Tag Archives: friendship

Every one of us is made up of layers and layers of experience. Our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our success and failures and our dreams and nightmares are all part of who we are.

For those of us who live a globally mobile lifestyle, those layers are further complicated by the fact that we can be one person in one place and an entirely different person in another. Or, at least, it can often feel that way.

I hear this so often from my coaching clients. One of the most common expat feelings is the sense that some of our most cherished personal qualities get buried under the stress and anxiety of moving from place to place. Alternatively, some of the parts of ourselves that we most desire to change, end up sticking around because let’s face it – doing our personal work is hard even if we stay in one place.

But with practice and dedication, we can learn to reveal more of our layers. As we do this, we begin to live more as our complete selves which, in turn, can help us feel more secure, confident and fulfilled – even if we’re moving around a lot!

Here are just a few ways some of my most successful clients have learned to honor their multi-layered selves:

  • They take time to find out what those layers are. Make a list of the keys areas of your life. I like to include these 7 areas: emotional, spiritual, professional, social, intellectual, practical/physical environment and health. For each of these areas, write down some of your most important needs, priorities or values.
  • They practice saying, “I am…”. I am a writer, I am an artist, I am a poet, I am a runner, etc. Do you have a passion or skill that you feel shy about sharing? That’s normal, but with practice comes acceptance – from yourself and from those around you.
  • They tell people what they’re working on. Whether it’s something you’re proud of or something you’re hoping to change – don’t keep it a secret! Getting trusted companions involved in our growth helps us feel accountable to the changes we’re hoping to make and it reveals layers that may not always be evident to the outside world.
  • They share stories. Story telling is a great way to learn more about the complex layers of our lives and it also helps others (especially when we’re making new friends in a new place) see how dynamic we really are.
  • They commit to being a good friend. One of the best ways that we learn about ourselves is to invest in relationships. Taking time to honor the people around us enables us to bring forth our best selves. Read here for some of my favorite skills of socially adaptable expats.
  • They ask a lot of questions...and then they ask again. All the time - to themselves and to others. They get really, really curious.
  • They know that the things they love are not frivolous or silly. If you have a unique interest of hobby, recognize that this interest is a key part of making you feel like yourself and then find people with whom you can share this interest.
  • They stop shrugging. This is so common! I do it all the time! When we have something special to share, when we receive a compliment, when we have the opportunity to open up – we often do it with a shrug of the shoulders. In an effort not to standout, we hide behind the shrug. Instead – square your shoulders and go for it! Own up to all the layers of yourself!
  • They never stop growing! Give yourself space to revisit things that are working well for you and areas in which you feel stuck. Get help when you need it. Remember – you’re always a work in progress – layer after layer, year after year.

Living a globally mobile lifestyle doesn’t have to be an excuse for staying in one place on the inside. Your layers are amazing – let them show!

Last year, in the space of 9 months, we lost my step-dad and both of my maternal grandparents. They were all people who’s influence in my life cannot be overstated.

You know those people who say or do something and you go back to it forever? The people whose words you access when you’re struggling with a decision? The individuals whose embrace, quiet reflection or gentle laugh brings you home even when you don’t know where you are?

Even some of their tiny, little throw-away sentences, things they probably would not even remember having said, now have permanent real estate in my brain. “I can’t really get on board with hell because I know some really nice Hindus,” or “I wouldn’t worry about it. You were dating. That’s what dating’s for.” I’ve filed them all away for reference. Small things may even have become the guiding force of my views on big things like love and spirituality.

I hold on to the fact that if I close my eyes I can still hear their voices. In that sense, they’re not really lost. Of course this means no hugs. But they’re not gone. Mostly I just refuse to believe that they are. I can still know them. Because of the millions of words exchanged between us over most of four decades I can still hear their responses to specific situations. It’s like my own secret panel of advisors.

This is kind of true for all my friends in far off places too. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not completely different either. There are moments when I know a dear friend is sleeping in her corner of the globe. I won’t wake her, but I know what she’d say and what she’d do if she were here. She (the many, many she’s all over) has her own stock of advice that I need to take and embraces that I need to accept. She’s another member of this invisible panel of advisors collected in my deepest thoughts.

And come to think of it – this isn’t just about the people either. All the little rincones of the globe hold their reflections that guide me too. I bet it’s the same for you. When you walk outside in Japan, sometimes you think, “This day feels like Madagascar.” Each place we’ve been has a reflection, a memory, some words of wisdom locked away to guide us.

