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All the Rage: Interracial Couples in the News

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PhD, LMFT

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All the Rage: Interracial Couples in the News

In the most recent census results, it was clear that interracial couples are a burgeoning phenomenon in the U.S., continuing to contribute to the diversity of society. Among opposite-sex married couples, one in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial, representing an increase of 28% since 2000.  In addition, the most recent census reported that 18% of heterosexual and 21% of gay and lesbian unmarried couples were of different races. Considering the salience of skin color in society, it is surprising that so little research and training has been devoted to race, and, more specifically, to interracial couples. Recognizing this gap, my research explores how interracial couples view themselves and the social forces that implicitly and explicitly influence partners’ perceptions and experiences. What is curious is how interracial couples are, and are not, a “big deal.”

150206-kyle-book1aFor example, a regular reader of my blog at Psychology Today posted a comment entitled “What? My Wife is White?”  George wrote, “My spouse is white and I am black. I never really think about it until I read articles like this or see characters on screen portrayed in an interracial relationship.”  George echoes an important theme of my book Interracial Couples, Intimacy & Therapy, that many interracial couples do not think about race and their differences in color and power and privilege until larger social systems, their extended families, communities, and larger society, do something or say something that raises this difference as an issue.

The partners themselves espouse a stance of colorblindness, like George, who then goes on to say, “As for the in-laws and others, they had to overcome their fears, ignorance, and exposure to something that truly did not expect or see in the world in which they were raised.”  This highlights that while many interracial couples state that race is not an issue for them, it is for other people: in-laws, persons in service professions (valets, hosts at restaurants, etc.), and strangers in public situations. At the same time, occasionally a blog reader will post a comment entitled “Zzzzz”, indicating their apparent lack of interest in the blog’s theme (which begs the question of why they were visiting the blog in the first place; but in web parlance, let’s not feed the trolls).  Interracial couples? No big deal, right?  Racism? Does that still exist?

In an attempt to reality test, I googled “interracial couples in the news” to see what I’d find from the simplest, most cursory search of the internet. I wasn’t fishing for incidents or attacks; I just inserted those five key words in the search engine. Some highlights from the first page of 1,710,000 results are as follows: “Interracial couple attacked outside Queens bar”; “Interracial couple receives racist note on Atlanta valet ticket”; “Kentucky church bans interracial couples”; “Iowa cops investigate hate crime after couple’s house burns”; “Interracial couple discriminated against in Tennessee”; and “High school teacher suspended after comment to interracial couple”.

From these news stories, not limited to southern states, it’s safe to say that interracial couples across the country do not always feel safe.  I believe that there is more work to be done in the area of race, race relations, and racism in the US.  I believe that interracial couples, in embodying racial border crossings in their movement through public spaces together, are a lightning rod for negative attention in our society; they are targets of reactivity from people who consciously and unconsciously “fragment” or break apart interracial couples so that white bodies do not move through space with black bodies due to implicit and explicit racial attitudes, and prejudice.  I think we have room to improve, and I’d like to discuss which interracial couples seem to be targets for rage, and theorize why.

Interracial couples are still a lightning rod for negative attention in U.S. society, I believe, because partners in these relationships embody racial border crossings in their movement through public spaces together. By associating with one another, traveling together, and by touching and kissing one another, they defy notions of racial purity and the principle of homogamy (the idea that happy couples must come from similar backgrounds, culturally or racially). Interracial couples are targets of reactivity from people who consciously and unconsciously fragment interracial couples, and multiracial families, so that bodies with different pigmentation do not move through space together. But which interracial couples seem to be targets for rage?
150206-kyle-book2aBack in 2013, the breakfast cereal Cheerios had an advertisement that featured a black man, a white woman, and a biracial daughter. The black man and white woman were not seen together in the same room in the commercial, and yet, the outrage over being forced to see the mere suggestion of a multiracial family was so intense that Cheerios had to disable comments on YouTube due to flurry of racist comments.

