, ,

What does it mean to be courageous?

Courageous, a word we do not often use or hear…

In my life, I’ve been told 5 times I was being courageous. One of the last time was in 2017.

I was working for Amazon, having a job that I really loved, with a great team and wonderful colleagues. I decided to resign because my husband and myself wanted to travel. Some of my colleagues told me I was being courageous. I did not think I was, but one told me: ‘Yes, you are courageous: you dare to take a decision I also would love to take but do not dare to’.

Was it an easy decision?

Not at all, it was probably one of the toughest decisions I made.

Do I regret it?

No! I not only got to travel around the world, but most importantly, I found my life purpose! Helping expats and professionals working in international organizations has always been something I’ve done, but now that I am conscious of it, that I have a goal and that I am focusing on it, I have never been more excited and more positive in my life!

To all of you out there:

Dare to take bold decisions!

Dare to take a leap of faith!

Nobody has walked in your shoes,

Nobody has had your life

Nobody is YOU…

Be courageous!

You just never know what’s around the corner…

Things to consider when you want to become an expat

In my series ’10 tips for people who want to become an expat’, I explained the main important things to think of when considering moving abroad (summary of all posts):

  • Making your research
  • Checking your personal situation
  • Being ready for a lot of administrative work
  • Paying attention to your finances
  • Speaking another language in a non-English country
  • Being prepared to lose some friends (and win new ones)
  • Being open to change
  • Food
  • Joining a club
  • Reverse culture shock

This article is the follow up of these videos. There are many other things to mention and so many questions you may ask yourself…

Where do I start if I want to become an expat? Which country should I choose? 

If you want to go abroad to escape certain problems you may face (for instance: a break up), moving abroad will probably not change anything. Should you decide to become an expat, leave without ’emotional luggage’. Make sure you are ready to enjoy your new adventure. If you bring your emotional problems with you, they will keep on following you. No matter how far you’ll be from your home country. You will not be able to enjoy fully your experience as an expat.

So, becoming an expat all depends on your situation (are you already an experienced professional or a fresh graduate) and which country you’re coming from. Some countries make it difficult for people to leave their home country so inquire on what is exactly required.

The best is obviously to find a job where a company would help you relocate and would also arrange visa, working permit, etc. for you. Do not give up. This can take a lot of time.

Check out big international companies such as Linkedin, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Paypal, Visa, Expedia, Club Med, big airlines, big car companies, and many others. These companies are present in many different locations and countries, and they are always looking for people. Depending on the job and level you’re applying for, you may be offered a relocation package or the company may help you with some formalities.

Looking for your dream job

You can, of course, look for your ‘dream job’. However, from my own experience, it can take a lot of time. If your goal is more to become an expat and less to have the perfect job, look for any suitable job. Sometimes a step backward can actually help you move forward afterwards… You may even be invited for an interview and might actually be offered a better job depending on your experience and skills.

As mentioned in my first video, you need to do your research, there is no other way around. Everybody has a different situation, a different background and only you know what you want to do. Find out visa requirements. If you need a working permit, if you need to have some money aside to go to certain countries/areas of the world. You usually can find this information at the embassy or consulate of the country you want to go to. Google something like ‘Visa requirements for [xxx] citizen to [country where you want to move to]’. You will get several links and you can then go deeper to find out more about the exact prerequisites, processing times etc.

Do your research

Do your research on the cost of living, taxes (income tax, car tax, etc.), accommodation, public transports, school, other expats, etc. Nowadays, you really can find anything on the Internet. Use this opportunity to find out everything you want to know.

Find out about the weather as well. Some people coming from warm countries going to work in more northern countries sometimes have challenges adapting to the colder weather and actually get depressed. So also google ‘weather climate in [country you want to go to] to get an idea of what to expect and to avoid surprises.

Be aware that in some countries and for certain professions, the diplomas or qualifications you have may not be recognized. Or you may have to have your diploma translated into the local language (and this can be quite costly). So this is also another thing to take into consideration if you are looking for a job.

What else do I need to do once I have moved?

Once you have found a place where to stay and have registered at your town hall, do not forget to go and register at your embassy or consulate. This can be very handy in case something happens (if you lose your passport for instance).