We move to all these places and we meet all these people, but they don’t leave us.

We close our eyes and we can tread the same path from the fruit stand back to the office without even thinking. We hear the same car sounds and smell the same mix of exhaust and sea and in those moments all the things we learned come rushing back. The one thing she said that day, in the car, in the summer of 1984 that changed your whole perspective of the world. A clink of a glass, the scent of a loved one’s perfume, the feel of someone’s hand in your own – each little memory deepens the map in your mind that leads you back to wisdom.

So it’s not all lost, just a little bit different.

Just because you go from place to place doesn’t make you lost either, maybe just a little bit different.

There’s a lot of wisdom stored in those mental maps you’ve collected. Go ahead. Close your eyes and find it.

 

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Yesterday I hosted a Global Entrepreneurship Week Women’s Networking Coffee. These Pop-Up  GEW Events are supported by the Mumpreneur’s Networking Club of the UK.

It was an incredible honor and a true pleasure to host 10 fabulous women in my home. Over coffee and cookies we supported each other, strategized and came together in the spirit of community.

The experience was remarkable for the wide range of offerings brought by the participants. While each individual represented different stages in the entrepreneurial process, the unique contributions of each participant created a deep sense of intellectual and creative movement. You could feel it in the room. It was inspiring! I was reminded, as I often am when sharing in conversation with smart, talented, thoughtful women, how affirming it is to connect in this way with others.

I feel confident that connections were made, projects inspired, meetings planned and inspirations sparked! I cannot wait to hear more about where these women go from here.

And, I am excited to share a little about each of them with you. All of the women are currently living in Tokyo, but many are open to working with people outside Tokyo and Japan.

Be sure to check out all they’re up to! Get in touch if you see someone you know would be a good collaborator, teacher, mentor or friend! And of course - don't forget to check out their services and products!

Nathalie Lim – A photographer. Website and Facebook.

Jennifer Shinkai –A facilitator and coach who helps people to create and communicate change in their professional lives. Jennifer also runs the Lean In Japan Creating Change Chapter and much of her work focuses on developing female leaders in Japan. Website, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Amanda Chehrezad – The creator of Finding Fair – a website bringing together thinkers looking at the question, “What is fair?”

Bridgette Clark - A business development professional and consultant. Find her on LinkedIn here.

Stephanie Corrigan – A Beauty Counter independent distributor. Website and Facebook.

Raquel Maia – A health coach and trainer. Website.

Eva Sol – painter and artist. Website.

Melanie Uematsu – Founder of Sewing Circle in Tokyo and fashion designer. Website.

Ann-Katrin Van schie – Yoga instructor and blogger at At Ease and More. She focuses on helping expats overcome the challenges of a nomadic lifestyle so that they may feel "at ease" again. Website and Facebook.

Angela Stewart – artist, designer and seamstress. More contact info coming soon.

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Think about all the times you had something you wanted to share and you held back. It could have been that small, but big-to-you victory. Maybe it was the bad day at work that came out of nowhere. Maybe it was the time you felt overwhelmed, lost, rejected…or completely thrilled with the path before you.

We do that, don’t we? Keep things in when we know they’d be so much better shared with and supported by someone else.

One of the biggest benefits of growing into the person you want to be, is accepting that talking it out with a friend is always, always one of the best places you can go to make sense of whatever it is you’re facing.

Talking out our troubles with friends doesn’t always erase our pain or free us from our challenges, but it gives us a completely new lens from which to see what’s there before us.

Sometimes this is harder for people who move around a lot. But, it doesn’t have to be. Deeper connection comes from taking the leap to share with others. As expats we’re often forced to dive into relationships very quickly. Rather than worrying about who we will scare off, I think we benefit from focusing on who we’ll grow closer to.

But there is no doubt it can be difficult. Even when we know the benefits of fully and honestly connecting, the hesitation we feel about reaching out and the old belief that we shouldn’t bother people with our problems (or brag about our successes) can be hard to overcome.

It occurs to me that sometimes all we need is the very first step and when it comes to talking it out with our friends – the very first step involves…well…talking.

It can be as simple as saying (or texting):

“Are you free to talk?”

“I’m celebrating! Join me for a drink?”

“Have a minute?”

“I could use an ear, are you free?”

“I’d love to bounce something off you, can I give you a call?”

“Are you free for coffee? I could really use a friend to talk to?”

