expat

Being A Year Ahead Of GigaOm On Future Of Communication

Mathew Ingram of the emerging tech & disruption of media site GigaOm.com tackles a topic close to my heart in his column today: "The Future Of Online Etiquette Is Already Here, It's Just Unevenly Distributed". Ingram comes to the same conclusion we arrived at in our GlobalNiche webchat series more than a year ago with our guest speaker and world citizen, international worker and multidisciplinary strategy consultant Shefaly Yogendra on Communication Styles of Mobile Progressives.

In that hour-long live discussion (listen to the recording at the link!) we asked,

Do your friends and family and colleagues think you enter an 'international cone of silence' when you leave their physical sphere?

 

Out of sight, out of reach. Apparently, that’s how our global existence sometimes feels to people who aren’t in the habit of connecting every which way like we’ve grown used to doing. Someone left me a message on my new American phone line  in 2012 saying “I’ve been waiting 10 years to talk to you” — yet I know I’m more connected now than ever.

The GlobalNiche community talked about this literal and figurative disconnect, and how forward-looking, world-flung types like us can maintain our connections across vast geographical — and perceptual and behavioral — divides.

Our conclusion, which GigaOm just got to?

The more progressive party has to communicate with people where they exist, and that may be somewhere in the past.

 

Tech Makes The Global Citizen, or Repatriation = Relocation With Benefits

San Francisco may be a tech-forward location but that's not why I've increasingly been turning to technology to help me be where and who I am today.

As a globally mobile individual, I rely on tech because of all the moves that came before this one. I rely on tech for my total, global operation.

++++

This originally appeared in The Displaced Nation, August 22, 2012.

Today’s guest blogger, Anastasia Ashman, has been pioneering a new concept of global citizenship. Through various publications, both online and in print, and now through her GlobalNiche initiative, she expresses the belief that common interests and experiences can connect us more than geography, nationality, or even blood. But what happens when someone like Ashman returns to the place where she was born and grew up? Here is the story of her most recent repatriation.

I recently relocated to San Francisco. Three decades away from my hometown area, I keep chanting: “Don’t expect it to be the same as it was in the past.”

Since leaving the Bay area, I’ve lived in 30 homes in 4 countries, journeying first to the East Coast (Philadelphia Mainline) for college, then to Europe (Rome) for further studies, back to the East Coast (New York) and the West Coast (Los Angeles) for work, over to Asia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur) for my first overseas adventure, back to the USA (New York), and finally, to Istanbul for my second expat experience.

My daily mantra has become: “Don’t expect to be the same person you once were.”

With each move, my mental map has faded, supplanted by new information that will get me through the day.

Back in San Francisco, I repeat several times a day: “This place may be where I’m from, but it’s a foreign country now. Don’t expect to know how it all works.”

What a difference technology makes (?!)

Today my work travels, just as it did when I arrived in Istanbul with a Hemingway-esque survival plan to be on an extended writing retreat and emerge at the border with my passport and a masterpiece.

I knew from my previous expat stint in Malaysia that I needed to tap into a local international scene. But I spent months in limbo without local friends, nor being able to share my transition with the people I’d left.

This time is different. Now I’m connected to expat-repat friends around the world on the social Web with whom I can discuss my re-entry. I’ve built Twitter lists of San Francisco people  (123) to tap into local activities and lifestyles, in addition to blasts-from-my-Berkeley-past.

I’ve already drawn some sweet time-travely perks. To get a new driver’s license I only needed to answer half the test questions since I was already in the system from teenhood.

After Turkey’s Byzantine bureaucracy and panicky queue-jumpers, I appreciated the ease of making my license renewal appointment online even if the ruby-taloned woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles Information desk handed me additional forms saying: “Oh, you got instructions on the Internet? That’s a different company.”

One of the reasons my husband and I moved here is to more closely align with a future we want to live in, so it’s cool to see the online-offline reality around us in San Francisco’s tech-forward atmosphere.

It doesn’t always translate to an improved situation though. Just as we are searching for staff to speak to in person at a ghost-town Crate & Barrel, a suggestion card propped on a table told us to text the manager “how things are going.”

So, theoretically I can reach the manager — I just can’t see him or her.

So strange…yet so familiar

It took a couple of months to identify the name for what passes as service now in the economically-depressed United States: anti-service. Customer service has been taken over by scripts read by zombies.

When I bought a sticky roller at The Container Store, the clerk asked me, “Oh, do you have a dog?”

“No, a cat,” I countered into the void.

He passed me the bag, his small-talk quota filled. He wasn’t required by his employer to conclude the pseudo-interaction with human-quality processing, like, “Ah, gotta love ‘em.”

What I didn’t plan for are the psychedelic flashbacks to my childhood. I may have moved on, but this place seems set in amber. The burrito joints are still playing reggae (not even the latest sounds of Kingston or Birmingham) and the pizza places, ’70s classic rock stations (Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” anyone?). The street artists are still peddling necklaces of your name twisted in wire. Residents are still dressed like they’re going for a hike in the hills with North Face fleece jackets and a backpack.

A bid for minimalism

The plan is also to be somewhat scrappy after years of increasing bloat. My Turkish husband and I got rid of most of our stuff in Turkey in a bid for minimalism. We camped out on the floor of our apartment in San Francisco until we could procure some furniture.

