Thursday, August 18, 2016

Expat skills

DSC02926Being a expat can change your life for the better. And we bet you can be proud of your accomplishment whilst being a expat. 

I’ve trained Medium to highlight articles that deal with the expat experience, and it returns a generally satisfying steam of young-ish consciousness.  Many folks are  wide-eyed in their first year, musing on homesickness, language learning, cultural adjustment, and making friends.  Seasoned hands, a rare flower, offer hard-knocks advice: settling in (Start in big cities, avoid villages), tolerance (You are the best joke around.  Get used to it), and vice (Alcohol is the go-to in the expat community, but its a cocktail for dark days).

Self-congratulatory experiences are rare, but this essay claimed that living abroad yielded skills that changed their life:

  • Cultural intelligence.
  • Empathy and ability to relate to people of different personalities and backgrounds.
  • Good observation and listening skills.
  • Enhanced cultural awareness and sensitivity to the traditions and cultural differences and
    nuances.
  • The ability to maintain an open mind and be tolerant of others.
  • Diplomacy, tact and patience.
  • A sense of humour.
  • Flexibility and readiness for change.

It made me smile and made me critical, so I’m not going to attribute it.  I (cynically) suspect that any self-defined community can claim similar self-benefits from their lifestyle choice.   Self-assessment is an interesting rationalization for superiority, but unlikely to be generally prescriptive.

What it is, though, is a reinforcement of Paula Caligiuri’s 2000 paper on the Five Personality Traits that predict expat success.   A ‘successful expat’ is one who performs well and does not terminate early.  The key traits are Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, together predictive of expat resilience, and Emotional Stability and Intellectual Openness, predictive of high performance.  The relevance is explained as:

Evolutionary personality psychology suggests that the Big Five personality characteristics are universal adaptive mechanisms for humans to ultimately do two thing: reproduce and preserve live.  For example, a person who is agreeable, extroverted, emotionally stable, conscientious, and open may have the ability to form important work relationships, get promoted, attain a higher status , and so forth.  This person’s economic success will result in greater success at finding a partner, having children, buying food, and living in a safe neighborhood.

‘all activities that test and define expat success as well.

So, the list of qualities that Medium’s essayist believes derive from the successful expat experience?  I would counter that these are inherent qualities that must be present in order to become a successful expat.

So,selection bias is at work here.  Those who have the qualities to be successful cannot, reciprocally, claim that success has given them these same skills.  They’ve found their niche, and, at best, its amplified their latent talents.

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