EXPAT INTERVIEWS


Be inspired and motivated by these amazing business owners who have shared their stories with us. Learn from them and feel free to get in touch with them if you’d like to know more about their businesses.  

Join Melissa Talago at her campfire for a chat – tell her your business story

Posted by on 4:32 am in Expat Interviews | 1 comment

Originally from South Africa and after having lived and worked in the USA, started up a PR company in the UK and sold it after five years, Melissa Talago moved to York and launched her new business Campfire Comunications. Name: Melissa TalagoTitle: Founder & chief firestarter Business/Company name: Campfire Communications Country/countries of origin: South Africa Expat country/countries: USA, UK Current country: England UK Melissa’s story in a nutshell: I grew up in South Africa and moved to the USA (Boston, then NYC) for a two year stint in my twenties, working for a global technology PR company. I then moved to the UK with my British husband in 2003 with the same company. But after the birth of my children I realised that I couldn’t keep working the same brutal hours with the killer commute from the Home Counties to London. So I went freelance first, then set up my own PR business specialising in the parenting sector. After five years of successfully running and growing the business, I sold it and relocated to York. I have now just launched a brand new venture – Campfire Communications. I have taken my 20 years of PR experience working in three different countries, combined it with my insight into being a small business owner and my passion for writing and storytelling, and created a range of packages that will help small businesses tell their stories through PR, copywriting, messaging and friendly ad hoc help. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Having no family in the country to help with childcare. This has always been – and continues to be – a challenge. My husband works away from home a great deal, which means it’s down to me to look after the kids. Now that they’re older and at school, it’s easier than the early days when I literally scheduled calls around their naptimes. But it’s still difficult when they get ill or if I want to go to early morning/evening events. I am used to it now and have structured my work so that I can still take time off to go watch them play rugby or see school plays. That’s the joy of being self-employed. The other challenge was not really being familiar with the legalities of what you have to do as a small business in the UK – like registering to pay National Insurance. I had no idea when I first set up what I was supposed to do. I learnt by trial and many errors! Who are your cheerleaders?: My husband, who has consistently believed in me even when I haven’t believed in myself, and my father, even though he lives in South Africa, he is very motivational from afar. And other business women who I have never met other than online, but who know what it’s like running a business and can empathise with the ups and downs. What are your words of Wisdom?: To any expats who want to set up their own business but don’t know what to do, here are eight tips to get started: Figure out what you know. What are you an expert in? It could be ‘being an expat!’ Figure out what you love to do. What do you find yourself doing often because you enjoy it? Marry those two...

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World Tree Coaching – Life Coaching for Expats

Posted by on 3:40 am in Expat Interviews | 1 comment

American expat Jodi Harris uses her extensive experience as an expat in five countries along with her background in clinical social work, to run her life coaching business specifically for expats. Name: Jodi Harris Business/Company name: World Tree Coaching Country/countries of origin: USA Expat country/countries: Spain, Japan, Northern Ireland, the Dominican Republic, Madagascar Current country: USA (Washington, DC) Jodi’s story in a nutshell: Very early in life I knew I’d travel and live abroad. So as an undergraduate I studied in Spain and then in graduate school I did my fieldwork in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I taught English in Japan and traveled in Asia and Latin America. I was never a reluctant expat. So, suffice it say, when my husband was offered a position with the US Department of State in the Foreign Service Officer Program (the Diplomatic Corps) I was ecstatic. Fluent in Spanish, with a teacher certificate, Bachelors Degrees in English and Spanish and a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work, not to mention over a decade of relative work experience I thought the transition would be easy. I was wrong. It was much, much more difficult than I envisioned. However, through two years in the Dominican Republic and then almost two years in Madagascar, I found myself confronted with incredible opportunities to get to know myself, my work style, my passions and my needs much better. I came to realize that writing, helping people, supporting other expats and maintaining work/life balance are my greatest professional priorities. It took a lot of analysis and steady, (sometimes slow) steps forward for me to realize the best way to put my skills to work for me in our expat life. I started World Tree Coaching – Life Coaching for Expats in October 2013. It draws upon my skills as a clinical social worker, teacher and writer. I use all of them every day and I couldn’t be happier. Biggest start up / expat challenge: The biggest challenge for me was feeling worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously if I were branching out on my own. In the past, I had always worked for organizations or private companies. At first I was really anxious about being my own boss and being the face of my own business. Who are your cheerleaders?: I’m lucky to have so many! My husband is my biggest cheerleader. He has always said that he never wants me to give up my career for his and he puts this desire into action by supporting me 100% in every endeavor. I also have a great group of friends and colleagues that believe in me and provide invaluable feedback. The US State Department Foreign Service community has also been a great source of support and inspiration. What are your words of Wisdom?: All the skills that make you a great expat (flexibility, creativity, perseverance, a sense of fun and adventure, and the pursuit of your passions) are exactly the same skills that you need to run your own business – put them to use for you! Cultural differences: I’ve worked with people from so many different cultures in so many different parts of the world and the one thing that always remains true is that people want to be treated fairly, with love and respect. That’s one...

