Why Culture shock is good for you

It keeps the mind nimble and fosters humor


There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice and it fosters humor. – George Santayana ‘The Philosophy of Travel’


Culture shock

The term culture shock most commonly associated with difficulties adjusting to a foreign environment. First-known in public appearance in Brazil, at the Women’s Club of Rio de Janeiro, 1954, when Kalervo Oberg a Canadian born antropologist and educator talked about the challenges of adapting to life abroad.

In his talk he addressed ‘fear of physical contact with attendants or servants’ and referred to culture shock as an ‘occupational disease’, showing ‘symptoms’ of absentmindedness, feelings of helplessness, fits of anger and refusal to learn the language.



Off course in some ways, Obergs talk is dated, nevertheless the essence of his description of the mental strains caused by cultural adjustment, fits our current understanding. The causes of culture shock that he identifies all relate to the largely unconscious process of learning and adjustment.


Defintion of culture shock: the impact of moving from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar one. Or in words of Joseph Shaules – the acclaimed interculturalist –these are the small differences we notice abroad are a sign that our unconscious mind is hard at work detecting, interpreting and judging anomalities in our surroundings. These experiences can have powerful effects on our mind, which is one reason moving abroad can be stimulating, stressful and transformative.

Showing up in:

  • Climate
  • Food
  • Language
  • Dress
  • Values
  • Etiquette and behavior





5 Stages

Preliminary stage: Learning about the host culture, preparing the move, sorting out stuff, organizing fare-well party and actually moving.


Initial Stage of euphoria / ‘culture surprise’: feels like a never ending holiday, some interculturalist call this stage ‘the honeymoon phase’ full of new sensations, exiting local discoveries, everything at biking distance, highly efficient public transportation system, unfamiliar delicious food and lots of new places to be explored. It can be viewed as a cognitive adjustment to a foreign environment: culture surprise.


Irritability / ‘culture bumps’ : Then one fine day, you find yourself in a catch22 situation where you can’t get a subcription for your smartphone, because you haven’t managed to get a bankaccount yet. Which is quite a frustrating process because the bankemployee requires you to show your credit history; reason for not having a credit history is because you don’t have any history at all-in this country, you just arrived here.


Labels on products your purchasing at the grocery store, which you can’t read. Just guessing what is in the package you just bought.



Not knowing which bus takes you to the nearest train station, where you are trying to find this specific servicedesk allowing you to use cash to purchase a trainticket – remember you are still not owning a bankcard yet. What’s left of enjoying this highly efficient public transportation system, when going places becomes such a project instead of easy piecy lemon squeezy ….


Gradual Adjustment : The culture surprise experience contains frayed threads that may start to unravel. The difference that stimulates us at the beginning of the move can start to wear us down.

Currently for a number of my clients passing their drivers licence and being able to ride their bikes here in the Netherlands really is a huge victory. If anyone, two years ago, would have told them about this sense of victory, they problably would have rolled their eyes. The thing is, for all my clients, this victory has an underlying value to it: regaining a sense of freedom and independence in their new situation. With this a sense of control.

Culture stress is what we feel when our cognitive processes start to get overwhelmed by culture surprise.


So try to find activities, which you know you like a lot and which give you energy, lift you up and are befinicial to creating and shaping your new life.

Just some random ideas for you:

  • joining a writers club
  • exploring your new place
  • finding hicking buddies
  • signing up for art or work out classes
  • going to study
  • visiting museums or music events


Adaptation : By now you have learned how to remain functioning well in your new culture and perhaps even feel a little bit part of it. Embrace its differences and accept what it has to offer. This phase is marked by low anxiety and the increased ability of to interact successfully with members of the host culture and build social relationships. This phase also brings a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and personal growth for having overcome culture shock.


Re-entry phase : Reverse culture shock follows the same phases as cultural shock and similar symptoms. Reverse culture shock occurs because the traveler’s changed perception of aspects of the home culture, the system that was once perceived as natural is now object of critical analysis and comparison with the host culture. During the honeymoon phase one is usually happy to be home and enthusiastic to reconnect with family and friends and re-experience the domestic environment. When normal life resumes it is usually accompanied by nostalgia for the time abroad this is a characteristic of the reentry crisis phase. Eventually the reentry recovery phase begins when you start to reconcile and accept differences between the two cultures.


Wishing you a lovely and recharging time and a smooth adaptation where ever you are landing this Summer!







Her presence was immediately felt in the room. I have heard Dutch people talk about this specific thing. I used to laugh about it, but after having spent some time here I really can see what they’re talking about.

Her volume of speech was much higher than anyone else in the room and it made me uncomfortable how everyone stopped speaking to listen to her- almost as if they felt forced. My friend is an extrovert by nature. She loves people, she loves hugs and she loves to talk. Naturally gets excited, and when she sees something that someone does well, she will be the first to praise them and pay a compliment. It is one of her nicest qualities.

Meanwhile what I noticed about the Dutch is when you pay a compliment one time is enough, anymore comes off a bit much, or not genuine. Even if that is not the intention of the person paying the compliment.

So when my friend paid a compliment and repeated it a couple of times I could see their faces change, almost as if they were saying: ‘Ok, thank you, but please act normal’ (Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg –> Just act normal, that’s already crazy enough) without saying those specific words.

Much to my surprise, my friend never noticed this, and that’s when I began to question- could it be possible that some of the Dutch habits have rubbed off on me, or am I just more culturally aware because of my time here?