If it was a literal repositioning, it was also a conscious one — for a different set of circumstances. We’d expanded in Istanbul with a standard 3-bedroom apartment and “depot” storage room, and affordable house cleaners to maintain the high level of cleanliness of a typical Turkish household. In California, I intended to shoulder more of the housework.

I was soon reminded of relocation’s surprises that can make a person clumsy and graceless. I should have kept my own years-in-the-making sewing kit since I can’t find a quality replacement for it in an American market flooded with cheap options from China — and now have to take a jacket to the tailor to sew on a button, something I used to be able to do myself.

When the lower-quality dishwasher door in our San Francisco rental drops open and bangs my kneecap, I recall the too-thin cling wrap and tinfoil that I ripped to shreds in Istanbul, or the garden hose in Penang that kinked and unkinked without warning, spraying me in the face.

New purchases

“We’re getting too old for this,” my husband and I keep telling each other as we shift on our polyester-filled floor pillows that looked a lot bigger and less junky on Amazon. (We were abusing one-day delivery after years of not buying anything online due to difficulties with customs in Istanbul. Cat litter can be delivered tomorrow! Pepper grinder! Then I read about the harsh conditions faced by fulfillment workers in Amazon’s warehouses and cut back.)

One of our first purchases Stateside was a television. Not that we’re going to start watching local TV, but we did flick through some satellite channels. It’s something I like to do upon relocating: watch TV and soak up the local culture like a cyborg.

Since I last lived in the US, reality shows like COPS — where the camera would follow policemen on their seedy beats — have gone deeper into the underbelly of life, and now there are reality shows about incarceration.

The Discovery Channel has also gone straight to the swamp. That’s where I caught a moonshiner reality show featuring shirtless (and toothless) men in overalls called “Popcorn” and “Grandad.”

It’s an America I am not quite keen to get to know.

But I can take these reverse culture shocks lightly because my repatriation is part of a continuum. It’s not a hiatus from anything nor a return home. I’m not missing anything elsewhere, I haven’t given up anything for good. Being here now is simply the latest displacement. Today is a bridge to where I’m headed.

Expatriates Are Experts In Resilience

A few excerpts from interviews I've given and articles I've written:

Being an expatriate, you’re naturally a person in transition.

Your worst days can leave you feeling unmoored and alienated. Your best days bring a sense of your agile nature and the qualities that make you unique from the people who surround you and the people back home.

Working toward an understanding of what it will take for you to feel your best in your environment I think is extremely worthwhile. Your answers perfectly define you and the more closely they are incorporated into your business plans the better chance you have of career success abroad.

After five years in Malaysia and 8.5 in Turkey, I've made the limbo state of expatriatism (not belonging to your surroundings but having to navigate them in culturally appropriate ways AND honor the truth of who you are at the same time) a strength instead of a weakness.

 

With my career disrupted by international relocations and watching the traditional media business being disrupted by digital and social media, my particular m.o. has evolved into gate jumping. That’s a combination of reaction to obstacles in my environments, and a commitment to not be hindered by “what is”.

Gate jumping can work for expats of all kinds.

Here’s how I do it: Fearlessly operating without borders instead of accepting my off-the-grid, situation-mismatch as a paralyzing disadvantage.

Time zones, language barriers, geographical distances, old-school thinking and collapse in my industries of media and entertainment, these things don't stop me.

 

Being an early adopter of Twitter, I use it for continuing education like virtually attending conferences and entering high level discussions in my topics of interest, to networking and meeting my peers around the world.

One of the reasons I founded GlobalNiche.net is that I have noticed that the majority of expats disappear when they go abroad rather than come to local and international prominence through their expat lives as I have done.

Even fewer women expats accomplish this in Muslim countries or have managed to raise the voices of multiple other women in a country known for its censorship. See the details of this particular adventure in my piece The Accidental Anthologist.

I don't think any of this is easy to achieve. But I do think it's integral to surviving, and thriving.

+++

Linda Janssen has written a book on this topic called The Emotionally Resilient Expat. Jo Parfitt's Summertime Publishing is releasing it in 2013.

The Global Niche Muse: Out Of Place And Mistress Of Her Domain

Take a plunge into metaphor with us as we explore the meaning behind a graphic muse you'll recognize from Dialogue2010 Mapping the Hybrid Life podcast and the Hybrid Ambassadors blog-ring. At GlobalNiche.net we love this image -- part photograph, part 2nd generation photocopy, and part Photoshop -- a whimsical pioneer woman peering out from the center of her own personal compass point. We've incorporated her into the logo for our new work-life initiative, and below we discover exactly how she embodies creative enterprise for the global soul.

(You can see this story of how I made our mystery woman in my isolated Kuala Lumpur office in 1998, where she comes from, what she's survived -- and also, circumstantially, why she's so well-coiffed -- in the proper Tweet-and-commentary format at Storify.com)

  • I spotted this whimsical woman on a fading coiffeur signboard in Sarawak, Borneo

Photography is a now-not-so-secret love of mine, and it was a saving grace of my first long-term expat stint in Southeast Asia. Seeing everything with a photographer's eye made my surroundings endlessly fascinating and ripe with opportunity, no matter what else was happening or how I was feeling. It was also a key to orienting myself, following leads, making connections between the past and the present cultures.