“I don’t want to feel like I’m unloading on you, but I could really use someone to talk to. Are you free?”

Yes – that is actually just a list of words to get you started. It's totally something you could have come up with on your own. But – it is both not-rocket-science and totally overwhelming at times. Having that list up there is my way of reminding you that you already have the tools...you just gotta' use them. If you’ve been struggling to connect – take a minute to imagine what would happen if you committed to using one (just one) of these in the next few days.

Write down your favorite phrase. Use the ones above to plan out your own words to get you started. Practice in the mirror if you have to.

And then, whether it’s a major accomplishment or a tiny, little, barely-there frustration – go ahead and reach out.

You won't regret it!

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American Thanksgiving is on our doorstep! I am not ashamed to say how much I love the ritual of food and family and friends and taking a moment to say thank you for what the year has brought.

I love the harvest imagery and the chill of the impending winter. I love the fact that really all you have to do is eat and say thank you…whatever that looks like to you.

I find that even in difficult times and at the end of really hard years, the ritual of Thanksgiving has become for me a way to slow down and truly take time to count my blessings.

I also love the opportunity it gives to reflect on the traditions and ritual of expressing gratitude and what it means for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

I recently read this really nice article in the New York Times. The author highlights the importance of expressing gratitude as a way to feel more connected to the people, places and situations you encounter. He stresses that this isn’t about false happiness, but rather recognizing the things for which you feel grateful even during the times when you feel sad, lonely, lost or broken. It may be easier said than done for some, but he sites some interesting research on the point.

I imagine this is a bit like looking at people who see the glass-half-full versus those who tend to view it as half-empty. We all face difficult times (some of us face unimaginable difficulty and tragedy), but it is true that some people seem more capable, or at least more skillful, at recognizing the things for which they can be thankful regardless of their situation.

But what about those times when you’re not feeling grateful? Is it possible to learn to practice gratitude, to get better at saying thank you? And, if you do, what does that mean for your life? This article is a great starting point for understanding the science behind gratitude and the effects it can have on your life. But sometimes, I think, it's just good to start at the beginning and simply start saying (or showing) thanks.

I love finding new and creative ways to show gratitude and appreciation. There are tons of fun ideas out here. To get you started in your own journey, check out my favorites below. Do you use any of these? What are your favorite ways to say thanks? Then, scroll down for links to even more creative and inspiring ways to bring a little more gratitude and thanksgiving into your every day life.

My Favorite Ways to Say Thanks:

  • Say thank you for the small stuff. We all have our every day responsibilities – taking out the trash, preparing dinner, loading the dishwasher, paying the bills. But just because these things are requirements doesn’t mean we can’t say thank you to the people in our lives who take care of them (or that we wouldn’t appreciate a thank you in return). Make it habit to say thank you daily to your kids, your spouse or partner, your work colleagues, your barista, you waitress…
  • Keep a mental list of your friends’ favorite things. The best gifts are rarely big and expensive – they are simple, thoughtful and spot-on. Gift-giving is a classic way to express gratitude, but when we really notice others we are able to say thank you with a token of our appreciation that is more than just a check box. So, make mental list or write down things you want to remember. When it’s time to say thank you, you’ll know just the small, but perfect way to do it.
  • Put it in writing. I am a huge fan of sending a card, but there’s nothing wrong with an email, a Facebook message or a text. Set aside time regularly to send thank you notes even for the smallest things – including a simple message to say, “Thank you for being you.”
  • Create traditions with your friends and family. We think of traditions often during holidays, but the truth is traditions can be a part of our lives at any time of year. When we work together with our loved ones to do things that are important to each of us we send the message, through effort, pre-planning and remembering, that the people around us matter and that we’re grateful for the role they play in our lives.
  • Share stories and ask questions. Showing interest in the experiences of the people in your life demonstrates that you value and appreciate their presence and that you’re willing to invest in cultivating a deeper relationship. Here’s a great list to get your started on this one!

These are my favorites, but there’s no need to stop there! Check out other awesome (and super creative) ways to say thank you here, here and here.

10 Best Habits of Socially Adaptable Expats (2)

Whenever we transition to a new place I find myself continually amazed at how adaptable to new social situations the typical expat is. I’m certain that not everyone is an extrovert or 100% comfortable in large groups or even small coffees, but I do see people, repeatedly, stretching the limits of their comfort zones in an effort to make new friends.

