Global workers often feel like they are from another planet when they arrive on the field. There are new surroundings, a new language, new “rules” for living. But what about when they come home–to their own “planet?”
Meet my global working friend, Lyn. She serves in Japan with her husband, Jon, and their three sons, Jesse, Kyle and Jordan. Her story, although humorous, reminds me that global workers often don’t fit in at home either, and there are very practical things I can do to make transitions easier.
During their first home assignment, Lyn and her two older boys, then 3 and 5 years old, had been out for most of the day. While they were heading home, the boys announced that they were thirsty. Lyn decided to stop at a fast food restaurant, but she skipped the drive-thru. That was just a little bit too scary! She was looking for something to drink without caffeine. She read the menu: Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper. “Nope, all caffeine,” she thought. “Slice? Never heard of it.”
“Excuse me,” Lyn whispered, “what is Slice?” Being only one week into her first home assignment, she wasn’t used to being looked at like she was from another planet. Her soft question did not bring a soft answer. The young woman at the cash register (about high school age) was not at all discreet–and, she was wearing a microphone!
Employee: “Well, it’s like, you know, pop!” she shrieked.
Lyn: “Is it like Sprite, or does it have caffeine?” Lyn persisted for the sake of her thirsty children.
Employee: “It’s like, you know, orange pop!” she shrieked again.
Lyn: Feeling like she owed this young woman an explanation for her ignorance, Lyn babbled while ordering and paying for the drinks, “I’ve been out of the country for a few years and ‘Slice’ is new since I left.”
Employee: “Oh, like, where ya been?” she bellowed into the microphone for all to hear.
Lyn: “Japan,” Lyn said softy, hoping the young woman would follow suit.
Employee: “Japan!” Like, what were ya doin’ there?”
Lyn: “I’m a global worker.”
Employee: “Oh, wow! What’s it like in Japan?”
Lyn: “Really different…”
About this time the drinks came up and having already paid, Lyn grabbed them and dashed out of the restaurant. As she got back into the car, Lyn said to her husband, “Next time, it’s your turn!”
Question to consider: How can we make our global worker’s home assignments less painful?
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.