In contrast, quite a few brands over the past several years have produced commercials that feature black women with white men, but these have not caused near the stir of the Cheerios ad. Did you see the Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial where a white man and black woman make out on the elevator going up to their apartment, and touch and kiss as they prepare (and consume, with quite a bit of gusto) dinner together?  What a good-looking, and happily cavorting, couple they made. And it didn’t seem to upset anybody. We see a rising number of commercials, and television shows, with black women-white men couples. So, why does seeing a black man with a white woman raise such rancor, but not the other combination?

From the time of the silent film Birth of a Nation (1915), small and big screens have depicted black male sexuality as dangerous threat to the chastity of white women everywhere. White males may engage in romantic relationships with women of color in television and film, but rarely if ever do we see men of color in intimate relationships with white women.  Scandal features the interracial pairing of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and President “Fitz” Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and audiences aren’t complaining so much about their hooking up; the only issue some viewers had is with the President’s infidelity.

So, what’s this really about? Perhaps (white) audiences see white men as interracial adventurers or colonists, going where no white man has gone before, and who can blame them?  Perhaps audiences construct them as “white knights” saving black damsels from the distress of finding, or being with, a black partner. The irony is that the white male-black female couples are far less common than the black male-white female couples, according to the U.S. Census.  Black men get together with white women far more frequently in our society, but this is not represented on our TV sets at home. Maybe folks just aren’t ready to face the facts: That black men do date and marry white women, and while the walls and foundation haven’t collapsed and crumbled as a result, the interracial revolution still will not be televised.

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Kyle D. Killian, Ph.D., LMFT is a licensed couple and family therapist and clinical supervisor. He is the author of Interracial Couples, Intimacy & Therapy: Crossing Racial Borders from Columbia University Press. Connect with him at academia.edu (click), or via Linkedin at Kyle Killian.

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5 most difficult hurdles I had to overcome when I left S’pore for Korea

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5 most difficult hurdles I had to overcome when I left S’pore for Korea

Just because you know how to sing all the latest K-pop hits doesn’t mean Korea is the place for you.

When in Rome Korea, do as the Romans Koreans do.

Moving to a completely foreign country like Korea requires a few years of preparation, and still you can never be too prepared. Both Singapore and Korea might be Asian countries with a somewhat similar economic development story, but the similarities end there.

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Korea, with its unique community, culture and lifestyle, takes a lot more to adapt to than simply learning a few Korean words and/ or K-pop ditties.

I made the decision a few years ago to head out of Singapore, and I chose Korea as my destination. I have been living in Korea for almost two years now.

Like it or not, I had to face the consequences of that choice, and there were a number of difficulties I faced when I first arrived in Seoul.

Here are the 5 of the most difficult problems I encountered and solved one by one by one, — alone — in a completely new environment.

 

1. Language

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The very first hurdle I had to overcome was the language. Coming from a country where the majority is effectively bilingual, you’d think it’d be relatively easy to pick up another language, right? Wrong.

I started studying the Korean language in 2010, about two years before my move, and then I spent another six months in Korea picking up intermediate Korean. Basic conversational Korean managed to help me get around and order food, but that’s about it.

I needed a higher level of Korean proficiency if I wanted to live comfortably in Korea. Things got exponentially easier once I was able order food beyond bibimbap, shop for my own groceries and get around the city in modes of transportation other than the subway.

I had to deal with several important administrative matters where all information is almost exclusively in Korean — like signing a lease for a rental room, contracting a mobile phone line, and opening a bank account. A good command of the language, both written and spoken, helped greatly in navigating these matters.

 

2. Accommodation

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The real estate market in Korea is expensive, and there was no way I would be able to rent an apartment. I searched several websites like Craiglist and some Korean websites to find a suitable room to rent, and it took at least two months in Seoul before I found a more permanent place to stay.

I soon found out that there were studio apartments called one-rooms that I would be able to rent at reasonable prices, and set up appointments to view these places. More often than not, I was disappointed with them — they looked nothing like what the pictures on the websites showed. Space was an issue, and some of these one-rooms were in such bad condition and had no windows.

I started to think out of the box and searched websites like Airbnb. Most listings on such websites would only rent to travelers or those on short-term stays, and I had to learn to convince (usually in Korean) the home owners to rent their rooms to a poor student like me for at least a year.

