This feels foreign to me: a talk with Lisa La Valle-Finan

As Globiana’s Cross Cultural Adaptation Lead and as a former expat herself, Lisa La Valle-Finan has a wealth of knowledge and personal experience on the topic of culture shock. Here, she explains what it is and how it feels, and she shares some of her own personal insights about what it was like to cope as an American expat in Greece, the UK and Spain.

One of the biggest challenges she experienced as a result of culture shock was not being able to express herself fully because of the Greek language barrier. She says: “The combined barrier of not being able to express myself, along with the unfamiliar surroundings, made me feel like a child again. At times, I felt exhausted because I had to parse my words and explain so much.”

Language is a known trigger of culture shock. Having to express yourself and understand your surroundings in a language you don’t have full command of can make you feel disoriented, frustrated, and bottled up. Lisa figured out pretty quickly that it was important to find support in her own language, to share her thoughts and feelings with someone who shared the same cultural references. She also realized that learning the local language would be key to truly adapting to her new environment.

In Lisa’s experience, learning a foreign language and feeling at home in a new culture go hand in hand. Taking a language class is a good start, but the best way to learn is to listen, absorb, and speak. She suggests: “The sooner you let go and learn it, the sooner you will adjust. The foreign will feel more familiar, that much faster.” Of course, as an adult, this is easier said than done. There are many inhibitions to overcome and for a trailing spouse for example, there may not be that many natural opportunities.

In general, the transition tends to be easier for younger children who naturally immerse at school and for the employed spouse, where the workplace offers opportunities to practice and immerse. For teenagers, the process can be trickier. Teenagers have a strong need to fit in and when you don’t speak the language, then that’s a flag that you’re not from around here! In Lisa’s coaching experience, teenagers do adjust quickly once they get over the initial language barrier. The transition is often the hardest on the trailing spouse.

It is a natural instinct to call on family and friends when we’re feeling blue or lonesome. However, it can be difficult to talk about how and why you’re struggling. You’re supposed to be on this big adventure, having the time of your life so there’s a little bit of reluctance to be honest and open. Lisa says: “Let’s face it, living abroad is complicated, exhilarating, and exhausting all at the same time and your ‘expat problems’ may not be met with true understanding by your loved ones. In fact, they probably won’t get it, at all.”

When Lisa was living as an expat, she wrote a lot of letters to communicate with friends and family. These letters turned out to be a kind of ‘field notes therapy’. They evolved into a valuable tool she relied on to express her thoughts and feelings. It may sound ‘old-timey’, but when you think about it, it’s really just a precursor to the blog and it’s an effective tool that coaches recommend. Globiana coaches have given you a space to “journal” in most of their courses for this exact reason. Try it!

Culture shock is definitely going to happen and anticipating it will increase your ability to cope and adapt. One more thing to be aware of, culture shock doesn’t really happen as abruptly as the term implies. In fact, it’s more of a process with different stages that starts before you leave home, and lasts until well after the return. It is impossible to prepare fully for expatriation. To some degree, it will always be a leap of faith. Lisa says: “It’s good to be aware that change is hard, that moving to a new country is hard. But, if you can let yourself ‘experience the experience’ and feel ok with not being in control, that may be how you will achieve the most satisfying personal growth. The most joyous experience may be the one you least expect.”

Learn more about Lisa La Valle-Finan’s culture course here.

Expat Partners: Meet Your New City Through the Local Language

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Of the many challenges that an expat partner faces through the course of relocation, there is no one clear champion. Different individuals react differently when they are confronted by the myriad move-related tasks and circumstances that are not just bothersome and uncomfortable, but often painful.

Yet when the relocation dust settles and the partner has a chance to reflect and assess his/her feelings, we frequently hear about the physical and social isolation as the biggest pain point.

Research has shown that learning the local language, or at least taking the first steps to learning it, is an effective and easy way to adapt to a new culture. It gets you on a clear path toward starting to bring down the cultural barrier and finding your new social environment. It seems obvious that during the relocation experience, an ability to communicate will be key to feeling connected, both locally and globally.

So why is it that expat spouses, who dedicate endless energy to supporting the employee through the transition, and helping the kids get settled in and get connected to their new life, often ignore this important step for themselves?

