Sunday, April 24, 2011

U.S. Expats Love Buenos Aires...and I Guess I Still Do Too

One of the most emailed stories from today's national newspaper La Nacion is the report that U.S. expats are thronging to Buenos Aires, outnumbering immigrants from any other country, not counting the neighbors, totaling perhaps 60,000 in Argentina's biggest city.

What are their reasons?  According to the anthropologist who has been keeping tabs, U.S. Americans* come for the cultural life, the night life, the cuisine, and the lower cost of living.  Oddly, the warm sociability of the natives and the great climate was not mentioned, though I'd put them near the top as reasons for living here.  Also, you can live well without a car!  (For more details, see the original article or my comments in my post in my personal blog, Romancing Argentina.)  

After eight years here, I'd say that my honeymoon with Argentina has paled quite a bit.  Thus it was inspiring to be reminded of the good things that are easy to take for granted after a while.  It is all too easy to get stuck on the "hedonic treadmill," adapting to what we've already experienced and then looking for new highs.  Being reminded of the allure of "the Paris of South America" for others prompts me to look at my adopted home with new eyes again and appreciate its charms instead of just noting the warts.  

Also, over the years it is also all to easy to forget the negatives of the home country, as we tend to remember mostly the good stuff (in the same kind of way that you find you've forgotten all the reasons you divorced your ex when your new partner starts to irk you).  So maybe now and then we might do well to remind ourselves that home was not perfect by any means.  (Of course we can also be blinded by love and miss some important cues in our new cultural romance, so I'd suggest aiming for a balanced perspective, but that's a story for another day.)

Long-term expats might do well to intentionally create ways to keep their positive attitude fresh.  Listening to those who want to move here or who have just landed is one way (and by the way, nothing is more tiresome to them than a cynical old timer!).  Being explicitly grateful for the good things in your adopted country is another, as is staying curious and looking for new things to appreciate instead of falling into a rut.  

What are you doing to keep your attitude positive?  As the wise ancient Greek Aeschylus put it:  "Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times."  And I say it is well worth it, considering the alternative!

~The Positive Expat

*  since everyone who lives in the Americas is technically an American, as my Argentine friends have pointed out more than once, I'm using U.S. American to be clear.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Try the QOL - X Recipe for Expat Happiness

What is your personal recipe for happiness as an expat?

Would you describe it as a salad, full of fresh crunchy greens, juicy tomatoes, and splash of vinaigrette? Or are you creating an exotic stew, simmering with earthy spices. In the kitchen of our lives, we each get to choose from life’s basic ingredients the ones we want to emphasize in order to realize our needs, wishes, and goals.

How satisfied are you now with your expat “dish”? Would you give it five stars? Four? Fewer?

If your expat recipe rates fewer than four stars, first, I sympathize with the frustration you are probably already feeling and would like to offer some solutions. I also know that most expats don’t want cookie-cutter solutions that don’t honor their freedom and particular circumstances.

So please allow me to recommend a very special “cookbook,” an evidence-based perspective that does honor your individuality that will open up an entire pantry of applied positive psychology “spices” to enrich your life wherever it takes you.  It is a powerful, proven, comprehensive approach that works where simplistic "get happy" admonitions do not.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Real Secret to Expat Success

 As my seventh year in Argentina comes to a close, I am receiving more frequently letters from other expats who are having a hard time getting settled and feeling at home.

They wonder how I have managed it myself, given the tremendous challenges of having left family, friends, career, church, language, and culture.

Of course I could say it is a SECRET, and if they want the answer, they could buy my book or coaching services. But it really isn't a secret. Creating a good life requires the same ingredients as creating a good life anywhere:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Expats are More Creative!

Living abroad increases your creativity.
Fast Company writer Cliff Kuang suggests a simple question for employers who want to hire the most creative employees: "Have you lived abroad?"
We’ve always suspected it, and now the results are coming in. Even if you are not looking for a job, you've got one more reason to justify or love moving or living abroad. Here’s the story:

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by William W. Maddux and Adam Galinsky, found that subjects who had lived abroad did better on various traditional laboratory tests of creativity.  Why might this be?

Monday, April 13, 2009

You Are What You Feel

“We are what we eat. . . and we are what we feel. Our futures can depend on our emotions.” ~ Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Are you serious about flourishing abroad? Then you need to keep your “positivity ratio” at 3:1 or better, says the research. In other words, for every negative experience you have, you need three positive ones to counterbalance them in order to thrive.

Changing emotional habits can be like changing the course of a river, says positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson. In a recent live interview, Ben Dean, President of MentorCoach, asked her what would be her single best recommendation to achieve that ratio.  What did "the genius of positive psychology" answer?

Monday, November 3, 2008

How To Prevail in a Chaotic World

“How can we keep a positive outlook at a time like this?” many are wondering. Every day just brings bad news and more uncertainty.

Everywhere I hear folks despairing the very real the mushrooming global economic crisis, and expats are certainly not immune.

Even those who have found a haven abroad, far from failing US banks and plummeting stocks and house prices, are affected.

Many of us non-First World expats have been nervously watching the value drop of our investments, often relied on for daily expenses or mortgage payments. The credit crunch is going to affect those who hoped to invest in a home or business abroad as well as those looking for work or used to the little luxuries of living abroad. Our countries of residence are beginning to feel the shock, and as investment drops, joblessness will rise, leading to more poverty, hunger, and crime. Even those expats who choose to go home will find fewer job opportunties.

In such chaos, it becomes even more critical to maintain our balance. How can we use Positive Psychology techniques to energize us and give us hope?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Terms of Endearment: Mi Amor, Mi Vida...

As an expat, learning a new language can be a major challenge--and at the same time can be revealing, fun, and even moving. I've been mastering "castellano," which is what Argentinians call their Spanish.

One thing I really love is the way folks here call each other the most endearing names regularly, in ordinary conversation, between intimates, between friends, from adults to children or younger adults, and other combinations:

Mi querido/querida: My dear/my darling

Mi amor: My love

Mi corazon: My heart

Mi vida: My life

My dear, my love, my heart, my LIFE! Wow!

Adding those few words seems to make what follows gentler, kinder, be it a hello, a request, an affirmation. The very words are an affirmation of affection and are pronounced with a smile (and often a tender gaze).