 

3. Food

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There is a lot of delicious food in Korea, and for a while, I enjoyed myself trying out all the different foods the country had to offer. Everything tasted delicious and authentic, and cost only a fraction of what I had to pay for Korean food in Singapore.

But we don’t call Singapore a food paradise for nothing. I started missing the diversity of flavours I took for granted back home. You can classify all Korean food as either spicy or bland. And while I am a fan of spicy, spicy Korean food doesn’t even get close to sambal belachan.

I wanted to cook some simple Singaporean food — Yong Tau Foo, Laksa, Chicken Rice — but I couldn’t get the ingredients I needed for these dishes. No non-sticky rice, no coconut milk, no tau pok available at even large supermarkets like Lotte and E-Mart.

I had to rely on my friends coming to Korea for travel to bring some ingredients — like pandan leaves for Nasi Lemak — whenever I needed to satisfy my cravings.

 

4. Administrative Matters

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No one likes to deal with administrative matters — they’re long drawn hassles, and you sometimes have to deal with unreasonable staff processing your documents.

Getting my D2 Visa to study in Korea seemed like a simple enough process, except that I needed a long list of official documents ready before I could actually apply for it. Certain visas qualify a foreigner to apply for an ID (called the Alien Registration Card in Korea), and without it, I would be ineligible for a number of essential services like a bank account and a mobile phone line.

Of course, tied to these services are deadlines and requirements (you need to have an eligible visa to apply for an ID — which you have to do within 90 days of entering the country — an ID to apply for a bank account, and a bank account to apply for a mobile phone line), which I had to figure out on my own, after several wasted trips to the embassy, immigration center, bank and telecom store.

 

5. Finances

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When I made the decision to move out of Singapore, I also wanted to make sure that I made it out on my own. This was an extremely difficult issue, because higher education is costly. I saved up for a number of years before I was ready to be financially independent.

My full-time MBA course is partially financed by a scholarship provided by the school (which means I have to watch my grades), and am currently holding three different part-time jobs to help me to cover my rent, bills and expenses.

It has not been easy juggling being a full-time student with so many other responsibilities, but I’m determined to make this venture work out.

When I moved to Korea, it took me a lot longer than I initially thought it would to know the ins and outs of getting around the place. Sometimes I got frustrated and most other times I’m exhausted from the sheer effort I had to put in to make things work.

Patience and resilience became my two new best friends — and I’ve learnt to always keep them close to me whenever I encounter any difficulties living in a foreign country.

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Note: The views, services and/or experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor. This featured post was first released via www.mothership.sg on 17 May 2014, and was republished with prior consent. Mothership.sg is a Singaporean digital news agency.

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Urban Skies along the Han River (Photo Gallery)

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Urban Skies along the Han River (Photo Gallery)

Our contributor, Mr. Seokbum Kim, is having a photo exhibition at the Hanwon Museum of Art between December 14 (Sunday), 2014 until January 16 (Friday), 2015. Below is a selection of his photos taken along the Han River (a.k.a. Hangang) in Seoul.

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Seonunsa – A Beautiful Asiatic Temple

by

EVP & Partner, Stanton Chase Korea

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Seonunsa – A Beautiful Asiatic Temple

The beauty of East Asia comes alive when visiting Seonunsa — a Buddhist temple located in the Jeollabuk (North Jeolla) Province of South Korea. This temple – its name is Seonunsa – was first built during the Baekje (also spelt Paekche) dynasty, more than 1,400 years ago – circa 577 A.D. – at its present location.

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Today, hundreds of people register and visit this temple each year by experiencing the “Temple Stay” program. You too can take home, and keep with you, this uniquely Asian experience by clicking HERE.

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How to choose a Chinese Name

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How to choose a Chinese Name

Foreigners using Chinese names is a custom dating back to the Tang Dynasty. We do it for the same reasons some Chinese use English names overseas — they’re easier for locals to pronounce and facilitate cross-cultural connections. In other words…when in Rome, do as the Romanians do.

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Most of us live with whatever name our parents picked for us, way before they even met us in person. We might secretly wish for a different name, one which resonates more with how we see ourselves. Not everyone gets it right.

Here’s the Good News

Come to China and no matter how old you are, you have the golden opportunity to rename yourself! This with no risk of angering your parents back home.

