international living

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.

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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.

Why Social Media Is Perfect For International Professional Women

Speaking about being a foreign correspondent in Turkey to Project Istanbul American journalism college students, Bahcesehir UniversityI sent this list to the group International Professional Women of Istanbul in advance of the social media panel I am conducting for their membership.

Social media is all about making personal connections, fostering them, benefitting from them. Women excel at this type of interaction.

If you think you’re ‘too old’ to learn you'll be surprised to hear women over 40 dominate social media!

If you feel limited by life abroad: using social media’s networks to meet your career development needs and pursue your interests is a natural fit.

If you feel disrupted by numerous location changes, social media can provide consistent connection with your communities worldwide.

If you're a professional person, knowledge of social media offers you a relevance unmatched by any other skill or tool available today.

(image is from the IPWIN social media workshop I conducted with Tara Agacayak)

Here's the announcement for the event

BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL WEB PLATFORM: (Saturday, January 22nd, location TBA, 75TL/person)

If you want to test the social media waters beyond your personal Facebook profile, consider this two-hour interactive event about creating your professional path online.

Using the principles from their “Mastermind Program for Creative Entrepreneurs”, Tara Ağaçayak of Turquoise Poppy and Anastasia Ashman of expat+HAREM will demonstrate how social media, web technology, and a community of globally-diverse creative professionals can help you design a location-independent career.

In the first hour they’ll walk you through the growth process of a local entrepreneur building her personal brand on the web. In the second hour, *you* will each become a case study as Tara and Anastasia moderate a live mastermind session.

What you’ll take away from this event: a better connection to your professional passion and a clearer understanding of how social media tools and techniques can be used to develop this passion through the web.

In order to best benefit from the session, participants should have at least two of these: social media accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), a blog or website, or an email newsletter.

 

Here's our write up of the event for the Lale magazine:

IPWIN MEMBERS FINDING THEIR GLOBAL NICHE -- ONLINE!

 

On January 22nd IPWIN hosted a social media workshop:  “BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL WEB PLATFORM” for women interested in building a serious online presence. Tara Agacayak of web consultancy Turquoise Poppy and Anastasia Ashman of expat+HAREM, the global niche gave excellent support and advice to 20 participants on how to grow their professional selves on the web.

 

We started with a round of introductions and got an overview of the various enterprises run or being developed by IPWIN members. We heard distinct stories, and overlapping concerns. “How can I sell my service when the local market doesn’t value it yet?” “How much of myself should I expose?” “I had to take time off to raise my family, and we moved a lot but I want to get a career started in Istanbul.” “How do I present my company, my product, my idea, my brand?” “I run multiple businesses, should I merge them in one site or have separate Facebook pages?” “Which language should I blog in, how do I decide if French or Spanish is best?” “I’m trying to figure out what new business is going to last.”

 

Here are some of the issues we discussed during the meeting.

 

Why is social media important today?

Social media used professionally is an unrivaled way to become visible to a global audience at very low cost, by building a virtual network and sharing your expertise. People now want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Even big companies are now trying to appear “more human”. Solo entrepreneurs everywhere can thrive in this new online environment.

 

What does the ‘social’ part of social media mean?

It means user-generated web content -- as opposed to static web pages -- that allows us to interact with each other through various web technologies. Think of “liking” a Facebook page, or tweeting a blog post, or even commenting on a blog. We can get feedback on our work, we can respond to customers in a public forum and demonstrate the quality of our service, we can meet and learn from others who are interested in the same things, and we can share our best discoveries on the web with our own networks.

 

What is creative entrepreneurship?

A successful business provides a product or service that solves a problem or fills a need. Creative entrepreneurs design offerings based on their personal inclinations, skills and talents. Often these develop out of a need to live and work in non-traditional situations. Social media is a wonderful vehicle to build professional projects on the web regardless of your location, time or language constraints. Creative entrepreneurship is a perfect solution to the problem faced by people who move around a lot or live in cultures not their own. It’s how to “bloom where you’re planted,” as Tara’s Turquoise Poppy catchphrase suggests.

