7 First Impression Tips for Travelers

First impressions. You only get one chance at them. So, let’s talk how you make the best first impression, before that day comes.

First Impressions Are Important

Always good to make a good first impression. That’s true when meeting anyone. But when we move overseas, especially to places where we’re obviously the minority, people take special notice of you.

So, when we move abroad, that first impression can be huge, and lasting. Here are 7 tips to help us not embarrass ourselves.

1. Study / Research / Learn

Before you board any plane, you’re thinking about a zillion things at once. You’re thinking about a job and where to stay. You’re thinking about money, the cost of food, transportation, electricity. And what about the language…should you learn 1-10 first, or “where’s the bathroom?”. Or maybe you’re already dreaming what hot vacation spots are nearby.

First things first: learn proper greetings, ways to say thank you, sorry, and how much. Research cultural differences, like personal space, what hand to use, eye contact and many more – all these help shape that first impression.

2. Two Ears > One Mouth

The other day I heard a mother sternly say to her child: “You have two ears, but only one mouth for a reason!”

At the time, I thought “What a bitch.” But I’m a dad and felt her frustration.

Anyway, the phrase works for new expats— keep your ears (& eyes) open. The greatest opportunity for this is when you’re with new people and you watch them greet each other, and how they introduce you to others.

Listen and watch closely. Then speak or do. Or try at least.

3. When Shaking Hands, Don’t be a Dominant Braggart

Handshaking is just one example, a clear jab at US President trump. Because, to rest of the world, he is the perfect “dominant braggart.”

When you’re about to make a first impression, you might be nervous. That’s cool and totally understandable. Anyone who cares, is going to be a bit nervous. But it doesn’t mean overcompensate, go over the top with dominance and showmanship.

Trump handshake

In general, don’t be an asshole.

4. Be Humble and Confident.

This is a step up from #3. Confidence and courage come from being calm.

If you don’t feel confident, then fake it till you make it. You’ll find, faster than you can imagine, your confidence gets very real.

5. Loudly, Slowly, Smile

I bet I have written this phrase on the site before. If I wrote “loudly, slowly, smile” before, I also probably told the story.

In South Korea, waaay back in 1996, when a sweet teen-aged student told the new, nervous TESL teacher (me), how some days I was a better teacher on some days than other days. The “good days, you are loudly, slowly. And smile.”

Proof having a calm, happy confidence works.
Speak loudly, speak slowly and with a sincere smile.

6. Speak With Your Body

Most communication is non-verbal. You probably hear that as much as “make a good first impression.”

And what about when traveling or living abroad? Wow, when abroad, the non-verbal communication takes over! Especially when we don’t understand the host language (–and they don’t understand yours).

This brings up two important points. First, be mindful of your normal non-verbal communication (stance, facial expression, arm/hands waving). Basically, what you appear to say if you were in a silent picture. Second, be mindful of how you use your hands or sounds to get your idea across (gestures, pointing). This is super useful for communicating your question or idea, but be aware some gesture innocent to you, turns out to be offensive to someone else.

When there’s a language barrier, non-verbal communication can become the only language. Use it well!

7. Never Stop Improving on that First Impression

Hey, the bottom line is, it is loads of fun living abroad, communicating and understanding others. It’s a journey of a 1000 steps.

Sure, it starts with the best first impression. But everyone you meet recognizes you’re new to their home and their ways. You’ll be given lots of latitude in improving on that first impression.

 

 

What’s Special About the United States?

You must know the TV show “The Newsroom”? The news production parody from Aaron Sorkin (same guy behind the shows West Wing & Sports Night).

First minutes of the pilot episode have news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) ranting on about what makes the United States the greatest country in the world (spoiler: “it’s not, but it can be”). If you haven’t seen it, google his rant later.

Will McAvoy

Before you balk, no – I am NOT supporting Trump (a.k.a. Mr. “Make America Great Again”). No, not in a million years. Nor am I supporting Hillary Clinton. No, not in a million years.

Sure, America could be great again. But I hold no hope, in either candidate.

Hold your breath for 4 years? No, better still, go away for 4 years.

Whatever happens this November, America in 2020 might just be a place to return to. (Or it might not.)

But no doubt, now is a great time to become an expat yourself.

— Which begs the question, what are you still doing there? Start on your plan, today.

gonein1year-overview

Non-Verbal Communication

My wife is outstanding at knowing what I’m thinking. She’ll tell me what I’m thinking. In fact, sometimes I didn’t even know I was thinking that. (Sound familiar?)
She knows what I’m thinking because my face reveals a lot while we’re talking. My eyes, especially my eyebrows, how my mouth is formed, where I’m looking – all communicate my feelings at the time. And as I write this, I understand this is probably why my friends enjoy playing poker with me. They watch, they know – they win.
The value of recognizing and reading non-verbal communication is obvious. If you can “read” people’s non-verbal communication, you’ll win. Much more than at poker, of course.
What made me write this? I was writing messages to include in month 6 or 7 of the “Gone in 1 Year” program, and it hit me how non-verbal communication really affects home and poker life. So helpful to be aware of our own face and posture when speaking with others.
Have a great day everyone!

What Does English Sound Like?

Ever wonder what English sounds like, if you don’t speak English?

Watch and enjoy:

Pretty neat, isn’t it? It’s as if you know they’re speaking English, but you just can’t understand them, like they’re speaking too softly. But it’s not English at all, it’s nonsense; no real communication at all. And if you’re a native English speaker, you know this to be true immediately.

Continue reading What Does English Sound Like?

Why Learn a New Language

I’m writing a post on why to learn a foreign language? Really? The question shouldn’t be “why” but “why not??
But what the hell, I’ll go with the “why.”

