and why I founded the global community for Expat Spouses Who Think BIG
I am an expat spouse myself. In the late 1990s I was working for Tetra Pak in Russia (where I met my Swedish, future husband) and with whom I shared the journey of an expat spouse in Italy, Pakistan and repatriated to Sweden. While in St. Petersburg, I began working for the Board of Swedish celebrities from the private Welfare Foundation of “Susanne Westerberg’s Minnesfonden”, where I worked under the direct guidance of Mrs. Charlotte Bonnier (one of the owners of Bonnier Corporation) organizing welfare projects, public events, medical conferences and VIP dinners for sponsors. I provided administrative help to Gunilla von Arbin, the First Secretary of www.Childhood.org, and was involved in practical preparations together with the General Council of Sweden of the first visit by its founder, H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden. Driving all liaison and media work was my type of work!
When my assignment was accomplished, I was able to spend more time with my partner in sunny and charming Italy, where life was joyful and time flew by quickly.
My partner’s next assignment was Pakistan. But due to the war in Iraq, family members were advised to avoid even visits to Pakistan. After Tetra Pak cleared me to visit, I had to wait months for the permission of the Shariat authorities to enter the Islamic State as an unmarried woman. I waited through the dark Russian winter with no timeframe, unable to plan the next step in life, or to join my life partner. The stress and uncertainty led to intense insomnia and ‘burn out’ and a dark depression rolled over me for about six months. I felt completely locked in disbelief and negativity, until, eventually, I saw light at the end of the tunnel and found my life energy again.
After two months of intensive healing, I made my way to Lahore, where, for three years, I was happier than I have ever been. We socialized with, and made good friends of executive managers from diverse corporate companies. Closely observing the private lives of expat families gave me a deep understanding of the particular challenges and stresses of top management and their spouses. Here, I made friends for life with local people and met true teachers of yoga and homeopathy. This is where my spiritual journey really began, and this accelerated my healing. And while mastering my own recovery, I planted seeds for my future stress management career, by immersing myself in Indian yoga and ancient spiritual wisdom. Leaving Lahore was a heart-breaking experience for me.
So, after 10 years of being an expat spouse, I landed in a small provincial town in Sweden where, I found, foreigners were unwelcome. My Swedish encounters were hard, no matter what I tried. I decided to start up my own business and retrained as a Stress Management Coach in Sweden. I felt a strong desire to help and contribute to mankind – to make a difference – but I seemed to be blocked at every turn on the local market.
Perhaps as a result of my inner struggle, I developed a frozen shoulder, which delayed my plans to start a new yoga direction in Sweden. My physical restrictions and long days of self-reflection and soul searching about my unfulfilled dreams made me feel… rebellious. I felt completely incompatible with small town folk who were fearful of newcomers and new ideas. For me, new experiences, continuous development and personal growth are essential to living a fulfilled life.
As soon as I gave up trying to squeeze myself into a mentality that is smaller than my own, I started to find a way out. I turned to Facebook to connect to like-minded people. I found true friends in USA, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, including one expat corporate leader who was looking for spiritual realization. After sharing our stories – both with similar expat backgrounds and living in cultures that didn’t speak to us directly – his two powerful words to me, “I understand…” initiated me reclaiming my dignity and my life. For the first time in nine years since moving to Sweden, someone understood me, reflected on my situation and took the time to give me relevant advice… That felt so empowering!
Months later, after a thorough research of the challenges of other expats and expat spouses, I realized WHY I felt so unsettled despite having a loving family and material wealth.
And, I decided to stop compromising, stop making myself smaller, stop finding ways to please the local mindset and to interest them in myself and my work… I decided to stop adjusting myself to others and I surrendered, with grace, to my expat’s core – my true self.
A year later, while studying social media in depth, I founded a global Facebook community, Expat Spouses Who Think BIG for women, and men, with international backgrounds who are falling between cultural systems and conditioning, unable to find fulfilling jobs and solutions for self realization, despite being highly educated and professionally capable, with experience of living in different countries and of speaking multiple languages fluently.
For example, in Sweden, foreign women with one or more foreign Masters degrees take, on average, fourteen years to find a job. Ten years for men. Despite these shocking statistics, there are almost no practical solutions in place to help foreign academics find work. I have been through almost all existing programs and nothing brought me results. I believe that homogenized cultures are the most difficult ones in which “diverse” expat spouses can find their own space and fulfillment.
The programs I was sent on cost society, but nothing led to work or even internship. At 40, with a Masters degree, a corporate background, speaking three European languages fluently, and after supporting a charity founded by the Swedish Queen, I was made to feel completely unwanted, invisible, ignored, useless to the society in which I live. We all have a need to belong and to contribute to society on some level. I was not allowed to and that was very frustrating!
I started to research how other expat spouses found their way back to work, and how they integrated after repatriation, and discovered another common thing that expat spouses experience: most of us stumble on the same preconceived ideas when we come back ‘home’. We no longer fit into the old social circle, friends don’t get us as before, it is hard to find interesting jobs, and we have long gaps in our CVs – the price we pay for years supporting our spouses careers. Even if our families are not dependent on our incomes, we are not sustained by being housewives (or house husbands) for life!
This is how I changed my own situation:
The first thing I did was to move to a more international part of Sweden, where locals are more accepting of foreigners. There I joined Malmö International Rotary Club – a part of the Rotary International, a business network that is successfully impacting social change in the world for hundred years. Two months later, I became a Member of the Board, responsible for social media, and was invited to assist in corporate training. I made a transition from coffee clubs to business clubs. My business network is growing every day internationally and locally. I became visible from living a life of invisible woman with bright potential that was very frustrating.
Now I’m waking up with a smile and looking forward to the new possibilities that will unfold each day. I fuse my passion for helping others with my problem solving skills to create a POSITIVE CHANGE for expat spouses and international people who THINK BIG and DREAM BIG and KNOW they deserve SUCCESS. Success is not about an executive career, huge wealth or big houses. It is good to have it all, but wealth does not buy you happiness, or make you fulfilled unless you are completely materialistic. I know many rich, unhappy people. Success is about feeling happy, feeling fulfilled in life, sharing your passion with the world. I have spent twenty plus years learning and practicing various methods and tools, and being coached by the best coaches.
Why I am helping other Expat Spouses to lead more fulfilling lives and careers?
It is now time to help others find their best selves using my own Success Boomerang™ formula. It brings results! Designed for Expat Spouses with open minds, this formula will bring success and joy back to you, in whatever society/culture you live, whether you fit in, or not. I am nonored to help you to make this transition in your own life, faster and with confidence.
It took me many years to figure out WHY for myself. My journey was long and challenging and I want yours to be shorter and easier! No matter where you are geographically, you have to share your passion, your talents, your uniqueness as an international person formed of diverse cultural experiences.
So now I devote my professional life to supporting other ambitious expat spouses in making the changes that will bring you success, joy, balance and fulfillment. I am at your service.
If, after reading my story, you feel I can help you, please feel welcome to contact me here http://bit.ly/2ddN1HI or drop me a message on Success Boomerang official page on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/successboomerang/.
Also, feel welcome to join our global expat support community on Facebook Expats Who Think BIG by sending a request to join the group here: http://bit.ly/2cEpxPm, a closed group seen only to group members, where you can ask questions, receive support, make friends with other expat spouses and intenrational people completely free of charge.