Is it lack of time?  This is typically not the primary obstacle, since most expat spouses are unable to join the workforce in their new location, and are often searching for something to do once the initial move-related flurry of activity dies down. Is it lack of resources or access? Not really! There are a host of options waiting to be utilized: from English-as-Second-Language classes on a budget, to private tutors, to online courses and state-of-the-art corporate learning tools. Not least, an environment where native speakers are all around you is ideal for learning a foreign language.

Could the real reason simply be fear? One’s innate human insecurity may be heightened by the experience of being away from all that is familiar, safe, and normal. We are afraid of being misunderstood because we don’t follow the meaning behind cryptic idioms and slang terms, while we struggle to express simple ideas. We are afraid of making mistakes with a bad accent or the wrong pronunciation, or of using an incorrect word or conjugation and appearing dumb. We are afraid of being different: thought of as odd, strange, and foreign.

The most successful expats are those who are fearless. I remember my shock (backed by a rather decent command of English since my early teens) at a friend who showed up in London with about 100 English words in his vocabulary and would engage in every conversation he could get into. People raised their eyebrows at his absolute mutilation of the language. He often totally failed to get his point across, yet he connected with people. Over and over again and within a year he had a city full of friends and he was fluent. This recipe never fails. Try it for a day and let us know how it went.

Step out! Lean into being different. Take the language challenge. People are curious about newcomers. Embrace your accent. Gather every word you know and start engaging. It is easy to make connections in America. Speaking to a complete stranger is almost always acceptable and perceived as friendly. Speak to the server at your local café, to the lady in the grocery store checkout line, and to your spouse’s co-worker at a social event. Make time to meet with other relocated accompanying partners through local and company-sponsored spouse networks, and practice speaking together.

You will discover that the world is waiting to meet you. With a smile, and a myriad of accents of its own.

Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to the Bay Area

I arrived at SFO at the end of July 2014 on a direct flight from my hometown, Calgary, Canada. I was excited, mostly because I felt like I was going on a hot summer vacation. After a few months, excitement turned to insecurity, confusion, irritation and sadness. Now, almost 12 months later I’m feeling at home. I’d be lying if I said I feel 100% content living in the Bay Area and want to stay here forever, but I am slowly putting down roots again: I’ve made some friends, I’ve found some fulfilling volunteer work, I’ve gotten my driver’s license, I’ve learned to get from my apartment to a few places without a GPS, I’ve figured out where to find bread crumbs at my grocery store – you know, the important things.

I thought as my very first blog post on Globiana, I would share 12 things that I have learned in the 12 months that I’ve been living in the Bay Area.

  1. Always make a DMV appointment whenever possible. You will feel special going to the VIP line and while I can’t promise your DMV experience won’t be frustrating, confusing and fulfilling – at least you didn’t waste five hours.
  2. Search “Caltrain” on Twitter before leaving the house to see if anyone is reporting any delays.
  3. While the red bullet trains on Caltrain may be faster, you are more likely to get a seat on a yellow limited stop train in exchange for 10 minutes of your day.
  4. The Great Mall in Milpitas is a discount shopping mall. I did not know this for months after I arrived. It still bothers me that I paid full price for some new summer clothes when I could have gone to a different mall and received 50% off everything.
  5. You can get anything delivered to your door in the Bay Area. Seriously. There are so many start ups here that cater to your every need. PurpleTie, Munchery, DoorDash, GrubHub, Farm Fresh to You, Instacart, Amazon, Google Shopping Express, Stitchfix, Uber, Lyft are just a few. There are also so many promos out there just to try any of these services – so let a venture capitalist treat you to a free meal.
  6. Even though people pronounce it “Beta Breakers”, this annual event in SF is not, in fact, a big hacker convention. It is actually called “Bay to Breakers” and is a race that winds its way through San Francisco – starting at the Bay and ending where the waves break on Ocean beach. Maybe I’m the only one who made this mistake?
  7. You don’t have to drive to Napa to taste great wines. There are a bunch of wineries in the hills by Cupertino!
  8. I now have an enormous vocabulary pertaining to dietary restrictions. #organic #conventional #GMO #nonGMO #toxins #paleo #local #vegan #raw #glutenfree #dairyfree #soyfree #nutfree #vegetarian #shamanblessed. I may never be able to host a dinner party that pleases everyone.
  9. When scheduling anything, it is critical to take traffic into account. Never schedule anything that you need to drive to on the freeways for 6 pm.
  10. There is no such thing as a cheap apartment.
  11. I can finally wear the “winter wear” as seen in fashion magazines. Scarves! Leather jackets! Heeled boots! (No one has ever survived a Canadian winter wearing heeled boots).
  12. 1/20 people you meet on the street is Canadian. Yup, you read that right. There are over 350,000 of us in the Bay Area. You can’t avoid us. We will find you and be nice to you. There are a lot of expat communities from all over the world based in the Bay Area. Globiana can help you connect with them.

