Her Expat Life chatted with Ozlem Nolet, a seasoned Global HR Leader, Psychologist, Working Mother & Expat Coach, to learn about her wealth of experience in navigating the complexities of living and working in different cultures. Join us as we delve into her insights and experiences, and gain valuable tips for anyone considering a similar journey!
1: You are a professional career & expat coach with a background in Global HR leadership! Tell us about your journey…
My journey started with a dream. Which it was about exploring the world, new cultures, different and diverse colours of life and keeping an international career at the same time.
So, the dream came true!
In 2016 I moved out of my home country- Turkey to become an expat-employee in Singapore. Over the last 7 years, I have lived and worked in five different countries-in three different continents, as a Human Resources leader in different corporates, met tons of new people from different cultures. Then a time came, while also building a family, where I wanted to take the next challenge and make a bigger impact in life, I decided to leave the corporate world and start my own business as a Career and Leadership Coach. That was also the time I relocated to Ghana for 2 years together with my family, without knowing that Ghana would become a game changer in my life. Since 2020, I have lived in the Netherlands and I am a professional Career Coach.
2: As a mother of a cross culturally raised child, wife and world citizen, how do you adapt to all these different roles and do you ever come across culture barriers, cultural differences and challenges? How do you deal with it all and adjust accordingly?
Resilience is the new power of our generation. And it is a skill that you can learn throughout your experiences. We are all very busy in our lives and our roles are so intertwined within each other that you need to keep yourself as resilient as possible to switch smoothly between your roles. The same skill also helps within the challenges in my cross-cultural life. It leads me to see the full side of the glass and see the situation as a learning opportunity, not as a challenge.
3: As a true supporter of diversity and an intercultural trainer, what advice do you have
for women who are entering the workforce in a foreign country? How to work in culturally different work environments and thrive?
A good tip would be, If available, to assign yourself a coach/mentor to help you in your
transition for the foreign country’s workforce, culture and to get support of that
professional to search the job market. By the way above tip is regardless of gender.
4: As a female who has lived the expat life, working in three continents from Asia, Africa
and currently in Europe - what have you learned along the way? What advice do you
have for women who are starting out in their expat/digital nomad journey?
My unique experience taught me that I am a world citizen, and I can adapt everywhere in
the world. According to my opinion, “home” is where you feel safe, happy and where you
are together with your family/loved ones, so home can be anywhere, country borders are
for maps in my view… In that sense my initial advice would be keep calm and stay resilient, take it easy during the first days of relocation, most important item is securing a place for living whether temporary or long-term staying and make it home to yourself. If you are a family with kids, then start arranging the school if not done earlier. The rest will get into the picture slowly.
5: You have lived in some incredible and diverse places - What have been some of the
biggest challenges you have faced along the way as an expat?
In Africa, there was only one challenge. Back then our baby was young, we were not able to buy baby products easily we found the solution as carrying extra luggage every time we traveled to Europe, just to fill it up with pampers and baby products... the rest wasn’t too big of a deal for our life-style, we felt safe and we enjoyed ourselves a lot while living in Africa. Another one I remember was at the time of living in Malaysia, and it was the time zone challenge and long flight distances… It literally encouraged us to take the decision of moving to Africa, due to shorter flight distances and similar time zones to Europe.
6: In your opinion, which culture/country is the hardest to integrate with and which
culture/country would you say is the most harmonious?
Let’s start with the easy one! Surprisingly, Ghana was the most harmonious country for
me to integrate within. Ghanaian people were very positive, very peaceful and helpful
and also there was a great expat community. The other surprising culture in terms of being hard, for me, it was the Netherlands. I relate this to the challenges of developed countries. The more developed the country becomes the more structured and comes with many rules, regulations, you need to get familiarised with them. Also, the fact of a new and different language - Dutch took some time for me to get settled. However, today I am very well settled and feel content within the life in the Netherlands.
7: What are your top tips for dealing with culture shock?
Before you travel to the new country read books about it, get some ideas, images about
the culture, habits, gestures… I can recommend 'Culture Map' by Erin Meyer as a good one. Other than reading, when you land meet with locals, as well as meet with other expats to share the experience.
8: What do you think makes a true female leader and how can the world become more
A true female leader would be someone who has self-esteem, confidence, courageous,
dares to take risks and someone who empowers others. I still do not know the exact formula how to make the world a place as diverse as possible where everyone is included in it and equity takes place. I think improving the education system is the first thing, and adding the DEI topic into the curriculum is a must.
9: You have achieved so much in your career - how do you avoid burnout and take care
of your overall well being?
It is in my Turkish genes, we are naturally equipped to cope with crisis and challenges
since birth, therefore I am living the advantage of the geography I was born in. If I put the joke aside, I would like to highlight the importance of being resilient again, helps me to avoid burn-out. In addition to that I have regular routines like doing Pilates, going for weekly massage, I do my best to spend quality time for myself along the busy life schedule.
10: Lastly, As a global HR Leader, how can we improve a fairer work environment for
women and end discrimination?
I would like to encourage the business leaders to create more diverse workplaces, be the
ambassador of DEI, demonstrate the role model of zero discrimination policy and keep an
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