Harvard Business Review: Moving Around Without Losing Your Roots by Gianpiero Petriglieri | 12:00 PM October 3, 2012

Moving Around Without Losing Your Roots
by Gianpiero Petriglieri | 12:00 PM October 3, 2012 Harvard Business Review

Big questions always strike unexpectedly, when our guard is down. I was watching my toddlers splash in the pool last summer when a fellow dad plunged me into revisiting the meaning of home in a globalized world.

He didn’t mean to. He just asked where we were from.

“We live in Boston,” I started, “but we’re from Europe. How about you?”

I learned the name of his hometown, where he owned a business, and prepared myself to tack towards our common ground next — the children’s age, the local weather, the economic climate. Not quite yet.

“Where from in Europe?”

Fair enough, it’s a diverse continent.

“I am from Italy, my wife is British, and we live in France. We are in the US for a year, for work.” This explains why the children speak Italian with me, and a very British English with my wife, while sporting an American accent with their little friends — which is what usually sparks these conversations.

“Did you meet her in France?”

I felt the impulse to lie and get it over with. (Isn’t Paris the perfect setting for a blossoming romance?) I let it go.

“We met in Switzerland when I worked there.” And there it was, the subtle shift in look. My interlocutor had moved me, in his mental filing cabinet, from a folder labeled ‘foreigner’ to one marked ‘stranger.’

I didn’t just hail from a different place. I had a different kind of life.

Those conversations always make me pause. Especially when they involve someone from back home. A relative, a high school classmate who remained anchored there while I moved around. I don’t even need to meet them. A Facebook picture of an old friend’s kids on the same beaches where we grew up can be enough to spark that vague unease, the feeling that our bond is made of blood and history but no longer of shared habits, context or enterprise. It is in those encounters, where I am not even a foreigner, that I feel most like a stranger — a misfit by choice.

For many years now, I have spent my days in circles where careers and families like mine are the norm. The school where I work, my fourth employer to date, has campuses on three continents. My colleagues hail from 46 countries and have lived, worked and loved in many more — as have my students. Compared with most managers I teach, I have moved infrequently, and not that far.

“These are my people,” one told me recently, pointing to her classmates. “I feel more at home with them than I do where I was born.” I hear that sentiment often, in those oases and breeding grounds for nomadic professionals that business schools have become. It comes with the realization that for all their transience and diversity, people who find their way there have much in common.

They are as eager to broaden their personal horizons as they are to expand their professional prospects. They do not expect or desire to spend their career in the same organization or country. They enjoy mobility and view it as necessary to gather the experience, ability, connections and credibility that will turn them from nomadic professionals into global leaders.

I think of them as a peculiar tribe. A tribe for people unfit for tribalism.

Their unwillingness or inability to settle — to embrace and be defined by one place only — draws them to each other. It makes them restless and curious. It helps them develop the sensitivity to multiple perspectives and the ability to work across cultures that are indeed hallmarks of global leadership. It also comes with a price.

That price is struggling with the question of home and its troublesome acolytes: identity and belonging.

The struggle is neither an Odyssean longing for the comfortable mooring of a home left behind, nor the pathetic moaning of privileged neurotics who romanticize a simple life that doesn’t exist in the real world. It is not just those, at least.

“The trouble with moving around and falling in love with new places,” a colleague once shared, “is that you leave a piece of your heart in each of them.” That resonated with my experience. In Italy, professionals working abroad are described as “runaway brains.” My brain, however, never ran away. My heart just took it elsewhere.

This is why I worry when senior executives tell aspiring leaders that membership in global elites requires sacrificing an existence grounded in one place. Framing the struggle for home as a private reckoning with loss is simplistic and dangerous. It makes global elites more isolated and disconnected, less intelligible and trustworthy. It puts them in no position to lead.

No one wants to follow a stranger. Without some sense of home, nomadic professionals don’t become global leaders. They only turn into professional nomads. Leaders need homes to keep their vision, passion and courage alive — and to remain connected both to the people they are meant to serve, and to themselves.

To forego the possibility of feeling at home, or to make do with the surrogate of a dispersed cohort of fellow nomads is to give up the possibility of intimacy, of commitment, of trust. It is all that it takes to give up being human and become “human resources.” And once we do that to ourselves, it’s a short step to viewing everyone else as such.

Yet home need not always be a place. It can be a territory, a relationship, a craft, a way of expression. Home is an experience of belonging, a feeling of being whole and known, sometimes too close for comfort. It’s those attachments that liberate us more than they constrain. As the expression suggests, home is where we are from — the place where we begin to be.

Rather than learning to live away from home or do without one, global leaders must learn to live in and between two homes — a local and a global home. Become familiar with local and global communities, and use neither to escape the other.

This takes physical and emotional presence. It requires staying put long enough and traveling a fair amount. Spending time with those who live nearby and staying close to those who are far away — showing and being shown around. Leaving a piece of heart with people and places, and keeping them in your heart wherever you are.

Hard as it may be to reconcile local and global homes, it is a privilege to have a chance to inhabit both. A privilege that we must extend to others. That is, ultimately, the work of global leaders — connecting those homes within and around them.

We must embrace the struggle to make a home that feels our own. The unease that goes with it is a reminder of how important that work is, and what is at stake. Without a local home we lose our roots, without a global home we lose our reach.

More blog posts by Gianpiero Petriglieri
More on: Global business, Leadership, Managing yourself

Gianpiero Petriglieri is Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, where he directs the Management Acceleration Programme, the school’s flagship executive programme for emerging leaders. You can find him on Twitter @gpetriglieri.
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Juan Yesterday 02:31 PM
I feel very identified! and I wanted to share that whenever we go for this topic I think of two things: business and politics.

– Business: aren’t we enough mobile people to be an attractive market for banking, insurers, schools and so on to provide comprehensive services for us (not only the premium bare boned we usually get offered)? (In other words: how many are we, how much do we spend and on what do we spend it?)
– Politics: shouldn’t the question “where are we from” connect more with the community we are engaged and bring value to instead of the place we live or come from? (My current perception is that Middle East is about your parents religion, Europe is about your parents nationality and Americas about your birthplace – hopefully something better is emerging…)

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Matthew Loxton Yesterday 10:06 AM
My moment of realization was when I was regularly commuting between offices in Denver and Brisbane and I wanted to get an Australian cell phone. The salesperson at Virgin was gung-ho until we got to the part in the form that dealt with “permanent address”.

“um … I don’t have one, I live for a few weeks at a time in furnished apartments”

… and that was the end of it, they simply didn’t know how to deal with somebody whose “permanent address” didn’t resolve into something they understood.

Then of course there are always the accent issues

“you from England?”
“er .. no”

Sometimes it really is easier to lie and just say “yes” to the first place they pick.

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Peter Mandeno Yesterday 08:02 AM
Hello Gianpiero – thanks for sharing your experience and for your insights. If you’re ever up in London I’d love to explore the conversation further. About 18 months ago my fiancee and I (she’s from the UK, I’m from New Zealand, we met in New York) started the Global Lifestyle Project (a hobby/passion/side project) which we describe as “selecting, building and maintaining a limited number of purposefully chosen bases around the world that collectively add up to the happiest and most productive version of yourself”.

We’re exploring the concept from the perspective of creating our own opportunities rather than waiting for people to create them for us. We’re living in remarkable times with huge potential for those who know how to tap into it. It’s not just about the jet-setters, global executives or nomads any more. There’s a new model that we’re interested in and it’s rapidly gaining momentum.