The quickly-disappearing antique commercial signboards of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) were a particular favorite of mine. You can imagine when I landed in the East Malaysia state of Sarawak I went straight to the old town to see the remnants of what establishments had once flourished there.

Although the inevitable lag of fashion around the world might be at work here, from her hairstyle I guess the sign went up in the 1930s-40s.

  • the compass superimposed over her eye (self-image, get it?) is from an around-the-world cruise line ad

...and with her eye on the world, the image represents her unique perspective.

  • the round-the-globe ad was published during the Golden Age of Travel. I found it in the National Archives of Malaysia

I was an absolute microfiche *bandit* at the National Archive....here you can see some of the Straits Settlements newspaper gossip items and police blotters I captured. Hilarious, tragic, telling stuff no matter what the subject (whether it was Somerset Maugham's buttoned-down planters going nuts/running amok, or infectious diseases being passed around by the Chinese laundry services, or opium dens being fined for admitting ladies, the place was off-the-hook).

The steamer-trunks-and-servants Golden Age of travel was also an interest piqued by the region, and I explored it for a web venture Flaming East.

  • in land of White Rajas (Conrad's early heartofdarkness?), she seemed 1) out of place 2) possibly mistress of her domain
  • The White Rajahs were a dynasty of Brits who ruled Sarawak for about a hundred years during the mid-19th-20th century.

Joseph Conrad, author of the novel Heart of Darkness, had earlier written Lord Jim, which may have been based in part on the pirate-filled sea experiences of the first White Rajah James Brooke.

To that setting of personal, mini-empire building, add the coiffed nature of this woman and you get someone who seems like she's holding it together somehow. She's managing to take care of herself.

At GlobalNiche.net we're not all about personal grooming -- nor are we conquering anything except perhaps our situations (setting up our own private rajs?).

...but this specific and historical background was swirling around the image of the coiffed lady when I snapped it as a displaced Western woman in the tropics myself. To me, the context was captured along with the image.

Being yourself *and* at home in a place very different than what you've known or been prepared for -- out of place, and mistress of our domain -- that's the GlobalNiche combo!

  • GlobalNiche's muse is a woman in the wild following her personal compass where ever around the world it might take her

And in conclusion...just as the Golden Age of Travel revolutionized the possibilities of exploring the world with confidence

at GlobalNiche.net we're operating globally with the ease of digital nomadism and with the precision of a unique sense of who we are

...suddenly our incidental heroine is thoroughly modern, and appropriate for today's unbounded age.

  • our muse is a #pioneer centered by her personal compass in an age when traveling with speed/style/grace is perfected

Tell us what you see in the wild-but-coiffed woman of Borneo. What name would you give her? (I think we're going to need one!)

Remix Culture: Cross-Pollinating With Our Pluralism

This month we're acknowledging that where we come from counts (see this urban psychology article on the geography of temperament, and take this quiz to pinpoint how to make life choices "congruent with your temperament") -- and by bringing what we uniquely have to offer, we're cross-pollinating the culture. And we extra-extra-extra love to hear this => Pluralism is always practical: when we draw on our own mixed identities we're more creative!

+++++ AT expat+HAREM

Meanwhile a Third Culture Kid and food activist in Colorado says no to the American predilection for huge cups of coffee consumed in the car, and yes to the communion found in ethnic dining rituals from her childhood and travels.

An American born and raised in Japan finds a way to bridge the cultural divide through the whimsical folk art of etegami.

So much good stuff coming our way, impossible to share it all....here's another way to get on the same page with us: we're now attempting to round up the zillions of resonant links that fly past us every day -- like these ones about global careers, and international politics and the hybrid souls we all possess.

+++++ AROUND THE WORLD & AROUND THE WEB

If you're in New York on the 25th, don't miss an evening about "How to Run the World & Hybrid Reality", presented by expat+HAREM's global nomad salon coproducer Janera Soerel. Global adventurer-scholar Parag Khanna and his wife Ayesha will introduce their new institute exploring human-tech co-evolution.

And for the collectors, from the filmmaker, author, producer, and musician known as DJ Spooky comes this compilation of essays examining 500 years of collaborative creation, "from the history of stop-motion photography to Muslim influences on early hip-hop."

+++++ YOUR THOUGHTS

What are you remixing in your personal culture?

Awkward Traveling. Poised Interculturalists. Native People. Hopping Places

The more time we devote to following our interests online it seems the more relevance we find. The problem: how can we ever share all the fabulousness?! The solution: rounding up zillions of links resonant to our community that cross my screen.

  • At China Expat, Carolyn Vines, the author of Black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity, considers the changes in a woman's identity after an international relocationMoving away from our cultural context, she writes, we learn to see ourselves with different eyes.
  • If you grew up in the Americas you grew up with Native American history of some kind and at the very least, reflected in place names. Facebook hosts a massive collection of antique photos of Native Americans, organized by tribe, including ethnographic and commercial images as well as family portraits.
  • Diane Caldwell, an original contributor to the Expat Harem anthology, once ate Jack Kerouac's peanut butter. On her new blog the free spirit writes a requiem for AsmalimescitIstanbul's hoppingest back alley.

Making The Psychic Limbo Of Global Citizens A Productive State

The expat+HAREM COMMUNITY AIMS TO HELP YOU: 1) DISCOVER your psychic peers + global community 2) CREATE a hybrid identity from your many worlds

Why do you need our help? The short answer: Because liminal life is a bittersweet limbo -- coming, going, never quite arriving -- and here at expat+HAREM the community embraces this unmoored and central reality of our globetrotting, multicultural, hybrid times.