This May marks 8 months in the Netherlands for me. It has been quite a while since I have seen a familiar face, especially on this side of the world. So it was quite a treat when my friend – being an American expat living in Paris, France decided to come visit my new home country the Netherlands. I knew it would be an interesting exchange between her and the Dutch, but I didn’t know to what extent.

As an American, she learned how to not draw attention to herself, but blend into the French scenery. Now that the Netherlands is my home, I was just positive she also would easily bring this new found knowledge to here. After all, Holland and France are both considered Europe in an American’s eyes- true story.


5 Valuable distinctions and helpful tips

I inserted this link above from one of the best books on culture, written by the acclaimed author Richard Lewis ‘When Cultures collide’. Let me help you navigate through this book.

You will find an excellent description of both the United States (pages 179-186) and the Netherlands (pages 243-250); each divided in:

  1. Culture: Values
  2. Concepts: Leadership and Status / Space and Time
  3. Cultural Factors in Communication: Communication Pattern/ Listening Habits / Behaviors at Meetings & Negotiations / Manners and Taboos
  4. How to empathize with the US ot the Netherlands
  5. Motivating and Avoiding




Eye openers
This experience of looking through the eyes of my fellow American friend was a true eye opener to me and me me realize a couple of things:

  • Expats can experience similar emotions in a different new country, but go on completely different journeys.
  • Expats will feel and act like a tourist or visitor in a country they are not trying to make a home
  • Listening more and asking genuine questions will gain you more favor with locals of a new country.
  • Spending time in a new country will enrich your perspective on human interaction.

Where did you experience intercultural eye openers, dear readers? I’m very curious to hear your stories. Thanks already in advance.






Kisses land on either my left or right shoulder, moreover a gentle touch in passing each other and me. Their engagement shows even more when nodding affirmative ‘yes’ as a reply on my questions if they speak any English at all. Their enthusiasm is contagious, all being elated until the moment I make the gesture of shaking hands. The islanders, they suddenly disappear jumping in between the chairs like startled game. Blaming myself for this bluntness:’ this introduction could have been so much smoother’. They feel as scared as I feel confused. 

Luckily this is just a setting during an intercultural simulation game, I’m participating in and need to investigate so called ‘local islanders’. Nevertheless this might as well be for real international business settings.

Agree, probably your foreign business partner overseas wouldn’t run away from you scared because of your lack of intercultural sensitivity, yet in a more subtle civilized manner they would. How to mind the intercultural gap. Culture Matters.

What stupid simple thought crossed my mind assuming that a western handshake would be accepted as a universal greeting. It makes me ponder how often we just assume every one else looks at the world just like we do. This might be out of laziness or just simplicity.

As if we are all watching this world through the same set of sunglasses. Don’t we mind the gap? Not only do we assume our colleagues working overseas watch the world just alike, even so our international business partners.




What do you actually know about their set of norms and values?

Returning to the simulation game: I do realize, even this being an intercultural simulation game, carrying out any kind of assignment is quite challenging. Imagine real life!

Upon following the instructions of the game I return to my own team, sharing with them the following observations:

  • Their English is poor.
  • Upon greeting they start kissing your shoulder, but they fled when I wanted to shake hands.
  • In passing they continuously touch each other.

Nervously crossing my mind on what my team members will think of my clumsiness and incapability to do some simple investigations on islanders. How will we ever be able to completing our assignment with all this ‘yes’ nodding folks. This won’t work! How to mind the gap? It is impossible to get this job done! It will just be a lack of expertise which eventually will turn into a complete disaster!

Spontaneously followed by my ‘split – second- strategy’:

  • We must separate them.
  • Only when separated, we can to teach them, individually, the necessary skills.
  • Since their English is poor we need to simplify our language.
  • We do have a strategy, we do have a plan -my plan- and so we are ready to roll…..and off we went…


Valuable insights from this game

Now with hindsight we learned during the evaluation of this intercultural simulation game that exactly these rushed, careless bluntly insights of me colored the sunglasses of my team exact identical as it had colored mine.


Emotional dust settling

After the emotional dust had settled and the levels of frustration had lowered the islanders all were able to draw the following conclusions.



7 Ways to Mind the Gap

1. Prepare your trip carefully. Take the time to assimilate and adjust to unfamiliar habits. Apparently / seems to take precious time, which will surprisingly be captured back during the course of the process.

2. Really try to sympathize which unknown and unfamiliar cultures.

3. Interesting enough the touching of each other while passing was comforting and lowered the levels of frustration.

4. Superiority : unconscious sense of superiority that creates a dynamic where one is believing they bring the best expertise, knowledge and practice meanwhile during the process is unconsciously neglecting the local input.

5. Be more resilient: act more flexible to adjusting to unfamiliar situations. It is never to late to adjust to a new situation. This is a much better coping strategy than walking away from it leaving the situation unresolved.

6. Due to the assumption of poor English there was hardly any communication at all. Even is communicating at times difficult try to seek a way, be inventive and creative about this.

7. Aim of your trip is doing business which is always time constraint. These two ingredients in itself already jeopardize working internationally effectively. Chances are one just focuses on the outcome taking culture during this process for granted.

Be aware of ASSumptions



What observations and lessons learned within my team?

  • My reporting back to them biased the visiting team, unconsciously they adopted my view on the islanders: they looked through my eyes and listened with my ears.
  • A tunnel vision was being created this way, it hadn’t crossed their minds to investigate by themselves.
  • Also my assumptions like on their poor English, weren’t checked. How often are assumptions, especially from superiors taken for granted.
  • Touching lowered the levels of frustration.