Here’s a 3-step process most foreigners follow on how to choose a Chinese name:

  1. Find a Chinese friend with a good vocabulary whom you trust.
  2. Select a Chinese surname which sounds similar to your Western surname, e.g. Bell = Bèi, Garcia = Gāo, Maalouf = Mǎ , Vincent = Wēn.
  3. Add two more sound-alike characters to reflect some positive aspect of your character. Stephanie Smith could become Shí Jìngyí 石静怡 (meaning stone, quiet and joyful) and Jason Sutherland could become Sū Jiéshèng 苏杰胜 (meaning revive, outstanding and victorious).

That’s all there is to it. Choose a Chinese name wisely and others will be unable to tell by name alone whether you’re Chinese or not. There are plenty of ways to run amok, however, such as trying to be cute with a novelty name. We’ll leave it to you to determine if the following westerners have succeeded or not:

English
Chinese
Literal Meaning
Danny Dǎ nǐ 打你 Hit you (Not the best way to start a sales pitch)
Eva Ài huá 爱华 Love China
Fabio Fā piào 发票 The country’s ubiquitous tax receipts
Hunter Hóng dēng zǒu 红灯走 Walk when light is red (A popular habit)
Jimmy Jīn mào 金茂 The Jinmao Tower in Shanghai
Keanu Jī ròu 肌肉 Muscle
Lorenzo Liǎng mǐ gāo 两米高 Two meters high
Roberto Luó bo tóu 萝卜头 Turnip head preserved in vinegar
Rose Ròu sī 肉丝 Slice of pork

It’s worth saying that a foreigner calling himself Jīn Mào in Shanghai is the equivalent of a Chinese in Paris calling herself Eiffel Tower. Kinda dumb, but at least memorable.

Whatever name you choose, you might find your Chinese friends and co-workers start calling you a name which begins with lǎo 老 (old) or xiǎo 小 (small). If someone calls you Lǎo Lǐ 老李, it doesn’t mean you’re old, just that you’ve come a long way, have knowledge to share and people can trust you. It’s a mark of respect. Just the same if someone calls you Xiǎo Wáng 小王, that doesn’t mean you’re small, inexperienced or insignificant. It just means you possess youth (compared with the person addressing you) and suggests a certain fondness. Hang in there and maybe someday people will call you Lǎo Wáng 老王. It’s all good.

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Stewart Lee Beck (李渡) is an author and the creator of China Simplified. Connect with him at cn.linkedin.com/in/stewartbeck, or visit his website at www.chinasimplified.com.

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Note: The views, services and/or experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor. This featured post was first released via www.chinasimplified.com on April 25, 2014.

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Autumn Scenery and Cosmos Flowers (Photo Gallery)

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Autumn Scenery and Cosmos Flowers (Photo Gallery)

The beauty of Korea (located along the north-eastern coast of the Asiatic continent) had once been compared with that of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and New England which collectively make up North America’s north-eastern coast. Indeed, positioned slightly lower than New England in terms of geographic latitude, the Korean Peninsula also has four distinct seasons and provides majestic scenery during the autumn season.  For those who enjoy nature and the outdoors, Autumn is arguably the best season to visit and experience Korea.

Provided below are some unique views of (A) the Secret Garden (within Changdeok Palace in Seoul); a (B) street shot of Seoul in autumn; and (C) cosmos flowers with autumn sky as seen and captured through the eyes of photographer Seokbum Kim.

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#Arabia: It is More diverse than you think!

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#Arabia: It is More diverse than you think!

Did you know that the term “Middle East” is a misnomer? What came to designate, in the popular press and the mass media, the region spanning from the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean on the West, to Iran on the West, was not originally intended as such.

From a European centric perspective, there are 3 main parts to the “Orient”: The Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East. With Russia on the North, the Indian Sub-Continent and South-East Asia to the South, this leaves a clear definition of the Far East. The Near East, sometimes called the Levant, is really the areas of Asia closest to Europe and used to designate also most of the Ottoman Empire. But over time the term Near East has gradually been replaced by the notion of “Middle East”.

