To influence and be influenced

When you throw a stone into the water, it makes rings. Smaller and bigger. If you take the time to watch them, you notice that those rings are spreading their waves further and further from the place the stone felt. They can get very far, and it can take a while by the time they disappear, and the water’s surface regains the original flatness.

It is the same with people. We never know how we influence the people we meet and how long they will keep the impression we made on them. We don’t know how they see us either. Accordingly to Albert Mehrabian’s communication model (7-38-55), 7% are words, 38% are intonation, and 55% are body language. In the mirror, we do not see ourselves more than a couple of times a day. Do we know how other people see us? Do we know what kind of ideas we help create in their minds, or what kind of associations they get in their heads about who we are and what we stand for?

This can be hard to control even in a country where we have been born and brought up, and we know the culture and the secret codes and the expectations people may have of us. Yet we do not know much about it when we move to another country.

We can learn to shape words and phrases both in our native language and if we are lucky and put in enough effort, we can also learn that in a foreign language. Yet we do not know how our voice sounds in other people’s ears, and especially when we speak with an accent. It doesn’t sound the same way when we hear ourselves. We don’t know either how our image will influence the people seeing us. Of course, we have dress codes, at the same time those dress codes are different in each country. What is appropriate to wear in a job interview or a party in one culture, may not be appropriate in another country. It may be either too much or too little.

As immigrants/expats, we take patterns of behavior with us, (in our invisible luggage), that were accepted in the culture we know, yet they can be misunderstood and misinterpreted in a new culture.

I know there are many cultures where the “I don’t care about what other people think” philosophy is very well spread. It has to do with how many people are in the respective country, also with status and wellness. It is impossible to make everybody happy anyway, yet it is an expectation in smaller societies, where people depend on each other in a much bigger measure. After all, “what people say about you when you aren’t there” is your “brand”. Therefore, no matter how small or big the number of inhabitants the community you live in has, reputation is important, and it is difficult to control.

Therefore, big companies have people to deal with their image, to make commercials, to “handle” the company’s reputation. But how do ordinary people handle their own personal reputation? Of course, in the world we live today, we also have social media which allows everybody to become a “public figure”, at the same time, can we control how people see us? Not really if they don’t tell us and give us feedback. If we are lucky, we get positive feedback, at the same time the less positive feedback can be useful. It tells us how we can become better, either by understanding how we can integrate that feedback into our behavior and life, or simply by ignoring it if we find that it is not worth paying attention to it. We can choose.

Sometimes the feedback is with words, yet other times is with pictures. Like the one, I chose to place in this article. You have the camera picture on the right, which was taken on Christmas Eve, while I was wearing a Mrs. Clause outfit. At the event I was taking part in that evening, I met for the first time someone I had a fun discussion with, about awareness and how do we use words when we talk about ourselves and with ourselves. It seems that both the discussion and the way I looked that evening had made an impression.

This new person is an artist, a painter, and was inspired enough to make a painting about it. I chose to make a collage of both the painting and the picture of myself from that evening because it is a very good example of how we think we look and how others see us. At the same time, it is also an example of how the painting has influenced me to write this article and use the pic collage to prove a point. It works like a boomerang, somehow. What we give, comes back, and so on.

We cannot control the length of time people keep us or the event or the discussion in their memory either. This painting was made between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and it will always remind both the painter and me about the moment we shared in a good discussion. It may also influence other people who see that picture, without knowing who “the model” was. The model won’t have any control over that either. Eventually, some feedback will come around in some time. If not, I will never know.

Have you ever thought of how other people see you? If you haven’t, have you thought about asking some of your acquaintances whom you know are not afraid to speak up and give you honest feedback? Do you think you can handle the honesty?

Let me know what you think in a comment underneath, or let me know in confidence, by clicking on this link.

Wishing you a good year!

Christmas and New year holiday Story

I hope you are enjoying your holidays, and you will make some time to read a Christmas and New year story.

It is the second Christmas holiday we have spent together with our new friend Corona. 
At the beginning of 2020, I have decided to do an experiment. Every Sunday, I was supposed to write on a small piece of paper one good thing that happened the week that just passed and put it in a jar.

In the beginning, I did not know what to write, but slowly, I started to see that by the end of February, I was already good at finding up to five good things that happened that week.
What do you think happened when Corona came and everything shut down on March 12th? Well, I was happy! I was getting the chance to try working from home in a larger sense than I was already doing it. I was about to try something I had wanted to do for a long time. So, now was finally the right time to do it. So, I considered it a gift. I wrote it down and dropped it in the Gift Jar.