On a separate note

During this intercultural game about 11 nationalities participated, all of which randomly divided over the groups, there was no predominant nationality. Nevertheless the sunglasses of all team members colored the same based on my biased observations. None of them was aware of choosing a ‘colorblind’ perspective.

Just out of curiosity I’d like to ask you, dear reader, many nationalities you have in your team?

To what extend do you recognize minding this intercultural business gaps?

Love to read your contributions to this.



U.S. President Barack Obama’s words in reaction to Tuesday’s brutal and ruthless attacks in the center Europe’s democracy, in Brussels:

“…..what happened today is another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together regardless of nationality, or race, or faith…” This exactly is where the conference Families In Global Transition – FIGT- which I attended for the first time, is all about: about being together.



The goal Families In Global Transition set for itself is the following:


‘Families in global transition is a welcoming forum for globally mobile individuals, families and those working with them.

We promote cross-sector connections for sharing research and development best practices that support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world.’


For the very first time this conference was organized in Amsterdam around the following topic: “Bringing Empathy and expertise to the Evolving Global family’ .


I would like to share a couple of highlights and insights with you about this conference, which hopefully inspires you to join next year as well, as it will be held next year again in the Netherlands. Truly, the openhearted, open minded and welcoming feeling was like taking a warm bath at the right temperature.

Just at a glance:

  • Amazing keynote speakers
  • Inspiring concurrent sessions
  • Interesting kitchen table conversations
  • Dynamic ignite sessions

So many topics

Also I was absolutely blown away by the huge variety and diversity of subjects. Again, just sharing a couple with you here:

– when home spans the globe: a look at the third culture family

– today’s migration: working with refugees and their families

– research forums/evolving TCK- third culture kids- profile: research

findings on identity and belonging, with practical applications in

today’s world

– digital living forum

– living in the Ghetto or true globalists/from expat bubble to integration

– mindfulness and stress

– moving across gender cultures: the evolving role of the father in the

21st century

– living abroad in sickness and health: navigating language and cultural

barriers in foreign health system

– when love runs out: helping expats cope with relationship breakdown

– stuck in the ‘50’s: addressing hidden gender inequality in expat women

– parental guidance: long distance care for aging parents

– managing dual careers in global transition

– holding together: the crucial role of an empathic community when loss

strikes the globally mobile family


One of those moments when nature calls right on time

Upon arrival at the conference venue, after some traveling, I went straight to the ladies where I very spontaneously run into Ruth Van Reken. She is the acclaimed author of Third Culture Kids and was an important reason for me to attend the conference. So there I was, barely 3 minutes at the venue and talking to her! At Ruth’s kitchen table FIGT was founded. Why? Her answer is, as lost of her comments deeply humorous:‘We started doing something because somebody had to do it!’ Since then it has grown to include people from all over the world so that the most recent conference featured 200 people from 6 continents and 36 countries. She is also very present in the moment, approachable and humble person. I felt so privileged talking to her, she made my day! So thank you Ruth for getting this started in your present, personal and professional way. The world so needs this!

During the conference Ruth Van Reken presented Enlarging our Tents: Using Lessons from the Past to Create Space for the New

‘The world is in a whirl. We feel it every time we turn on the news. Never before in history has there been so much mobility and cultural ‘mixing and matching’ as we see in today’s fast changing world. This much change can easily create a desire to retreat to the familiar, to play it safe. But that is not a luxury many families from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences often have.

For various reasons, they must deal with the implications of these unprecedented changes on a deeply personal level as they navigate their own particular story of global transition.



But global changes also mean that many of these families no longer fit the traditional prototype of the past ‘expat’ story. How do we as a community ‘enlarge our tents’ to look at who might be sharing this space and how we can help each other instead of retreating to past familiarities alone?


By looking at how we as an FIGT community have learned lessons in the past to help us care well for the more traditional globally nomadic families, we will see how using similar principles can help us continue to understand and meet the needs of today’s evolving global families as well.’


After Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels the awareness where we urgently need to re-ACT upon in that we must be together and we must enlarge our tents in creating a more save and peaceful world for each and everyone.


23wed1-blog427-v2foto: Oliver Munday

Wishing you a compassionate Easter.




Probably you think you’re really good in changing, aren’t you? I mean, after all you effortlessly navigate in a complex international environment day in, day out. Still it can be a huge challenge to create the real change for you!


Why blogging on this topic? Because I have been around here long enough to know I’m not the only one struggling with this so called ‘immunity to change’.


Let’s imagine the following situation:

“Every day this guy goes to this bar after work hours and orders three glasses of malt whiskey. And he sits there at the bar, in front of him three glasses of whisky and this scene repeats itself every day one day after another.


The bartender becomes more and more curious each day, and one fine day when the guy sits at the bar again with the three glasses in front of him, he asks: ‘ I know it’s none of my business but may I ask you why you always order three separate glasses of whiskey, because I could also give one bigger glass if you like?’


So the guy starts explaining:’ We are with three brothers, and we all used to live here in town and we had developed this habit of getting together every day after work, we would meet up at a bar and have a drink while reflecting on our day. But my two brothers had to move because of their work. So one lives at the other side of the country now and the other moved to Canada. We agreed upon continuing this habit by each going to a bar after work in our own time zone, having our whiskey while musing the day.’ Well the bartender thinks, beautiful habit and nice way to get together as brothers.