A PLACE WHERE DIGITAL NOMADS, EXPATS, IMMIGRANTS, FUTURISTS AND WORLD CULTURALISTS ARE UNIQUELY SUITED TO SUCCEED

The psychic limbo and identity adventure global citizens experience today is expat+HAREM's sweet spot. Our neoculture.

This neoculture is our situation in life and our world view. What we work to make sense of, and to capitalize on.

Here at expat+HAREM we've defined the problem, and provide the solution.

Glo· bal· niche, n.

a psychic solution to your global identity crisis

[More about Anastasia Ashman, the founder of this global niche.]

MAKING LIMBO A PRODUCTIVE STATE Limbo is usually considered a place in-between. A state of suspended animation. Paralysis, a spinning of the wheels. Nowheresville. But it can also be an unconstrained place where anything is possible. That's how expat+HAREM choses to see it. Multifaceted people like us have strength and flexibility and experience and access to multiple perspectives. These are all assets.

WE'RE IN THE VANGUARD AND NEED EACH OTHER Globalization has had an unfortunate disenfranchising effect. (Perhaps like many in our community you've been there personally!) However, despite the resistance and misunderstanding and worrying 'purity' movements we're witnessing in populations large and small, at expat+HAREM we believe fostering our particular dialogue of culture and identity is a way forward. A chance to find new and meaningful connection to the world while making sense of conflicting situations.

IT'S NOT ALL BIG PICTURE Sure, we like to talk about the big picture -- whole hemispheres and societies! -- but at our heart we're concerned with the smallest details of the individual. Navigating relationships with people in your life. Achieving psychic location independence. Negotiating our personal connection with the many worlds we love to belong to. That's how we'll find our global niche.

HERE'S WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY "WE'LL HELP YOU FIND YOUR GLOBAL NICHE": a psychic solution to your global identity crisis.

COMMON INTEREST AND EXPERIENCE DEFINES US

Our most important bonds are no longer solely decided by geography, nationality or even blood. When we find where we uniquely belong in the world we've found our global niche.

expat+HAREM, the global niche embodies the Expat Harem concept* -- localized foreigner, outsider on the inside -- while speaking to intentional travelers, identity adventurers and global citizens of all kinds.

This 2-year archive of neoculture discussions delves into perspective on the crossroads and dichotomies of our hybrid lives:

  • modern existences in historic places
  • deep-rooted traditions translated in mobile times
  • limiting stereotypes revisited for wider meaning
  • the expat mindset as it evolves from nationalism to globalism

More.

THOUGHTS ON HYBRID LIFE WRITING Combining outsider-view-from-the-inside and journey of self-realization, we think expat/emigree/immigrant literature deserves a shelf of its own.

+++ OUR ROOTS +++ Based on the original Expat Harem concept by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen

expat+HAREM, the global niche is the archive of a group blog and community site launched in 2009 by Anastasia Ashman, coeditor with Jennifer Eaton Gökmen of Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey.

* The site is inspired by the cultural embrace and self-exploration of that best-selling and critically acclaimed 2005 expatriate literature collection.

+ DETAILS: media coverage, academic uses, and awards for the anthology created and edited with Jennifer Eaton Gökmen, compiling the work of 32 international Expat Harem writers.

+ BEST 5 BOOKS ON TURKEY: Turkey’s most-read author Elif Shafak picks Expat Harem among the best 5 books on Turkey (Five Books, November 2010)

+ THE ACCIDENTAL ANTHOLOGIST: expat+HAREM founder's personal story behind the book.

+ HAREM GIRLS FOR SALE: 2 years from workshop to bestseller list -- the story of two expat editors.

Editors interviewed on The Crossroads satellite TV, July 2009

+++++ Take the next step with us --> into GlobalNiche.net's creative self enterprise for the global soul.  Another good place to explore:  Anastasia Ashman's producer page at Facebook.

Authority Abroad: What It Takes To Become Your Own Expat Icon

I've always admired the rugged ability of certain adventurer-writers to appear masterful in the wider world. True or not, it’s easy to envision legendary expatriate authors like Karen Blixen and Ernest Hemingway crushing it in their overseas exploits. Satisfying wanderlust. Surviving exotic illness. Operating transnational businesses. Donning local garb or exploration gear. Pictured alone on the landscape, or comfortably surrounded by teeming locals. Iconic.

Then they write personally relevant opuses Out of Africa and The Old Man and the Sea.

Larger-than-life expat writer personalities seem in tune with far-flung surroundings, able to produce their best work from foreign atmospheres.

These two predecessors were clearly troubled. Alcoholism. Venereal disease. Financial ruin. Divorce. Suicide. However, aspiring to their ultimate of travel feats -- achieving a personal and professional high point -- remains an urge for writers abroad like me.

I explore my own brush with the weight of expat image expectation at a colleague's blog this week by delving into the photos that correspond with a highlight and a lowlight of my expat experience. Despite previous and future international depths, it only takes one flashbulb moment to remind us we too can outdo ourselves abroad. And that memory can empower us and our expat life for a long time. Take a peek at Unrecognizable vs. Iconic.

Which expat icons do you admire -- and when have you found authority overseas?