About the author:

Heather Dunphy-Nielsen is a Canadian transplant from Calgary, Alberta. She and her husband live in Mountain View, California. Heather fills her days writing, reading, blogging, learning, volunteering, cooking, cleaning, meeting new friends, and looking at pictures of dogs she wants to adopt. Heather has a Master’s of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Calgary. Her thesis focused on Harry Potter fans. Since moving to California, she has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership from Carleton University.

Global Dexterity – Easier Said Than Done

Picture the following: Greg O’Leary, a 32-year-old mid-level manager, is in Shanghai for the first time to negotiate a critical deal with a distributor. To prepare himself for the trip, Greg has learned some key cultural differences between China and the U.S. — about how important deference and humility are in Chinese culture, and how Chinese tend to communicate more indirectly than Americans do. He also has learned about how important it is in China to respect a person’s public image or “face.” Finally, Greg also learned a few Chinese words, which he thought could be good potential icebreakers when starting a meeting.

Greg quickly realizes, however, that learning cultural differences in theory does not always translate into successful behavior in practice. The first problem comes when Greg, who is praised for his “excellent Chinese,” proudly accepts the acknowledgement, not realizing how publicly expressing pride in this way runs counter to the important role of humility in Chinese culture and could come across as arrogant to his Chinese counterparts. He then quickly backtracks and deflects the praise, but feels awkward and clumsy doing so. Next, Greg tries to use a more indirect communication style to impress his colleagues. But here again, Greg struggles. Greg is such a straight shooter by nature that it feels awkward and evasive not to say what he means. He also has no clue how indirect he should be. By the end, it becomes frustrating, and all Greg wants to do is end the conversation.

This situation highlights a challenge that global leaders and managers constantly face in their global work: The way that you need to behave to be effective in a new setting is different from how you’d naturally and comfortably behave in the same situation at home.

I’m sure that this isn’t news to any of you. Many of us have lived, worked, or studied abroad, and if you haven’t, you’ve certainly read one of the many books or articles describing cultural differences. But what these books don’t tell you is that learning about differences across cultures is only a first step toward effective cultural adaptation, and if all you do is learn differences, you will likely suffer the same fate as Greg. It’s not only the differences that most people need to understand to be effective in foreign cultural interactions: It’s global dexterity, the ability to adapt or shift behavior in light of these cultural differences. And that’s something that’s often easier said than done.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s often very difficult to perform behaviors you aren’t used to, even if you have an intellectual understanding of what these behaviors are supposed to be. From my work interviewing and working with hundreds of professionals from a wide range of different countries and cultures, I find that it is very common to feel awkward, inauthentic, or even resentful when trying to adapt behavior overseas. And when you have such strong internal reactions to adapting cultural behavior, your external performance can suffer. The negative feelings can leak into your performance and make you look awkward or unnatural. They can also cause you to want to avoid these situations altogether — in a similar way that by the end of Greg’s conversation, he just wanted it to end.

Read the full article here

This post was generously provided by our partners at   

About the Author: Andy Molinsky is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Brandeis International Business School. He is the author of the book Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process (HBR Press, 2013).

5 Tips on Alleviating the Expat Tax Stress

Ah, that wonderful time of the year is upon us—tax season! While you might be dreading the process of filing your US tax return, we are here to give you some tips to make it a bit less ‘taxing’! Here’s a look at the top 5 things you need to know before you file your 2014 tax return.