Then one day the guy comes in and orders two glasses of malt whisky. He sits at the bar and drinks. For all the days to come there is this same repeating pattern. The bar tender feels very uncomfortable about this and is puzzled at the same time. He is hesitant to raise a question about the third glass, nervous to hear tragic news.


One day he can’t resist his curiosity. He musters up his courage and goes up to the guy sitting at the bar drinking his two glasses and says: ‘ I know it’s none of my business but may I ask you why you’re ordering two glasses of malt whiskey instead of three?’

The guy turns to him by saying: ‘I quit drinking!’.”


What we see in this example are beliefs, an internalized truth we hold about how the world works, how we work. This is an example about assumptions that make each hidden commitment feel necessary. These assumptions lead to the very behaviors that undermine, rather than support, our goal for change.




This so called ‘immunity to change’ – inspiring researcher of this mental model Robert Kegan– what gets in the way to actually reach our desired goal is an area which I explore in working with my clients.


As Kegan puts it: ‘Choose a goal that would make a big difference, one you truly want to achieve’ – pressing the gas pedal.

And ‘what are you not doing to support you reaching your goal?’- pressing the breaks. In other words this is the immune system ‘protecting’ providing you with hidden beliefs, fears and undesirable outcomes. Feel free to fill out your: ‘immunity to change worksheet’


Carlos from Latin America

I’m fascinated about this phenomenon. One of my international clients inspired me to write this blog: Carlos comes from Latin America and for some time he dreams to move to the United States, leaving his Latino life behind and starting all over again. The bigger a dream the more challenging and frightening as well.


Over the course of our coaching sessions we worked a lot on this dream making it big, beautiful and lively, using:

  • Visualizations
  • Exercises
  • Cultural Orientation Framework: this questionnaire helps us to uncover hidden and limiting cultural assumptions, by replacing them with more effective ones.


On pressing the breaks:

Carlos had big question marks about whether trading his familiar life, his job for an unknown place, leaving his company, leaving from a city where he had his family and friends to an unfamiliar new place in another country would be the best decision.


On pressing the gaspedal:

Once we were able to uncover hidden competing commitments related to worries, we were able to replace these, ingrained assumptions, with more effective ones.


Carlos ‘worldview’ as Philip Rosinski describes it, was enlarged and expanded towards embracing more complexity.

A question for you working in a global or international environment: What does it take to go beyond what’s comfortable for you, to expand and stretch beyond your comfort zone to creating the change you want for yourself? Which limits have been brought up for you in re- shaping or re-programming your ‘worldview’?


We identified when Carlos’ ‘stuck ness’ – pressing the breaks was having a ball, at which defining moments by:

  • Identifying quite specifically what his ‘stuck ness’ looks like and when it was showing up
  • Practicing breathing- and mindfulness exercises
  • Creating awareness around being at choice at any given moment
  • Making the process of ‘the big’ change manageable in a safe, modest and actionable way
  • Creating a neurological mental path to the desired outcome: by taking mini steps, tiny small steps heading towards the dream;
  • Have it look like an experiment being open and curious to every new development


At some point Carlos’ sense of ‘stuck ness’ became fluid and the seesaw started to tip to the other side.





From that time on Carlos’ life was like a rollercoaster. He made arrangements for his apartment, with his company and had to take care of a lot of practicalities. At the same time he started with his arrangements for his ‘new life in the US’. His courage gave him a boost of energy. Four month later, Carlos started two post – graduation courses in San Francisco.


Carlos’ big leap started very small, safe and modest. I know you smoothly transition in your international environment; as long as your old sticky habits transition with you, you will not be able to create a real change. Not even being at the other side of the planet. Just start changing like Carlos did in a safe and modest way changing.


Upon finishing the last sentence of this blog, I also finished the last delicious milk chocolate, in red foil wrapped (for the experts: ‘cool’ chocolate inside), Lindt Easter egg….again another day in which my immunity to change struck me.



And which hidden beliefs, behaviors and undermining assumptions get in the way of all this?


Love to read where you need to let go of in order to make sense of the complexity of your daily international environment! Please share your immunity to change with us! Now how ‘immune to change’ are you?



Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and by the way Happy Easter.




Dare to Prepare

Whether you and your family are about to move overseas or to a neighboring country, preparing your children in the best possible way is key to success. But how? What do we need to prepare them for? Especially when it’s your first time moving abroad and you feel left out in the dark yourself. An important starting point in this process is communicating what remains the same and what will be different in their new place.

enjoy-the-rideMoving with kids is hard on you as a parent; not only are you busy with all the errands, you are also going through a roller coaster of emotions; excitement, fear and perhaps sadness. All this takes its toll on your energy and attention which can cause short tempers, mess in the house, and affect your ability to assist your kids. Recently I facilitated quite a number of trainings for youth who were for the first time moving abroad with their parents. I noticed how often parents struggle in their attempts to prepare their children for the BIG unknown. Often they feel uncertain, puzzled and confused about ‘the best’ approach. So here my top suggestions for all you empathic and awesome parents. I have total empathy where you, awesome parents, are going through my suggestions by no means pretend to be ‘the best’ way, hopefully they just might be useful and help you to gain some insights.