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An adventure that would create more value for himself and others

Posted by on 7:13 am in Expat Interviews | 5 comments

American expat Mike Miello created his own adventure that would eventually create more value for himself and for others. Name: Mike Miello Business/Company name: Webodew Country/countries of origin: USA Expat country/countries: the Netherlands Current country: the Netherlands Mike’s story in a nutshell: In 2005, I signed a contract to play professional baseball in Milan, Italy the following year.  Unfortunately getting residency prevented it from happening and so I couldn’t play.  Still, I wanted to come to Europe and since I knew a little French, I decided to go to France and study.  I eventually got a couple master degrees in business and politics in France and Switzerland while taking on side jobs as a web admin/ developer.  In 2009, I came to Amsterdam Netherlands and have been her ever since.  First few years I was an international business developer Dutch tech companies establish business abroad, primarily to the USA.  In 2012, I decided to establish my own company, Webodew.  Passionate about the web, I now help business owners find their voice online and provide them with tools to move their online business to a higher performing level. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Just getting away from the negativiy, the naysayers. Going through the initial startup period, this is where you see your true supporters. Entrepreneurship is not an easy thing to commit to.  Many people I know say they always wanted to be their own boss but then come up with “one of the million reasons” they can’t.  I think the web has termed these people as “wantrapreneurs”. When I started, some people within my group gave me the feeling like they wanted me to fail so that they could justify their own actions of not trying.  And so when I would go to parties, I would hear a lot of negative comments.  “Ohhh you must be struggling to do xyz” “You probably can’t do xyz now since you have no financial guarantee for your futures”.  What would your girlfriend think if you couldn’t…. I heard a fair share of these comments and I definitely thought about them.  Am I making the right decision?  Is there too much risk?  A lot of reflection and too much hesitation.   Eventually I just started blocking this kind of attitude and focused more on associating myself with people who share a common interest and self-drive.  I wanted to see if creating my own adventure would create more value for myself and others. And I discovered that there are a lot of people with a similar mindset who work toward this in unique ways.  This became fuel for me! Who are your cheerleaders?: Family and friends help a lot. But I’d have to say that my mentors and clients give me crazy energy juice!  I now have weekly mastermind that pump me up to think of next actions.  And clients are helping me to get my service out.  They know that business helps me improve my offering which I can then provide more value for them. What are your words of Wisdom?: Failing costs the amount of time it takes to get the balls to fail in the first place.  I said this to one of my Dutch friends.  He then printed it on a Dutch ceramic tile and so I guess it...

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Walking holiday Business in Spain