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gpetriglieri Yesterday 09:07 AM in reply to Peter Mandeno
Dear Peter, thank you for commenting, very interesting. I am fascinating by the emergence of the new model, and by its consequences for people who are mobile in different ways. Even when we stay put, these days, we encounter more cultures. I look forward to learning more about your project.

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Ruth Van Reken 10/09/2012 10:32 PM
Great article…the one thing I would add is that for those who make their first international move in adulthood, you at least know where you are from originally….as you said, “I am from Italy.” For those of us who grew up as those sociologist Ruth Useem described as ‘third culture kids (TCKs)’ (the third culture in essence being the expat lifestyle where those from one country or culture (the first) live in another country/culture (the second) but form a way of life different from either first or second culture but common to those who are sharing this lifestyle with them)..we have to figure out even where we are from per se. After being born and raised in Nigeria to US American parents (but my father was born and raised in Persia), I repatriated to the US at age 13 and quickly learned when folks asked where i was from, that my answer “Nigeria” wasn’t going to work. I learned to say ‘Chicago’ for years but you are right, in the end, I can and do feel at home in many places…but now, when asked where I am from, I simply say, “I live in Indianapolis” and few seem to notice, I never answered their question!

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gpetriglieri Yesterday 09:06 AM in reply to Ruth Van Reken
Dear Ruth, you are absolutely right, the ability of feeling at home within oneself without having an answer to the question may be the hardest and most important one to develop here. To do this, we need others who help us get to that point, as Peter above and others have been saying. Thank you very much for commenting.

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Mide S Yesterday 12:18 PM in reply to gpetriglieri
So how did you get your kids to speak two languages? They speak Italian to you and British English to your wife. That’s great.

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gpetriglieri Yesterday 12:46 PM in reply to Mide S
Nothing special, just consistency. We always speak to them in one language, and eventually they started speaking only one language back to each of us. We are, like many parents, impressed by the incredible impact of school and peers, on their accent and language preferences – and on a lot more I am sure as they grow up.

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Pam 10/09/2012 10:11 AM
Congratulations for this thoughts provoking article.

I would like though to propose a view where there’s a specific type of work traveller that this article is about, which is not the typical expat or migrant type.

Migrants leave their home to settle in another location and that new location becomes their home.
Expats go on “assignments” in other locations but their home still rests in their country of origin.
Both these population have few problems answering the question “Where is home for you?”.

What (I think) this article is about, is the nomad population, for lack of better word.
Those who can’t settle in a place for more than a few years, just because they can’t resist discovering new horizons.
I do make the distinction because I have found that nomads rarely truly identify as expats. I’ve observed that the two communities rarely come across.

To my opinion, it’s even unfair to call them “misfits by choice”, because this lifestyle isn’t a choice, but a core necessity of their being.
I have not “chosen” to have this irresistible drive to discover other cultures and words, the same way others have not “chosen” to be gay. The only choice I had was to live according to who I am. And living this choice may require sacrifices, especially when we meet the incomprehension of our families and friends. Especially when we sort of know that their mental structure may not allow them to understand, much less approve,…

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gpetriglieri 10/09/2012 11:56 AM in reply to Pam
Pam, spot on. A friend who read the blog told me that I had not explored the phenomenon of ‘the misfits who never fit anyway – nor particularly cared to.’ I don’t consider myself an expat, always been on local contracts, kids’ schools, etc. And also always imagined (at a point or other) I may stay forever in the place I was. I am not sure I am a migrant either. You parse these distinction wonderfully, and point out to a deeper existential necessity of exploration, paired with opportunity, that is itself worth a post. Thank you very much for this insightful contribution.

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Simone-Eva Redrupp 10/09/2012 03:57 AM
GP, your feeling(s) certainly sparked and struck a chord with me, a “Third Culture National” like many others here. Besides the fact that one’s personal mood determines the answer to the most dreaded question “Where are you from?”, there is another concept though that my TCN friends and I iscuss: having “horizontal Vs. perpendicular roots”: Horizontal being our worldwide support system made up of our close friends – with whom it’s ok NOT to speak for a few years, because when you reconnect, it’s as if you never left one another – whereas the “perpendicular roots” are those geographic places, other people “come from”. One of our theories is that “global nomads have horizontal roots”… but may subconciously seek partners with strong perpendicular roots… .maybe to compensate for our own lack of “geographical belonging”? My French husband comes from the Savoie (Alps), my South-African-German friend’s wife is a traditional Italian, etc. etc… all with a big sense of humour & natural curiosity, of course, otherwise, they couldn’t put up with us! But then again, when asked “Don’t you miss not being from one place?” I can honestly answer “Not really, since I don’t miss what I don’t know..” :).. Excellent & thoughtprovoking article… Simone-Eva Redrupp (6 school changes in 3 different school systems on 2 continents), holder of 3 passports

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gpetriglieri 10/09/2012 05:17 AM in reply to Simone-Eva Redrupp
SImone-Eva, thank you for the comment. I love the idea that the roots that nourishes have different shape depending on what we grow accustomed to. And also that we may seek complementarity in partners on this dimension. Very insightful as always!

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Cindyhoong 10/08/2012 08:03 PM
I went back and read the title of the article again … just want to make sure.

to make sure one does not ‘lose’ one’s roots — takes a lot of time, money, energy, paid-for-expensive-schools for the kids etc.

I am still on the right track in my earlier post. There is a great difference between EXPAT and MIGRANT.

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Cindyhoong 10/08/2012 07:51 PM
As a person who has been moving around, migrated, immigrated, business trips etc. since 1970, covered many countries, 2,3 continents, expat wife in different countries/continents — what I have learned is, a lot of the stories I read here is mostly about expat life. The life of the well educated, the rich, the can-do either from well-to-do families or a well-paid job. What I mostly missed to read (there are other articles, blogs on the internet that write about the ‘global-trotters) is about the less fortunate ‘migrants’. Migrants that can be either legal or illegal. The migrants that have to struggles with language, money, connections, educations etc.

What I most sick of reading is, the haves talking about expensive dinners, the life-styles that to many the real connection they can dream of is from TV and movies.

We have to make a REAL distinction between EXPAT and MIGRANTS. EXPATs are people that do not have to pay for their beautiful rental houses (don’t worry — I or my husband lived in quite a few VERY expensive houses in Japan, London, Singapore therefore I know what I am talking about), company pays for their kids educations, their travelling expenses, their daily perks etc. etc.

Migrants are, depending on circumstances, they have to pay for things out of their own pockets. Their kids go to local schools. NOT British or American or International or European schools. JUST local. Migrants have to struggle to learn local language — they…

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Jdammu 10/08/2012 01:38 PM
Nice write up…..as some one from India, living in the US for the last 8 yrs….also with in US having moved already four places for job….some times i wonder about my community linkges….and about home….these days this is certainly bothering me

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ProductMgrD 10/08/2012 12:48 PM
Thank you for this article, which so accurately describes the challenges and emotions I find myself facing, having just returned to the US after working in Europe for the last few years.

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Urigol2 10/08/2012 08:49 AM
This is a terrific article with a concept I have been struggling with for some time. I have been living in Belgium for three years after that another year in Munich and now in Tel-Aviv. Building roots is hard, and each time I go back I feel the ‘road not taken’ that there (brussels, Munich) is part of my roots and how can I take it with me.


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MeghnaGupta 10/08/2012 03:51 AM
Very interesting article, GP. I’ve often wondered about the definition of ‘home’ and come to believe that its really not about a place, but people. From my own experiences, I’ve found myself never to be too attached to places…I’ve loved them at that moment in time but my flashes of joy, happiness, longing from past have always been people-centric. And roots – in terms of values, culture etc stay with you, irrespective of geographies. Perhaps only getting enriched further with the vastness of experiences at different places, with different people. Essence of life stays same…where-ever you go. Thanks for a great read.