Working from home allowed me to sleep at least one more hour every day. I like to sleep and wake up to feel that I have rested. Each morning after a good night’s sleep, I have that feeling of being able to accomplish everything I want, and I have the energy to do stuff that day that I would have otherwise postponed. Therefore, this kind of morning increased their number, and, of course, they ended up in my Jar.

I live in the countryside, and I drive a fair amount of time every day. Well, I didn’t need to drive every single day. And, since I live close to the North Pole, we had snow until June and a fair number of storms. So, guess who was happy not needing to drive through that weather. Therefore, it ended up on several notes: “Grateful for not having to drive through the snowstorm today”…in the Gift Jar.

Since I was working from home, I enjoyed the beautiful weather every time we had it and even went for a walk in the afternoon. It was a gift as well because I know that many people were not allowed to go outside of their houses during the lockdown. So I was lucky, and that the walks went in the Gift Jar as well.

I also had the chance to speak more often to my family, especially my mother. Like many other people, I have a unique and special mother who is fond of cooking, yet she is very sensitive to the smell of food inside the house.

Since I grew up in a country where spring and summer and autumn are a long time with good weather, we had a garden kitchen, and cooking outside was acceptable by my mum’s standards. But when my mum had to cook inside the house, during winter, we would freeze because all the doors and windows would be open. The stove fan was not enough.

As a good and loyal daughter, I copied this habit and behavior when cooking. Opposite to my mother, I am not fond of cooking, and I’m not doing it often, but when I did, all the doors and windows were open, besides the fan. Well, I found out that one of Corona’s symptoms is losing the sense of smell. So guess who started to appreciate the smell of food in the house? “Being able to enjoy the smell of food in my house, without freezing” ended up on note as well and in the Jar.

I even reached a point when I am smiling when I realize I can smell the cinnamon I like adding on my oatmeal in the morning or the smell of fried bacon and eggs or baked potatoes. And I spoke with my mother about it, and we both laughed because, surprisingly enough, she reached the same conclusion as me: the smell of food and backing in the house is good to have. It tells us we are healthy.

When I write about all these things that ended up in my 2020 Gift Jar, I remember another thing I took from my mum and carried with me across borders, to the country I live in now, and which still sticks to me: my mum’s philosophy over harsh times; when you feel like external circumstances have punched you and you feel like everything is out of control – like this pandemic, which has begun hitting more than once since we are now at our second Christmas in its company.
My mum’s philosophy about this kind of moment is:

“My dear when you’re down, there is no other way to go than up. So, therefore, chin up, shoulders down, relax and think how YOU can make it better for yourself. There is no point in thinking of what you could do with what you do not have. Think about what you can do with what you have”.

This phrase worked subconsciously probably all my life, if I take the time to think about it, and it also gave me the stubbornness to keep thinking of good things that happened this year, not despite, but due to the virus.

When the second lockdown came in 2020, another story with a similar philosophy came to my mind. It was coming from another mother to another daughter in an episode I helped create and which I have witnessed.

Some years ago, a friend of mine invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with her and her daughter. She was working late on Christmas Eve, and she asked me to help her with Christmas presents. She made a list for me and told me the exact shops I could buy.
On Christmas morning, when all of us sat around Christmas three and unpacked the presents, I saw how my friend’s daughter, a teenager at the time, was getting more confused with each package she would open. At some point, she became angry, and she shouted at her mum:

“What is this? Why am I getting the same things I got last year?”

I looked at my friend, and I saw that she was perfectly calm, watching her daughter’s reactions. Finally, she took off her glasses, and she said to her daughter:

Well, you didn’t use any of these things you got last year. They lay around until about February, and then you placed them in storage boxes under your bed. You didn’t even give them away to other kids that could have better use for them. Therefore, this year you get the same things, and I would appreciate using them. Or if not, at least you will give them away.

My friend’s daughter’ got even more confused, but she took her presents and went to her room. I didn’t understand what happened, and I asked my friend what her intention was.

Well, my dear, she needs to learn that life does not give you new gifts and new opportunities until you have used what you already have. Or at least see what you have, look at it, and decide if you keep it or give it away. It’s all about awareness and how conscious we are of what we have and how grateful we are for it.

My friend put back her glasses and continued with reading the massive pile of Christmas cards she had received that year and opened her presents.

This story came back to me again this year together with this new lockdown that we have at the end of 2021. And I started to wonder, what is it that I didn’t use. What do I have, and I am still not using, or don’t know how to use yet, and I need to learn how? What do I need to give away so I can make room for new things/events/people in my life?