Psychic Solution To Your Global Identity Crisis

Glo· bal· niche, n. psychic solution to your global identity crisis

Don't coin too many terms, warn the smart search engine optimizers. "No one will know what you're talking about plus they won't be able to find you!" At expat+HAREM we like to talk about unconventional, unbounded and unmapped life as we experience it, and if we could find the lingo we need in common usage, we'd certainly use it.

(Tell us the terms you use.)

On Twitter someone asked, “is ‘hybrid life’ kinda like what a salamander leads?” Uh, sure...you could call us cultural amphibians. Water, air, land, we (try to) do it all.

If you've arrived in the expat+HAREM community, perhaps you do know what I'm talking about. Or maybe you want to see what's next in neoculture (another coined term to-be-explained).

Here’s the deal.

WE'RE ALL BORN GLOBAL CITIZENS even if that knowledge gets trained out of us. A global identity seems nebulous, and ungrounded. Better to bond with the more concrete: family, culture, nation.

Problem with concrete though: it cracks over time, in quickly changing conditions, and sometimes even under its own weight.

 

 

Globalization means we’re entering a permanent state of psychic limbo about who we are and where we belong in the world.

Mixed blood. Crossculture. Third Culture. International work, study, travel. Fusion faiths, dual nationalities. Many of us know the bittersweet liminality of living between multiple worlds, and the soul-sprung righteousness of refusing to settle on just one.

The more we move around the less home is one place --  not to mention the mirage home becomes as soon as we leave it -- so our associations spread and bifurcate and split again. Our capacity for inclusion grows, and our sense of self expands along with it.

Coming, going, never quite arriving. This is where we live today. We’re searching for our place in the world, our people, the hybrid lifestyle that will make it all cohese. We know this:

Our concrete center will not hold.

OUR PEOPLE ARE NOT WHO THEY USED TO BE We also recognize we’re unbounded by the communities in our physical midst and traditional markers like geography, nationality or even blood.

Now we find inspiring new kinship in interest and outlook.

Virtual technologies like social media and mobile devices help identity adventurers, global nomads and digital citizens integrate even faster across out-moded boundaries.

To become the global citizens we truly are, we need to find our place in the world.

This has always been the case. But the 21st century offers new ways to find where we uniquely belong, and a new urgency to actualize our global citizenship.

Here at expat+HAREM we believe you can create a psychic solution to your global identity crisis.

Call it psychic location independence.

She'sNext interview: Here I'm talking about how multifaceted, 21st century women can find their global niche.

TAPPING INTO OUR OWN GLOBAL BEING When we discover our psychic peers and foster a global community with them  -- fashioning a hybrid identity and a 'salamander' life that intersects and honors the many worlds we belong to -- we've found our global niche. It's good to be home.

What Expat Bloggers Are Made Of

I was honored to be included in a group of Cross-cultural and International Bloggers to Watch in 2010. As the guest curator in a review series at SheWrites, I'm pleased to note a few fellow expat bloggers. I'm drawn to the subject matter of these writers (and many others who I hope to highlight in the future). Posts seem compelled by the daily negotiation of expat/immigrant/exile identity. Shaped by unfamiliar environments. Inspired by moments when belief systems are challenged or uprooted.

You'll recognize fiction-writer Catherine Yigit as a contributor to the Expat Harem anthology and the group blog expat+HAREM. In Skaian Gates, the Dublin native writes with a wry sensibility about “living between the lines” of culture and language on the Straits of the Dardanelles. She takes us through the gauntlet of getting a Turkish driving license. Although prepared for the exam, she discovers she'll have no control over the vehicle since her examiner has a lead-foot on the dual-control pedals! Even if we learn the rules and practice the gears in our lives abroad, we often sense we're not in the driver's seat and we have to be okay with that.

Professionally-trained artist Rose Deniz lives in an industrial town near the Sea of Marmara, a body of water named for its marble-like surface. Her spare blog reflects deep ideas and personal geographies, like the trouble with being the kind of person who visualizes color, numbers and forms in the midst of a chaotic Turkish family setting; and finding the art in life outside the studio. Her real-time, online 2010 discussion series in which "art is dialogue and the studio is you” will be hosted at expat+HAREM.

Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian who lives in Tennessee with her American husband, writes about bi-cultural misunderstandings and shares her embarrassment over a recent gender role snafu. The only way to explain why  the progressive young woman “couldn’t be bothered to do a ‘typically male’ task” in the domestic sphere is because Bulgarians are traditionalists at home. Petya writes of the realization “I can’t remember the last time I felt as Bulgarian.”

Expat bloggers flourish when we face a fresh appreciation for not only where we are but where we come from -- and what we're made of.

Who are your favorite expat bloggers and why?

Creative Entrepreneurship Through Social Media: The Case Studies of Anastasia Ashman and Tara Lutman Agacayak

From Andrea Martins' ExpatWomen.com Creative Entrepreneurship Through Social Media: The Case Studies of Anastasia Ashman and Tara Lutman Agacayak

Anastasia and Tara are expat women entrepreneurs who have used social media to successfully grow their businesses and online profiles. We asked these two progressive business women to write an article for us, sharing their experiences and tips. 

Interestingly, whilst they both herald from the same part of Northern California and both currently live in Turkey, their paths did not cross until they met on Twitter.  