Enough about geography … let’s talk business and economics …   

In the business world, we use the term MENA, which is Middle East and North Africa. Although geographically this usually includes Iran, Israel and sometimes Pakistan, I want to talk in this blog and the following series about Arabia, which is the Arabic speaking world, often referred to as Middle East.

Arabia stretches from Morrocco on the West to Iraq on the East, and from Syria to the North to Yemen and Sudan on the South. I on purpose started this discussion with the geographical overview and linguistic history and then decided to use a new term, Arabia, to designate something CNN refers to as the Middle East, because I am keen on demonstrating the diversity of this region, which can be very surprising at times.

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Arabia comprises countries which are at a wide range of extremes from every perspective you could think of:

            • Wealth: Some of the richest countries in the world on a GDP/Capita basis are part of Arabia (Qatar: USD 99,731; UAE: USD 64,840 ). On the other hand, some great poverty can be found in places such as Egypt and Yemen with GDP/Capita of USD 3,112 and USD 1,377, respectively.
  • Population: The overall population of Arabia is 342.9 million (2012) , but this is very unequally spread, with Egypt being the largest at 82.5 million, followed by Algeria with 36.5 million. On the other hand, some very small countries by population such as UAE (5.5 million), Qatar (1.8 million) and Kuwait (3.8 million) have a very important economic and political role in the region thanks to their great hydrocarbon reserves.
  • Geography: Not all Arabia is deserts and sand dunes: From the snow capped mountains of Lebanon, to the fertile valleys of the Nile and Euphrates, to the rocky plateaux of Morocco, the region also offers a great variety of landscapes.
  • The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) itself has great internal variety, with Saudi Arabia being much larger than all the other 6 countries combined (population 29.0 million out of 44.4 million, surface 2.1 million Km2 out of 2.6 million Km2). And also a significant cultural variety and population mix. With UAE and Qatar having a majority of expatriate population relative to the local citizens, these are some of the most open and welcoming countries in the world to expatriates.
  • Religion is not a unifying factor for the region either, with large Christian minorities in many countries including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The dominant religion is Islam, which itself has two major denominations: Sunni and Shia.
  • If anything the Arabic language is the one common trait for the region, but even the language exhibits a rich variety between the Western regions (Maghred), Egypt and the Near East / GCC. If you ever attempted to learn Arabic, you would also know that there are subtle but tricky differences between the day-to-day spoken language in every country, the TV and media language and finally the official written language.

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Ziad Awad is the Founder and CEO of Awad Advisory, an independent corporate advisory firm based in Dubai, UAE, specializing in Mergers and Acquisitions, Business Valuations, MENA Market Entry and Capital Markets Advisory. He is a seasoned investment banker, with 20 years of experience working for Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. Connect with him at www.awadadvisory.com or ae.linkedin.com/in/ziadawad/ .

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  Note: The views, services and experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor.

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Why do young people like Seoul?

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Why do young people like Seoul?

During my stay in Seoul as an international student, I had asked a few people why do they like Seoul. Here’s what they told me. What is the reason for why you like Seoul?

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4 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

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4 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

140808tnagtz03Here are four things that you can let go of that will make you a happier, more peaceful person by the time you hit the sack tonight:

1) LET GO OF THE NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS

If you’re a human being, chances are you care about what other people think of you. After all – we are naturally social creatures! But if you find yourself spending too much of your time, money or energy trying to impress other people and get their approval, you’re not being true to YOU.

There’s no need to try and be something you’re not, because who you are right now is FABULOUS! Focus instead on living the most authentic version of yourself. When you fully embrace who you are and share it with others, you’ll find that people will appreciate how REAL you are and will flock to you effortlessly.

2) LET GO OF THE NEED TO BE RIGHT

Sometimes when we feel we’ve been mistreated or misunderstood by someone, we can get caught up into wanting that person to admit they’ve wronged us. And we want an apology! Or at least acknowledgement that we are right and they’re wrong.

The problem is that not all human beings see things from the same perspective. In your world, you’re right… but in their world, so are they. There are definitely times where an apology is necessary. But most other times, rather than allowing feelings of negativity to take root inside you and start spilling over into other areas of your life, it may be best to ask yourself this:

“Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be happy?”