  1. US expats get an automatic extension.

While the official US tax deadline is April 15th, expats get an automatic 2-month extension to June 15th. However, if you will owe US taxes (which the majority of expats do not), these taxes need to be paid by April 15th or penalties/interest will begin to accrue. So while you have extra time to prepare your US taxes, getting a jump on it and filing early will alert you to any taxes owed and help you avoid unnecessary penalties.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to complete your taxes by June 15th, you can file for an extension until October 15th. Just make sure to file for that before June 15th! Another reason to file for an extension is if you need extra time to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion via the Physical Presence test. This residency test requires that you are physically present inside a foreign country for 330 of any 365-day period. If you moved overseas mid-year and will qualify by the extension date, it’s definitely worth your while to do so. You could offset most or all of your US tax liability with that one exclusion.

  1. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion can be a huge tax-saver.

As mentioned above, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) can help offset or even eliminate your US tax liability (depending on your foreign income). In 2014, the FEIE was $99,200—meaning you can reduce your taxable income by $99,200. (This jumps to $100,800 for the 2015 tax year!)

Remember, however, that the FEIE can only be used on foreign-sourced income. Foreign earned income is income you receive for services you perform in a foreign country during a period your tax home is in a foreign country. Types of income that qualify are:

  • Salary
  • Wages
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Tips

Income that would not qualify includes:

  • Dividends
  • Interest
  • Capital gains
  • Pensions
  • Alimony
  • Social Security
  • Annuities

If you choose to use the FEIE, it’s important to note that it is not automatic. You need to elect it by filing Form 2555 (or 2555-EZ if you aren’t planning to use the Foreign Housing Exclusion).

  1. You may need to file FBAR.

FBAR, Foreign Bank Account Report, must be filed if your foreign bank account(s) reach a balance of $10,000 or more during the tax year. This is an aggregate amount, so if you have more than one account, you would total the balances of all accounts—if the amount totaled meets or exceeds $10,000, you must report all the accounts.

Penalties for failing to file FBAR if required can be steep, thanks to a renewed effort by the US to pursue US taxpayers who may be hiding money abroad.

FBAR must be filed by June 30th each year—and no extensions are available. It is not filed along with your US tax return. You submit your FBAR electronically to the US Treasury Department via Form FinCEN 114. (For details on how to file FinCEN 114, see this article.)

  1. FATCA may not impact you at all.

uncle-sam-304887_1280There has been much discussion in the media about FATCA and its global impact. In short, FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) is designed to uncover tax cheats hiding money in offshore accounts. Expats are an unintended ‘victim’ of this legislation, as you simply must have money in an offshore account because you live there! While there are reports of Americans having difficulties banking because foreign banks are choosing not to work with American clients, these reports aren’t widespread. So despite its bad reputation, FATCA may not impact you at all!

So who needs to file FATCA Form 8938? Those living abroad must file FATCA if their specified foreign assets exceed the following thresholds:

  • Single filers: Value of accounts on the last day of the tax year exceed $200,000, or $300,000 at any point during the year
  • Married filing jointly: Value of accounts on the last day of the tax year exceed $400,000, or $600,000 at any point during the year

Note that the thresholds are lower for those living in the US.

What are specified foreign assets, you ask? Here is the IRS’ list:

  • Stock or securities issued by a foreign corporation;
  • A note, bond or debenture issued by a foreign person;
  • An interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty;
  • An option or other derivative instrument with respect to any of these examples or with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer;
  • A partnership interest in a foreign partnership;
  • An interest in a foreign retirement plan or deferred compensation plan;
  • An interest in a foreign estate;
  • Any interest in a foreign-issued insurance contract or annuity with a cash-surrender value.

Form 8938 is filed along with your US tax return, so if you file for an extension, this extension extends to your FATCA filing. If you are confused about the differences between FBAR and FATCA, you aren’t alone. This infographic should help explain it a bit better!

