Archive for 'Musings & Inspiration'

When you have a project you have to do…

Posted on 30. Aug, 2010 by in Blog, Musings & Inspiration

What does it look like when you have a project you have to do – like redoing your rĂ©sumĂ©, or finally writing the business plan for that great idea you have?

Warning: Lev’s videos are strangely addictive. Click on the other episodes at your own risk… and then don’t be surprised when your project doesn’t get done because you’ve spent all evening watching them! (not that I would know anything about that, of course)


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Quote Of The Month: On Success

Posted on 15. Feb, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Entrepreneurs, Musings & Inspiration

As we move on to a new series of posts about the mindset and attitude of successful expat entrepreneurs, here is a quote about success that I wanted to share with you:

“Success is liking yourself,

liking what you do,

and liking how you do it.”

- Maria Angelou

Such lovely words: simple, comforting and oh so true… how are you faring on your own path to success?

Work is love made visible - K. Gibran

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Image by beautifulcataya, via Flickr Creative Commons

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like… The Olympics?

Posted on 15. Jan, 2010 by in Announcements, Blog, Musings & Inspiration

It’s now official – I have received my accreditation form, so it’s really happening.
For all of February, I will be acting as bilingual liaison for the French Olympic delegation during their stay here in Vancouver for the Winter Games.

Olympic rings - Vancouver 2010

This is going to be a lot of fun. It also means that I expect to be spending most of my waking time at the Olympic venue, and I will only a have a few hours a day to look after my business.

What does this mean for you?

I’ll try to make sure that there is little to no disruption to the usual blogging schedule, so that you get the expat tips and support you need, three times a week.
Ideally, I’ll have all my upcoming posts lined up by the end of next week – needless to say, there’s a lot of writing happening at the moment!
There will be a few guest posts too
, so stay tuned for more details.

What if you have an expat support call in February?

If you already have scheduled calls with me in February, you don’t need to do anything – your calls will go ahead as scheduled.

If you haven’t booked your calls yet and were thinking of starting expat support in February, I cannot guarantee that I will be available at a day and time that’s convenient for you, but I’ll try my best to make it work. So if you really need support ASAP, drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do – and if you hear a lot of French spoken in the background during our call, you’ll know why ;)

Is this how TCKs feel?

You know what’s funny? I just had my first informal meeting today with both the French and the Canadian coordinators, and never in all my years in Vancouver have I felt so strongly like a cultural hybrid.

During our meeting, I observed how the Canadian “can do attitude” and culture of consensus was interacting with the French respect for hierarchy and more direct style of communication. It was a fascinating dance.

The most interesting part is that, although I could clearly see these cultural traits at play, I wasn’t interested in judging them – I wasn’t tempted to side with the Canadian way of doing things, or the French way of doing things. I could see both sides of the issue, and the pros and cons of each approach.

It felt like being a neutral observer, and it also felt a little schizophrenic
, as if my own cultural traits fell somewhere in between French and Canadian, but didn’t truly belong to either sphere.

Today, I think I experienced firsthand the way TCKs see the world.

I can tell February is going to be an interesting month…


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Images by Miss Barbaranov (top) and Ryan Chen (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons

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DIY Holidays (World Blog Surf Day Post)

Posted on 31. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

This post is part of World Blog Surf Day, an online event where expat bloggers from all over the world post about a specific theme (this time around, Holidays & Celebrations), and form a worldwide blog chain by linking to the next blogger in the chain.

Today, our Twitter reporter is Karen of Empty Nest Expat. Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, “Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing–and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.”

3rd World Blog Surf Day logo

If this is your first time here, hi! And if you took part in the previous WBSD, welcome back! It’s good to see you again.

My name is Emmanuelle, and I am a French expat living in Canada.

DIY holidays

Flashback to the winter of 2001, my first holiday season in Canada. Sitting in my still half-empty and sparsely-decorated apartment, the cat and I had a house meeting. We decided that, due to our total lack of family and (at that point) friends in Vancouver, we weren’t really going to do anything special for Christmas. Or New Year’s, for that matter.

The holidays came and went. I didn’t really feel like I was missing out, partly thanks to my kind-hearted neighbours who invited me over for Christmas dinner, and partly because, well, these celebrations just aren’t the same anyway when your loved ones are thousands of miles away.

There was only one problem: I love celebrating. I love parties. I love having people over. The “Bah, humbug!” approach could easily lead to not celebrating anything anymore – and there was no way my fun-loving side would ever sign off on that!

Fun-loving, patriotic Canadian dog


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The Introspective Expat

Posted on 28. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

While still musing on the subject of expatriation and introversion, I happened upon this quote by Lawrence Durrell:

“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection”

An expat writer and lifelong nomad himself, Mr. Durrell certainly knew what he was talking about. And I couldn’t agree more.

After all, the underlying theme of this blog, and a big part of the work that I do with my clients, is knowing yourself better, becoming more aware of your patterns and understanding how you respond to unfamiliar, sometimes challenging circumstances.

If that’s not introspection – and of the most rewarding kind – I don’t know what is.

