Carlie: Hey there, it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast.
If you haven’t checked out our website yet, make sure you head to expatfocus.com, where you’ll find loads of free resources – like online courses and destination guides – to help you move abroad easily.
Joining me today is award-winning podcaster and Business Strategist, Christine Job. She has spent the past five years living in Valencia in Spain, and her podcast, Flourish in the Foreign, celebrates the voices and stories of black women, and women of colour, who are – just like her – living and thriving internationally.
We talk about Christine’s own journey abroad, passport privilege, and how her experiences differ as a woman of colour in a foreign country. Christine also discusses how life in Spain has healed her, and helped her to become the person that she is today.
Christine, it is lovely to speak to a fellow podcast host and an award-winning one at that. Welcome to the Expat Focus podcast.
Christine: Thank you so much for having me. I am super, super excited to chat with you today.
Carlie: Now you showcase on your podcast, Flourish in the Foreign, lives and stories of black women and people of colour who are flourishing outside of their home country. And you are one of those people. So can you tell me a little bit about your journey to Spain?
Christine: Yeah, I mean, I think I am very similar to probably most people who end up going abroad. Like, I always had that thought in my mind ever since I was 17. So I guess to give you kind of a brief history of Christine. So on my dad’s side, I come from immigrants who immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the United States. My mom’s side, I like to call them ‘a small nomadic tribe of women’, who just had no problem, like picking up sticks and like moving regardless of the situation.
And so I think those two kind of combinations of experiences led me to always be, I guess just flexible, especially when it comes to moving and just meeting new people and new experiences.
But I think especially the idea of moving for a better life, in whatever ways that means, whether it means economic reasons or just, I prefer, you know, like from my grandma, she preferred the San Diego sun and she was like, I’m moving to San Diego. She lived in New York, she lived in Texas, all around the United States and was like, hmm I’m moving. And like, didn’t really tell a lot of people at first, which was also very interesting.
So for me, I think it’s definitely in my blood. And I’m also really, really blessed that I come from a family that when I started to say, I want to study abroad, I wanna live abroad, I didn’t have any of the, the fear or any kind of weird projections on me. They were just like, okay, cool. Whenever you decide to do that, let us know.
So I kind of got to do that. I studied abroad, actually here in Valencia, Spain, 15 years ago, which is such a head trip, because I have these Shutterfly notifications that keep on emailing me being like, 15 years ago, this is what you looked like, and this is what you did. And I’m like, dying.
Carlie: I feel very old when those memories pop up on Facebook. So yeah, I can completely relate.
Christine: Right. So like, you know, I sometimes take a gander, and I look at the fashions 15 years ago. So maybe…
Carlie: Yes. You don’t wanna go back to the early 2000s. I actually saw that there is a new movie coming out on Netflix where a woman falls into a coma and wakes up 20 years later. So she’s going back to high school in like the early 2000s. And I’m like, we don’t need to revisit this. We just…
Christine: We don’t. We really, really don’t. I mean, I feel like it’s such a beautiful time, right? Like you have the internet, you have all these cool things, but everyone wasn’t recording every single thing that you were doing. And I feel super blessed cause I’m just like, I don’t know what 20, 25 year old Christine was saying. I’m glad that we don’t know, right? Like, we don’t need that. We don’t need that.
Carlie: Certainly not.
Christine: So yeah. I studied abroad here in Valencia. I then walked the Comuna Santiago in 2014. And I think all of those things together led me here to Spain. I mean walking the Comuna Santiago, it’s a life enhancing experience. You basically walk across the country of Spain through like 33 days. And so after that I was like, I can live abroad, for sure. And I think I wanna do it in Spain.
And so that’s what I did. I took the steps to move here five years ago, decided to actually take a sabbatical and teach English for nine months. Because I was severely burned out and at the time had no language for burnt out. Like, I was just like I don’t feel well. I feel tired. I think I need a break. Can’t really explain it, just know to all of this. And I moved to La Rioja, Spain and I never went back to the States. For visiting, but after that I was like, I’m never gonna move back there. This was such a better fit for me. A lifestyle fit for me.
Carlie: I was going to ask, when you moved, did you have a time living in mind? Because I know when I left Australia nine years ago, I honestly thought it would be for 18 months, two years. And then I’d be coming back again. Were you kind of the same mindset or did you kind of know this was a one way trip?
