May 2019 – Here to be an expat or repat*

*re·pat  (rē′păt′)
A person who moves back to his or her native country after emigrating; a repatriate.

THANK YOU to all who joined our event, here to be an expat or repat.

The session focused on communication with a global mindset, be it in a new environment (as an expat) or returning “home” after years away (as a repat).

Hanna Bulawka-Burgard, an expert in intercultural communication at, spoke about communication norms across different cultures and regions.   She shared fascinating research and stories about global cultural and behavioral differences, and noted that inadequate awareness of these differences can lead to communication misunderstandings and discomfort in personal and professional contexts.  She introduced the group to intercultural communication norms such as assertiveness, self-promotion, formality, and enthusiasm.  She demonstrated that these cultural norms can vary significantly across countries and regions, and stressed the importance of understanding both your new country’s communication norms, as well as one’s own communication approach in order to develop an expat communication style that is most successful and comfortable for each individual.

The Lewis model by cultures

Justyna Szachowicz, Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (2003) at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) and co-leader of the local nonprofit Teens Matter Foundation, spoke about the challenges and opportunities one can face when returning to your home country after years away.  She shared her experience returning to Poland after living many years throughout Europe and North America.  She recounted her initial struggles with “fitting in” back home, and how she created a new and deeply fulfilling personal and professional life, blending her expat and repat experiences.  Ms. Szachowicz also touched upon her work in helping individuals find their best version of themselves, embracing their inner critic and using their many skills and experiences to live a fulfilling life, whether at home or abroad.

The session ended with a workshop exercise led by Ms. Bulawka-Burgard.  She introduced Andy Kolinsky’s “Global Dexterity” approach to communication and challenged participants to diagnose “the cultural code” for their time in Poland.  Participants reflected on their current expat experience in Poland and shared their own stories of cultural adjustment.  Several participants also reflected on trepidations about going back “home”. Everyone agreed that it can be hard to transition back “home” after experiencing life as an expat with a global mindset, perhaps it’s easier to remain an expat!  Regardless the decision, participants left with new tools and approaches to handle their current and future expat/repat adventures.

Key learnings from the sessions include:

• Think of your global mindset as an asset.  Learn the cultural norms of your host country and think about how to adjust your communication approach to fit your new surroundings, but keep true to yourself and find an approach that works for you.

• Take your time adjusting to your new host country – don’t be too critical of yourself and be realistic about your personal expectations.

• When repatriating, recognize that your cultural communication styles may have changed from your time away, and your home country may have also changed in your absence.  The same holds true for your old friends and relations.  Embrace this as an opportunity.

You can find the presentation slides below:

Thank you for being part of here we are Poland!


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