Interview with Cross-Cultural Coach Margarita Gokun Silver
Jul 25th, 2012
Welcome Margarita! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a global nomad at heart and an expatriate/cross-cultural coach at trade. I have a strong passion for change and re-discovery -- both useful things to have when you move from country to country every few years!
Because living abroad is an amazing gift and an opportunity that not everyone gets to experience, it's my belief that you must make the very best of it... and I am here to help, if needed. You can reach me through my site --- GlobalCoachCenter.com
What do potential expatriates have to consider before relocating to a foreign country like Canada for instance?
A few good questions to ask yourself before any relocation would be -- what's drawing me there? What am I looking for? How will this move contribute to my happiness and fulfillment?
Once you get those questions out of the way, learn as much as you can about your new home. I always recommend reading a few bits of fiction written by writers from that country and set in that country; learning a few proverbs and understanding what they say about the culture; and, of course, taking language courses. Speaking to other expats that came before you helps enormously -- as does connecting with them when you land. But most importantly remember: you are not going to feel at home immediately. It will take time. Give yourself that time and be gentle with yourself and others.
What are the top 3 soft skills expatriates need to develop in order to overcome culture shock efficiently?
- Skill #1 -- there are more than one perspective out there on anything. So if you find yourself stuck in a perspective about living in another culture that's not doing you any good, change it. You have the power to change the way you look at things... and then "the things you look at will change" (Dr Wayne Dyer).
- Skill #2 -- always check your assumptions. As humans we assume a lot of things all the time and most of our assumptions come from what we have experienced before. So the culture from which we came can be influencing our assumptions about our new home and very often those assumptions are quite far from the truth.
- Skill #3 -- relax and laugh a lot. Things are not going to get done the same way they got done in your home country but instead of looking at it as yet another frustrating experience, engage humor.
What would you say to new immigrants who feel depressed when they think about the life they left behind, their friends and family?
Leaving behind the familiar as well as friends and family isn't easy so having feelings of sadness is natural. One of the best ways to deal with that sadness is to engage in gratitude. What are you grateful for? Perhaps it's a new job, a new beautiful home, a new love -- or even a simple fact that you have friends and family who you miss. Finding what's present in your life rather than concentrating on what's absent really helps alleviate the sadness.
Of course if it's not just sadness but real depression, then that's another matter -- depression is best dealt with by going to a qualified therapist.
How long does culture shock typically last?
It varies. For some people it can last a few weeks, for others -- a few months. Some arrive and feel no culture shock at all but then it suddenly appears. In general, it can take you anywhere between 6-12 months to feel like you are beginning to build a new home.
What would your personal life look like today if you had not experienced cross-cultural differences?
It'd definitely be less colorful, with much fewer sounds, tastes and memories! I love having cross-cultural interactions -- it makes my life much more fun and allows me to grow in ways that no other experience can.
Thank you Margarita for sharing your experience with us today!