  1. There’s no need to panic if you are behind on your US tax filings.

Many expats never knew they needed to file a US tax return while living abroad and the IRS actually understands this. So if you are behind on your US taxes, you have a great option to get caught up, thanks to the IRS amnesty program, the Streamlined Filing Procedures.

purse-522622_1280Under the Streamlined Procedures, expats simply need to file their last 3 years’ tax returns and last 6 years’ of FBARs (if required). Right now, the IRS has waived all late filing and FBAR penalties so you truly can become compliant without serious financial implications.

This program has no end date so it could terminate at any time. We recommend that you get caught up sooner rather than later—you don’t want the IRS to contact you about your taxes. Once that happens, you are ineligible for the Streamlined Procedures and things could get a lot more expensive!

Arming yourself with information is the key to a successful (and less stressful) tax season!

This post was written by David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services. Greenback specializes in the preparation of US expat tax returns for Americans living abroad. Greenback offers straightforward pricing, a hassle-free process and CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents who have extensive experience in the field of expat tax preparation.
If you’d like Greenback to prepare your US expat tax return, simply click here to get started or visit www.greenbacktaxservices.com for more information.

The Context of American Learning

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Whether you are at home or abroad, choosing the right school is always an important decision for you and your family. These days our futures depend on it more than ever. So, now that you are living in the United States, how can you decide without knowing your options?

In any new context, be prepared for change. You will be experiencing new ways of thinking as you learn how things get done in the USA. It’s not uncommon for newcomers to discover that their child may be up to two years ahead of an American counterpart.

The American school system is child-centered. It’s a model that values what the child thinks rather than the instructor. Your education may have placed an extraordinary value on “Learning” where teachers are highly respected (and well paid). Perhaps yours was rote-based that felt more vertical. In this type of system, there’s a greater power distance between the learner and instructor. Titles and age are also of consequence. Your child may also be comfortable with strict discipline standards.

As you make your way through American public schools, you will begin to see that it values equality. This makes it flat, democratic and participatory. Traditionally, the learner is empowered to be independent and choose what’s important. Student creativity and initiative are important. This model is changing, based on the new Common Core Standards and it is projected that American student academic performance will improve significantly because it will be more rigorous and evidence based.

While the child-centered learning model was advantageous in certain areas, the drawbacks have taken their toll on our national output. Innovation aside, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study determined that American students scored lower compared to their global counterparts (34 other industrialized member countries including Japan, Germany, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom) since the initial surveys were conducted in 2000.

About the Author

Lisa La Valle-Finan leads Cultural Adaptation Support at Globiana. She is  a highly sought-after global expatriate lifecycle consultant, author, and speaker with nearly 25 years of international living experience. She’s sought for her ability to smooth global transitions for executives and their families through “deep culture” workshops. Her industry expertise ranges from publishing and media, to luxury goods, consumer, healthcare, non-profit, and travel.

When the Clock Strikes Twelve…

There is nothing like a fresh start… The sense of renewal we get from turning a page on the calendar and entering a new year is recognized in every culture. Whether it is a family tradition, our sense of humor or an old superstition that makes us do unusual things on New Years Eve, the hope is the same around the globe: the New Year will make our wishes come true and bring us luck. That one night of the year we will eat strange meals, decorate our tables with mystical creatures, kiss strangers, tell fortunes, make impossible resolutions, throw dishes, light up the fireworks and stay up all night dancing. So, no matter where life finds you on this New Years Eve, rejoice in where the journey has taken you, take a long look at the people around you and dare to wish big while the clock is striking twelve. After all, as an old Russian saying goes: “The way you greet the New Year is the way you spend it”. Make it count! Cheers!

Learn more about the Unusual Ways People Celebrate The New Year
 

Lack of Language Skills—Biggest Obstacle for Expats?

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As organisations continue to expand beyond their home markets, they are faced with numerous challenges. While entering a new market is full of risks – whether the organisation goes it alone or collaborates with a local partner – there is much that can be done to minimise these risks. Learning from peers, adjusting your offer to the local culture and navigating the rules of doing business in the new country are just some of the ways that you can reduce the chances of failure.