I think most people, especially those for whom this extroversion doesn’t come naturally, have to practice at it. Most of us probably start out completely overwhelmed, but little by little we learn what works for us and we find ways to meet and greet and form friendships in ways that we wouldn’t have done if we’d never left the comforts of our home countries.

But what is it that makes someone easy to get to know? Why is it that some people seem to move so seamlessly into conversations with others? What skills do the most adaptable expats employ in conversations with new people that solidify their chances of turning a casual conversation into a lasting relationship?

In my experience, the most adaptable expats approach new relationships with a combination of the following 10 skills. Which ones do you use? Which ones do you think you’re ready to add to your personal tool kit?

  1. Make a habit of being curious about other people. There’s nothing quite like knowing that other people are interested in what makes you tick. When you ask people about themselves, it’s a compliment. So while you’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell your story, make sure to take time to get the scoop on someone else’s journey as well.
  1. Be self-deprecating. Moving is hard. Transitioning from place to place can leave us feeling overwhelmed, scattered, lost and alone. Even the most skilled expats struggle from time to time. Being able to admit your faults, failures and discomforts shows your potential friends that you’re human and that makes you more approachable.
  1. Be honest, but tactful. When you’re meeting new people, they are trying to feel you out, get to know you and understand what you’re all about. And, of course, you’re doing the same to them. It’s normal that you will have some interests that overlap and others that differ. There’s no need to pretend you like or are interested in something that you’re not. So, be honest…but remember, be mindful of making your differing perspective seem like a criticism of your new friend’s preferences.
  1. Think of the other person’s feelings. It comes quite naturally to most of us to ask people about the practical aspects of their lives – When did you arrive? What type of work do you do? Do you have children? However, many of us struggle with the more personal questions we need to ask in order to build relationships. How are you hanging in? Are you missing home? Are you feeling stressed? People who develop the skills necessary to comfortably ask more personal questions are laying the groundwork for stronger and deeper friendships.
  1. Say something complimentary. You are going to meet people with whom you have very little in common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be nice. When you meet someone, be on the look out for the things that impress you about that person. Make sure to share your impressions with the people you’re getting to know. Everyone likes to know they’ve been noticed and sharing your positive impressions helps people recognize that they’ve truly been seen.
  1. Follow-up. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of the transition process. We meet so many people in the first few weeks we’re in a new place. Countless times we say things like, “We should get together,” or “Let’s grab coffee sometime.” Expats don’t have the luxury of letting these invitations go. So, if someone strikes you as being an ideal new friend – take a couple of minutes to email, call or text him or her. Don’t let the opportunity to deepen your relationship pass you by.
  1. Say “yes,” to invitations or offer alternatives. Try to say yes to as much as you can – especially in the first few weeks. Of course, it’s incredibly important to make sure you allow plenty of alone time to adjust at your own pace, but saying yes to outings or activities once or twice a week can be a great chance to strengthen new relationships. If you’re genuinely not interested in the activity (like, say, scuba diving), suggest an alternative (“Hey! I’ll happily sit on the boat and drink beer while you dive in that shark infested water!”).
  1. Branch out from “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” Challenge yourself to come up with new and creative questions that will stand out and make your interaction memorable. Jot them down somewhere, commit them to memory and be prepared to practice them in new social settings.
  1. Use social media to find like-minded individuals. I think one of the most exciting changes to living as an expat, has been social media. When I studied abroad for the first time in 1997, there was no Internet, no Facebook and no Twitter. Now you can get to know people even before you arrive in a new country! It’s a great way to start to put a face to your name and begin the process of seeing whom you might connect with once you get where you’re going.
  1. Know yourself and be confident in what you have to offer in a friendship. I saved the best for last! This is the most important one. People who really know themselves and who are confident about who they are, are easier to trust, easier to get to know and usually easier to be around. Make a habit of personal reflection. If this is a struggle for you – seek the support of a coach, read self-help books that can help you learn the skills you need, practice journaling or talk with friends and family who know you best and who can help you in learning more about yourself.

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Just ask...

I love the New York Times Modern Love column. If you’re also a fan, you may have seen Mandy Len Catron’s piece – To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This. In the essay, she talks about a study in which strangers ask each other 36 questions. The New York Times reports that the study, by psychologist Arthur Aron, is designed to see if feelings of love can be accelerated.