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masaccio 10/07/2012 03:45 PM
I don’t think you appreciate the problem. You have plenty of connections. It’s just that you are only connected to people like you. You say you and people like you are a global elite, entitled to lead.

You aren’t.

Leadership requires some connection to the people who are led. You have none, and neither do people like you. If I met you, we would find plenty in common, and I would be interested to know what you think. I would not vote for you for any position. You have limited yourself, and have no connection to any person not exactly like you. You have no capacity to lead an Army squad, let alone a city.

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gpetriglieri 10/07/2012 04:44 PM in reply to masaccio
Dear masaccio, I may not appreciate the problem, but I have the impression that we do agree. I am not sure where you read the word entitlement, and perhaps I did not express myself as clearly as I hoped. The post makes that very point: if global elites become isolated within themselves, and disconnected from everyone else, they lose the ability to gain permission to lead from their potential followers–because they will have nothing in common, and won’t share the same interest. Ultimately, as you can probably read here and in my previous post, I believe leadership comes from followers’ trust, not entitlements. Similarly, a fiercely local perspective makes it difficult for leaders to take the leap and take into consideration more ‘global’ concerns and preoccupations, that is, those that are not shared within their narrow local circles. Hence my suggestion that good leaders need to be able to relate to a broader set of concerns and communities than the ones they feel most immediately comfortable with–local and global ones. Thank you for commenting.

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MeghnaGupta 10/07/2012 02:21 PM
Very interesting article, GP. I’ve often wondered about the definition of ‘home’ and come to believe that its really not about a place, but people. From my own experiences, I’ve found myself never to be too attached to places…I’ve loved them at that moment in time but my flashes of joy, happiness, longing from past have always been people-centric. And roots – in terms of values, culture etc stay with you, irrespective of geographies. Perhaps only getting enriched further with the vastness of experiences at different places, with different people. Essence of life stays same…where-ever you go. Thanks for a great read.

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Ines 10/07/2012 02:05 PM
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. However one aspect that I miss is the impact of our life choices on our kids. 3 countries in 7 years… What about the kids that are dragged along? Don’t they deserve the chance to make ‘childhood’ friends, create roots somewhere, knowing who next year’s teacher might be? While I’d agree with your reasoning, this is the one detail that makes it so much more complex to be a ‘missfit by choice’.

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Eugene Evon 10/08/2012 04:15 PM in reply to Ines
Hi Ines,

Good observation.

Growing up my family moved 11 times (3 US states, 2 countries) by the time I was 18. You’re right, as a kid you have no choice and there are painful emotional separations. I daresay it was even more difficult in the era I grew up in, pre-email, pre-realistically affordable international calling, and certainly pre-internet chatting and FaceTime. But for me the gains achieved in exposure to, and immersion in, different cultures and communities far outweighed the concerns about friends and places we had left. I gained abilities to flexibly adapt and quickly find common ground with others whose life experience was radically different than my own. This taught me critical skills — to question and modify my prior worldview models, to deal positively with significant change, and to suspend judgement based on prior assumptions when engaging with people. Of course, not everyone comes out with the same learnings, or strengths. I give tremendous credit to my parents for providing the comforting continuity of a strong family unit as a foundation. They supported us as we struggled with culture clashes, loss of the familiar (“What? No Halloween candy?” “Yes, son, but in Omaha you don’t get Carnival!”), and constantly challenged us to keep learning. So I also give credit to them for enabling as much immersion in local culture as possible. If you live in Osaka, you don’t eat McDonald’s hamburgers and just associate with other Americans. Or even other global types.My wife had…

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Yvonne 10/08/2012 12:16 PM in reply to Ines
Hi Ines,
I am one of those kids who was ‘dragged along’ and now that I am (supposedly) an adult, I choose to move myself along. Of course I envy others who have ‘childhood friends’, and a ‘home’ that can be easily described with the name of a town, or even a country. But you know what – I know that I am also incredibly privileged to have seen so much of the world already, have met so many extraordinary people, and had amazing experiences. Most importantly, by seeing all these different cultures and ways people live, I have come to understand my own identity much more quickly than some of my peers who experienced their first big ‘move’ and ‘challenge’ to their identity later in life. So if you can expose your kids to difference, I would strongly encourage it… :-)

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gpetriglieri 10/07/2012 04:54 PM in reply to Ines
Dear Ines, thank you very much for commenting. As I replied to Lilian below, I think about that a lot. Whether it is by choice or necessity (not all people I know, or me, always move by pure choice) these moves have consequences on our loved ones–kids, parents, etc. I have been touched by the many stories shared here, some highlighting the positive sides, and other the more painful aspects of mobility. In fact, both being able to stay put or being able to move can feel like a privilege or a burden, depending from where you look at them. As far as I can tell, it seems that the strength and quality of attachments (old, ongoing and new) and some serendipity may have something to do with whether one experiences more of the former or the latter. And of course whether one feels involved in the choice–and partakes in the benefits of it.

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MeghnaGupta 10/07/2012 02:03 PM
Very interesting article, GP. I’ve often wondered about the definition of ‘home’ and come to believe that its really not about a place, but people. From my own experiences, I’ve found myself never to be too attached to places…I’ve loved them at that moment in time but my flashes of joy, happiness, longing from past have always been people-centric. And roots – in terms of values, culture etc stay with you, irrespective of geographies. Perhaps only getting enriched further with the vastness of experiences at different places, with different people. Essence of life stays same…where-ever you go. Thanks for a great read.

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NigeriaMogul 10/07/2012 09:44 AM
Hi Mr Petriglieri. What a nice article from which we the new breeds of globalisers can learn from. I’m a Nigerian studying a UK -affiliated business degree in Malaysia. Yeah, I want to do my MBA in China as part of my globalisation. Please, is there INSEAD in China? And how do I apply for MBA? Thank you.

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 05:32 AM in reply to NigeriaMogul
Dear NigeriaMogul, Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, INSEAD has no campus in China–although it has a partnership for the Executive MBA. The closest to China is the Singapore campus. You can find all about how to apply in the MBA section of the website www.insead.edu.

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emme 10/07/2012 09:29 AM
“The trouble with moving around and falling in love with new places…is that you leave a piece of your heart in each of them.”
That is so very true.

I have been living internationally since I was two years old, and have covered 9 countries (but plenty more moves, because in some countries I lived more than once, including in different cities) on 3 continents. Sense of identity and belonging can be problematic and I struggled quite a bit with it in my early twenties, especially because my parents didn’t quite understand that I didn’t fully identify with my native place. Learning the term ‘Third Culture Kids’ helped me a lot (it might be useful for your kids too, Gianpiero, although I can see you are fully aware that such living is going to result in a complicated cultural and personal identity).

These days, when people ask “Where are you from” I often just give my passport country, when I know them longer it sometimes comes out that I’ve lived all over. Some seem to find that intimidating and almost take it as if you are boasting, but they don’t seem to realise that that’s the only reality I know. It might be strange to them, but it’s very, very normal to me. Not surprisingly, my closest friends are all people that have a similar sort of background while I rarely connect to people from my passport country. I share less with them than with those that also…

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Ferhad 10/06/2012 11:44 PM
Having left my home country , South Africa, 12 years ago I identify with most of you . While it is up to the individual to adapt to his/her new environment, govt has a hand in attracting and keeping foreign talent. Personally , I find that Dubai and now Singapore have been relatively easy countries to adapt to, perhaps because both are multicultural. On the flip side, the individual needs to make a mental investment in his/her new home , e.g subscribing to local communities, helping in local charity organisations, etc.