 

What is a global niche?

Coined by Anastasia for global citizens to feel at home,  a global niche is where you uniquely belong in the world, both personally and professionally. Your sweetspot. A place occupied completely and perfectly by you -- so naturally there are no competitors, there are only neighbors. It’s where you can operate to your potential, and embrace all the worlds you love to belong to. Finding your global niche is part of being a successful creative entrepreneur.

 

How do I define my profile on the net?

Building your global niche -- in this case, a professional web platform --  involves uncovering your place in the world and defining that place on the web. Inevitably one of the first steps in establishing your digital profile is communicating who you are in a way that others can relate to and may include using text, images, audio or video. For those who are in the process of self-discovery, social media is an extremely useful tool to explore and have conversations with like-minded global citizens.

 

Does being accessible on the web require extensive personal exposure?

Social media facilitates your interaction with others. People want to know who you are before connecting with you whether personally or professionally, help them find ways to relate to you. You’re not required to share private information that might compromise your security. By using a clear photo of yourself in your profile and including a link to your hub site people can learn exactly what you want them to know. (Don’t know what a hub site is? Find out in Tara and Anastasia’s free email tutorials.)

 

How can I find potential clients, customers and collaborators using social media?

Your ideal customer or client (or employer, if you’re a job seeker!) finds you by entering specific keywords into a search engine like Google. By entering these keywords yourself you’ll learn where you rank amidst the competition and you’ll also see where conversations relevant to your niche are taking place around the web. Social media enables you to monitor these conversations (with tools like Twitter and Google alerts) and participate in them with your own ideas, expertise and professional solutions.

 

How do I fit social media into my work day?

Social media is useful to creative entrepreneurs because it allows you to work in a way that suits your lifestyle. Setting your own schedule for publishing content as well as interacting on sites like Facebook and Twitter means you can work at your own pace. Keep your posts short and “mindcast” rather than “lifecast”. Share important thoughts, what you are reading, what moves you -- not mundane things like what you had for breakfast. Give your network value through the things you share. Use automation and syndication services to reach relevant audiences at key times around the world -- without actually working around the clock!

 

What is my ROI for the time I spend using social media?

Using social media to build your network and reputation is an investment in yourself. The time you dedicate will pay off when you want to sell your product or service - whether it’s a book, a necklace or a coaching program. Use social media to educate yourself and stay on the cutting edge of your field. In today’s market, trust and attention are valuable commodities that you can only develop by being well-informed, authentic and providing useful, accessible content.

 

What is the Mastermind Program for Creative Entrepreneurs?

Anastasia and Tara’s mastermind program brings people together into a virtual work group (conducted on LinkedIn over a few weeks), where each participant contributes to the solution of a problem; like a combination of a brainstorming session and focus group. The success of this technique for creative entrepreneurs relies on the diverse expertise of the group, and your connection to peers you can continue to grow with.

 

Artist, illustrator and writer Rose Deniz demonstrated the power of the mastermind program when she described how her creative business changed after participating in Tara and Anastasia’s “Build your global niche” program. She wondered how to effectively present herself as a multifaceted artist, graphic designer, writer, blogger and handbag designer. Rose was able to see that she needed a unified platform to integrate her work and audiences in one place. Within three months of completing the program she was able to craft her own solution at the site Love, Rose.

 

This IPWIN workshop was very motivational and informative and the spirit is still present. Our members have already asked us to organize a follow-up event! Tara and Anastasia provided the participants with free, on-going tutorials by email which everyone in IWI can access by signing up for their “Build your global niche” mailing list. They’ll also alert you to upcoming mastermind sessions and other resources that will help you get serious on the web.

 

Useful links:

EMAIL LIST for free web platform tutorials: on.fb.me/globalniche

Turquoise Poppy: www.turquoisepoppy.com

expat+HAREM, the global niche: www.expatharem.com

Love, Rose: www.rosedeniz.com

Creative Entrepreneurs on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/creativeentrepreneurs