Posted by on 5:21 am in Expat Interviews | 0 comments

British expat Erik overcame the challenges of Spanish bureaucracy and runs a thriving walking holiday business in the beautiful Costa Blanca mountains of Spain. Name: Erik Brockdorff Business/Company name: Walking Holiday in Spain Country/countries of origin: UK Expat country/countries: Spain Current country: Spain Erik’s story in a nutshell:I moved to Spain in 1997 after reaching a point in my career where I had achieved the objectives I had set myself after 10 years running my forestry management and contracting business. So rather than keep repeating what I already knew how to do I decided to make a complete break and try something new. The Costa Blanca Mountains had always attracted me for their rugged beauty, sheer rocky peaks with a mantle of deep green pine forests. With the added bonus of a Mediterranean climate and a relaxed lifestyle I decided that it was a great area for walking holidays, so after a couple of years learning the language and everything I could about the natural environment and culture I launched my walking holiday business. The hardest part was getting started, in Spain the system is not really designed to help or encourage you, if anything the contrary, so I wasted a lot of time filling in forms for government schemes supposedly aimed at promoting rural development. However, after a very slow start by 2007 we had a thriving business – then came the crisis and a huge decline in reservations. We had been dependent on referrals so decided to diversify our product range and launch our own website to get clients directly through Internet searches, this has been a long learning curve as the web is very competitive and on a limited budget it is not easy to get noticed and the website’s rankings go up and down but we are starting to get clients coming directly. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Becoming Internet savvy. Basically I knew nothing about the Internet and very little about computers when I started. I had used a very basic IBM desktop that was basically just a word processor, I also used it for simple spreadsheets to prepare cost estimates for quotations. So I had to spend 1000 euros on new computer equipment. This was a significant investment 14 years ago, and then I had to teach myself how to use it and how to use the Internet. It was a steep learning curve, at first I thought I just had to publish a website and that customers would beat a path to my door. My first design was awful, and probably deterred everybody who visited it. I realized it wasn’t working so redesigned the website to make it easier to use and more informative and then used Google Adwords to attract visitors. I got lots of clicks and quite a few enquiries, but what I didn’t know was how to convert an enquiry into a sale… that is the really tricky part. Fortunately I was getting a lot of clients through tour operators and other Internet Travel Agencies so the Internet failure wasn’t that important. When that source then dried up I decided to relaunch the website and try to appear in the Google organic search rankings. The new website was initially quite successful, but after the initial success it took a dive...

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From India to UK and finding the artist within

Posted by on 5:03 am in Expat Interviews | 3 comments

How artist Safina is changing perceptions of henna and creating a life and career for herself in a new country. Name: Shumayela Safina Business/Company name: Safhenna Country/countries of origin: India Expat country/countries: UK Current country: UK Safina’s story in a nutshell:Art had always been a hobby. I never thought I would pursue this as a career. Back home in India my parents did not approve of a career in art and were pushing me on a path to being a tax consultant. Things changed when in a traditional Indian fashion my parents got me engaged to an engineer. I had only met him once and spoke for about twenty minutes before we got engaged. Few months after the engagement, he moved to the UK. A year later we got married and I came to the UK with my husband. Not having many friends I spent my time on things I loved to do like painting and focused on my art. I used to do Henna tattoos on myself and tried various designs. It was this way for a few years before I applied henna on my friends. They were so impressed that one of them suggested I do this more seriously and idea of Safhenna, my henna start-up, was born. I started having stalls in various charity events and posted the photos on facebook. I was overwhelmed by the response and this pushed me to work harder and push the boundaries.  This is the thing about henna, it can be any design you want; it can be floral or have traditional motifs or symbols. In my designs I incorporate images from nature including flowers, leaves, birds and animals. Using 100% natural henna I work freehand to create beautiful intricate bespoke designs incorporating details like glitter and diamante. Apart from doing Henna as Body art, I decorate and personalise a range of gift items according to the client’s requirements. Gift items include Candles/ Canvases/Treasure boxes/Photo frames/ Cards and much more. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Getting information and guidance were the biggest challenges. And I don’t mean they are not available, I mean knowing how to access information. Things like the insurance, I did not know this was required until I applied for my first event and got rejected because I did not have one. Natural henna is completely safe and in India you do not require any insurance. Also, getting to know the right people who can help, like event organisers, is also not easy. A lot of times I find out about an event and it’s too late as all the stalls are already taken. Sometimes, I turn up at an event with a lot of expectation, but there is no turn-out. The cultural differences are also a big challenge. Many people don’t know about henna tattoos and are sceptical. Once I explain what it is, they get it, but it’s difficult getting people to stop and listen to what I have to say about it. They say “No tattoos, no tattoos for me” or something like that. Perhaps there’s a stigma that comes with it – that’s it’s associated with tattoos. Who are your cheerleaders?: My husband, a few good friends and my family back home in India of course. What are your words of Wisdom?:...