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 05:35 AM in reply to Ferhad
I agree Ferhad, ‘adapting,’ whatever it means for us, may be easier in communities where there is a critical mass of people who have experienced mobility and diversity. At the same time, however, it is also up to us to engage in very practical ways as you suggest and not remain isolated. Thank you for commenting.

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Guest 10/06/2012 06:34 PM
An engaging and timely post! I am currently in transition myself (Zimbabwe, South Africa and now Germany).

I cannot help but ask to what extent race influences the ease with which we integrate and form attachments to the environments we find ourselves in. As a black person trying to create a life for myself in Germany, I am finding it much more difficult than I expected to feel like a part of the fabric of the city where I reside (and German society more generally). Yes, I am making serious efforts to learn the language, and use it as far as possible for written and spoken communication. Yes, I am adapting to doing things the ‘German way’ in different contexts. But still it feels like that is not enough and everyday I am reminded that I am a foreigner, an ‘other’. This has proved to be a very disappointing experience for me as I am trying to be a global citizen in word and deed!

It would be interesting to know whether others have had similar experiences (whether in Germany or elsewhere).

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Carol BW Yesterday 10:56 AM in reply to Guest
One thing I do like about living as a foreigner in another country is that you can be forgiven for not knowing the nuances of a culture. If you make a big concerted effort and put out a kind face, many offenses will be kindly overlooked. The same reaction would not happen in the place you might call your passport country.

I currently live in Germany (but also Hungary, France, Sri Lanka and the Azores). Each time I find it easier to be a foreigner in these strange lands than to be a citizen of my passport country. It is going home that is the most challenging – perhaps the biggest challenge to our global leadership.

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Jolinia 10/07/2012 09:03 PM in reply to Guest
I am a German living and working in the Philippines and I am having similar experiences.
I think it has simply to do with ‘looking different’ if your host country is a country that is not very diverse. You don’t look like the average German (like I don’t look like the average Filipino). Most people in our host countries have not experienced interacting with people of a different race, so they have all kinds of assumptions of the different looking people. But in my experience, once they get to know you, they will treat you just like they would treat any other person. At least that’s my experience. I am the only non-Filipino at my workplace. At first, all my co-workers shied away from me, because they did not know how to deal with that ‘white lady’. This has changed over time, and now they treat me just like one of them. Still, I am reminded every day that I am a foreigner: I look foreign, so people/the general public assume I’m a tourist. I am treated differently at the grocery store, in restaurants, at the bank, at ferry terminals, everywhere in public, basically. Those “random people” I meet in public do not have the chance to get to know me, because usually I only have one or maybe a few encounters with them. Even though I wish, that those people treated me like any other, I have gotten used to being treated differently. I think this is the price…

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wanderlust 10/06/2012 01:30 PM
This blog reminded me of a poem by Pablo Neruda, The Saddest Century, that speaks of the diaspora, the refugees and the broken empires after the world wars. Maybe the new globalization is the modern outgrowth of the old diaspora, except we no longer carry our “defeated little flags.”

The Saddest Century

The century of emigres,
the book of homelessness —
gray century, black book.
This is what I ought to leave
written in the open book,
digging it out from the century,
tinting the pages with spilled blood.

I lived the abundance
of those lost in the jungle:
in the jungle of punishment.
I counted the cutoff hands
and the mountains of ash
and the fragmented cries
and the without-eyes glasses
and the headless hair.

Then I searched the world
for those who lost their country,
pointlessly carrying
their defeated little flags
their Stars of David,
their miserable photographs.

I too knew homelessness.

But as a seasoned wanderer,
I returned empty-handed
to this sea that knows me well.
But others remain
and are still at bay,
leaving behind their loves and their mistakes
thinking maybe maybe
but knowing never never
and this is how I ended up sobbing
the dusty sob
of those who have lost the earth
This is the way I ended celebrating
with my brothers (those who remain)
the victorious building,
the harvest of new bread.

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gregorylent 10/06/2012 08:19 AM
home is the space between the ears .. those ready to learn that lesson get to travel until they figure it out.

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Alix De Poix 10/06/2012 02:17 AM
Having lived abroad as a kid for one year and extensively worked global since I started to work, I remember my Dad saying to me one day when I was in my 30’s: you can set your roots wherever you decide; roots are not about location, they are about your DNA (family, culture, religion, values, etc.) and as we all know, we are the product of our story.And I do fully agree with you Gianpiero. My two sons live and work abroad today but their DNA or ‘local roots’ are definitely France even if they have became global

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Julien Horvath 10/07/2012 11:57 PM in reply to Alix De Poix
Alix, same as you my passport country is France, and same as you I grew up and have been working around the world. Though I find that trying to fir in the cultural parameters of France was too limiting. Recently I had like a big weight lifted from my shoulders, I read about third culture kids and global nomads and it made me realize I am not alone and it seems we are defining new parameters for world citizens..

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gpetriglieri 10/06/2012 06:24 AM in reply to Alix De Poix
We are the product of our story, indeed. And wrestling to make our own home is an attempt to be (at least in part) its authors, as well. Thank you for commenting Alix!

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Guest 10/06/2012 12:26 AM
I really
liked reading GP´s article as well as the comments from many people that tried
to get out some of their feelings. I can relate to many of the situations
mentioned and others simply by referring to some close friends experiences…

During my
journey I have learned just to keep it simple! When people ask
you, where you are from? Be unarmed and answer: I am from…….. What they really
want, Is to tell you, their story. When they lose interest it’s simply because
they don´t have such an interesting life story as you and they find it
difficult to relate and they lose interest.

Until I was
ten I was very proud to say I had only lived in one house all my life. While my
school mates had at least two homes, as most of their parents were divorced. Until,
my father decided to do his PHd at Liverpool´s University. After that, I never stopped
moving. I have only lived in 2 countries, UK & Brazil back and forth. I have
had 1 home in every 2 years on average through my entire life and I am only 34.
So that means I have lived at least in
19 different places.

I feel that we as nomadic, we learn to adapt
very quickly and we learn how to live the present very thoroughly because who
knows what tomorrow brings?… I have also gone back to common grounds. Places
where I thought I…

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Tommaso Arenare 10/05/2012 04:13 PM
Very well put, Gianpiero: “Without a local home we lose our roots, without a global home we lose our reach”. I wish to comment briefly on one of my favourite elements: “people”, not “places”, make us happy (http://wp.me/p2mHJv-w). A “home” is a matter of belonging to “people”, again, not to “places”. Hence, the difficult balance between a “local” and a “global” home looks to me, more than anything else, a matter of inner balance, peace with oneself. I will always feel at home as long as my roots belong to a group of “people” that I clearly identify and am fully aware of. It’s the old issue of “nostalgia”, which I personally consider as a sign of a misfunctioning relationship with oneself. We build our “local” home as long as we manage to establish (or perhaps “re-establish”, maybe through effective psychoanalytical work) a balanced and peaceful relationship with people who were close to us a long, long time ago (and possibly still are). We build our “global” home as long as we build new and satisfying relationships with people we meet now and over time. Difficult, yes, but that is what gives us a sense of “home” and, perhaps, a sense and a possibility to “lead”.

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 05:52 AM in reply to Tommaso Arenare
Tommaso, insightful as always. I agree. I would only add that longing and nostalgia are not always the result of unresolved issues, sometimes they are the fair price for the choice of adventure. People, not places, of course. Maybe place is what we call a territory once it hosts people we become close to. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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Jamie Gierczak 10/05/2012 12:45 PM
This is the first time I have come to understanding just a tiny bit of this lifestyle. In comparison, mine is a similar lifestyle but it’s at the local level. My brothers and I move from home to home but I feel as if this small city is my “home”.

