1 – Hi Anne, For those who don’t know you, can you please tell us something about yourself?

I have been a serial expat for 20 years. I was born in France and raised by parents who emigrated from the south of France to Paris and who travelled all over Europe during summer vacation which was not that common 45+ years ago.  I have fantastic childhood memories and funny stories from countries that do not exist anymore such as Yugoslavia. So I guess this had an impact on my future expat career and life choices.

2 – How did you pick up your cross-cultural skills?

For our first expatriation together with my husband in 1990, we felt in love with Japan. We were not rich as we were post-doc students but we had incredible experiences, met fantastic people we probably never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. We were living outside the expat community because we could not afford to live inside the city. We learned “survival Japanese” but we were able to communicate pretty well with people in the street and in supermarkets. We became friends with our sushi bar owner next door and we loved the food, even fried fish and raw eggs with soy sauce for breakfast!

I think this magic experience in Japan gave us the “expat” virus because since then we always said “yes” to opportunities to move abroad and we knew that our experiences put us in a position to stand-out of the crowd. So we were offered to go back to Japan again in 1996, then we moved in 2001 to NYC where our son was born. We then got another offer to go back to Japan in 2003 for the third time and moved again to the USA in Atlanta in 2006 until 2009.  Today we live in Brussels, Belgium but despite people speaking French, I still feel like an expat as Belgium culture is different from France with its Flanders and Wallonia communication problems.

3 – You have significant management experience with top companies. How does your current offering relate to those who are still in management?  How do you use your cross-cultural skills in your job?

I understand deeply the needs and challenges of global leaders and international managers working in multicultural environments. I have always been passionate at inspiring people to become effective multi-cultural team leaders focusing on excellence in getting results and people development across borders. As a coach I help people to be aware of their true needs and goals before making decisions to move abroad, I also understand the chaos an expatriation brings to the family and help clients making very personal decisions like staying and having a baby locally or moving back home. I myself was pregnant in Japan and gave birth in USA so I can really relate with following spouses. I also found local jobs as manager and can help spouses who want to work. I have executive expatriate clients who have been for more than 10 years in their current company and don’t know how to search for a job if they get fired after repatriation. Multicultural leadership is also something that can be learned, it comes with understanding other cultures as well as balancing local interests with global strategies. I am also offering cross-cultural communication skill development.

4 – Can you tell us about your blog?

My very first blog was named “Living in Tokyo-lost in transition” I made it because I was a stay-at-home mom in Japan trying to develop a consulting business and wanted to share some tips, resources and experience.

My current blog http://zestnzen.wordpress.com is more about professional topics such as leadership, generation gaps, globalization, expatriation, creativity, cross-cultural issues etc.. I don’t really tell much about my personal feelings about being an expat and coach in Brussels.

I don’t know if it is the best blog post but the most popular is:

What is the Meaning and Purpose at Work for Gen Y? http://wp.me/ptOFQ-5Z

5-Have you noticed any current trends in the conversations you have through your blog? Have you found social media helps to connect with an international audience? What other online activities to do you do besides blogging?

Because it takes time to build online presence, I have still 85% of my readers are located in the USA only 10% in Belgium.  My blog is connected with my LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Most visitors come from LinkedIn group discussions. Twitter is starting to drive readers. I have just started again on Facebook as a platform for more casual-business discussions but don’t know yet how to leverage this.

I think I am an expert for LinkedIn applications and how to use it to network effectively and I have good knowledge of Twitter to guide some of my clients who want to develop an online personal brand for career development or job search.

6 – Have you come across any cultural stereotypes that bother you, or you find inappropriate?

Of course I live with many cultural stereotypes and in some occasions I told I was from Switzerland to avoid the stigma of being French. For example when France refused to send troops to Iraq, I was living in NYC and “freedom fries” replaced the “french fries”.  France is also well known for strikes this is true not a cliché, Parisians are “arrogant” which I think is not true for the vast majority. Speaking French in Flanders is perceived as a “provocation” so  you better speak English in the Flemish parts of Belgium.

8 – Do you have a book you could recommend to help others improve their cultural insights?

“Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life,” published in 1998, is a motivational book by Spencer Johnson. I chose this book because going to another country is about dealing with changes and the most adaptable you are the better you can handle cultural differences.

I also recommend “The Non-Violent Communication” by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. Here a post in my blog: http://wp.me/ptOFQ-ba. I adapted NVC to intercultural communication.

9 – Is there anything else you would like to share?

I have to admit that I am more comfortable with people who have an international background regardless of nationality.

I prefer one-to-one conversations and ask about personal stories or anecdotes rather than generalization like “the French eat frogs”

I don’t know what is our next destination but I believe we will move again two to three times before we retire but it is becoming more and more unpredictable because we get older and the global financial crisis will stay for a while in USA and Europe.

I would like to travel to countries I have never been: India, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Canada.

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