Check also if you can use your driving license (and get insured). Sometimes, certain countries require you to change your driving license to a ‘local’ one.

Inquire about phone/internet providers: there are sometimes big differences in offers.

Will it be easy to learn the local language?

As strange as it sounds, it is actually easier to learn a language where people do not speak English (or your native language). Why? Because you have no choice but to learn it!

When people speak English (even in a non-English speaking country) and they hear you try to speak their language, they often switch to English as they hear you have an accent. Whether they do it consciously or not, does not really matter. The fact is that you will have fewer opportunities to practice and learn the local language if people speak English. This can sometimes be very annoying as you’re trying to make an effort to learn the language but do not get the chance to practice it.

When you are in a country like China, France or Italy for instance, you will have to learn the language. It will be very frustrating and you’ll feel very tired at the beginning. But trust me: once you have learned the basics, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice. Your learning curve will increase quickly. Remember: learning the local language will help you understand all the subtleties of the culture and will help you integrate better. It’s an investment worth making and something you’ll keep for the rest of your life.

I was happy and excited to move, but now I feel disappointed and wonder if I did not make a mistake… Is it normal?

As an expat, you will go through different phases (a big thank you to @Randall Niznick for the inspiration).

You’ll first be a bit scared of the unknown but mostly excited by this new adventure.

After a while, you’ll go through a roller coaster of emotions. You will sometimes become frustrated, angry, disappointed, sad, alone and will wonder if you have taken the right decision. You will notice things do not work like in your own country or not as planned….

But there will come a time when you’ll have finalized most of the paperwork. You’ll have found a place where to stay and will have registered, you’ll have a bank account, an internet connection, a mobile phone, etc. You will start to relax. You’ll start enjoying your new life and appreciating the normal things. You will start making new friends and will start picking up some habits in your new country.

Depending on your character and personality, of the country you’ve come from and where you’ve moved to, these phases will differ from one person to the other. Some may need a few weeks to adjust to their new situation, some may need months (or even years!). Some people may be stuck in the ‘down phase’ (the phase where everything seems to go wrong). Other people will make the best of their situation and will move quickly to the phase where they start to enjoy their new life. The most important thing to know is that it is totally normal to have all these challenges and all these different feelings. We’ve all been there. Even when faced with challenges, take this as a learning experience. Remember, you never lose: you either win or you learn.

Welcome to my first book

It has been a long delivery… Almost 20 years to be precise! I am pleased to announce that I am now the proud mother of my first book, ‘My revenge on life’.

It was a Friday in August 1998, when I was with my mom on a highway in Belgium, driving from France to the Netherlands. We were stuck in a traffic jam under a tunnel when a truck hit us. I had to stay three months in hospitals. It took me another six months before I could fully walk normally again and go back to work full time. It then took me years to be fit again and I managed to do so thanks to salsa dancing. I picked up my life, grew professionally and traveled the world…

I had always said I should write a book about what had happened to me but never really took the time. I finally started working on my book more than 12 years after my accident. I guess I needed that time to ‘digest’ what had happened… And yes, writing a book is not easy. It takes time, it has to flow, it should not be boring and it needs to have an end! This was my biggest challenge: I did not have the latter till this year! At the beginning of 2018, I had decided to help expats and young professionals optimize their potential. And it was as if the universe was sending me signs… All the pieces fit in together and I just had to finish my story.

It is always with mixed emotions that I recall all the events of my accident. When I look back, I am actually grateful this happened to me. It was definitely not easy to go through this experience, but it contributed to make me the person that I am. I have always been positive; I do not give up easily and always achieve my goals. This book is just another proof of that. If this book helps at least one person, then I will have accomplished my other goal: inspire people in showing them that there is always hope even in the most difficult situations…

PS: This book is available on all the Amazon marketplaces, both in English and in French (‘Ma revanche sur la vie’).

Shaking hands with the King and Queen of the Netherlands

If someone had told me that one day, I would shake hands with the King and the Queen of the Netherlands, I would not have believed them…

Yet, this happened on the 25th h May 2018… During a 3-day state visit in Luxembourg, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima came to the Dutch Embassy in Luxembourg City.