The local level lifestyle has many limitations as you don’t get to experience culture the same way you would in the global setting. You also don’t meet people the same way you do when you travel. When you move around, you become more open to meeting people whereas at a local level, you know everyone in town. It’s actually harder to meet people because you start to get comfortable, and in my opinion that leads to lethargy. You also stagnate at the local level, meaning you get into a routine that becomes hard to break. I get it though, start building something at the local level and move it to the global setting.

It never crossed my mind that, living this lifestyle, some don’t get the chance to build their personal identity in the traditional way. It’s not so say that finding your identity can’t happen, but it might take longer and it happens differently. I would agree with you, build an identity upon the foundation of what makes you feel yourself. If reading books makes you feel at home, then do it. Balance it out by stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something adventurous. I…

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gpetriglieri 10/06/2012 06:29 AM in reply to Jamie Gierczak
Thank you for your thoughtful comment Jamie. I agree with you, home and homelessness are not simply about moving territories. They have to do with how we balance the choice–and sometimes necessity–of taking the adventurous route with connection that keep us grounded. That is what makes adventure a source of learning and growth, rather than a distracting detour.

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Anne Egros 10/05/2012 12:34 PM
Very good article I can totally relate with the scene at the pool. When asked where I come from I always hesitate if I should give the long version (20+ years of expatriation across 3 continents and 13 moves, one child born in the states who never lived in France and went to school in 6 different countries …..

For me “home” is “here” and “now” with my husband and son. It is also the south of France through the cuisine I learned from my mom and my early childhood vacation in Provence where my family originated.Usually for “locals” my answer is that I was born in France met my husband in Paris and 30 years later we just moved to their beautiful country x months ago and stressing how lucky we are to be there, sharing authentic interest in local culture but never complain about things I don’t like.With other serial expats it is easier, they know what I am talking about so I can give the uncensored version with details and usually we share this famous “third culture” that only expatriates can understand regardless of jobs, countries, age or social status. We more or less have been through same struggles, excessive bureaucracy is always a good topic, we have quite often acquaintances or friends in common etc,

Let me use the word “glocal” to define who I am from: Living locally with a global mind

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gpetriglieri 10/06/2012 06:41 AM in reply to Anne Egros
Thank you Anne. I resonate with home becoming the “here and now” of immediate, proximate loved ones. You put it so well ,and it transpires in others’ comments. It is a very interesting insight, that moving around our perspective of time changes. We develop uncertain relationships with the past, and the future. Or we become more aware of that uncertainty, which is there in every life. That is what makes it both a blessing and a loss perhaps. The intimacy of family becomes more present, feels stronger–and at the same time we need more work to develop a broader set of attachments. Thanks again for commenting.

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Bill Patton 10/05/2012 11:32 AM
I was a sophomore in college when my family moved to Belgium (Rhode-St-Genese) and was as a result less impacted than my brother and sister who were uprooted and moved en mass to a foreign country. I remember visiting them and listening to their friends talk and inject in matter of fact tones shopping in Egypt or wandering around a bazaar in Denmark. Their friends were young gypsies with no specific home, race or nationality, but a shared culture and vernacular nonetheless.

For my sister and brother it was the return to the relative ‘normality’ of domestic life that was hardest. Childhood friends did not know about the open air zulu market or that the ‘drug opera’ was an ice cream shop. New friends had taken the place of best friends and the connections that make adolescence bearable had been broken. At the same time, the support that is given expats when they first arrive in a foreign country is non-existent upon return.

The depression that set in and ultimately took my brothers life less than a year after returning was probably always there, under the surface but I believe that the unsupported transition back home was an avoidable trigger.

To this day I always counsel expats to be open the new experiences, to adopt local culture and embrace the experience .. but to be very careful with your loved ones upon reentry to your home town and home country. It can be much harder than expected.

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gpetriglieri 10/06/2012 06:37 AM in reply to Bill Patton
Dear Bill, thank your for sharing this painfully moving and sobering story. Your counsel is very wise. Perhaps there is no such thing as re-entry once we leave. There is only new entries. That can be very hard to fathom, and lonely, when the place is one were we once were at home. Awareness, openness and support are crucial, and even more necessary then.

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Lilian 10/05/2012 10:57 AM
An interesting piece and certainly one that will resonate with many. I wonder though, how your children’s ‘story’ will differ from your own. You were born and raised in your country, and left as an adult. For global business people like myself who were born and raised outside of their parent’s ‘home’ country, and who work in multiple countries, speak multiple languages, the concept of roots, or a ‘home’ does not exist for me. And I think that’s sad. If I have children one day, I would not raise them the way I grew up. Forming an identity as a child/teenager is very important. I feel like I missed out. I wonder if your children will, too?

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cestmaguerre Yesterday 02:11 AM in reply to Lilian
Absolutely agree with you Lilian, as someone who was raised outside their parents ‘home’ country and has been restlessly nomadic ever since, that the concept of home no longer exists. And I vowed, like you, that if I ever had kids I would not raise them as Third Culture Kids–that they would be rooted, certain, that they would have a home. Your comment makes me wonder how many Third Culture Kids go on to have children of their own, given the experience that they had as kids and reluctant to impose that way of life on others who cannot (yet) choose. It would be an interesting study, as many friends of mine with similar backgrounds either decided not to have children or delayed having kids until when they had permanently settled in a country.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 12:36 PM in reply to Lilian
I ask myself that very question. A lot. As I believe many nomadic couples with children do. Even more so when people tell us what a “gift” it is for our children. Every gift has its own price – is my usual reply. Then I remember that my parents also, although we never moved, felt like I lived in a different world than the one they grew up into after the war. They also worried that I was not having their same experiences, followed the sam traditions, and may have wondered what impact this would have. Your question is extremely valid and the distinction you make very important. Thank your for sharing it so openly, and so clearly.

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Silkegoethel 10/08/2012 12:29 PM in reply to gpetriglieri
I found your article a very interesting read – it very much struck a cord with me. I wanted to respond to your thread on the impact this is all having on your children.I spent my childhood and teenage years as a German expat kid (my parents were diplomats) with my parents and brother overseas. I am sure it is not easy for you as a parent to watch your children struggle through this, trying to find their place questioning yourself if you are doing the “right thing”. I know that it was not always easy for my parents. We missed our friends, did not like the new schools (I remember accusing them at 13 of ruining my “social life” because I went from a big high school in Vienna to a tiny private school in Montreal with 5 people in one grade) or we did like them too much and had a hard time leaving. Of course we held them responsible for “putting us through this”.

From my experience two points make transitions easier for kids:

1)Parents that take on their new surroundings full-heartedly and are not ambivalent to the host country and culture.

2)And second, being an understanding and patient parent who listens well and empathizes. Both my parents were our pillars in our moves, they guided us, listened to us, strengthened us and pushed us when necessary.

While it was not easy to move around the globe as teenagers, today, at the age of…

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 01:09 PM in reply to Silkegoethel
Silke, what can I say. Thank you. So. Much. For sharing your experience, and for your wise advice. I shall treasure it – as I am sure will others.

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Jerry Holtaway 10/05/2012 10:12 AM
As Gertrude Stein said after visiting her hometown after many years in Paris, “Oakland. There is no there, there.” As a US expat of 25 years, I have lived in the UK for 16 years and now live in France. My work had taken me to 25+ countries around the world. I am now married to a Dane. My dog in France is an English Setter. One of my sons lives in London, the other in San Francisco. For me, there is no there, there; only here, here and now, now.