What is it that we as humans do not see and are not aware that we have and need to learn how to use or give away?

How about you? Do you know what you have accomplished during 2021 despite or due to Corona, and do you know what you would like to do next year?

What is it that you have and you have not used yet? What more can you do with what you already have and what is it you have, and you can give away?

Let me know in comments underneath this article, or in private, by clicking on this link.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

sending money home – “COSETTE SYNDROME”

blur cash close up dollars

blur cash close up dollars
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

It is December, and the question of gifts for loved ones is more present everywhere around us. 

Consumerism has turned the Birth of Christ into a money carrousel, and many of us can feel guilty if we do not manage to buy something for people around us. In the collective memory, it has been implemented that we show love only if we give presents for Christmas. 

I disagree. Love can be shown all year round, not only by buying stuff but by doing considerate things for people around us, whether they are blood relatives or not. I disagree with the feeling of guilt inflicted upon people by commercial trends. A good book on showing love is “The five love languages” by Garry Chapman.

There are many gifts we can give, gifts which do not cost money, such as:

– Seeing when someone is upset and making that person smile, if possible. If they are willing, be there and listen to why they are upset. A hand to hold and an ear who listens is priceless. 

– If you are able, keep to yourself the story you heard. It is not yours to tell. If the person who needed to talk trusted you with the secret, then he/she considered you worthy of placing their story with you. Keep that worth. That is their gift to you. 

Spend some time with people around you. Do something nice for them. Small chores around the house or help them with something you know they’ve been struggling with for a while.

If you want to, and have money to spend, then spend them on experiences: theater/movie/concert tickets/SPA/travels and trips, or therapy/coaching sessions – even if I know it may not be easy telling someone they need to talk to someone else than family and friends. But if you know they are aware of it, and they wish it, it is possible. So give people something that would be an experience they won’t forget, something they need and something they would appreciate.

Yet, to do this, it means we need to know the people around us, it means we have listened to them enough so we can spot their wishes and what can make them feel good and appreciated. 

When we live abroad, we feel like we do not have that time to spend or talk with those people we consider dear. And many immigrants and expats are traveling to another country to earn more money. It is a chase after a better quality of life that people think they can buy with cash. A better material world. People often believe that if they could buy more things, bigger houses, expensive cars, the latest of the latest gadgets or brand clothing, that will make them happier. 

If that is so, why are there so many celebrities, who have all these material comforts, depressed and unhappy? On the other hand, it is better to be depressed in a Tesla than in the middle of the street, and with no roof over your head. But from living comfortably to exaggerating when it comes to spending money on unnecessary things, it is a big difference.

Therefore, many people travel for work to provide a roof over their families in their birth country. There would not be so many websites helping people transfer money abroad if this social and economic phenomenon would not happen. 

What is it really that makes people feel the urge to take such a big step in their lives, such a bold and radical decision as moving abroad to work and earn more money so they could help the families in the countries of origin? Why don’t they just do this simply for themselves, because they want a better life for themselves?

With a background in my experience as a human, and as an immigrant, my training, and practice, I would say that first of all can be the feeling of not being enough – not feeling of being enough as people and not feeling that actions are enough either. This feeling makes people believe that they alone do not deserve a better life, except if they also send money to their families and friends in their birth countries. Or that they need to pay something so they can be considered worthy of attention. For some people, the saying “Those who say that money does not bring happiness, do not know where to shop” is very true. Money can buy many things and feelings.

The feeling of not being enough usually comes from childhood, and the dynamic children felt happened between their parents. If the parents struggled and put pressure on each other for various reasons, children would think that whatever was happening was their own fault and try to save one of the parents or both. If the struggles parents had were material struggles; in other words, they were having difficulties making ends meet, then the children would grow feeling guilty for all the efforts and sacrifices parents went through to provide for their material comfort. As adults, they feel the need to pay back; therefore, they get well-paid jobs and return the favor. Some of them are willing to move abroad to make that happen. 

There are many societies where children are born as an investment for old age: someone to take care of the parents when they get old. Children and the later adults are considered labor force. Of course, this is also allowed by the political and economic systems, which do not have a social welfare system that provides care for the elderly. Therefore, children grow and travel abroad to earn money to send to their parents, eventually younger siblings. Norway, the country I live in, does not have this system. I explain more about it in this article. The state social welfare also helps, and parents do not want to burden their children. In this country, I have also seen how parents are very willing of seeing their children out of their houses as soon as possible, which means 16 to 18 years old. In opposition to many other societies where children live at home by the time they are 40 or more. Another choice of words would be that in a country with a bad economical system, the parents are kind and they are helping their children by letting them stay in the same house.