It all started approximately two months ago. My husband, being Dutch, had received an email asking if we wanted to attend this event. Only Dutch citizens residing in Luxembourg were invited and they could bring their partner along. We both had to apply to an official website, so that a full background screening could take place. And a few weeks later, we got the confirmation: we were allowed to join the event to go and shake hands with the King and the Queen of the Netherlands.

I found it hard to believe that they would both take time to shake hands with 300 selected guests… We had received some guidelines regarding the dress code, but I had other questions in mind: how do we address them? How do we greet them? We did not have the answers but we thought we would hear everything on that day.

‘D-day’ arrived quickly. When we arrived at the Dutch Embassy, a lot of people were already there in the garden. It was a gorgeous sunny day and everybody was dressed well. We started to mingle and soon after, a gentleman came on stage to do the announcement. He mentioned that King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima had arrived and that we could go and greet them in one of the rooms of the Embassy.

As a coincidence, my husband had also been chosen to be part of a ‘round table’. The participants of these round tables would get a chance to speak for a few minutes with the King or the Queen afterwards. These participants had to come forward first to meet the royal couple. And so here we were, standing in line, waiting to meet them.

As we were standing, I was trying to look and check what people were doing, how they were greeting them, as we had not been told anything. To my surprise, everybody was shaking hands normally with the King and the Queen! And before we knew it, it was already our turn. A man mentioned our names out loud and off we were. We were standing in front of King Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands and his wife, Queen Maxima. We first shook hands with the King and then the Queen. I smiled and addressed them as ‘Your Majesty’.

It was such an intense moment. I felt so blessed and so grateful to have met them. Both of them were tall and so humble. I was really impressed by their simplicity and their approachability. And before I knew it, it was already over…

My husband then proceeded to one of the round tables. After a few minutes, the King and the Queen were following the Dutch Ambassador and walked passed me.  Both of them went to spend a few minutes at each table and talked to the participants. When I was standing there, observing them both, I could not help but think: how many kings or queens in the world would shake hands with 300 people? How many of them would then spend time to speak to people as if they were attending a party and being ‘normal people’? I could not come up with any other names…

I was feeling once again so thankful that I had had the chance to shake their hands. Me, this little girl from Northern France, who had survived a terrible car accident, had just been face-to-face with some of the most famous people on the planet. The only thing I wished was that I could have had a picture to remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience…

And it is as if my wish got granted. Our picture was taken: my husband is shaking hands with King Willem-Alexander, and I’m just walking beside him. The best however came the next day. One of my good friends sent me a link of the Dutch news, showing a 3-minutes reportage of the visit of the Royal couple at the Dutch Embassy in Luxembourg… In this short video, I can be seen shaking hands with Queen Maxima! There is no words that can express how blessed, grateful and happy I was / am. This is truly an event I will never forget and will cherish it for the rest of my life…

Time is money… is it?

We often hear people say ‘Time is money’. And yes, very often, the time we use is to make money.
However, if you give or spend 10 euros, 100 euros, or whatever the amount (or currency), you will soon or later get them back. We all work hard and will make money again.

But what about time? Every second, every minute, every hour and every day we spend is gone as soon as it is over. I read an article that mentioned that ‘Eighty-five percent of workers worldwide admit to hating their jobs when surveyed anonymously’. So I started to wonder: is it really what people want to do, waste their time on something they hate? What about people who stay in a relationship that do not make them happy? What about spending time with ‘friends’ who show jealousy and pull you down as soon as you are moving forward? What about the time wasted watching all these TV shows that do not teach you anything but whose aim is just to entertain and keep you ignorant?

So, no, to me, time is not money. It is the most valuable asset we have and this is probably the only area where we truly are all equal. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week.

So don’t waste your time on things (or people) that do not make you happy. Don’t waste your time on things that do not bring you closer to your goals.

Make sure you do something you love, find your life purpose.
Spend time with people who love and appreciate you.
Spend your time wisely and purposefully.

Because you can never get back that second, minute, hour or day. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And there is no money in the world that can buy these precious moments back.

What do you think?