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Guest 10/05/2012 09:37 AM
Thankyou for this. These are important issues for global issues to contend with, yet are very rarely discussed in an open forum. Human beings are inherently a social creature, and when working in a global terrain, it is easy to start feeling disconnected and from that, spiral into questioning whether what you are doing actually makes a difference etc. I think that tackling issues such as this that lie at the core of our hearts, rather than treating them as taboo topics that should not be aired for the fear of personal disclosure, we become much more engaged in our lives by feeling that sense of community in a different way.

Thank you, GP, for posting this and putting it at the forefront of people’e minds.

Happy Travels :)

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 06:06 AM in reply to Guest
Dear Guest, thank you for commenting. Indeed, the risk of constant moving is that we may lose confidence in our direction, and possibly in our purpose. Perhaps because we become too comfortable with uncertainty and stop trying to influence the future–which is what having a purpose is about. Very insightful point, that we start questioning, and these questions remain silent, and that is how the disconnection happens–from others, and from ourselves.

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Guest 10/05/2012 09:31 AM
Thank you very much for this post. As a young professional who has worked in such a capacity and is further dedicating a life in this lifestyle, it can be a challenge to be confident that you are doing the right thing when the majority of others around you live there lives very differently.
But play to your strengths and the rest will follow.
Thank you again- good timing for me :)

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Vibhuti Ranjan Singh 10/05/2012 06:31 AM
I agree with commentaries about definitely something resonates with me on deep personal level. Having lived, worked and studied in 7 countries on 3 continents and with a French partner, Finnish in laws. The question, where I am from and who am I, are challenging, every time.
More it goes, more it becomes important to identify with my roots. It’s exactly where it becomes tricky, as I have changed and do not speak the same language as folk back home. The things I took for granted, aren’t that way anymore. Moreover, what I thought I knew about my home countries, is not same anymore.

(Edited by author 6 days ago)
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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:13 AM in reply to Vibhuti Ranjan Singh
Dear Vibhuti, thank you for commenting. It occurs to me, reading your comment, and others’ below, that perhaps the way we build our roots is not reconnecting to the past of the place where we are. A past that often we left to leave behind. Perhaps the way to put roots is to engage in building a place’s future.

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Nwesterink 10/05/2012 05:43 AM
As i am still in an internationl orientated business school in the Netherlands, this piece has openend my eyes about the feelings that most of my fellow students (including me) have. It gives us, future world travelers, a perspective of what lies ahead of us. I have moved around the United States for several months at a time for school related purposes. And now I am at a point in my life where the decision comes down to wheter or not to take the big leap and move or stay put.

This well written article certainly has given me a small push towards pursuing my dreams, and for that I would like to thank you! I am looking forward to more articles.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:15 AM in reply to Nwesterink
Thank you Nwesterink. And good luck with your leap. Whatever choice you make, I am sure, there will be joy and torment – which only feel meaningful if the choice feels our own.

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Norell A. Winburn 10/05/2012 12:13 AM
I can totally relate to this article. I was born and raised in Mexico City but have lived in seven different cities between Mexico, the US, Brazil and Colombia, and am about to move to my 8th city next week. Great article, thank you for sharing!

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TCK_Lux_low 10/04/2012 07:29 PM
All people like us should read “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds”
by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.

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Chris Oestereich 10/04/2012 07:24 PM
Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I believe a reduced sense of community is akin to a social ill, so I think it deserves serious consideration. I look at this conceptually as having two sets of roots, vertical ones from the places we have strong connections to, and lateral ones with our connections throughout the world. As the friction of connecting and building ties with dispersed individuals has reduced, the dichotomy has flipped for many of us. This can prove highly valuable as we connect with those who help us stretch and grow, but it also harbors the risks you discussed. Having close family ties in North and South America, as well as Asia, I often wonder what place my kids will call home. The answer will likely be a complicated mix of where they are, and who they are connected to. (Selfishly, I hope it’s not too far away.) Thank you for providing us with excellent food for thought. Now, it’s time for a bit of navel gazing…

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Anna 10/04/2012 05:19 PM
Thank you for connecting what used to be multiple pieces of my identity into a comprehensive whole. I admire your ability to put the phenomenon of nomadic professionals in such eloquent and wise words. Very well written.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:16 AM in reply to Anna
You are most welcome. Thank you for those kind words.

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Jean Claude Noel 10/04/2012 04:20 PM
Very thoughtful article. As I read it I could recognize may experiences of my own life also born in Europe but eventually settling in New York. Finding or building one’s identity is indeed the most complex aspect as it has many different components most of them emotional. A colleague was recently introducing me as ‘living on a plane’, which made me reflect on the ‘sanity’ of my travel but also identified multi-dimentional ‘roots’ which are an essential part of my identity and more important than any of my ‘local roots’. I feel ‘at home’ in many countries where I have close friends. With a dual American and French citizenship this is probably why I feel more at home in the US as New York embraces so many different cultures. Interestingly, as mentioned by Gianpiero, my country of origin, France, is the one with which I find the least connection. This being said, I would probably find it difficult and feel disconnected if I lived in a small US town. I enjoyed this article as a reminder that life is about learning, including learning and shaping one’s own identity.

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Pippiinitaly 10/04/2012 03:42 PM
Thank you for bringing attention to our “plight”! I have dual citizenship and have lived, worked and loved in 8 countries and use 6 languages almost daily. My children have triple citizenship, were born in a 4th country but probably feel closest to a 5th country. “Where are you from?” is a nuclear bomb of a question for my family and me. I think I might actually turn purple and look faint when someone asks. Such an innocuous question and yet each time I get an extremely unpleasant emotional charge.

Interestingly, I find that because I have “no roots” (as some might think), I am more flexible, adaptable, tenacious, and open than non-nomadic people. No matter how well-intentioned, the average person unconsciously boxes themselves in and relentlessly create rules and boundaries for themselves, their family, friends, and colleagues. This, despite the fact that, today, even an average person has worked or studied abroad at some point! For nomads who have never had the privilege of an ex-pat package, it takes courage and tenacity to learn languages, find new jobs and friends – but then on the other hand, our lives depend on it. We survive by finding the most innocuous thing that we have in common with a new country or culture and building on it until we have created a unique affinity with the people around us, allowing full integration into a completely different culture. I feel that although the experience is very similar, there remains a significant difference between an executive that is sent by their company…

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:21 AM in reply to Pippiinitaly
Beautifully put! I have never been on a corporate expat package so I do not know what it is like, although I imagine it is not a uniform experience. I have attached more or less to every place I have lived, and in all of them I have imagined – at least for one moment – that I could stay forever at. At times that idea was joyful, others scary. I find that a useful exercise, living wherever you are as if you’ll be there for the rest of your life. Even if you know you’ll move. Because it forces us to engage, to learn about the people, food, arts – the culture. And ultimately, it makes that place a home -or one of our homes. Your description of ever expanding circles of familiarity resonates so much. Thank you very much for your thoughtful words.

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Shraddha 10/04/2012 03:31 PM
Very well written article!
Nomadic behaviour is a way of life not suited for all! :)

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Emil_M77 10/04/2012 02:11 PM
GP, great post! As always, thoroughly thought out and very accurate. As I read through your paragraphs, I couldn’t help coming up with my own experiences of feeling as the “stranger.” Last year, the staff in a hotel back in my “native” country complimented me on how well I have learned to speak the local language. While this initially irritated me — after all I was in my own country! — once the anger subsided in me, I started feeling exhilaration. I have finally confirmed to myself that I belong to the tribe of global leaders that you describe in your paragraph. It’s funny that a simple incident like that served as a greater confirmation of this for me than the 6 countries on 3 continents that I had lived in so far. Great to hear from you — albeit only virtually, by way of your post. I look forward to reading other insightful articles from you in the future. Emil J’07.