Stay true to your children, stay true to yourself

  1. What to communicate about the move
  2. How to communicate about the move
  3. Some savvyness to prep for the big move


  1. What to communicate about the move
  • Tell your kids about the move as soon as possible. Explain to them why you are relocating overseas, but don’t think you have to provide all the details right away. Give them some time to digest the news and to think about it. Generally speaking children don’t like change and moving abroad is a huge change; so for them it’s receiving bad news!
  • Be prepared that your children will receive this news in very different ways, depending on their ages and personalities. The younger ones might take it easier that the older ones, because they already have their own social lives and activities.
  • Allow them to react emotionally whenever they need to. They might become emotional about the move at most unexpected moments. They know what they will lose and have to say ‘goodbye’ to without having a clear vision of what they potentially might gain from this move. For them your news just brings lots of uncertainty. Children might rebel – This is their way of gaining some influence in a situation they cannot control. Your kid might also have mixed emotions: one day your child may be thrilled and excited, then blue and depressed the next.
  • Only share as much information as your individual children are able to digest.
  • An important starting point in this process is communicating what remains the same and slightly shift to what will be new in their new place. In other words, start with a familiar point of reference and ‘build a bridge’ to their different future. An example: review a day at school together and after that help them picture how a day at their new school will look like. What will be the same- all the subjects at school- and what will be different- they will have a warm lunch at the cafeteria. This helps them gain some sense of control in all this uncertainty.
  • Make sure the news about you moving will be announced at their schools and sports right after you shared the news with your children. Be optimistic and positive about the expatriate adventure in announcing this news.


mixed feelings

  1. How to communicate about the move
  • Start providing them with more information when you feel they are up to it. How do you know when they are ready? One of your children might ‘ignore’ the message about the family moving while the other might start asking questions at some point. That’s a sign you can give some more information.
  • Let your kids feel that they can ask you everything, answer all their questions and concerns. Be honest and open, this will help your kids to feel confident.
  • Share tangible information with your children. For example if you already found a rental to live in, show them pictures and fantasize about how nice and exciting it will be to live there. Same with the school(s) they will be attending. Show them the websites and the location on Google Earth.
  • Show them the city where you are moving to and some activities you know they will like and be interested in. For example: zoo, playgrounds, parks, aquariums, shopping areas, movie theatres.
  • Be positive about the relocation. Tell them about the new experiences and opportunities they can expect in their new home. Your kids can feel you: if you are optimistic and positive about the expatriate adventure, then your children are more likely to feel the same way.
  • Sometimes its possible to go on a ‘look-see’ pre- departure visit all together as a family. This is an excellent opportunity to explore the new city, go visit the new school and maybe even take a look at the rental. Have them get a sense of their new environment.


3.      Some savvyness to prep for the big move

  • Help your children plan their goodbyes – Some would prefer having a farewell party, others might want to have a few friends over.
  • Help them to find ways to stay in touch with their friends: upon arriving in your place they will long for this contact. Especially when moving to a place where they don’t speak the language, it will really take some time and effort before being able to have play dates or for teens to hang out with their new friends.
  • Go create or buy farewell gifts with your children (for example: a magnet with your new address and contact details).
  • Update school lists with e-mails addresses, phone numbers, address books etc. You might want to create email- addresses for your children depending on their age. When moving with young children, they might like to make drawings. Send them by snail mail to their friends back home, like in the ‘old days’.
  • Let your children decide what to pack for the air shipment as well as in their own little bags or bag packs. They might want to have their favorite stuffed animal or doll, their most comfortable pj’s or their favorite books and some toy.
  • Let your kids know they can help with the moving and relocating tasks – children should be involved in packing and unpacking their own room. You can ask them to prepare a special moving box and to include all the essentials they might need during the move. Upon arrival to the new country ask them to be responsible for arranging their new room.
  • Saying goodbye to their home: when possible try to schedule this before the movers arrive. For children it is nice to make a mental picture of their home having still with all the furniture in its original place.


Some books on moving abroad

The family sabbatical handbook 

What’s it like living in another country? It can be a little hard to picture. While many readers are satisfied with a vicarious literary experience, a growing number want to live it for themselves. Elisa Bernick offers readers the book she wished she’d had when she and her husband and children were planning their 18-month family sabbatical. This book was one of the first that we purchased as we began our plans. The books covers different family experiences in moving abroad.


Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition

Nearly a decade ago, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds introduced the concept of and has been the authority on the experiences of TCKs-children who grow up or spend a significant part of their childhood living abroad. Early on, TCKs were identified as the rototype citizen of the future. That future is now, as more and more children are growing up among worlds, creating a culturally rich and diverse world. Rich with real-life anecdotes, Third Culture Kids, Revised Edition examines the nature of the TCK experience and its effect on maturing, developing a sense of identity and adjusting to one’s passport country upon return. For many third culture kids, this book will be their first opportunity to discover that they share a common heritage with countless others around the world. This expanded edition profiles the personal challenges that TCKs experience, from feelings of rootlessness and unresolved grief to struggles with maturity and identity.

Club Expat: A teenager’s guide to moving overseas

Club Expat: A Teenager’s Guide to Moving Overseas is a comprehensive guidebook for any young adult or family moving overseas. Written by two former expatriate teenagers, this book is the culmination of experiences of students all around the world and of broad consultations with dozens of experts in the field of international relocation. Covering topics ranging from culture shock to the intricacies of overseas life, this guidebook will serve as the knowledgeable “companion” for young adults embarking on a new journey overseas. Aniket and Akash Shah are brothers who lived with their family in Europe and Asia for several years as expatriates. They were born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and lived in different parts of the United States before moving abroad. Aniket and Akash are members of the Class of 2009 and the Class of 2006, respectively, at Yale University.