Equally, any company will stand or fall by its employees. This is particularly true when a company looks to open new markets – be they national or international. Opening a new office, manufacturing plant or joint venture in any new country will inevitably lead to relocating tried and trusted staff to ensure a smooth launch. Equally, more and more companies are using international assignments as part of their employee and graduate development programmes.

It’s All About Speaking the Lingo, Right?

Speaking the LingoWhile millions (if not billions) are spent on new international ventures very little thought or investment is actually given to preparing international assignees to speak the language of the new international market. While the cost of relocating personnel is well documented (as is the cost of repatriating them…), why is it that companies often spend more on relocating a pet than they do on preparing their staff to speak the language of their new customers?

Many organisations make the mistake of thinking that learning the local language is not necessary for the newly arrived expatriate, especially if they will continue to conduct their business in the corporate language, most often English. Unfortunately for organisations with this mindset, expatriates do not spend all 24 hours of each day at the office and not all local employees speak English that well. Equally, they must also integrate with their new country and new community if they are to be a success.

Language learning can be time consuming, exciting and frustrating, especially if the employee is not motivated or has other priorities that they consider to be more pressing. However, forward thinking organisations also consider local language skills to be a necessary tool to improve the chances of the employee and their family settling successfully in their new assignment and home.

Poor Language Skills: Biggest Obstacle to a Successful Assignment

invest-in-language-learningIn a recent article published in The Telegraph, global mobility managers have identified poor or non-existent language learning to be the biggest obstacle to successful expatriate assignments – they believe this to be the case in over three-fifths of all assignments. In addition, the same managers recognise in more than half of all cases, learning the local language is critical to the success of conducting business abroad.

As an example, it would be deemed critical that an employee seconded to China learned Chinese even if English is widely spoken at work.

In other words, local language skills remain crucial to understand the local market, build rapport with colleagues and show and interest in the culture of your new country.

However, just over one third of employees interviewed reported that their organisation provided local language training as a part of their relocation package.

Investing in Language Training Saves Money

Although investing in language lessons may seem expensive on the surface, both in costs measured in time and money, the cost of a failed assignment is even more expensive: An expatriate family’s relocation expenses are quoted to come in at an average of $400,000. This figure is certainly more than most organisations can afford to lose on an otherwise preventable failed assignment.

Can your organisation afford to pay for failure?

Declan Mulkeen is Marketing Director at Communicaid, a culture and communication skills consultancy which provides language training solutions to corporations and professionals.

When Expat Spouses Can’t Adjust, Assignments Fail

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Multinational companies are fast realizing that they need to provide more comprehensive support for expat spouses. When trailing partners don’t get the help they need to transition successfully, international assignments run the risk of being cut short or failing. This has significant costs for the organization: wasted global mobility investment and difficulty attracting and retaining the best global talent. This well-researched BBC article by Ian Driscoll talks about the move-related issues that expat spouses face, the global mobility solutions  commonly used today, and where there are still significant unmet needs.  Globiana’s services are carefully crafted to address exactly these gaps by innovating the when, where, what, and how of effective expat spouse support delivery.

Before Jody Holland arrived in Shanghai in 2011, she and her family attended a two-day cultural immersion course in the UK, arranged and paid for by her husband’s company.

“We were taught business etiquette, how business operates, the importance of titles to people, the meaning of guanxi (the social connections and relationships that underpin much Chinese business activity), and other things we wouldn’t have been able to find out ourselves,”…

Read the full article here on the original site:  You love going abroad for work. Your spouse hates it.

Are you Trailing or Living Your Life?

“It is all in the eyes of the beholder”- No phrase describes the differences in the trailing spouse experiences better. Is following your husband’s career around the globe a perfect recipe for the spot in the “graveyard of ambition” or is it the unique opportunity to live your life to the fullest, discovering your many skills and talents? What is it in your eyes?

My mother was a trailing spouse. She followed my father through Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. She sewed shirts for lepers in Mexico and helped women market their crafts in Colombia. But mainly, as the blogger said, she kept the show on the road.
When there was no doctor to call in up-country Burma, she read Dr Spock and became a doctor. When her children didn’t show up at the airport as scheduled and there were no means of communication, she became a detective, analyzing all the travel possibilities and determining what the outcomes could be eventually meeting the right plane. When she was stranded in Liberia for four days because the plane broke down, she befriended strangers and learned to survive. When there were shortages in Nigeria and the electricity went out during important dinner parties, she improvised.