Often it’s just our ego that keeps us holding on to past resentments and upsets. Instead, consider letting go of the desire to be right and you’ll find you’ll instantly restore happiness and contentment in your life.

3) LET GO OF THE DESIRE TO GOSSIP

I’ve heard it said that gossip is just a cheap way to make yourself feel good, and I have to agree. We all know that gossiping about other people is… well, not so good. But when the people around you are doing it, it can be easy to slip into doing it, too! Consider though that the quality of your life depends on the quality of the conversations you have.

If you want to live a more fulfilling life, start by embracing the power of your word. Your voice is powerful! And what you have to say makes a difference. Be committed to having more positive conversations about things that matter… not people… and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll brighten your outlook on life.

4) LET GO OF THE PAST

It’s easy to dwell on the past, especially when the future is so unknown! Looking to the past can feel safe… we know what has happened and we know what we could do to change things… if only we had the chance. The truth is, though, that you never will have the chance to change the past. Not unless scientists finally invent a time machine.

Your past has served its purpose – it’s brought you to the place you are today and made you the person you are now. And who you are right now is absolutely perfect. Be grateful for your experiences, but know that NOW is all you have. So do your best to enjoy each moment. Give yourself the gift of being present!

To your everlasting happiness . . .

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Tana is an internationally-recognized reality star, American business woman, professional speaker, author, radio talk show host, and business coach.  She attracted national attention for her appearance on NBC’s “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump. Tana was also known as a finalist in another hit reality show “Fear Factor”, as well as the spokesperson for numerous products.

Today Tana is seizing opportunities and sharing her tips on how to succeed in business and in life as an accomplished professional speaker who educates, motivates, and inspires people to take immediate action through her highly energetic presentations. She gets employees fired up to go back to work and dig deeper for greater results professional and personal results. To learn more, visit her website at Hey Tana (www.heytana.com). Connect with her at us.linkedin.com/in/tanagoertz/

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 Note: The views, services and experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor.

 

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Every American Should Work/Live Abroad

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Every American Should Work/Live Abroad

140801everyam03In just a few days, I’ll have been living and working in the Netherlands for 8 months, with the hope of continuing for at least another few years. This is a pretty big step for someone who never did a semester abroad, and only took a handful of trips overseas. Especially considering I moved to a country where English is not the native language, and I don’t speak a word of Dutch.

Despite what would seem like a massive list of reasons NOT to jump at the opportunity to pack up my life and move thousands of miles away from friends and family, I took the plunge and did it anyway. It was scary. It was stressful. It regularly made me ask myself “What the heck was I thinking?!”

But you know what? It was absolutely worth it and now it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone who has the opportunity, regardless of difficulties or fears. It’s an experience that can broaden your horizons in so many ways and can make you a better employee/boss through the rest of your career.

  • Learn to Communicate Clearly

As an American, I didn’t realize how much I relied on idioms, cultural references and analogies to express myself and communicate my ideas. When suddenly faced with an office full of coworkers that didn’t speak English natively (though all spoke it well), I had to figure out how to change my communication style. Already my English has started to transform from “American” to a more International form of English, one that is stripped down to its most basic. The benefit of this is a kind of clarity to what is said. I’m a much better communicator now than I was a year ago.

  • Deal With Cultural Differences

As every industry becomes more global with outsourcing, international business deals, partnerships etc. the ability to identify and deal appropriately with cultural differences is more important than ever. In my job at Spil Games, I worked in an office with 30+ different nationalities represented, with my team alone having folks from 8 different countries. Immediately I had to learn how to navigate meetings and conversations with people from all over the world, with each requiring a slightly different approach.

A great example is Dutch bluntness. The Dutch are, by American standards, blunt to the point of being extremely rude. They value direct honesty in almost all cases. If they think your haircut is ugly, they’ll just come out and say it. They aren’t trying to insult you, they’re merely stating what they see as fact, and would appreciate the same direct honesty in return. I had to quickly learn how to receive Dutch feedback without getting angry/insulted, and I also had to learn to give more direct feedback in return. A definite change from the American approach of trying to soften everything so as to not to appear mean or rude.