It is true that in societies with good economical systems and where the state provides with student loan opportunities for youth, it is easier for young people to go out of their parents homes and experience life on their own. It is not the same thing in countries where there is no such thing, like the one I grew up in. I was dependent on my family my first year at university. I hated it. Second year I’ve got a job, and have provided for myself ever since.

In other societies, people have children just because everyone else does, without thinking if they can afford to raise them or not. I know, this choice of words sounds harsh, at the same time I wonder how many people really, think when they decide to have children. There is contraception these days, and it is possible to plan, and there are many reasons people decide to have children:

to perpetuate the family blood and name

to have something to live for

pure love

one night stand

drunk/drug sex

rape (unfortunately this things happen both inside and outside a relationship)

family and society pressure after two people get married

to have someone to inherit the family business.

to save a relationship – give the couple a common reason to stay together, etc

The country’s economy is not good and parents are left without jobs and decide to travel abroad to provide for their children. The kids are placed in the care of grandparents, siblings, or other family members. In extreme cases, they are also left with strangers who are receiving money for the service of taking care of a child. I like to call it the “Cosette syndrome” (see “Les miserable” by Victor Hugo). 

Like Cosette’s mother, parents who travel and work abroad want to compensate for their absence by sending money home. Some would argue that there is no difference between leaving your child at the daycare with strangers, and leaving them with strangers because one goes abroad to work. I would say that it is not quite the same thing when the children know they will have at least some time every day with their parents, and not seeing them for months. There is a good psychologist talking about it, Alice Miller, and her books are available here.

These parents who are away for months, abroad, because they love their children and want to do their best to raise them, also get a different idea about money, and they lose somehow the value of the currency in their birth countries. 

In enough cases, the family or caretakers in the birth country is well restored economically and can support themselves. However, people left behind start to feel like they deserve to be sent money and stop working themselves. They believe that it is very easy for their family members abroad to get money, and they start asking for more and more, without regard. They have no idea or experience over how is it to work abroad and how much effort it implies for their children or siblings. Some can start to take the help they are getting for granted and, even worse, to consider people sending the money stupid. It is a common thing in many cultures to mistake kindness with stupidity (I keep promising to write an article about this issue, and I will)

There is also a kind of emotional blackmail involved. People working abroad feel guilty for leaving family behind, for not being present, for missing out on the events in the life of people left behind. Some tend not to protest when they are asked for more money or simply send them willingly, hoping that they would put a plaster on the emotional wound created by the separation. 

In my therapy room, I often encounter feelings of great disappointment from people who send money to their families. They suddenly discover trades in their family’s behavior that they did not know existed. In some cases, when they stop sending the usual amount every month, they get protests, and they are shouted out and called names because suddenly they refuse to be the income source. 

It is a confrontation that is part of cutting the “umbilical cord” that keeps these people still in a sort of limbo state. They can either put effort into ultimately settling in the new country, and they can either go back to their birth countries because, in time, they feel they do not belong there anymore. They have got used to civilization and the working schedule, the rules which are respected, and the fair treatment they get as human beings in the new country. However, their hearts are split, and it takes some time to figure out what to do and what is significant for them.

If you send money to your family and friends in your birth country, how is that working for you? Have you ever thought about how it would feel if you kept that money to yourself and what could you do with them if you kept them? 

If you decide to give yourself or someone you know a gift in the form of a therapy/coaching session, click here to get my offer. 

I wish you to receive the gifts you need and to give gifts that will be appreciated.

Best

The Psychology of moving abroad

This is “I Viaggiatori” a sculpture by the artist Bruno Catalano, symbolizing the void created by leaving one’s country, one’s family, one’s people for another life.
For some, this can be true. For others, the country/family they left behind may have caused such a void, that they need to go someplace else to fill it.

Have you ever thought of how does it feel to be an immigrant?

Since I am an immigrant myself, I find it natural to speak about this experience in opposition to others. If you are an immigrant, you probably already found out that there are layers of feelings that scatter our bodies in the process of adjusting or just being in the new country we’ve chosen for ourselves.

I find this issue little spoken about. I think it may have to do with the fact that many immigrants find themselves in a survival mode even from the beginning.

Survival mode means being able to buy food and pay rent. When people struggle with these issues, the experience in itself with many emotions and experiences can fade away.

