be anything to gain if you never came into contact with a culture whose habits, behaviours or values challenged your own beliefs?

Bottom line: No culture shock = no growth.

Oh. I had never really thought about it that way.

That’s a big shift, actually. Seeing culture shock not as the enemy, but as an opportunity. That’s something new for me. I’ll try and keep that in mind next time something in Canadian culture (such as the all-pervading fear of conflict) catches me off guard.

I wonder how that will change my response, if I remember to look for the opportunity to grow.

Growth - lotus blooms

And in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject…


Images by M@rio Rossi (top) and Vratsagirl (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons

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Culture Shock: A Different Perspective

Posted on 18. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Musings & Inspiration

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

- Bill Bryson

Darn. Now I feel like taking off to some faraway country where I don’t speak the language. Ah, the joys of chronic wanderlust!


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Image by Janna McLaughlin, via Flickr Creative Commons

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Why I Hate The Term “Culture Shock”

Posted on 16. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

I have a confession to make: even though I use it daily, I hate the term “culture shock” with a passion. The way I see it, if Culture Shock were a person, it would be an elitist drama queen.

There’s something so big, so dramatic about “Culture Shock” that a whole lot of expats don’t feel that they even deserve to use the term.

Shock! Panic!

Sounds familiar?


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Culture Shock Doesn’t Discriminate

Posted on 14. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life

Last Friday’s post on Culture Shock or Smooth Sailing? prompted insightful, thought-provoking comments, both on the blog and via email. Several readers asked me to write more about culture shock, so over the next few days I will be running a mini-series of posts about this well-known (yet still misunderstood) aspect of expat life.

As an aside – and because I cannot emphasize this enough: your questions are always welcome. The reason why I’m writing is to make your life abroad easier. In other words, I want to make sure that I’m writing about topics of interest to you.

If there is a subject you’d like to see addressed here, please leave a comment or send me an email. Any personal details you may share in your email will be kept strictly confidential and, as anyone who’s ever written me can tell you, I won’t try to promote anything – earning your trust is much more valuable to me than selling you a coaching session.

So if you have any questions that would make good topics for this blog, I am all ears.

Question mark

And now, back to the topic at hand! If I had only one message about culture shock, it would be this:

Culture shock is a normal, natural, maybe even necessary part of living abroad.

So don’t be, well, too shocked (!) and don’t beat yourself up whenever your beliefs, behaviours or traditions happen to clash with those of your host country. It’s entirely normal, and it’s to be expected.

Culture shock doesn’t discriminate

Culture shock can happen to anyone – first-timers and veteran expats alike.

It can happen anywhere – even if all your friends are telling you you’re living in paradise.

It can happen at anytime – sometimes as soon as you leave the airport, and sometimes after living in your new country for a year or two.

Suffering from culture shock doesn’t have anything to do with being weak or strong. It doesn’t mean you’re too set in your ways or psychologically fragile.

It absolutely doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you.

It’s simply part of the natural adjustment process as you find your way around your new surroundings.

Lost in desert

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Image by Ségozyme (top) and Desirée Delgado (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons

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Culture Shock Or Smooth Sailing?

Posted on 11. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

Culture shock. We’ve all heard about it, and chances are, we’ve all experienced it to some degree during our expat adventures.

On her Swedish Blog, Anna recently questioned whether Westerners could get culture shock when relocating to Sweden.

I can see her point. After all, if you’re moving from one developed country to another, how big could the difference be, right?

However, back when I was in Sweden some 15 years ago (yikes!), I saw enough fellow French and British students suffer from full-blown culture shock to know that things are not that simple.

I don’t believe that culture shock has much to do with the objective differences between two countries. It all happens on the emotional level.

white sheep - black sheep

You’re headed for culture shock when you: (more…)

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Good Question: On Learning The Language

Posted on 09. Sep, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Tools & Resources

A reader visiting from Study Abroad In Argentina blog recently asked the following question:

How can one merge with society in order to really learn the language if they don’t have a job there or any other activity surrounding them with natives?

Great question! We all know that immersion is the best way to boost your language skills, but if you’re never around local people, you’re not going to make that much progress.
Here are three scenarios* you may be faced with:

*or should it be scenarii? These Latin plurals are so darn confusing!

Isolated in a crowd


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