Today we meet Kate Berger, a native New-Yorker who left behind the Big Apple to spend time overseas studying culture differences. Kate soon fell in love with the multicultural environment on offer in the Netherlands and realized that there was a real need to help expat children who were experiencing difficulties adjusting to their lives overseas. She subsequently established The Expat Kid’s Club, a business that provides expert coaching to expat kids and adolescents. Here she tells us about her own battles settling in overseas and provides useful advice for other expats who are looking to establish their own businesses.
Can you please tell us a little about your background and what initially made you move to the Netherlands?
I first came to the Netherlands to study the Dutch perspective on cultural influences and psychology as a science. I believe that the Dutch mentality has historically influenced much of Western society, as the nation was a powerful force in the 17th and 18th centuries.
What were your first impressions of the Netherlands? Did you suffer from culture shock? How did you deal with your initial emotions?
My first impressions were that the Dutch have a tremendous way of being direct – it seemed “rude” at first and it definitely took some getting used to the fact that friends would say exactly what they thought of me, but I learned to love this honesty and appreciate it in my relationships. I noticed that I began to glorify this aspect of Dutch communication and interaction and had some difficulty understanding how to incorporate their mentality – something I admired – into my own perspective. I had some difficult moments when I went “home” to New York and made some direct comments to friends and loved ones. Realizing that the cultures were and are different, I learned how to incorporate both my “native” and “host” culture in a way that allowed me to socialize within norms in both countries (and eventually learned how to make these communication methods congruent).
What are your favorite things about living in the Netherlands?
I absolutely love the multicultural environment as it brings vast perspectives. Here in the Netherlands, I feel that individuality is encouraged in a non-competitive way and it is refreshing to be able to be yourself.
What things do you least enjoy?
It is very difficult living far away from family and loved ones. Honestly, I have struggled to find a way to balance my own personal desires with family ties, although I am blessed to have a family that supports me and my choice on where to live. If Skype did not exist, I don’t know if this lifestyle would even be possible!
While living in the Netherlands you have established a business that aims to help expatriate children, please tell us a little bit more about what you do.
I work with children who are having a difficult time during their stay in the Netherlands. Whether they are eternal expats, or living here indefinitely it can be challenging to cope with some of the cultural differences while going through “normal” developmental up’s and down’s. Because I have personal experience living abroad, as well as the fact that I am a native-English speaker, I can relate to the children (and families) that I work with. I strongly believe that international experience is beneficial in so many ways, and when I can help a child come to enjoy their expat-experience to the fullest it is so rewarding.
What advice would you give to parents who are concerned that their children are not adjusting to expatriate life?
Talk to your kids and acknowledge their feelings relating to the relocation without discrediting them, or trying to change them. Also, many parents seem to be afraid to share the fact that they are also struggling with their children, and I always encourage honest discussion and sharing these feelings with kids so that they understand their “yucky” feelings are normal.
What three top tips would you give to someone who is considering starting their own business in the Netherlands?
1. Do your homework – it is going to take a LOT of paperwork and getting through bureaucratic tape to establish a business in this country.
2. Be confident and ready to fight an uphill battle – it took me almost two years to get approval from the government and start taking in clients. I was not very confident in the beginning, which slowed me down, so I would encourage anyone trying to start a business to be passionate and have a vision to back you up.
3. Collaborate as much as you can. There are many wonderful and successful people out there who you can learn from. I have found so much inspiration and support from unexpected places, and am always looking for ways to collaborate to improve my business.
What’s next for you?
Continuing to help my clients is my priority, but I also am looking forward to taking my experience and knowledge to a broader audience and expand services to other families globally. I have already taken on some clients via Skype, which is a really interesting and exciting aspect of my work. I never envisioned meeting and working with a client via this form of communication, but in today’s world this type of correspondence is a reality (and can be very helpful).
You can learn more about Kate and how she can help your expat family by visiting her website: http://www.expatkidsclub.com/
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