When people are “hungry”, or they are “cold”, it is difficult for them to take time to think about how is it, really, to be an immigrant?

To make it feel ok, and to be able to enjoy the stay, we all have coping mechanisms. And those would be “trying new things” in the new country: food, drinks, festivals, concerts, hobby clubs, and for many, overworking. Because if people don’t have friends or family, or a group of people to hang out after work, they will do what feels familiar, and that would be to work. It is better to have something to do than not doing anything because one does not feel comfortable with doing things alone. 

If you are an immigrant, have you ever taken the time to think about how does it feel?

If you would like to emigrate, have you ever taken the time to think of what would you need so you could adjust better to the country you want to move to?

I speak about a few perspectives of this issue as a guest of Life in Norway Podcast, episode 56, which you can listen to here.

Happy listening!

Best

Where is HOME for immigrants/EXPATS?

black home area rug
black home area rug
Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Home is a word that means a lot for many people. The dictionary says that home is “the house or flat you live in, especially with your family.”

In other words, we live in a shelter with or without a family.

When we are immigrants, I see this word associated with the country of origin, even if it does not fit the definition. This is because immigrants or expats, whatever they choose to call themselves, do not live in the country they grew up in anymore. They do not have a shelter there, except if they are guests in other people’s houses. When I say other people’s houses, they can be family members, friends, rented houses, or hotels because they are visiting. They do not live there anymore.
At the same time, when we are immigrants, we are asked whether we are traveling home or not at least three times a year: Easter, summer holiday, and Christmas.

It may be a natural question to ask, at the same time, I find it to be tiring, especially after you’ve been living in another country for quite many years (nearly 20 in my case), and this question still pops up. I travel home every day, as far as I know. And I can choose to travel to my country of birth to visit family and friends at certain times of the year. I do this primarily for myself because I need to contact the old me who used to live there and see how I’ve changed since I left. Seeing my family and friends, it’s a bonus. If they also have the need to see me and see how we all changed in the years we’ve been apart, they are welcome to visit.

Recently, David Nikel has interviewed me for his Life in Norway Podcast. He asked if people could have two homes. One in the country they have left behind and one in the new country of residence. The episode is out, and you can listen to it on this link.

My thought would be that it is possible to have many homes. But, at the same time, the feeling of being home is very personal. Each individual perceives “home” in a particular way, and it has to do with people’s values.

From the pyramid of Maslow, we know that vital needs are on the first level: air, water, food, and shelter. Here would also be the definition from the dictionary for home: “a house you live in”. Yet, having a house to live in does not necessarily mean home for people who are higher on the pyramids’ levels.
For them, home can mean the place where they have family and/or friends and/or a job that gives them status and social recognition.

For other people, none of those means home. Home means a place where they can feel that they can contribute and feel they are helpful. Contribution is the top of the pyramid, and it is a need Maslow has discovered towards the end of his career. Therefore, it is not as known as all the other needs.

And there is another category of people for which home is a particular context they choose: organized seminars, events, or retreats where they meet like-minded people interested in the same things and have the same values.
Those environments are closer to their hearts. Therefore they can say they have “come home”, not because of the material shelter where everything is happening, but because of the atmosphere and the subjects discussed.

Home is where each person feels a connection to the place and/or to the people around. We can have air, water, food, and shelter, yet that doesn’t necessarily feel like home. Therefore I would say that home is more of a feeling than a place.

As you see, home can mean many things for many people. What does it mean to you, who lives in another country than your own?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, or let me know in confidence by signing up on this link.

Best to you from

What is “Culture Crush”?

blue green and red abstract illustration
blue green and red abstract illustration
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

When I hear a word or an expression, I like to go to the ground meaning. I often use dictionaries. When there is an expression, it is usually formed by two or more words, which on their own have their meaning, and combined, they mean something else, something more than if they stand alone. Even if the original term is “culture clash” which means “a conflict arising from the interaction of people with different values”, I find this definition somehow limited. Therefore I choose to use “culture crush”, not for its dramatism, yet to give a better explanation of what actually may happen.

In the Oxford dictionary, the definition I found for the word “crush” is: “to press something so hard that it is damaged or injured, or loses its shape.” 

For the word “culture,” the same dictionary has the following definition: “the custom and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or a group.” 

If we put the two definitions together, the result would be something like this: to press the customs and believes, way of life, and social organization of two groups so hard that they are damaged, injured, or lose their shapes. In other words, the values, beliefs, and way of life of two countries/groups are pressed so hard against each other that they are altered.