First, I’ll bet today, you believe you’re smart enough, attractive enough, interesting enough and people like you. Am I right?
Continue reading Why Learn a New Language

Six-Hour Work Day: It Works!

Dammit Sweden. You’re in the news again, sounding like some utopian, heaven on Earth.

Haga Street

The city of Gothenburg, Sweden, hometown to family friends Annika, Ingvar and their two exceptional children, did an experiment. All employers in Gothenburg moved from an 8-hour to a 6-hour workday.  The results? Overwhelmingly positive.

The proposal for a 6-hour day was not a popular idea at first in Sweden. The idea was proposed over a year ago, and criticized hard from opposing political parties. Originally, it was be a national experiment, but I guess that was too great a risk to the economy. The powers-that-be accepted Gothenburg to be a local trial.

Adopting a 6-hour work day wasn’t a recent thing for all of Gothenburg. A Service Centre for Toyota (in Gothenburg) moved to the 6-hour shift more than a decade ago. And the switch is permanent since both workers and management are very happy with the change.

The Managing Director of the Toyota service centre, Martin Banck, reports that “Staff feel better, there is low turnover and it is easier to recruit new people.” And, as for the ‘bottom line,’ profits are up 25%. Yeah, that’s about as positive a testimony you can get.

How do workers feel about it? Well, everyone interviewed comments on the lack of traffic, higher energy while at work, more time with family. Sounds positive all around. I’m guessing Sweden will soon reconsider adopting a shorter work day on the national level and with a better attitude.

I almost wrote up a few paragraphs about why the 8-hour day is so common, but I won’t. History and industrialization aside, the facts today are clear: technology allows us to be more productive in less time. Many of us don’t even need to collect in one work building; we can perform our duties from home.

Have I ever been to Gothenburg? Yes, but very quickly, only passed through. An adventurous buddy and I did a crazy weekend drive from Prague, Czech Republic to Oslo, Norway and back. We did it under four days. (Remember the 80’s movie Cannonball Run? Yup.). So, I “saw” Gothenburg and from what I remember of the blur, it was beautiful. And with work hours like this, I’d be tempted to move there.

If you want more news about it, here’s a Guardian article.

Mind you, adopting a 6-hour work day does NOT mean more work days. It’s simply a 30-hour work week, instead of the 40-hour week we’re all accustomed to. How many of you feel you could do the same amount of work in 6 hours, instead of there for 8?

Don’t live to work. Instead, work so that you may live. The shorter that work time can be, the more life you have.

In Europe, Commute Time EQUALS Work Time

How Is Your Commute?

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Does your boss count your morning and evening commute as work time?

Does your boss even care about your morning and evening commute?

If you live and work in Europe, your boss does care. And the time counts as work.

It started from a recent court decision, where a judge ruled in favour of the worker’s rights, according to the long-established Working Conditions Directive. In the case in question, the worker demanded his first and last appointments of the day count as work time because they were far from his home. Now, I believe if this were in America, the boss (& court) would still be laughing. But in Europe, the worker has definitive rights. Strong rights and those rights are well-enforced, thanks to the Working Time Directive.

What’s the Working Time Directive?

 

The Working Time Directive is a set of guaranteed rights for EU workers. The Directive sets the rules for acceptable working conditions within the European Union. And, compared to other western nations, those working time rules strongly favour the European employee, not the employer.

Here are some points, straight from the Directive:

  • a limit to weekly working hours, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a rest break during working hours if the worker is on duty for longer than 6 hours
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each 7-day period, in addition to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks per year
  • extra protection for night work, e.g.
    • average working hours must not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period,
    • night workers must not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period,
    • night workers have the right to free health assessments and, under certain circumstances, to transfer to day work.

How do those compare to your working time conditions, vacation time and rights? Yeah, I thought so. Maybe it’s time you moved to Europe.

Imagine your commute if in Europe…

bike commute

I remember well during my career years spent in Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, where my 4-weeks of vacation allowed my family a lot of holidays throughout Europe. Far cheaper airfare and easy border crossing (nonexistent for Schengen nations) were the frosting on the cake.

Yes, getting a job in Europe is difficult. Very difficult if you lack a university education, strong experience and a determination to get there.
But it can be done. If you want my help, contact me.

The Expat Curve – Cool Video

Check out this video: The Expat Curve

Besides the US (birth country) I’ve lived in 3 countries for years at a time. Those waves of culture shock, honeymoon, etc came at different times, each place.
I don’t know if it’s me getting used to being abroad (better adaptation) or if different locales affected me differently. Is the timing ever predictable?

Let me know what you think about this.

Thirteen Years of National Emergency

Heard the News?

Just in case you missed the news, US President Obama quietly extended the country’s status of national emergency. I’m guessing you missed that bit of news. Though, you probably didn’t miss the fact the year is now 2014.

I know what you’re thinking… it’s 2014, and the terrorist attack which killed nearly 3000 people on September 11, 2001 happened in 2001. That’s like …13 years ago. Yup, 13 years. Yup, the US, the most (insert here: powerful/wealthy/nuclear-tipped/war faring/inch-measuring) country in the world, still running scared in a state of national “Oh GAWD, the sky is falling!” emergency.

It's a trap!

Thirteen Years. Seriously?

Do you know what you were doing during the attack? For millions of Americans, it’s the annual conversation-starter question, if ever there was one.

Continue reading Thirteen Years of National Emergency

Who the Hell Is Terry Fox?

 

I have a small life lesson to share: Don’t ever ask “Who the hell is Terry Fox?” when you’re talking to a Canadian.

You can say “Hmmm, it’s interesting you bring up Terry Fox, tell me more?” or say “I’m eager to learn more about Terry Fox.”

But please, trust me, you don’t want be snarky when asking about this Canadian legend.

Continue reading Who the Hell Is Terry Fox?