During Agora Rhein-Neckar, the Visa Freedom Working Group (VFWG) organized quite a successful workshop! The main leader and speaker of the workshop was an American citizen living in Germany and the Czech Republic, Mrs. Kimberli Jo Lewis, who has a certificate from the London Coaching Academy.
Kimberli Lewis, International CEO, executive coach, and mentor, talked about transitioning and being culturally transitioned both in the private and work life. Kimberli has over 22 years CEO experience in 10 countries and has a lighthearted view on how to manage transition. She is an executive coach of cultural transition and expatriate all over the world. Kimberli is the CEO of globalbusinesstherapy.com and ponytaletalk.com.
We had around 60 members at the workshop, which was quite a surprise considering the fact that it was already the third day of the Agora and right after lunch.
The first part of the workshop was an introduction of Kimberli, her short life story. How she moved from the USA to Europe. How different it was to see and live with the people here. She went to Germany, where she met her current husband and settled down. She explained how Germans are able to walk around the town with no specific aim, while in the US people usually go for shopping at weekends. She told us that after some time living in Germany, she was able to accept the traditional morning beer. The biggest problem for Kimberli was to learn the time perception in Germany, when suddenly she had to be everywhere on time and keep the deadlines.
That changed a bit after going to the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was a bit more relaxed. But on the other hand, life was harder there. People were not that helpful anymore and you have to deal with a lot of problems alone. The rusty system of the Czech Republic’s bureaucracy requires a lot of paperwork and patience, because the Czechs are: 1) not keeping the deadlines, only if it is for money; 2) usually are tired and bored from their jobs, so they just do not care about your problems. On the other hand, Czechs know how to sell you the beauty of their country.
Kimberli gave a short presentation about the effects of travelling into different countries, cultures and environments. You should be careful not to start being all sad and depressed when you are coming from your “honeymoon phase”. You miss those beautiful places and the great people, just like our Post-Agora-Syndrome. All the small differences and details that you can recognize after coming back home are actually pushing you to think more about going abroad again and try to explore other places more often. The voice in your head is telling you that what makes you excited makes you happy too. And that you should use your chance. The weather is so bad all the time anyways and the job is boring. That is the point when you decide that you need a change – so you start travelling. And one day you find yourself not living your “old” life anymore.
What comes next, Kimberli said, is the cultural shock and basically “waking up” from your beautiful pink dream. You have to deal with everyday stuff. How to ask for bread, when you actually do not know the name of it in the other language? Where can you exchange money? Is it possible to drive a car here or do I need a special license? Why the flat rent is so high and why is it hard to find a good restaurant? Why are people so closed and always in a hurry? Why can’t I understand the joke?
But after some time, you adapt. You are not scared by the really bad traffic in the morning, as you got a book to read while sitting on the bus. You learn the language well enough to understand the jokes and order in a restaurant. You can feel proud that you have seen more sights than the domestic people. You make friends and plan a trip to a city nearby. You go to a really good party. You do things that locals do too and you do not find it weird anymore. Everything seems to be easier and more enjoyable again. You get a job and you feel really happy because you walked so far and survived!
In the second part of the workshop, we got a small homework. We were supposed to define the word “culture” and its meaning. Culture is not only related to the country or people’s behavior – culture is also your neighborhood, your school, free time activity, an event spent abroad with a mix of foreigners and more. We split into groups and we were defining our own culture. The strongest features and what we find weird about ourselves and our cultures. What is the contradiction to our cultures and how we should deal with it. Then representatives from Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Poland, Ukraine and Greece presented results of their culture description. Germans and Greeks – like two different worlds! Are Spanish lazy? Are Turkish always on time? What about the driving skills of Polish people? You could have heard that and much more during our workshop. If you missed it, do not be sad, because the Visa Freedom Working Group is organizing a workshop for Agora Zaragoza again!
Written by Visa Freedom Working Group