I would say that this meaning put together by the two definitions might not be necessarily accurate because I do not believe that one set of values can crush another set of values. But, at the same time, they can influence each other, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It’s like mixing colors in a painting.

We think of Culture Crush mainly when we speak about the experience many people go through when they decide to move and live in a different country than their own. Yet, each family can have a culture, school, organization, group of friends, and all this we can find within the same country among people who speak the same language. Nevertheless, the cultures can be different, which implies that the set of values people live by are different. 

When we put it in the context of cultures in different countries, I believe that the best way to look at it is that these different values blend, and something good can come out of them. I do not necessarily agree with the use of the word “crush”. At the same time, I believe it comes from the feeling people can get when they realized that perhaps something they have thought to be true all their lives doesn’t work, and it can have a completely different meaning in the new culture they chose to live in. 

The pain caused by the feeling that someone can have when they realized they have made a mistake, or have misunderstood words and signals, can be so strong that it can be similar to a punch in the face – therefore, perhaps some muscles or bones would be smashed and altered. It is a figure of speech, where its plasticity can give a better picture of the real act. Yet, I believe that if there is anything that it is crushing, it is on one side of the brain, which contains the limiting beliefs one has lived under for a very long time. The heart and the body are feeling “the crush” the brain is suffering. It is like the soul is aking. 

This crush can feel stronger or softer, depending on how “black and white” people are wired to think from their own cultures. If someone grew up and lived in a system where rules were whipped into the people, and there was little room for tolerance for creativity or who people are, this would “crush” with a tolerant way of life. When I say tolerant, I mean that people were allowed to make mistakes and find out for themselves how to function within the system of rules they were born into. After all, we learn better from our own experiences and mistakes. Making mistakes is what allows us to grow and transform at the cellular level. 

Imposed rules and learned rules without understanding the process behind them will affect people differently. Even if people do as they are told at the surface, there will always be frustration underneath the smiling mask. That frustration is linked with not experiencing the process on own skin, and the lack of the lesson, which is not learned from experience. 

There are some that we all have in common when it comes to values, no matter the culture, and I like to quote here David Rock. He says that we all have our perception about five main areas in our lives: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness, known in neuroscience since 2008 as the SCARF model. 

When we meet other cultures, we do not know how these values are positioned in each of them.

Status has to do with who do we become in the new contexts. In the country of origin, studies, diplomas, and leadership positions would give status and a specific type of identity. It is possible that neither of that would be important in the new country, yet the personality and the soft skills would be more critical in terms of status. Here we can meet a lot of considerable confusion between being kind and being stupid. They are not the same thing, and I will address this discussion in another article. 

When we are new in a new country, our need for certainty is also challenged, especially when we don’t know anything about how the visa paperwork process is working and how long it will take, if we will be allowed to work or not. Another example would be having a boyfriend or a girlfriend from another country and not knowing their intentions and how the relationship will go further. 

If we come from a tolerant culture, we will tend to recognize the need for autonomy people have. This means we will let them make their own decisions because this is what we are used to. But if we come from a dictatorship, for instance, where we were told what to do and how to feel, and we would have had harsh rules imposed on us, we will have a stronger tendency to impose ideas and rules on other people simply because we do not know any better. That will threaten people’s autonomy from the tolerant culture, and they are going to react strongly to that. They may not like to be told what to do. 

Relatedness has to do with how familiar the behavior of the people we meet is. Is there anything we can relate to? Is there anything we can recognize? The things we see in a new culture and how we interpret them are entirely different from how the locals see them. Therefore this can create frictions, especially if we see something that may have negative connotations and the locals were not aware of it and never thought about that perspective. One obvious thing would be the skin color, and another straightforward example I can think of is the definition of “network”. In some countries, it means something positive. In other countries can mean “corruption”.   

Fairness is about what feels fair for each individual. In terms of immigration, we will find here many shades. It has to do with being a woman or a man and the color of the skin, immigrants from 1st world countries or 3rd world countries or from between, which is quite a grey zone. Former colony powers or former colonies and the list of distinctions can continue. Politics has a significant role in this aspect as well. We may hear the word “discrimination” here quite a bit. Not an easy subject, which again I will address in another article. 

As immigrants, not knowing how these five elements are defined in the new culture can cause many misunderstandings that can come under the category of “culture crush”

Which of the five elements of the SCARF model is the most important to you? How do you recognize when those elements are triggered in you by the people in your new adoptive country, and how do you realize when you activate one of those five within the local people you meet? 

Please leave a comment underneath this article or let me know in confidence by clicking on this link

I wish you a smooth landing in the new country of residence!