Creative entrepreneurship means thinking innovatively to both create a business and to promote it.  Expatriate women make ideal creative entrepreneurs because they usually require flexible and fluid work to fit their lifestyle (which typically means that they need to be creative in their business concept) and they are increasingly internet and social media savvy (which means that they are typically more willing to use social media creatively, to promote them themselves and their business).

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, together with easy-to-use blogging systems remove many of the personal disempowerments far-flung expat women have traditionally experienced.  They can also be powerful professional tools, especially for expat entrepreneurs.  The niche nature and 24/7 cycle of the web can diminish cultural, linguistic, geographic and time zone disadvantages to both career development and entrepreneurial endeavours abroad.

Social media makes it easier to create these one-of-a-kind businesses by helping define and embody your brand, whether you are a writer, a coach, a consultant, a photographer or so on.  Applications and tools such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube enable you to extend your brand across the web and convey your multi-media message in text, video or graphics. You can monitor your brand, see how others connect with it, and evolve it as your expat journey transforms you. Well-curated Tweetdeck and Hootsuite columns and specialized LinkedIn groups provide access to state-of-the-industry practices, trending thought, and leading players in your field of business, as well as the opportunity to become known as the experts that you probably are.

 

How Do We Use Social Media?

The best way to explain how social media might be able to help you and/or your business, is to share with you our own real-life case studies…

Case Study One: Tara Lutman Agacayak

Anastasia: Tara, going online solved your information technology (IT) career disruption after accompanying your husband to a small town in Turkey. How?

Tara: I first started experimenting with online sales by offering trinkets on eBay. Shortly afterward I started Citara's, an online boutique selling handmade Turkish products with my husband. Setting up an independent retail site was entirely different than selling through a hosted site like eBay. Getting our products in front of the right people required a unique set of tactics on the web. In this new attention economy, social networking and content marketing became vital to our online business. Citara’s started as a static website, but the brand has extended to a Twitter handle and Facebook page. We have also partnered with a non-profit called Nest where we donate a portion of sales to their microloan program generating funds for women's craft-based businesses. The work we do is editorialized through our blog and disseminated through channels we have set up on Twitter, Facebook and Kirtsy.

After building an offline network of artisans in Turkey I partnered with my expat friend Figen Cakir to start Behind the Bazaar, a site promoting independent artists and designers in Istanbul. It relies solely on social networking for digital word of mouth marketing. Using our blog as a content hub we offer a unique perspective on the local creative community. Content is then re-broadcast and re-packaged through Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and our Facebook page. We also act as experts on Localyte providing – an alternative view of Istanbul through the eyes of its artists.

Last year, Figen and I also started Intarsia Concept (IC) as a place for people to congregate and share resources for building creative businesses. Many creative entrepreneurs are their own entities. They manage their own PR, define their brand, and handle their own marketing and customer service. We envisioned IC as a supportive and informative environment for those starting their own creative businesses. Using our blog to centralize content we extend conversations out to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and bookmarking sites like Kirtsy and Delicious. I monitor HARO (Help A Reporter Out) requests for press opportunities and respond to questions on LinkedIn and Twitter. I engage in forums and groups on Ladies Who Launch to look for opportunities to collaborate or barter services.

Social networking is not just about getting your message out, but about opening two-way channels of communication and listening as much as you speak. It is the opportunity to learn from the greater community and create win-win opportunities.

Case Study Two: Anastasia Ashman

Tara: Anastasia, your writing and cultural entertainment-producing career is built on the publishing world's "author platform".  What does this mean and how is it related to social media?

Anastasia: I have been location-independent for eleven years, arriving in Istanbul from New York City in 2003, after Southeast Asia in the ‘90s where internet access revolutionized my estranged life. I virtually compiled and edited the book Tales from the Expat Harem with Jennifer Gokmen,  through email with more than 40 people in four different time zones. My second book and cross-media projects like intellectual global nomad salons and screen development of Ottoman and Byzantine princess stories require a vast rebuild of web presence and activity.

The publishing concept for launching a career – the author platform –  is a good model for the globally mobile woman entrepreneur. In order to make sales, land assignments, get project funding, attract collaborators and partners, a professional needs to demonstrate her platform of influence and credibility. She needs to pinpoint her market, get substantial attention, deliver the goods, including: a targeted mailing list; an audience; and alliances with others with similar audiences; access to media outlets (generating her own newsletters, blogs, podcasts); making appearances; and other speaking engagements.

To this end, social media offers opportunities to build a more robust and far-reaching platform with fewer resources. I interact with readers, agents, marketers and publishers in live chats on Twitter, meet peers in networks like SheWrites, TravelBlogExchange and the small business community Biznik, while SocialMention and Google alert me to people discussing my subject matter so I can join the conversation. I share thought leadership with fellow writers, travelers, globalists and culturati by posting favorite web finds to Twitter and Facebook feeds, and bookmarking them at Delicious. I upload presentations to SlideShare, and contribute to LinkedIn groups for: filmmaking; my college alumnae; the expat life; Turkish business; blogging; and digital publishing.

On my main sites I develop my own material, community and skills. I revolve ideas about female identity, history and culture at my individual blog, and foster relationships with my global niche of Turkophiles, intentional travelers and hybrid lifestylers as founder of the expat+HAREM group blog. Technology helps me amplify with syndication to Networked Blogs at Facebook, to Kindle, my LinkedIn profile, and Amazon Author Central. My ultimate goal is to create viral events – a worldwide rave for my most shareable ideas and properties – where my network voluntarily distributes my digital content to their connections, deriving their own meaning and use, telling my story their way. As I locate, interact with and help interested parties across the web, I create my ideal word-of-mouth market worldwide.