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emme 10/08/2012 05:25 PM in reply to Emil_M77
I have had that happen to me a number of times!

And when I speak English (which I learnt second), 95% of people think I’m from a particular English speaking country (where I’ve never lived and have no connection to).Then there is also a preconceived notion about how people from my native country are supposed to look which I happen not to fit. That, combined with an accent that confuses people, has meant that no one has ever been able to guess my native country, which is fine by me – as you say, I think of it as just a sign of being one of those global nomads through and through.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:22 AM in reply to Emil_M77
Emil, wonderful to hear from you and thank you for the kind words. What a fantastic example! Free as we can be, we always need some confirmation that we belong. Your example of confirmation although not traditional, is spot on. I shall be quoting it often, anonymously and with your permission of course. So good. Thanks for sharing it.

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Emil_M77 10/05/2012 11:31 AM in reply to gpetriglieri
GP, glad the example caught your interest. Please feel free to use it and quote it in your future work. Best regards!

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gpetriglieri 10/06/2012 06:56 AM in reply to Emil_M77

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Filipe N Frota 10/04/2012 02:02 PM
Ciao Gianpiero. I felt at home reading this excellent post! This is the story of my life, but in my case it all started because my father was assigned to overseas jobs by Fiat, then I continued the nomadic journey of my own. (UK, Italy, Mexico, US and now back in Brazil). I’ve had that feeling of being a “stranger” a lot of times, but at the same time I feel at “home” anywhere I go and I can get along with people from most cultures; it’s a paradox. I think that one of the most challenging issues is to deal with the nostalgia of people, places, foods and all things related to this adaptive lifestyle that you have to leave behind.
Thank you for your tips on how to handle the nomadic baggage to become global leaders.

(Edited by author 6 days ago)
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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:25 AM in reply to Filipe N Frota
Nostalgia. Great word. So much of it related to having loved what we have lived. I once heard it said that regrets are more vivid but a little sweeter if they result from our choices. The idea stuck with me. Thank you for pointing out the mix of joyful experience and nostalgic solitude we carry along the route.

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Jackie Cooper 10/04/2012 01:59 PM
Wow! This is the first time I’ve ever heard ‘my’ experience articulated. Thank you for writing this, Gianpiero.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 08:27 AM in reply to Jackie Cooper
You are most welcome Jackie. It does feel good to know there are experiences we share, and they can be given voice. It makes us feel at home, somewhere. Thank you for commenting.

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Tina 10/04/2012 01:57 PM
Great article. It made me think about the conversations I’ve had since I moved back to the states. Living in the heart of “white bread” america makes me long for my multicultural friends. I even went to INSEAD’s website and listen to a few of their videos…again, making me question my decision to live where I do. The program is expensive but perhaps I can find a creative way to attend. Thanks again for the article!

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rafat ali khan 10/04/2012 01:35 PM
I appreciate connectivity spectrum with local and global phrase. You touch the right pulse ,” Roots ” never ever forgettable. Well done..

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Amcintosh 10/04/2012 12:46 PM
What a beautiful, moving and well written piece.

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Jeremy Hall 10/04/2012 12:01 PM
Home is an extension of ourselves, our preferences, what we value. Sharing that with others and vice versa tends to unite us more than anything else. Global Leaders are tasked with uniting a panoply of tribes in a community firm on achieving a collective objective by bringing out everyone’s best.

People only give their best for things they believe in, care about, and are willing to dedicate themselves to. To do that, they often need to feel a belonging to something greater than themselves. This is where our trusty global leader(s) come in.

How could anyone be expected to give their best when they feel no attachment or belonging to the collective good or organization? To trust the organization, the followers need to trust their leader(s). Like you posited, a leader appears untrustworthy if they aren’t grounded by their roots, home, etc. Thus, effective global leadership entails this unification process which only effectively begins once the leader(s) have defined their own sense of home and community, as followers demand congruency from their leaders.

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Declanfitzsimons 10/04/2012 10:10 AM
A very thoughtful piece..I really enjoyed reading this..I feel that the capacity to write like this, to reflect in this way and to find words to frame the critical issues around belonging and identity does in itself represent a form of home-making..a way of finding a home within where we can make sense of our lives. Having spent so many years abroad and still travelling a lot now I have recently come to value the creation of a more local home for myself in London which provides some balance to the more global home where I have lived for two decades now..there is something wonderful about a global spread of connections to others..with fantastic friends in far away places..and I feel the need now for local friends – there is something irreplaceable about proximity, and community in a real shared place..linking belonging to landscape, and to place. Thanks GP…

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 04:32 PM in reply to Declanfitzsimons
“There is something irreplaceable about proximity, and community in a real shared place..linking belonging to landscape, and to place.”
That is so poetic. And it applies to people you meet often in the same territory, and feel at home if not at east with – even if that is not your everyday locale… :)

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Corina Bega 10/04/2012 07:10 AM
Thank you for your post GP, so actual and so old… We have a say that goes along the lines: ‘who doesn’t have old people, should buy some”. It goes down to identity and heritage as the very foundation for our becoming and, as you beautifully put it, what we lay on that foundation through multi-cultural experiences shapes our fabric. Our becoming is our state and our past and present experiences are the forces that define us. We have no interest in forgetting our roots as the reference point for our progress, for in the awareness of it we will find the grace to dare on our journey. We are feeding ourselves through the roots, though the rest of the plant is the visible part and the celebrated one. We hardly cherish roots, we mostly praise flowers and fruits. And we all know that each part has its importance.

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gpetriglieri 10/04/2012 08:13 AM in reply to Corina Bega
Corina, that is so well put, thank you for sharing your ideas. We get so trapped to think of heritage, identity and aspiration as a sequence, that we forget how the same trees we so often invoke for a metaphor actually work. Trees do not grow deep roots and then later wide reaching canopies. Roots and branches grow together, the whole time, one in need of the other all the while, to survive and thrive.

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Corina Bega 10/04/2012 07:10 AM

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Susan Ritchie 10/04/2012 04:49 AM
A really interesting topic and article. When my son was nine, he and I moved to Asia from the Uk for me to work. It was just he and I; we spent five years in Asia, followed by three years in Central America. We’re now back in the UK. Several points resonate with me. I think living overseas and travelling sets you apart from ‘the folks back home’ , and while you may fondly imagine that you’ve left a big hole in their lives, my experience has been that the hole closes over rapidly. It takes a lot of effort to maintain those ties, and over the years they weaken unless you (yes, you) make a valiant effort to maintain them. Your life will be wildly different and that doesn’t always make easy conversation starters, for whatever reasons.

Also, children, while on one hand can learn to be very adapatable and develop excellent social skills, may have tendency to grow up ‘rootless’. I think this has been one of the legacies of our experience, wonderful as it was. While we continued our ex-pat lifestyle, my son had plenty of companions to choose from in the same situation. However, every move entailed him starting again, something he has found challenging, particularly fitting into an established social scene back here in the UK. He’s now at University. I think it’s important for children and young adults to keep in touch with friends, via social media, emails, letters, frequent visits etc. Helping them to understand that they…

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Arjan Tupan 10/04/2012 03:56 AM
Great article, I really enjoyed reading it. Even in my ‘home’ country I lived in a few different places, and currently I live in my second other country. What I noticed is that the concept of home as we usually think of it, does not really fit with how I feel and think about it. Home is for me the house/appartment I live in at the moment. I think that the question ‘where are you from’ has a lot to do with gauging someone’s identity. For me, I believe my identity is partly based on where I was born and grew up, but also by the places I lived in or visited since, the people I meet and the thoughts/ideas I encounter. In short, my identity is constantly evolving based on the experiences I have, and so is my sense of home.
There are still many places I would like to make home for a while. And many people I like to meet and learn from.