The original piece was so popular that the New York Times published the list of questions and now is offering a free app to help people answer the questions with a partner.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how much I love lists of questions. So, you can imagine, when I first saw the article I thought, “How fun! Maybe we should do that.” Despite the fact that I’m already in love with my husband (going on 17 years!) I thought it could be kind of cool to go through the questions together. But then I forgot about it.

However, last weekend, after wrapping up the dinner portion of our date night and deciding to head over to our favorite coffee house for a little dessert and decaf, I remembered the questions. We decided to give it a go.

We started off rather casually. We already know each other so well. But as we got deeper and deeper into the list, something happened. We started to answer the questions in a whole new way. Often we started off saying, “Well, you already know this but…” Then we found ourselves adding layers of thought and emotion to the stories that maybe we hadn’t previously considered.

Having each other’s undivided attention, we began to tease out the hidden feelings behind some of our responses. Our respective “worst memory ever” and “most embarrassing moment ever” became almost like new stories. More than just facts now, they were filled with new insight and new reflections.

It really was an incredible experience. We feel like we share everything and yet I know we both completed the questions feeling like we expressed thoughts, ideas and emotions that we hadn’t previously voiced. More than once we teared up. More than once we told each other something we hadn’t said before.

What we did most of all was listen, reflect, respond and reach out to each other. We don’t technically need a list of 36 questions to do that, but somehow the questions provided an additional layer of focused task and permission. Our life is full – with work and 3 kids and moving all over the world. The questions removed us a bit from the day to day. They were about us and they enabled us to focus completely on each other.

Most of the time it feels impossible to give our undivided attention to our friends and loved ones. Even those of us who truly try to, still fall short. But what a nice reminder these questions were. When we ask and then wait for a response, we have the power to deepen our relationships tremendously.

I highly recommend checking out the article and spending some time with the questions and someone you want to know better...or someone you already love. You may find you learn something you never knew about him or her...or even about yourself.

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Soul Mates...

This article was originally published on Expat Bookshop - a great resource for finding expat-focused, expat-friendly, and expat-written books.

She took the words right out of my mouth. We laughed. Then five minutes later I finished her sentence. Then we laughed again and really made eye contact.

This wasn’t an old friend – someone I’d known since childhood and with whom I’d shared countless hours (although those women do exist in my life). This was a new person. A new person who lives like me (here and there and everywhere) who just happened to be one of my friend soul mates. She is a person who, if I were to have stayed in one place, I never would have met. Ever.

That always kind of scares me. What if we had never met? What if someone else had taken my place? What if someone else were to have taken hers in my heart?

Of course, after almost 20 years of going from home to home, I know there’s nothing to worry about. We would have met, or not, but one thing is certain, we would have both found other soul mates. We each have found other soul mates. There are a lot of us.

You know that question where they ask which 10 people, living or dead, you would invite to a dinner party? I love that question. Since becoming an expat I play it in my head. Only instead of famous people, I list all my soul mates from all over the world. My big fantasy is that their paths could cross. That they would know each other. That they would make new soul mate friends with a person they would never have met in the real world. But, of course, they will never meet because some people’s paths will indeed never intersect.

Is this a good fantasy or a waste of time?

Perhaps if I were rich, it would be a good fantasy. Maybe I’d hold a lottery and the top winners of the drawing would earn an all-expenses-paid trip to a Caribbean island where all of my soul mates would get to know each other. Maybe we’d plan yearly trips to New York City, or Paris, or Hong Kong where we’d shop and eat and drink and laugh and cry knowing that we were meant to be together all along. It sounds slightly overindulgent just to think about it. Pure fantasy.

Then again, maybe it’s simply a good mental exercise.

I don’t find I’m longing for the impossible. I know that I can probably never make this happen. But what I do find is that this leaves me hopeful for the relationships that are yet to begin in someplace new. Finding these friends opens my eyes. It makes me look at people and see who they are – the parts they hold close and the parts they lay all out. It reminds me there’s potential in every person. Honestly, it reminds me that there’s potential in me. Bad days will come, but we’re no less worthy of being seen. Of being loved. Of being someone’s new soul mate.

So as we keep rolling around the world, each new home provides the opportunity to connect and to find someone who truly “gets” us. It ends up being not just our world that gets bigger, but our hearts too. We open them up so wide to take in all these new people. And the wider and fuller and more colorful our hearts become, the more room we leave to gently sooth the ache of goodbye when it comes.

When it always comes.

 

Expat Life with a Double Buggy