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Helen McClure, travel journalist and expat explorer

Posted by on 4:09 am in Expat Interviews | 0 comments

From UK to Kuwait, USA, UAE and Singapore Name: Helen McClure Business/Company name: P4PR / Expat Explorers Country/countries of origin: UK Expat country/countries: Kuwait, USA, UAE, Singapore Current country: Singapore Helen’s story in a nutshell:I was in hospital, in labour, with my second daughter negotiating, or rather shouting down the phone at an estate agent – I was desperate to firm up the deal on a new house. And it was a brand new house. A beautiful kitchen, plenty of space, a great neighbourhood, somewhere to build a home. Twelve weeks after we moved in my husband announced we were moving to Chicago. Since then we’ve lived in one of the coldest places on the planet, one of the hottest and now one of the most humid. Luckily this has been an inspirational experience that has fed my passion as a travel journalist, helping other expat families to travel more adventurously in order to find out how the world ticks. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Operating in different cultures and getting to grips with social and religious sensitivities. For example, Singapore is liberating and open-minded; there is room for entrepreneurs to breath. Dubai is a great place to live, but you have to understand how the place ticks, especially as a women in a patriarchal society. These are interesting challenges. Who are your cheerleaders?: My two daughters. They are both my inspiration and the reason why I’m passionate about sharing information. What are your words of Wisdom?: The world doesn’t revolve around you. You should revolve around the world. It’s a big jigsaw – you just need to work out how all the pieces fit together. Cultural differences: There are the obvious differences of the male/female divide, religion and social sensitivities, but these are only barriers for a short time until you understand the rules of the land and respect them. I like to believe there are peach and coconut cultures. Some cultures are very welcoming, and people will chat to you in a queue for the checkout counter. It doesn’t mean they want to have dinner with you though. Coconut cultures don’t want to impose so appear stand offish and won’t strike up a conversation until formal introductions have been made. Then you may become as thick as thieves. I’ll leave you to work out which country is which! Overcoming fear: Just put one foot in front of the other, and keep going. There are thousands of people who have done it before you (in most situations!) so if you need help, just reach out a hand and someone will grab it. Personal challenges: Developing my business so it is flexible enough to move country with me. Working practices and benefits in Singapore: Singapore loves hard work, and if you’re someone who can operate within boundaries it’s the place for you. Some people find it too stifling but I’d rather understand the rules and work with them, then work in a country where the rules are too fluid and whatever you do you’re on the wrong side of the law. Professional achievements: At 13 ¾ I read “The Secret Diary to Adrian Mole, ages 13 ¾” by Sue Townsend. The main character talked about his future and so I started a diary. I committed pen and paper my...

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From India to UK

Posted by on 5:38 pm in Expat Interviews, Latest News, Video interviews | 0 comments

From India to England, Kirthi Mundada starts up her own Indian food business Watch Kirthi’s video interview! CLICK HERE Name: Kirthi Mundada Business/Company name: Indian Tadka Country/countries of origin: India Expat country/countries: UK Current country: UK Kirthi’s story in a nutshell:Born and raised in Hyderabad, the capital city of India’s South-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh, I Kirthi Mundada came to UK in 2008 to study and after graduating from university I found a job in banking sector and having worked the in finance industry for 2years, I never ever knew I would start a business in the food industry. I hardly ever cooked back in India (always watched my Mum cooking) and in all honesty I learned how to cook traditional Indian food in UK – Thanks to my Mum and Skype. The Indian food we get here is really different than what we get back home and I used to get so frustrated as we had similar choices where ever we went and there is so much more to Indian food than the regular curries, poppadums and naan breads. So I started cooking at home and was always on the phone or Skype asking Mum for tips. I was enjoying it so much and finding a gap in the market I decided to launch my business Indian Tadka Ltd in November 2013 and my aim is to show people what actual Indian food is all about. Biggest start up / expat challenge: The cultural differences and the way of life in India and United Kingdom were my biggest challenge and being away from family for the first time added on. Who are your cheerleaders?: My parents and Siblings even when everyone was opposed to me coming to UK for studies (as everyone my age back home was getting married and settling into their lives) they wanted me to study and concentrate more on my career than anything else and they have always been so supportive of anything I do. What are your words of Wisdom?: Always follow your heart and if things are not right it’s not the end. Cultural differences: The cultural differences between India and UK are like 2 sides of the coin from what you wear to what you eat to how you live, how you talk and how you behave. Indians are more traditional and religious but the good thing is people in UK are more open and accepting of others and respecting their beliefs. Yes, it did take time for me to get settled in. Now I have learned to live in both sides of the world. Overcoming fear: The first 6 months away from home were terrifying. Being at University, working, cooking, cleaning etc… It was quite overwhelming and I was sure I wanted to go back as soon as I finished university but you see I am still here and I don’t know how I just settled in. I think it was the lovely and welcoming people whom I met in the last 5years. It’s like now I have 2 sets of families and friends when I am here I miss India and when I am in India I miss UK. I wish I could mix both worlds and didn’t have to miss either. Personal challenges: I finished university at the...