 

Anastasia & Tara’s Social Media Tips

 

Do:

  • Present yourself thoughtfully, accurately and honestly;
  • Mind-cast, not life-cast: aim for a high signal versus noise ratio;
  • Provide value: offer your expertise and knowledge, solve problems, be generous, connect people, be authentic; and
  • Monitor who is following you (be aware of who you are congregating with).

Don’t:

  • Allow incriminating words and images to be attached to your name;
  • Believe get-rich-quick and get-followers-fast schemes;
  • Use your birth year or publish information people can use to find your physical location; and
  • Use copyrighted material without permission.

Think Long-Term

 

        • Social media is a way to carve out your niche and congregate with like-minded people. Whilst this can happen quickly, it usually does take time – so think long-term.
        • The good news is that if you are patient, dedicated, committed, giving and authentic, you

will 

          find allies in your field. Your networks

will 

          support and promote you. They

will 

        offer solutions and encouragement and challenge you to be better. And the best part is… just like your own ‘career in a suitcase’, your social media contacts are portable and they will go with you wherever you go.  So good luck and happy connecting!

 

 

Anastasia Ashman aims to further the worldwide cultural conversation, raising the feminine voice on issues of culture and history, self improvement and the struggle for identity – from one family to entire hemispheres.

Tara Lutman Agacayak works with creative entrepreneurs around the world in multiple facets to craft viable and lucrative businesses.

 

January 2010

 

Additional Resources:

 

 

Nostalgic Baggage: Taking Love With You

There's so much talk of movement these days, the advice on everyone's lips. Personally I'm charmed by the elegant momentum of agile living. A young woman posed a question at TravelBlogExchange this month, asking round-the-world travelers and serial expats how they face their homesickness. She wants to be an expat one day soon, she wrote, but how can she leave her family and everything she knows?

Being abroad for long stretches -- some of us looking at forever -- sure we get homesick, I told her.

But it’s actually deeper than that. With each passing day the things we miss change and we end up pining for something that no longer exists. The more we move around, the less home is one place. A bittersweet price of going out into the world. What you gain is a new way of seeing yourself, your family, your home, your nation, the planet.

It's quite possible all of us -- from the young woman whose family and current surroundings define her world to long-term travelers toughened by life on the road -- are so enamored with our present reality (good, bad or indifferent) we're reluctant to let go for something that will stretch us past our idea of ourselves.

That future-travel-blogger may yearn for a wider experience, but in a few words she expressed a poignant desire to stay right where she was. At least for now.

If each tiny, agile step is a shift away from something else -- guaranteed not to be there forever, trustily waiting for our return-- we need to consider with extra care where we are headed and when we choose to go.

How do you keep what you love in your life as you move forward?

Flaming East: How Do You Share Uncensored Awe About A Place?

The fresh perspective of an outsider-on-the-inside releases energy from all directions. What strikes us about a place — and may entice our fellow country-people  – often does not resonate to the same degree with the average native.

I was pleased to meet an expat woman entrepreneur on LinkedIn last week who was once a director at the American-Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. She now advises the Malaysian Tourism Ministry, sourcing products developed by foreigners so I’ve been revisiting a feverish amusement from a decade ago when I lived in Kuala Lumpur.

To enjoy the Newly Industrialized Country where hand-woven palm frond baskets were fast being replaced by pink plastic bags, I conceived a signature line of Southeast Asian travel mementoes, and a database of purveyors of exotic experiences like this on the island of Langkawi, on the island of Penang, and outside Kuala Lumpur.

I called the venture first Cool Arts South Sea and then Flaming East.

Cool Arts South Sea self-image

Inspired by history but not tethered to it, my Flaming East concept embraced the original wonder of the region’s watery crossroads, from the Renaissance’s Age of Discovery (with its empire-building and search for trade-routes) to the steamer trunks-and-servants Golden Age of Travel. All spiked with the delirium only a good bout of malaria could provide....

homepage

By the 1990s we were missing the boat, I moaned in my business proposal:

“The part of the world that lies around the South China Sea,” as one European narrator so circuitously referred to it, was once immersed in an illustrious mystique.  Pirates and monsoons held sway on the seas while headhunters and mosquitoes did their part in the interior. Yet for several centuries an international set of adventurers, traders, colonizing industrialists and pleasure travelers risked the tropical hazards. Along with Asiatic goods and unimaginable riches, fanciful tales filtered home: of ancient races, shining temples and blue, impenetrable jungle. Even the air was different here, the east wind apparently laden with the aroma of silks, sandalwood, spices and camphor. Well, no longer.”

To be honest, Southeast Asia’s enveloping assault on the senses continued. But colorful naiveté and uncensored awe were in short supply where I came from. Writing about the past of the place caused my politically-correct, Pacific Northwest spellchecker to protest. I was flaming the East! Didn’t I really mean “cinnamon” when I typed “Chinaman”?

Have you envisioned a tourism campaign, service or product for a locale where you're the outsider-on-the-inside? What does it show about the place, and you?