The kids guide to living abroad

The author asked third culture kids around the world to write about their experiences for other children going through similar situations (moving, adapting to a new country, making friends etc.). It is a book by kids for kids with the purpose of helping them to learn from others, reflect and prepare to adapt to new international living experiences.


Emotional resilience and the expat child

The only thing you can be sure you can move around the world is your child’s ability to increase his or her interpersonal skills. In today’s global world, each of us is searching for effective tools that can help our children to thrive. Emotional Resilience for the Expat Child provides a step-by-step guide that is designed to increase a child’s emotional vocabulary and emotional intelligence. Doing this will enable your child to achieve his or her fullest potential. The bond between an adult and child is key to the psychological health of the child. For the expatriate child, this bond is more vital than ever. This workbook has been created for you to use together and will provide the perfect place to connect for you and your family. With easily understood and practical steps any parent can apply, you can start to create and enjoy your family’s ’emotion stories’. When a child feels happy and confident, he will be more likely to construct and communicate his emotions. Well-written in an engaging, conversational tone, this book is sensible, straightforward and based on the experiences of expat families. It will give your child what he or she needs to understand and express today in order to grow into a caring, emotional intelligent adult tomorrow.

The Top Expat Destinations for Families 2015

Should I stay or should I go?

Moving to a new country is certainly not as hard as it may seem, but it does take a concrete decision, followed by decisive action. This book helps you make that decision, and points you firmly in the right direction to not only move but to live successfully in your new home. Once you’ve read this book you will be able to confidently answer all-important questions such as…

  • Is moving abroad really right for me?
  • Do I have a temperament suited to the expatriate life?
  • Am I considering emigrating for the right reasons?
  • Would I be best placed staying where I am?
  • Where in the world, home or away, am I likely to be happiest?

What factors should I consider when choosing my new country?














Today we celebrate Chinese New Year – heralding the year of the Monkey.

Did you know that you must not wash your hair on the first day of the lunar year?
In Chinese the character for Hair (发) is the same as fa in facai (发财), which means ’to become wealthy’. Washing one’s hair is therefore thought of as “wash one’s fortune away” – that’s not how anybody wants to start the new year. Families and friends will be sharing special food and time together; a whole list of centuries-old superstitions and beliefs will be observed to hopefully make the new year the most prosperous yet.

Chinese New Year is huge.

With people scattered around the globe observing the Lunar New Year, you’ll find major celebrations with fireworks, parades, and festivities in nearly every major city. When living in China, back then waiting at midnight for the fireworks to announce the chinese new year…we were so silly,no firecracker was to been seen.

sb10065888bp-001  Giving Red Envelopes to Pass On Best Wishes.

New Year is the most important family holiday in China and one of the best known and well-observed customs is giving little red envelopes with money to children, older (non-working) relatives and employees. Called “lai see” (Cantonese) or “hongbao” (Mandarin), these gifts can range from £5 to £200, with employees receiving anywhere between £5 and £150.

Why Wear Red?

One would think that your year would be a good one. But on the contrary, Chinese traditional belief is that your benming nian is going to be full of bad luck. So if it’s your year, you need to take a few precautions to ensure that your year is not a bad one.


Red_underwear – even underwear –

To ward off any dangers that might befall you in your benming nian, it is traditionally believed that it helps to wear – even underwear – the color red. Red is one of the luckiest colors in Chinese traditions, standing for loyalty, success and happiness. You’ll see red all over the place during traditional Chinese festivals and particularly Chinese New Year: red lanterns, red envelopes, red paper hangings.

When it comes to decorations, just about everything is red and ornamented in gold.

So wishing you all:Xīnnián kuàilè! (新年快乐) -Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Xie Xie, Henriette

Last week I had the privilege to facilitate a workshop at Shell’s Outpost The Hague for expat partners from employees as well as Shell employees. Since quite some time it was on my mind to creating a flyer for expat partners. This workshop was the right inducement to give words to my services on good old fashioned printed paper. Now it’s ready and I would like to share it with you.

Flyer for expat partners

I designed the workshop around communication styles which enhance interpersonal relationships: Did you ever wonder why some people are more assertive than others? Why some express their emotions openly while ohters prefer to maintain control? The Social Style model reveals how people manage conflicts, it is insightful to ones own behavioral strenghts and weaknesses and shows why some relationships are more productive than others.

The workshop participants collaborated just in an awesome way, they worked hard, had lots of laughter and big learning. And I, I felt so fulfilled!

Now turning to you my dear readers, you might be wondering what has all this to do with you and where you come in.


Shell Outpost The HagueWell, right HERE and right NOW.



Because the personal challenges your facing are no different from the expat partners participating in this workshop:

‘Here you are, ready for a new challenge in a new country. Probably your life looked completely different before moving. Because of your partner’s job you landed here. So you might feel dazzled now, by this huge life change, your possible loss of career, lack of intellectual stimulation, at distance from your usual support network. Take this opportunity and turn it into a unique possibility for your next step in an intense and meaningful personal development process!

When did the longing for personal development start? At first being busy with ‘to do’s’ like unpacking boxes or arranging cupboards. Now the home is ready and you feel left with nothing to do but staring at the four walls while listening to the sound of silence. Do you recognize this nagging feeling of missing inspiration, lacking objectives to strive for, or lacking energy? Now is the time!’

How is this quote landing with you? Does it resonate and is it also recognizable?