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Carolyne Huber and Project Y U DO

Posted by on 3:40 am in Expat Interviews | 0 comments

From Canada to Australia, Carolyne Huber and Project Y U DO Name: Carolyne Huber Business/Company name: Project Y U DO Country/countries of origin: Canada Expat country/countries: Australia Current country: AustraliaJump to the video below – CLICK HERE Carolyne’s story in a nutshell:I am a globe-trotter and have lived, travelled, and worked in North America, Europe, and now more recently in Australia, for the past 3 years. I embrace the opportunities to work abroad and strive to understand and embrace the local culture. In 2013, I started Project Y U DO Australia, where I search to determine why people decide to pack up their lives and move to Australia. Biggest start up / expat challenge: I believe that the biggest expat challenge is the creation of a professional and like-minded network. When arriving in Australia, I did not know anyone. Taking the steps to connect with people who could help me progress and further develop my professional goals, took a lot of perseverance when I first arrived. I relied a lot of the Internet to search for local business networking events as well as LinkedIn in order to reach out to people with whom I thought would be able to help me out. Although getting out there, introducing myself to complete strangers and explaining to them objectives at first took a lot of determination and courage; I now look back and am so thankful to have taking those crucial first steps. The whole process has thought me that it is important to give people the chance to be trusted however it is also of outmost importance to learn to trust my instinct. Who are your cheerleaders?: I came to Australia with my partner and therefore as a couple attempting to start a new life, we are each other’s cheerleaders. We personally see our ups and downs and so we try to keep each other motivated and positive. My parents are also my cheerleaders. I can talk to them about my life in Australia and they are always there to listen. Although I am 14 hours ahead of them, I know that they are only a Skype call away! What are your words of Wisdom?: Stay humble.Always be curious.Be aware and accept your own values, your own goals, and your own limitations. Make the mental decision to ground yourself with this belief system.Be open to change and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.Ask, research, ask again, and take action.Life is too short not too. Cultural differences: Being a Canadian and having lived for almost half my life in North America, I must say that the biggest cultural difference, although said by many other expats, is the way in which the Aussies are laid back. I’ve read about it, and people have told about the catch phrase “No worries mate” however this philosophy is quite literally felt through all realms of society. I thought, as Australia is an industrialized country and a country that has a similar lifestyle to Canada, that it would be same, however it simply is not. Business transactions and decisions take time. You just have to go with the flow. And while I wait for things to happen, I pinch myself and open my eyes, look around and take the tram to beach! Overcoming fear: The best way to face...

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Corinne McKenna-Success Story