Read the full article here

The Choice of Being Positive

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Have you ever noticed how contageous the negativity can be? Particularly when you feel lonely and any kind of a conversation is better than none? Before long we find ourselves pulled into emotions of the negative neighbor or a person next to us in the supermarket, trying on their situations and judgements, venturing deeper into what’s not even our true feeling…  Just remember, it is always your choice!  Here is a great recent piece from personal development coach Manuela Pauer on negativity:

For some reason, I have been noticing a lot of negativity around me lately. There are updates on Facebook with various complaints, meetings in which people focus on all the things that are going wrong, and even when walking Rafa (our doggie) the other day, a regular park patron greeted me with “You are late!” rather than a “Good morning!”

Maybe you have noticed this phenomenon as well or have even felt more negative about things yourself. Why is it so much easier to be negative and how can we change it?

Over our lifetime we all accumulate various memories – some good, some bad. However, even when we have more positive experiences than negative ones, we remember more of the negative experiences. This is because our brain has a preference for recalling and reacting to unpleasant memories. This is called the “negativity bias” and it has an important evolutionary reason: To help us survive by avoiding danger and keeping us out of harm’s way.

The problem is that luckily most of us don’t have to deal with daily life or death situations, so this bias for negativity is causing us needless suffering. While we often cannot prevent negative experiences from happening altogether, we CAN create much more balance by fostering positive experiences and really internalizing them.

In the book “Buddha’s Brain”, Rick Hanson suggests a 3 –step process for focusing on the Positive:

1. Actively look for the good and positive every day

Every day, there are positive things all around us – someone is nice to us, we see a beautiful flower, the smell of an orange, interesting clouds in the sky, we finish a project – but we just let it roll by. Instead of just letting those moment go by, bring mindful awareness to them. Open up to them and let them affect you.

2. Savor the experience

Really stay with the experience for 5, 10, even 20 seconds – don’t let your attention wander to something else. Focus on your emotions and body sensations and let the experience be as intense as possible. Pay attention to what is rewarding about it (for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love.) All of this will help strengthen the implicit memory so you can carry it inside you and remember more easily.

3. Fully absorb the experience

Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth that is soaking through. Keep relaxing your body and take in all the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.

The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity to practice – every day we experience 20,000 moments! What positive moments are you noticing and savoring today?

About Manuela Pauer

manuela pauerManuela is a Certified Professional Coach and workshop leader. Her passion is to empower women to find more meaning, balance, and success, and to finally be happy with themselves and their lives.

Manuela loves helping professional women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives! Visit Manuela’s Website for Professional Life Coaching and Powerful Workshops.

Does Your English Grammar Give You Headaches?

If English is your second language (it is to most of our team), how secure do you feel about your English grammar? Chances are, your English as second language education (highly educated interpreters and translators excluded) was a lot more focused on every day language, leaving the formalities for later.  A lot of times my communications through a written word rely heavily on intuition and common sense, and when those fail, on forgiving readership.  Then again, it’s never too late to take our English proficiency to the next level.  Here is an article explaining a few common grammar mistakes we make.

Grammar are a persnickety…wait…let’s try that again. Grammar is a persnickety cog in the writing machine. Try as we might, sooner or later, every writer stumbles and makes a grammatical gaffe.Wouldn’t it be nice if we could write and write and not have to worry about correcting silly grammar slipups? Of course it would.

So pour yourself some coffee/tea/Sanka (does anyone drink Sanka anymore?), pull up your favorite chair, and peruse a few of our favorite grammar do’s and don’ts. Hopefully, like a singular subject to a singular verb, we can agree.

Apostrophes. Don’t put your apostrophes in places they don’t belong. This is a mistake many writers make that causes English majors far and wide to wail and scream out loud.  Example: At Pizza By Luigi we offer pickup’s and delivery’s.  Sorry, Luigi, this is not correct. The above sentence would be interpreted as: pickup is and delivery is.

Read full article at Huffington Post