Just as for you, the participants’ calendars were overloaded, as well in the weeks prior to their move. Just like you, they each and every day went the extra mile to making sure their partners and families would set to and feel comfortable in this new place.
And presumably just like you, they have been gazing at those walls and heard the sound of silence as well.
For them, just like for you now is the time to dedicate your energy into a new direction.

So Now = YOLO          Shell Outpost The Hague





Turn your personal challenges into infinite personal possibilities for you to explore and discover like:

  • finding the most challenging job
  • working as a volunteer
  • starting your own business
  • going to college
  • choosing for personal time

For those to who all this makes sense and resonates. I’m reaching out by saying: ‘you’re not alone and you don’t need to re- invent yourself by just yourself’.

Now is the time : Now = YOLO so what stops you from getting started! Flyer for expat partners

If you feel inspired and would like to start on your journey please don’t hesitate to drop me a line and I would love to have a chat with you.



Emoji is booming. Emojis are such a part of our existence that we’ve got a keyboard to type them quicker. Not just teens, students even candidates running for President of the US use them – here is the example where Hillary Clinton asks students how they feel about their loan debt- ; we get collectively ecstatic every time a new set is released.


User Actions   Following



Verified account


How does your student loan debt make you feel?

Tell us in 3 emojis or less.



twitterRETWEETS 3,423

LIKES 2,83





Emoji is booming. Emojis are such a part of our existence that we’ve got a keyboard to type them quicker. We get collectively ecstatic every time a new set is released.Even so, it’s a little strange when you get an institution like the Oxford English Dictionary choosing an emoji as its ‘word of the year’.

‘For starters, it’s not actually a word. It’s a picture. But, hey, who’s judging? Language evolves, right? The emoji in question is the crying-laughing emoji. The one with two fat tears coming out of its eyes as it howls of laughter.

It makes sense that this emoji was chosen above all others. It’s so versatile

LOL2and basic. It’s the picture equivalent of LOL. No one really says that anymore but we still socially need that replacement. It’s an acknowledgement of what the other person has said. Emoji is booming. It’s the fastest growing and universal language in the world and it is supposedly universally understood. At least that’s what we think. Research shows that these six facial expressions of the emotions anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness and surprise all are universal phenomena and all used over our entire globe. Nevertheless upon sending a text message to your colleague in a country far away from you, did it ever cross your mind what their reading of your message is?

Just imagine your thanking your Brazilian colleague for yesterday’s delicious diner and you’re using this in emoji:

LOL3to express the excellent quality of the food served. By sending this text message your’re intention is to express appreciation. Not just for the diner but for the highly valued work relationship you both have as well. However your couldn’t have been more off…how this will be received is absolutely the opposite: deeply insulting might even destroy your work relationship!

This is just a little example of how a tiny miniscule drawing will fade away your so very carefully crafted relationship……

In other words it isn’t always what it seems, even not in picture equivalents, and so here’s where we go wrong interculturally. We find another controversial example in the country of emoji origin, Japan.



In Japanese, the word for poop (unko) starts, coincidentally, with the same “oon” sound as the word for “luck.” Moreover, there has always existed a long tradition of poo-centric worship in the country. Before the digital age, it was still fairly common in Japan to look to deities known as banjo-gami, or privy gods, by keeping figures on top of or underneath the loo. Gold poop charms are popular good luck tokens in Japan, as are sweets that resemble that Smiling Pile of Poop emoji. Kawaii. 


What do emojis say about YOU?

At the same time interesting enough the Canadians have the highest score for the poop emoji, according to SwiftKey, the company analyzed more than 1bn pieces of data to create the definitive assessment of how you use emoji – and what it says about you:

  • The French use four times as many heart emoji than other languages, and it’s the only language for which a ‘smiley’ is not #1;
  • Arabic speakers use flowers and plants emoji 4X more than average;
  • Russian speakers are the biggest romantics, using three times as much romance-themed emoji than the average;
  • Australia is the land of vices and indulgence according to the emoji data, using double the average amount of alcohol-themed emoji, 65% more drug emoji than average and leading for both junk food and holiday emoji;
  • Malaysia ranked first in its use of the beloved poop emoji, as well as the set of sleep emojis. Even more impressive is that Malaysia has the most diverse emoji vocabulary in the world.

Judging by their use of emoji, Americans are the most LGBT, using these emojis more than others; Americans also lead for a random assortment of emoji & categories, including skulls, birthday cake, fire, tech, meat and female-oriented emoji;The sad-face emoji is most popular in New Jersey while the happy-face is used most in South Dakota.

  • Spanish-speakers in the U.S. were more likely to use the crying emoji than other groups, with tear-streaked faces representing 4 percent of all emoji use.



While there are different ways to interpret emoji meanings, there were a few… interesting trends related to “particular” fruits, vegetables and an assortment of other emoji. We also discovered that – reader, I’m sorry – Canadians are twice as raunchy as all other languages according to their emoji usage. Even though the United States uses the eggplant emoji more than any other nation -And it’s not because they’re making eggplant Parmesan for dinner. The aubergine, or eggplant, emoji definitely has nothing to do with vegetables. Instead – and reader, I’m sorry again – it is has become the universal phallic symbol. It’s a penis. If a man sends a message on Tinder consisting of just the aubergine emoji and a question mark, shut it down!


Do the symbols effectively have their own ‘cultural dialects’?

While emotions themselves are universal phenomena, they are always influenced by culture, so is our universal new emoji language. During one hour translation speakers of different languages wanted to find out whether interpret emoji similarly, or whether the symbols effectively have their own ‘cultural dialects’.