Posted by on 9:20 am in Expat Interviews | 2 comments

From New Zealand to England, McKenna Legal Copywriting Name: Corinne McKenna Business/Company name: McKenna Legal Copywriting Country/countries of origin: New Zealand Expat country/countries: UK Current country: UK Corinne’s story in a nutshell:My British husband and I met in my home country New Zealand.  In 2010 we were living in Christchurch when a large 7.1 earthquake struck.  Luckily our house was not badly damaged.  Two days later I discovered I was pregnant.  We stayed on through the aftershocks and on 22nd February 2011 a 6.3 quake destroyed the city centre and tragically killed 180 people.  After this we started to seriously talk about moving over to the UK where my husband’s Mother still lived.  We took a step towards this journey by preparing our dog Charlie to move over.  We knew we would have to wait six months for him to be ready.  Our son was born in May 2011 and despite the constant aftershocks we settled down to life as new parents in New Zealand.  I was on maternity leave from my job as an Account Manager at a legal publishing firm and intended to  go back to work after a year.  Then in June 2011 there was another huge aftershock and we decided enough was enough. The next week we put our house on the market and left New Zealand for the UK with our four month old son and four suitcases in September 2011.  Within three weeks my husband had a job in London and we had brought a house in Bedfordshire.  I stayed at home with our son and in January 2013 we had another little boy.  Towards the end of last year I started thinking about what I wanted to do in the UK.  I had made some lovely friends, we had our home and were settled in a pretty market town.  I felt like the last piece of the puzzle was to find a job I loved.  Starting my own business was something I had thought about for some time and one morning, talking with my husband and a friend, the idea of being a legal copywriter struck me like a thunderbolt!  I have a law degree and ten years experience in sales and marketing and I love to write so this is the perfect way for me to combine all my skills and help law firms write their website, customer communications and marketing content. Biggest start up / expat challenge: I have literally just started up in January so my biggest challenge at the moment is getting my name out there and finding clients. Who are your cheerleaders?: My husband who wooed me with his own brilliant writing, puts up with me working in the evenings and weekends, reads and critiques all my work and supports me 100% everyday. What are your words of Wisdom?: Make it happen!  Just back a horse and go with it, if you work hard you will succeed. Cultural differences: The UK business world is far more formal than New Zealand.  If I phoned a law firm in New Zealand and asked to speak to a partner I would have a good chance of being put through.  Here in the UK I have to think of far more creative sales techniques because no receptionist would let a cold...

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The 6 secrets to a portable career – Colleen Reichrath-Smith

Posted by on 5:19 am in Expat Interviews, Video interviews | 1 comment

Name: Colleen Reichrath-Smith Business/Book: Career in Your Suitcase 4th Edition Country/countries of origin: Canada Expat country/countries: the Netherlands Current country: the Netherlands Colleen’s story in a nutshell: After growing up moving around Canada (my father worked for Parks Canada) I’ve always gotten itchy feet after a few years. So when I fell in love with a Dutch man after meeting him in a back country ski hut, moving to the Netherlands to explore the relationship didn’t feel so incredibly odd. After all, I’ve always wanted to learn another language and knew I would have to live in a different country in order to do so. As well, my mom was born in the Netherlands, so there was an additional reason for me to learn Dutch if I needed one. I arrived in the Netherlands in October 2005 ready to tackle learning Dutch for six months and to explore this relationship. Within three months we were engaged and within two years of arriving, applying the principles I taught people in Canada, I had secured a freelance contract again providing career development training. But this time in Dutch. Having accomplished this goal and then taken time to have a child, it was time for me to expand my network in the Netherlands to include other English speakers. Through these efforts I met Jo Parfitt, serial expat entrepreneur and mentor/publisher of authors, dared to share my wild idea of writing a book on my experience of moving to the Netherlands, and found a great deal of support from her. When we met to seriously discuss the book idea, she offered me the opportunity to create a 4th edition of her book A Career in Your Suitcase. The book was released in March, 2013 and I continue to be a freelance career consultant based in the Netherlands focused on teaching mobile career adventurers how to create meaningful work anywhere. Biggest start up / expat challenge: Continuing to believe in myself when I felt inept and ineffective linguistically and didn’t have many of the other things in my life anymore that made me feel competent. I even needed to relearn laundry rules! Who are your cheerleaders?: My husband, parents, friends, and my networks in both Canada and the Netherlands. What are your words of Wisdom?: I would like to share with you the High Five of Career Development from Canadian career experts. Change is constant. Follow your heart. Focus on the journey. Stay learning. Be an ally. I followed these five messages and applied them to my own transition. They have been and continue to be a sort of mantra to help keep me on course here. Cultural differences: While there are many cultural similarities between Canada and the Netherlands, there are definitely some key differences. Dutch directness can really knock you off balance when you don’t understand it. I find there are some cultural norms that are also socially enforced. For example, the normal Dutch lunch at work is to take a sandwich with you. Do not bring anything smelly as that’s not appreciated. And heating up leftovers for lunch is not done! Overcoming fear: Luckily in the 1990’s I had read the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. So I knew that fear was normal and that...

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