Publishing And The Digital World Citizen

I once opened a can of ebook whoop-ass on Stephen King. “No interactivity, no extra benefit for readers!” I scolded the usually imaginative novelist back in the go-go days of Y2K. From my desk on New York’s Silicon Alley where I had the publishing beat at an internet industry magazine, King’s self-publishing experiment The Plant – a flow of static installments lacking flexibility, community and collaboration – was a lackluster leap of faith.

I was used to doling out tough-love to content owners peering across the digital divide. After previous stints in media and entertainment, intellectual property rights and audience concerns were also familiar to me but my exuberance came from a new media clean slate of the expat sort.

I'd just parachuted into the dotcom boom from Southeast Asia.

For five years my Malaysian office was minutes from Kuala Lumpur’s Multimedia Super Corridor, a futuristic zone advised by Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Grove. Like the rest of the Newly Industrialized Nation, I was plagued by weekly power outages and wrote by candle light. While my attention span shrank to the length of a Compaq battery life, expatriate skills included patience to wait one month for a government-issued phone line. Waiting for internet access expanded my endurance to a couple of years.

When I finally got online the possibilities of global and real-time connection revolutionalized my estranged expat life.

A decade later I’m dipping into the professional fray from 6,000 miles to the East. I’ve been a writer and producer of cultural entertainment in Istanbul since 2003, and continue to live here. My first book Expat Harem took a conventional route: lit agent, Turkish and American publishers, road trip book tours, an electronic release for Expat Harem on Kindle (aff) and Sony eReader. My second effort — an edgy nonlinear memoir of friendship — requires a complete rethink. (Three months to set up our 49-day 10-state road tour across America, three years to recover from? Wouldn't do that again!)

Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually. With the economic crisis, collapse of traditional publishing and fresh hope pinned on the social web, my global audience is also now virtual.  I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

Like internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality, now social media closes the professional morass as my Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. (Follow my Twitter lists of  300+ publishing professionals and 200+ interactive media people, transmedia visionaries, digital storytellers and marketers.)

I’ve got Web 2.0 and 3.0 plans for my second book -- see Digital Book World, the publishing community for the 21st century -- not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with me and my material, but because as a digital citizen I can.

Building community around the healing power of friendship – the memoir’s heart — promises to bring my writing world even closer to who I am and what I care about, making where I am viable. Exactly where I want to be.

Have you been culturally or geographically challenged in your career? How has the playing field shifted today?

A version of this essay first appeared in former editor of Writer's Digest Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed, 2009.

See more images relating to this story here and here and here.

Reading Travelers: Find Your Historical Context

"Can you share a travel secret?" asked an online travel site for women prepping its annual feature of tips from women writers worldwide. "Read the women who went before us," I replied. "Or, read about them."

For this expat/ archaeologist/ writer/ traveler, cultural wisdom pools at the intersection of women and travel.  The romance and grit of historical travelogue connects me to the land -- and reminds me of travel's transformative force in the lives of women. Reputation-risking. Life-threatening. Culturally redeeming. Personally empowering.  (My post about a related controversial history.)

Adventurous Women in Southeast Asia (Oxford-in-Asia), a selection of traveler sketches by historian John Gullick, gave my own struggling expatriate experience new meaning when I was sweating it out for 5 years in the Malaysian jungle. Playing an attitudinal extra aristocrat on the 1860s filmset of "Anna and The King" with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat in 1999 (next to a pig farm during a swine flu outbreak, but that's another post!), I appreciated learning about the dark side of the iconic governess to the Siamese court. Foster may have played Anna Leonowens prim, proper and principled but actually the lady was a scrappy mixed-blood mistress of reinvention. There was hope for me!

If you plan a trip to Turkey maybe Cultures in Dialogue holds similar promise for you. The print-on-demand series resurrects antique writings by American and British women about their travels in Turkey (1880s to 1940s), along with surprisingly political writing by women of the Ottoman empire. Contempo analysis by spunky scholars Reina Lewis and Teresa Heffernan refreshes the context of a region in transition.

Any favorite antique travel reads? What draws you to by-gone reports? +++++ Check out some of expat+HAREM’s favorite hybrid life reads here.

Reacting To Taboo: How Avoidance Can Make Us Complicit

I'm looking forward to attending TEDGlobal in Oxford especially since the 2009 conference's theme is "The Substance of Things Not Seen".  Invisibility, hiddenness, misapprehension -- all are threaded  through my own work. Consider Expat Harem's anachronistic, titillating concept. It taps into robust yet erroneous Western stereotypes about Asia Minor and the entire Muslim world: a forbidden world of cloistered women. When infused with a modern and virtual positivity -- the Expat Harem as peer-filled refuge and natural source of foreign female wisdom  -- a masked reality emerges: the harem as a female powerbase. This is an Eastern feminist continuum little known in the Western world.

"Help people talk about what they're most afraid of," is a mantra I've been hearing a lot from thoughtful personalities in my life. But first we have to surmount our own resistance to the topics.

I'm discovering with my latest book project, a forensic memoir of friendship, that taboo has an unintended cloaking effect. Societal taboos may be meant to protect us from harmful practices yet banishing from our thoughts the most unimaginable and unspeakable human acts only makes us blind to them happening in our midst.

By finding it so unthinkable, we make possible for taboo behavior to continue in our communities.

Name a taboo from your life.  When you hear it mentioned, what’s your reaction?