What has life abroad taught you about yourself? Any big surprises, or insights that you wouldn’t have had back home? Please share them in the comments!

Introspective train trip

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Image by ! *S4N7Y* !, via Flickr Creative Commons

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Living Abroad: What Is It Like When You’re An Introvert Or HSP?

Posted on 26. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

Random question that recently crossed my mind: what is it like to live abroad when you’re an introvert or a HSP (highly sensitive person)?

Consider, for a moment, three top items on your average expat’s to-do list: making new friends, building new networks from zero and practicing your language skills on unsuspecting locals.

These prospects can strike fear in the hearts of even reasonably extroverted folks. So what must it feel like when you’re an introvert and “putting yourself out there” is not, shall we say, your favourite pastime? Talk about uncomfortable!

On the flip side, do introverts, being more inward-oriented, cope better with the loneliness of the first few months? Is it welcomed as “me-time” and a needed respite from the whole meeting-new-people thing, or is it still hard and, well, lonely?

So many questions!

White wall and silence...

And then there is high sensitivity. As we can all attest, your senses work overtime when you live in a foreign country. Expatriation is a jolt for the senses, what with all the unfamiliar sensations that surround you everywhere you go.

But what do you do if your senses are triggered more easily and more intensely than those of your average person? What happens when, say, you’re very sensitive to noise, and your company sends you to a Mediterranean country where drivers honk non-stop, and talking loudly is the norm?

Do the HSPs among us walk around in a quasi-constant state of sensory overwhelm?

Having said that, I can also see how HSPs are uniquely positioned to fully experience the world that surrounds us. When your senses are this finely-tuned, you can pick up on nuances that the less perceptive (or more jaded) among us would just miss.

You get glimpses of insight into the true spirit of the place. Little moments of grace, here and there. Ultimately, I believe that high sensitivity allows you to connect with your new country on a very deep level.


If you are an introvert or a HSP living overseas, I would love to hear your thoughts. Not so much because I am looking for answers to my own questions, but because I am sure that others who are in the same situation would greatly value your input and your suggestions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Images by Charlyn W (top) and DCvision2006 (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons

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Expat Skill: Ditch The Labels

Posted on 19. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Musings & Inspiration, Tools & Resources

So, I want to get myself a sewing machine. I mentioned it in passing to my mother yesterday, and she almost fell off her chair with astonishment.

Sure, my sewing skills don’t go beyond putting a button back on a coat (which is why I want a machine to learn on), but that’s not what puzzled my mother so much.

No, she was stunned because in her mind, I am not the kind of person who sews – whatever that means. I suspect that her mental image of someone who sews is a cross between an over-the-top domestic goddess a la Martha Stewart and an old maid who sits at home all day stitching tea cosies.

Sewing station

Erm. Right. I was thinking more funky recycled clothes and decorative stitching on mixed-media art myself…

But mostly, I wasn’t thinking in terms of labels. “Domestic”, “someone who sits at home all day”, “someone who does or doesn’t sew” – those are all labels, and like all labels, they are also limiting beliefs.

Labels = Limiting beliefs

Just think of all the labels you carry about yourself, and how they limit what you think you are capable of: foreigner… accompanying spouse… introvert… not good with languages… procrastinator… do you see how these beliefs about yourself impact your self-image?

Even “positive” labels can be limiting. If you see yourself as effective and hard working, will you be able to relax enough to enjoy a different pace of life in a less work-oriented culture? If you see yourself as very self-reliant, won’t you end up isolated because you didn’t make finding new friends a priority?

Want to thrive in your life abroad? Ditch the labels!

Here’s a tip: Every time you catch yourself thinking “Oh, but I’m not the kind of person who…” (talks to strangers / asks for help all the time / is comfortable going out on her own / insert self-limiting belief du jour here) – pause and ask yourself what you may be missing out on.

I am not advising you to blithely say yes to everything – you have every right to be uninterested, uncomfortable or simply not in the mood for certain activities. If your instinct says no, then don’t do it.

But if you realise that the only thing that’s preventing you from seizing an opportunity is your self-image (a.k.a. not being the kind of person who…), then please do yourself a favour: forget the labels, and go for it!

Every time you stretch beyond your limiting labels, you will strengthen and expand your self-image. You will develop a keener eye for the near-unlimited possibilities that surround you. You will get better at noticing opportunities and seizing them.

Ode to courage

And on that note, I am off to research sewing machines – lack of skills and tea cosies be darned!

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Images by Laurie :: Liquid Paper (top) and *TreMichLan* (bottom), both via Flickr Creative Commons

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Time To Give Thanks!

Posted on 12. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Musings & Inspiration

Thanksgiving celebrations have been going strong all weekend in Canada. I celebrated yesterday with a group of expat friends, but between the lively conversation and the impressive spread of dishes from all over the world, we never got around to giving thanks.

So today, on the official holiday, I would like to take time to remember how much I have to be thankful for.

The great people in my life

Where to begin? I am surrounded by so many good people it’s almost ridiculous.