10 reasons for joining a Union while in Norway

crop unrecognizable multiethnic colleagues joining hands
crop unrecognizable multiethnic colleagues joining hands
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I work with many people who are immigrants in Norway. Some of them have their issues with their employers, yet, every time I ask if they are members of a Union, I get frightened and confused looks. I understand that in many other countries, being a member of a Union can be too good to be true. In Norway, though, it has more advantages than disadvantages.

I remember telling this to a friend of mine who does not live in Norway. She replied: “In my company, we were already warned that if we join a Union, we’re going to lose our jobs. So, this is not something I can do, because I need my job”. We all need our jobs, for various reasons. In this video, you may find some of them.

When it comes to Unions in Norway, they are well organized. However, there are many, and you need to find the right one representing the people’s interests in your field of work.

I am going to mention 10 advantages for which it is worth to join one while working in Norway, doesn’t matter for how long:

1. The money you pay for a membership is considered nondeductible income, which means you do not pay tax on that amount, or you pay little.

2. Every time there are salary negotiations for your working field, the Union negotiates for you as well, even if you didn’t ask for it personally. They will negotiate in the name of all members. Usually, each Union sends a warning to its members on what they need to do in good time before the negotiations start.

3. If you experience injustices at your workplace, you can speak to people from the Union, get advice and make a plan so you can make yourself heard. They accompany you in the meetings you may have with your leaders and even speak for you if necessary. They also have lawyers who can offer legal aid. Most of the conflicts at work are solved by the Unions.

4. They can negotiate better house mortgage interests for their members.

5. Many negotiate good deals for all sorts of insurances, from house to car and even hotels and rentals.

6. Scholarships for education.

7. Courses and conferences in your field of work so you can keep yourself updated. For those, the employer usually gives time off from work and even pays for them.

8. Network meetings and events, so you get to know your colleagues and not only. Most of these events are free of charge for members. They are a good opportunity for networking. If you feel like you don’t get the chance to know new people, use the time to knit better bonds with the people you already know.

9. You get information about things happening inside your field of work through a magazine or regular e-mails. It’s good to know what’s happening around.

10. If you are a student or not employed, the membership fee is lower, and the information you get is helpful and keeps you updated with news on the work marked.

If you want to get involved, you can become a representative yourself and help. It is good learning inside this kind of organization. It is a job that you’re not paid for. It is like volunteering inside your working place. But for that, your employer gives you the time off so you can work with it. You’re not paid in money, but in time. In return, you learn something new, meet new people, grow your network, and contribute to your colleague’s work welfare and your own. 

From what I hear from people I work with, some of the skepticism towards Unions comes from their experiences from the countries of origin. Like the friend, I mentioned at the begyning of this article.

Other reasons for skepticism would be that many people do not work full time, but only a couple of months in a raw, season work, and then they travel back to their own country. Others simply do not know that something like that exists, what it is, and what it is good for. Of course, not learning the language is also a disadvantage. If one does not speak even English, it isn’t easy to find out about this kind of thing, and one depends on own compatriots to get information and help. They can only help you as far as they came themselves.

If you already are a member of a Union, I suggest getting yourself acquainted with the person elected as your representative in your department. Find out more about how they can help you, and why not, how you can help them. After all, they work for you too.

If you didn’t join a Union yet, my suggestion would be to find out which one can represent people in your work field best. Find their website, read the information there, eventually give them a call, and join. You won’t regret it, even if you only work a couple of months a year and travel back to your country in between. They’ve got your back in those times you’re not in Norway also. 

I know that the Union called Frifagbevegelse har pages in English. Check one of their latest articles here.

I hope you have the courage to stand up for your rights! If you need help to build that up and you don’t know quite yet how to approach the issue, you can register on this link for a free talk. It is not easy to be foreign in a foreign country.

If you want to know more about life in Norway, culture, written and unwritten rules, feel free to get my free newsletter on this link. You’ll receive more insights every week or so.

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Fem kulturtips til deg med utenlandske arbeidstakere

solar technicians installing solar panels
solar technicians installing solar panels
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on Pexels.com

Mange arbeidsgivere har trolig opplevd at det ikke alltid er like enkelt å ha på lag mennesker med ulike kulturer. Noen ganger kan det til og med være lett å misforstå hverandre når man snakker samme språk, og er født og oppvokst i samme land. Det blir ikke lettere når kommunikasjonen føres på et annet språk, eller med tolk.

I tillegg, er det ikke uvanlig at migranter ikke kjenner til de innforståtte verdiene i det norske arbeidsmiljøet, noe som kan skape forvirring.