It came up with 13 sentences and expressions in emoji, for which it had pre-conceived definitions.

The team then asked a handful of translators across 11 different languages – French, French Canadian, Spanish, Spanish (Latin America), German, Hindi, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese (Cantonese), and Arabic – to explain what each symbol means.

Now dear reader I’d like to ask you to play this emoji translation game with me just for the fun during the Holiday Season and to gain some intercultural insights. So please try to translate the emojis for yourself first before checking on the answers.

So now dear reader my question to you is how would you interpret this set of emoji symbols?




And here is how most translators interpreted the two emoji showing a sick face and a flexed arm to be related to sickness and getting better.

But French-Canadians thought of this as ‘bicep implants’ and Arabic translators believed it to represent ‘my armpits are smelly’ – making it a bad choice to send when cancelling a date, for example.

How did you like the first for a warming up, let’s go to the second then. And again, please see for yourself first, so no cheating….









This emoji message showing a pointing finger followed by a gust of air is intended to mean ‘he farted’.

French translators found a more poetic meaning of ‘blowing hot air in your direction,’ while Hindi translators interpreted it as ‘look there he goes’ and Greek linguists said ‘go with the flow’.

Arabic translators thought it meant ‘you stink!’

Since you’re all nicely warmed up and we can go to the next level, more challenging and definitely more fun. Let’s play by the same rule, you first try to guess for yourself what is expressed here by using symbols.




This image of the moon together with a sleeping face and a hand gesture showing satisfaction was intended to mean ‘good night, sleep well,’ but instead it was said to mean ‘when the moon is out it’s time to catch some zzz’s’ by Spanish translators, while German experts said it means ‘to be out all night is great, but sleeping is better’.


And what is you guess on this emoji – sentence:


A string of five emoji meaning ‘New York, the city that never sleeps’ garnered a curious response from Hindi translators.

The experts believed it meant ‘it’s better to hit the bed instead of pouring over world’s mysteries’, while Arabic linguists asked ‘free this evening for a sleepover?’ in response.


You’re almost there:







A more complex string of 10 emoji denoting a ‘girl’s night out’ unsurprisingly confused those surveyed.

French translators said: ‘Bring any girl to a dance and she turns into a party animal’.

While the symbols were interpreted by Spanish linguists as ‘a friendly outing involving alcohol turns into a musical event’.

More literal German translators thought the row of symbols meant: ‘First we met, had some food and wine, some more cocktails, some music and more music and then we danced the bunny dance’.

All the translators understood a collection of symbols describing the events of a camping trip, but a Hindi translator took it to a deeper level, saying: ‘I wish I could also leave my everyday routine aside and go for a camping and fishing trip to a lonely place.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3196583/Can-decipher-emoji-messages-Translators-11-regions-misunderstand-universal-symbols-hilarious-results.html#ixzz3tqMH5FID



Congrats! You made it! As a bonus for all your efforts as for those who can’t get enough of these emojis please open the following link below and feel free to use the emojipedia

Adam Kay unveils his attempt to write his first comedy set in emojis

So in your opinion should the emoji in question the crying-laughing emoji

LOL12. The one with two fat tears coming out of its eyes as it howls. Be the word of 2015? And if not I’m curious to know which word would be?

Looking forward to your opinion, lots of thanks for reading my blog.

Warmly, Henriëtte



Coping with your level of frustration in finding your next career step.

A rental leased, shipment arrived, boxes unpacked, family adjusted and accommodated, even the schedules and calendars found their place on the memory board. In other words landed and settled in your new place which will be your hometown for the years to come. This is your time.

Time to start the search for the next step in your personal development. How often has this crossed your mind while being busy unpacking boxes, arranging cupboards and waiting in line to purchase the endless list of school items.


I remember so well longing for this very moment, and finding myself at the verge of the journey to embark on this process, which eventually will result in finding that job, working as a volunteer in that desired place, finally starting my own business, having the time and opportunity to follow that particular course and going to college. Finding serenity in the disorder or trust the unknown. A new era to be explored. So how does this land with you?

Sooner than you have ever imagined and wished for you’ll find yourself in the midst of rules & regulations, forms & applications as impermeable as the Amazonian rainforest itself; how in the hell did you ended up here. Slowly but steady it becomes crystal clear to you, better you bring a cleaver to cut your way through the zillion websites in order to pursue the next step your career path. The level of frustration raises quickly.

It requires patience and calmness together with a great deal of humor in this process where it takes just too long to receive answers on online requests for information, if being replied at all. For a number of clients I tried myself to carve my way through information for non- Dutch citizens and I can just totally emphasize with their despair and frustration. It seems that embarking on this journey is a privilege for the toughest cookies and most dedicated professionals on this planet. This seems those who hold the longest breath finally find their feet.

As soon as you know where you’re up to for your next career step or personal development step the following tips might keep the paste on your ongoing journey:

  • Like it is with more things in life you’re not alone or putting it differently not the only one. Which doesn’t resolve anything but it sometimes helps, these are some of those times.
  • Once you know what you’re up to perseverance will get you there.
  • Seek support in places where professionals work on a daily basis to help people like you in this transition. These professionals often experienced exactly the same and are therefor really able to emphasize with you, because they have been there themselves:images
  • Iamexpat
  • Together Abroad
  • Undutchables
  • Internations
  • Expat center
  • Nuffic
  • Keep good spirit: stay calm & carry on


Thank you for reading my blog and wishing you a relaxed and joyful Summer time.