  • My partner, who is one of the most intelligent, reliable, kindest men I’ve ever known
  • My friends – new and old, far and near – who are upstanding, creative, fun-loving individuals
  • My business advisors and peers, who are dedicated, generous and genuinely supportive
  • Last but certainly not least, my clients who – like most expats I know – are strong, resourceful, always willing to learn and all-around gosh darn inspiring people. It is a blessing to work with individuals you truly like, and I am deeply thankful for all the great people I’ve met through my work.

Thank-you notes

A sense of place

As a fellow expat, I know you’ll understand how much it means to me to have found my place in life. Professionally, spiritually and geographically. My adopted city, Vancouver, BC, deeply feels like home, much more so than my official hometown in France ever did.

For a semi-nomad like myself who moved more than ten times in her twenties, that means a lot (I initially wrote “it means the world to me”, but I have decided that holiday posts shall henceforth be free of bad puns. Bad punnery can resume on Wednesday. We will see how long this resolution holds – I make no guarantees).


The growth. Oh, the growth! Frankly, it’s been a little crazy this year. But I am thankful for all of it, even when it felt hard and painful.

Not that I’m complaining – most of it was mind-blowingly good. Like learning how to ask for help. And learning how to receive it, instead of consistently choosing the hard, exhausting, “dutiful” way. Come to think of it, this is one of the first years of my working life when the threat of burnout has (mostly) been kept at bay. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Also, choosing to say yes to more things that sound like fun – parties, road trips, new hobbies, what have you. At the same time, listening more closely to my body so that I know when to rest and when to take time for myself. I guess all this has to do with having clearer boundaries. I am really thankful for that too.

Healing some family issues was a big theme this year. It’s been awkward, painful, cringe-inducing at times. But it was time to deal with that ever-looming tangled mess. I’ve written before about the necessity of being at peace with your past if you want to be content with the present. It was time to walk my talk. So we’re untangling, a little bit at a time. It’s going great. Everything feels healthier, not to mention much lighter too. So thankful for that one!


Then there was the kind of growth that only comes about when hard, painful stuff happens. Losing a close friend to cancer back in March definitely falls under this heading. What I know today about fear, acceptance and life transitions, I owe to our last few moments together. So I am reverently thankful for that. And for the fact that the excruciating physical pain he had to live with is now over.

Oh, and let’s not forget about mistakes, failures and just plain bad decision-making. They’re the shortest path to growth… if you’re willing to face them honestly, instead of sweeping them under the rug. I think I’ve gotten better at letting myself make mistakes (that is, experimenting more and taking more risks, even if it means that I may fail), assessing said mistakes without beating myself up (which is how I would avoid looking at them too closely), and hopefully learning something in the process.

The 2009 award in this category goes to my failing to deal with a web designer who was not a good match for my company at all. Why I let this situation drag on for so long, I have no idea. All I know is that I wasted a lot of time, energy, and ultimately money when I had to hire another designer to redo the project.

However, during this period I learned ten times more about blogging, social media and online-based business than I would have otherwise, since I had to do a lot of research on my own. So that’s really good. And because that was a pretty big and costly mistake, I can assure you that next time I find myself in that situation, it will be dealt with swiftly and firmly – as Alice Cooper would say, No More Mr. Nice Guy, although I doubt that he had web designers in mind when he wrote this song…
Gratitude flower
Wow, this ended up much longer than I intended – sorry about that! But what can I say? There’s a lot to be thankful for!

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Image by KisforCalligraphy (top), Olive Talique (middle) and Creativity+, all via Flickr Creative Commons

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Short Trips: The Best Cure For What Ails You?

Posted on 07. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

Feeling homesick? Wondering if your host country will ever feel like home?

Fight fire with fire: take a short trip!

No, I haven’t lost my mind. I know you may feel that the last thing you need right now is yet more travel and commotion. Yet a little road trip is exactly what the doctor ordered, as it will help you:

Pyramid Mountain framed by a bridge


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Road Trips – They’re The Best!

Posted on 05. Oct, 2009 by in Blog, Expat Life, Musings & Inspiration

I just came back from a glorious road trip to Seattle, complete with a Sex Pistols sing-along in the car, a rockin’ Loaded show in Capitol Hill and an epic attempt at siphoning gas out of our own tank (don’t ask!)

If this post sounds more rambling than usual, that may be due to lack of sleep, residual giddiness at seeing one of my favourite musicians on stage again after a 17-year wait (!), or the overall feeling of adventure and lightheartedness that, to me, goes hand-in-hand with a road trip.

If you’re suffering from the dreaded expat slump, if you want to expand your horizons or if you just need something to put a bit of excitement back in your life, pick a destination, hop in the car and go on an adventure!

Road trips are a fantastic way to create lasting memories of your host country. You’ll fondly remember them years after you’ve moved on to your next assignment. And if you’re settled for the long haul, there’s nothing like a little jaunt to a nearby region – or country! – to remind yourself why you became an expat in the first place. Give yourself a rejuvenating shot of travel, discovery and anticipation!

Have a safe drive, and don’t forget to pack good music for the road…

The call of the wide open road

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Image by Wolfgang Staudt, via Flickr Creative Commons

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