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Urooj Qureshi 10/04/2012 03:20 AM
First of all, excellent article. I am the product of a parent with a successful international career. In my entire 28 years of living I have never lived in a house for more than 3 years. My friends are spread all around the world and I have had the privilege to dine from street level to royal palaces. I know and I feel that I have gained a lot from my experiences and I am grateful. If given the choice to rewrite my life I would probably rewrite the same story. However, as an individual who grew up in nomadic environment I can tell you that it is just as challenging, if not more, for a child as it is for the parent coping with the idea of ‘family’ and ‘home’. You see, a child does not have the maturity or experience to properly cope, and generally parents with international careers have limited time to realize the impact on the child behind the laughter and joyful face. The parent feels content to provide the best in the world for their child and it is a genuine and selfless feeling that they have and strive for. As for my story, I continue my search for home – though it’s difficult after a lifetime of being conditioned to move. My parent, though very supportive, now realize that we do not necessarily share the same values they had at our age but also accept that me and my siblings grew up in an entirely different world.

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gpetriglieri 10/08/2012 06:02 AM in reply to Urooj Qureshi
Urooj, thank you for sharing your story. It articulates very clearly the benefit and emotional price that people growing up in constantly changing surroundings face. I had a more sedentary upbringing, but I do wonder about how my children will experience theirs–as I have written in responses above. There are different but equally intense dilemmas to face, I think, for people growing up in an intensely local way and then having to adjust to a globalized workforce. It would be interesting to reflect more on how the two groups’ joys and struggles lead them to interact with each other.

You also make an excellent point, that kids who move (are moved) also usually have parents who are very busy in their international careers. I think that combination may be the most important to understand our/their experience. It is a less discussed interaction. We tend to focus more on the moving itself, and what changes, rather than who moves with us, but may be less present.

Thank you for this thought-provoking contribution.

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MBAMRS 09D 10/04/2012 01:33 AM
GP – your article is resonant, as always. I’m finding that the stranger label can follow you even if you come ‘home’: revealing too much of your international experience makes people who stayed put uneasy (or perhaps jealous?), makes employers see you as a flight risk. For me, each place I’ve lived beckons back with its unique and sentimental reasons (and potential career prospects), throw in the international career of a British partner and the obligations and expectations of an only child, and the question of ‘home’ is multivariate.

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gpetriglieri 10/04/2012 02:11 AM in reply to MBAMRS 09D
Thank you for commenting MBAMRS. Thoughtful as always. And I hope you are well and happy. Indeed the label of stranger in fact presupposed the existence of a home, or once a home, to be estranged by – and becomes most vivid when juxtaposed to it. I think there is envy and jealousy involved on both sides, in moving around and staying put. Just like neither is always a choice, or always an obligation – and both come with their delight and losses. So I wanted to tell the story behind the fortune of nomadism. I really had a giggle when you wrote “throw in the international career of a British partner and the obligations and expectations of an only child…” Of self recognition. :) Thanks also for the nice words, high praise from a writer of your sharpness and depth.

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Simran 10/03/2012 07:05 PM
GP as always an amazing article, and a great topic to write on..coming from India, and having lived in Germany, France and Singapore, and being married to an Italian, I also often think about my local/global home and families. A very comfortable space has been INSEAD, where most of the classmates had similar backgrounds and lives which helped me form a great bond!
Keep on writing and sharing these wonderful articles!

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Michael Sanson 10/03/2012 05:51 PM
GP, I also really identify with your feelings on this topic. It’s an important theme for me and for my family – we are on the verge of a third big move in 15 years, my wife and I being from two different cultures, with a gang of kids born in 2 countries following along. I find that the bonds between us and the climate in our nomadic family are critical (for better or for worse), along with working hard at sustaining nourishing professional relationships which can provide a home of a different kind. I find it helpful to stay connected to some people who are less nomadic to provide some “grounding”. Social networks make it a little easier to stay in touch with earlier homes and those friends willing to tolerate the physical distance between us. I am really curious how our kids will be impacted by this kind of upbringing: whether they will continue the travelling rhythm or dig in somewhere along the way.

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gpetriglieri 10/05/2012 04:34 PM in reply to Michael Sanson
Michael, indeed we shall find out – as despite our frequent moving we have kept gathering, if only in new places, and we shall continue to. Thank you for commenting, it means a lot!

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Eugene Evon 10/03/2012 05:00 PM
Excellent post. Resonates very strongly with my experience as well. With young kids, I have had the exact same poolside conversation dozens of times this summer alone. I grew up moving between cities, states, countries and continents every couple years. Then continued that trend as a working adult.
In fact after I married another mobile-global type (an ex-pat with even more countries under her belt than me) — someone who wasn’t just wouldn’t fit with my world view. We both had elements of multiple Home places. For her: Hong Kong, LA, SF Bay Area. For me: Italy, Virginia, SF Bay Area. The circles in our Venn Diagram of Home intersected at SF and that is what we consider Our Home, despite living in places like Japan at times. Place is temporary. Home really is in the heart. Perhaps it is not just the business relationship that is affected by this phenomenon.

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gpetriglieri 10/04/2012 02:13 AM in reply to Eugene Evon
Absolutely agree. This is not just about the business of business, it is about the business of life. Often we think a move is ‘just for work.’ It never is. I am glad you liked the post, thank you for commenting.

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Kirti Chitnis 10/03/2012 03:18 PM
Great article GP. I have trouble answering the question people ask me often: “where are you from?”. I grew up in India, studied in Austin, worked in Seattle, studied again in France and now I work in LA. So by the time I am done answering the question I feel like I have lost my audience’s interest. Having roots and being able to fly is the classic problem we nomads face. But it is a great problem to have. You get the best of both worlds. You are exposed to new experiences and yet you can still indulge in the ceremonies and mores from your origin. You fly around all day and explore but you always come back home at night.

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i-Sight Software 10/03/2012 02:53 PM
I’ve lived and worked in three different countries and this post resonates deeply with me. I feel privileged to have worked and played with so many people from all over the world and wouldn’t give up those experiences for anything. But moving around does have its drawbacks, and after returning home (to Canada) two years ago, I still have a little ache when I think about the two other countries I’ve called home and the friends I left behind each time I moved on. I’ve found that the best remedy for the feeling of disconnectedness is the strong friendships I maintain that keep me connected to the places I’ve left through the people who are either still there, or were there with me. My father used to say (when I complained about moving too many times) that home is where the people you love are. If that’s the case, I have homes all over the world.

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gpetriglieri 10/04/2012 02:16 AM in reply to i-Sight Software
Beautifully put. Reminded of the work of the psychoanalyst Marie-Louise Von Franz, who wrote that we all have two families (at least). The one we are born and the one we choose – and both need to be honored and reckoned with, as close or far as they may be, as they give a home to the soul. Thank you for commenting.

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Venky Rao 10/03/2012 02:34 PM
GP, terrific article! Enjoyed reading it very much and could not help but think of all the times I have moved around as well as the kinship I feel with my INSEAD classmates and alums.

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gpetriglieri 10/04/2012 02:17 AM in reply to Venky Rao
Kinship. That’s the word. Glad you liked it Venky, hope you are well!

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Ashish Jhingran 10/03/2012 02:00 PM
Excellent, very well written. May not be on as big a scale as you have mentioned but the write-up does help me identify with my situation and gives a positive outlook to an otherwise mundane (getting) environment.

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