Gründer Gabriela Sirbu veileder utenlandske arbeidstakere og deres arbeidsgivere om kulturelle utfordringer som kan oppstå på en arbeidsplass. I denne artikkelen deler hun fem tips du burde kjenne til som arbeidsgiver når du skal legge til rette for rask innføring i kultur.

Klikk her for å lese artikelen.

Den gode usynlige bagasjen

concentrated woman carrying stack of cardboard boxes for relocation
concentrated woman carrying stack of cardboard boxes for relocation
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Når vi reiser, tar vi med oss mange kofferter. Vi pakker klær, kvinner pakker sminke, sko. Vi pakker praktiske ting som vi tror at vi kommer til å trenge når vi flytter til et annet land. Det er noe vi ser med nakne øyer. Vi sjekker det inn på det ene flyplassen, vi plukker det opp ved den andre flyplassen og så videre.

Samtidig, bærer vi med oss, i våre hjerter noe som betyr mye mer. Vanligvis bærer vi med oss forskjellige kategorier følelser. Jeg la merke til at det største grunnen til at mennesker bestemmer seg for å flytte til andre land er kjærlighet. Fordi folk gifter seg med folk fra andre land og de bestemmer seg for å følge med ektefellen.

Kjærlighet er når en av de ektefellen får seg jobb i et annet land, og familien følger med. Og en annen type kjærlighet er flykning kjærlighet. Og det er når noen flykter fra krig, de blir borgere i et annet land, og det tar med seg familien i ettertid. Det er også kjærlighet når barn følger foreldrene. Det er ubetynget kjærlighet, barna har ikke noe valg. Kjærlighet har mange former og størrelser og det mange måter å håndtere det på når det gjelder byrokratiet.

En annen følelse vi tar med oss i vårt usynlige bagasje er komfort. Mennesker vil ha et bedre liv. Det har alltid vært sånn. Alle sammen jakter på et bedre liv. Ingen vil føle seg elendig. Derfor mennesker reiser for komfort. Når jeg sier det jeg mener materiell komfort. Her mennesker reiser får å ha bedre jobber. Vanligvis reiser de fra Øst til Vest i verden.

Vi opplever reisen den andre veien også. Fordi det er mange mennesker fra Vest som reiser til Øst fordi kanskje, med de pengene de tjener i sine egne lang ikke klarer å kjøpe i det vestlige land det samme materielle komforten som det kan kjøpe med de samme pengene i Østen hvor ting er kanskje billigere. Denne følsen av å ha materiell komfort som blander mennesker, har å gjøre med jobb, lønn og penger.

Samtidig har vi også en emosjonell komfort. Dette har å gjøre med måten vi er behandlet på som mennesker i et land. For eksempel jeg har truffet mange mennesker som kan ha det godt med penger i sine egne land, og de kan ha et behagelig liv materielt sett, samtidig, de likte ikke hvordan de var behandlet av sine egne landsmenn. Enten på grunn av korrupsjon, eller andre grunner. Derfor de vil jobbe i andre land, mange ganger for mindre penger enn de ville tjene i sine egne land, og de likte bedre hvordan folk behandlet hverandre: snillhet, høflighet, smilene, renhet i byene, forbudt på bruk av våpen, og det kan være mange andre grunner. Dette er en emosjonell komfort som vi har med oss og selvfølgelig det varierer fra menneske til menneske og land til land.

En annen følelse vi tar med oss er mestring gjennom utdannelse. Når unge mennesker vil ha en annen type utdanning en i sine egne land, de bestemmer seg for å studere i utlandet. Sammen med følelsen av mestring kommer også følelsen av spenning, fordi når man er i et annet land som er annerledes, det er bestandig noe nytt. Denne følelsen av mestring gjennom studier, gir mennesker en bedre posisjon på jobbmarkedet.

Og selvfølgelig, det neste følelse vil være spenning. Her snakker vi om å reise på ferie. Når mennesker reiser på ferie, snubler de i noe eller noen og bestemmer seg for å bli der, uansett hvor de er.

Disse er de fire store kategorier med gode følelser som jeg har funnet til å være relevante når vi snakker om usynlig bagasje.

Jeg håper at dette er en innlysende innfalsvinkler for deg som er innvandre i Norge og det ga deg noe å tenke på. Om du vil motta min nyhets brev på norsk kan du melde deg på ved å klikke her.

Om du har tilbakemelding på det du har nettopp lest, skrive gjerne en komentar her under.

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