  • Experience the World From a Different Viewpoint

I’m probably going to piss someone off by saying this, but I don’t necessarily think the American Way is always the Best Way in every aspect of life. This doesn’t mean I think the US does everything wrong, I just don’t blindly accept that it’s the end-all-be-all of How to Do Things Right.

Living overseas, if you approach it with an open mind, can give you a new view on the World, a different one from what you grew up with at home in a way you just can’t get moving around the US (though you could argue that living in California vs Texas is like living in two separate countries). Living in a place where things are done differently gives you a chance to view the world from a new perspective. It can challenge your prejudices and open you to totally new ideas and experiences.

Here are a few ideas I held personally before moving to the Netherlands that have been challenged and while these are small things in the grand scheme, they’re representative of the kind of new viewpoints you might encounter living abroad. Beyond the specific new ideas you discover, it opens up your mind more to the idea that maybe there are other ways to approach a particular problem or situation, and that willingness to explore is a huge advantage in any job.

I’d never want to give up owning a car  As an experiment, we decided to not buy a car immediately upon moving, giving walking, biking and the national train system a try to see if that would meet our transit needs. Turns out it does! I haven’t driven a car since November 2nd, 2013 and it’s only been an annoyance (and not even a major one) once or twice.

Mandated, government regulated healthcare is a nightmare that doesn’t work This is a huge political topic back home that has people fuming with rage, and having worked for an insurance company once I had severe doubts that a health insurance system where you’re mandated by the govt to have coverage wouldn’t be a bureaucratic nightmare that would cost a fortune. Turns out, the Dutch have found a really nice middle-ground approach to the problem I think the US could learn a lot from.

Things Should be Open 24/7  Here in Hilversum, shops close up around 5pm on Saturday, and generally don’t re-open until 1pm on Monday. Grocery stores etc mostly close up by 9pm. Regular shops are shuttered by 6pm. This is such a shock to the system for someone who’s used to pretty much everything being open 24/7 (or close to it). The first few weeks were maddening! I couldn’t just get up and go out to grab something at any time I wanted! I had to wait!

But I found once I got out of the habit of having access to stores at any time of the day or night, I found myself buying less junk. Also, I noticed the fact that everything’s not constantly open, has a slowing effect on life that manifests itself countless ways that results in what I’d consider a far more relaxed lifestyle. A lifestyle I kind of like!

  • Learn to Work With Non-US Companies & Workers

Everyone who’s ever worked with an overseas outsourced company, contractor or partner knows the struggles of trying to fit them into the way business is done in the US. In addition to learning how to better communicate, and appreciate cultural differences, there is a lot to be gained in understanding how different people from around the world work. Knowing more about these differences means you can better plan for them and how they may impact a project.

It’s often mocked in the US, how much vacation time European workers get, or how they stick so hard-and-fast to a 40 hour work week (or sometimes less). Some of it’s jealousy, some of it’s smug satisfaction (Hah! They don’t work nearly as hard as I do!), but it always results in resentment, frustration and extra work when it impacts a project.

If you know about these sorts of differences going into a relationship or project, you can save yourself a lot of pain by building it into your plans and contracts. Sadly, in my experience most US workers enter into relationships with companies and workers around the world expecting them to conform to the American way of working, and it almost always ends badly.

In many ways, living and working overseas teaches you a lot of the soft skills and tools an MBA program promises you. It equips you better to adapt to difficult situations, improve your communication, and learn to view problems from multiple perspectives. While I’ve been out here less than a year so far, I honestly feel that I’ve grown more professionally in these 8 months than I did in the preceding 5 years.

And whenever I do move back to the US, I’ll be a much stronger employee and a better manager for the experience.

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Michael Crassweller is a veteran of the video games industry with 8 years’ experience managing external relationships with global publishing and development partners, internal operational teams, and providing subject matter expertise & operational support across groups in both small and large corporations. Today he’s the Head of Platform Services at BoosterMedia in the Netherlands where he oversees Game QA, Localization, Content Licensing and more. Connect with him at nl.linkedin.com/in/michaelcrassweller/.

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Note: The views, services and experiences expressed in this Featured Post are solely those of the contributor.

 

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