Christine: You know, I told everyone it was for two years. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t coming back. I don’t know why. And because I hadn’t lived abroad, I traveled a lot, I’ve done those types of things, but I had never lived in a different country. I minored in Spanish, but my walk across Spain had let me know like, oh yeah, you don’t really speak Spanish. Like, you really don’t speak Spanish.
So, moving to Spain and being like, yeah, I’m gonna be here forever, or I’m going to be outside my home country forever, was weird to just admit to myself. So I just would tell everyone, oh, I’m gonna give it like two years. But really I was like, let me see what this sabbatical does and da, da, da, da. And in my heart, I knew that I wasn’t ever gonna go back.
And that was true. I think it’s not necessarily about the grasping greener. It’s about people telling you what’s possible and not possible, and then you finding out for yourself that, actually, this is completely possible. What are you talking about? Right?
So for example, United States, Oh, we can’t have, you know, nationalized healthcare and da da da, it has to be connected to your employment. So you have to work or you’ll die. And then you move somewhere else and you’re like, that’s not true. And people are like, are you okay?
Like, actually me and a couple of other American friends I’ve had here in Spain, we talked about how we would feel really strange about going to the doctor at all. We would be like, we have this amazing insurance, we can go for any amount of ailments, doesn’t have to be super severe, and we’re like, yeah, but maybe we should push on and stuff like that. Like we we’ll be okay.
Christine: (inaudible) our Spanish colleagues would be like, go to the doctor. Why are you here? And we like, oh, I’m okay. I mean, I’m not projectile vomiting, so it’s fine. And they’re like, please leave. Please get out of here.
Carlie: It’s a similar attitude in France. Like I think Australia doesn’t have the extreme kind of style of healthcare as the USA, but it’s certainly going that way. Whereas socialized medicine, man, like it’s amazing. And you know, I think I’ve had more doctor appointments since moving to Europe, just in the course of everyday life. Like my average is probably a doctor appointment once a month. That was not the case when I lived in Australia.
And I’m really curious actually, because I think there is, you know, you mentioned one of your parents immigrated to the USA. America, the land of opportunity, the great American dream. It’s very similar with Australia. People say to me, hang on, if you’re from Australia, why are you here? Do you get a similar sort of reaction being from the States where it’s such an aspirational country for so many people?
Christine: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s kind of a little bit more complicated, I think my experience, because I’m black American. So, when people first see me, they’re just like, black girl, where are you from? Do you speak French? And I’m like, I don’t speak French. But you know, so when I didn’t then tell them I’m American, they’re just like, okay. And depending on their age, they might be like, oh, I understand why you wouldn’t wanna go to the crazy evil America. And then other people might be like, oh, it’s like the best place.
So, it’s so funny because you can really pick out people’s political leanings depending on what they try to engage with and talk about once they figure out you’re American. And you’re like, okay. Like, yeah, Trump wasn’t so bad, right? And you’re like, why are you asking me?
Carlie: And possibly the perspective of America, particularly in the last few years with Black Lives Matter and the Trump era, and I suppose the amplification of the struggle of so many Americans and daily life, has changed attitudes from that former romanticized view too.
Christine: Definitely. I find, when it comes to who is surprised I’m in Europe, I think it’s mostly, maybe like Eastern Europeans are kind of like, why would you like go to the US? Or different people from perhaps Northern Africa, maybe Sub-Saharan Africa, that might be. But I think in general, Spaniards, at least the ones that-
Carlie: They know they’ve got it good.
Christine: Yeah. Like they’re like, okay, yeah. And they aren’t actually super excited to go to United States past like New York, LA and Miami, because those are also like, it seems like the only cities that they’re like, yes, we know where that is. Whereas when I say, oh, I’m from Atlanta, they’re like, nope. Or they’ll say like, oh, yes-
Carlie: – the Olympics.
Christine: They’ve never seen the Olympics. And I have to bring it up to them.
Carlie: Really? That’s totally my reference point, the 1990 something Olympics.
Christine: Exactly. And I always say that to them, especially if they’re older. And then they’re like, okay. Because, right, the 92 Olympics were in Barcelona, 96 was in Atlanta. So I was like, we have some ties and they’re still like, no, you don’t, no way.
So, I think it really depends on who I’m speaking with and if they’re like, oh yeah, I wanna go to the States and I can’t wait and… I feel like the younger Spaniards, because of, you know, the economic situation here in Spain, I think they are open to go to the United States and they want that kind of like, can I make it? What is your recommendation? And I’m just like, there’s so many other places for you to go in the world where you won’t have to fight for your life. You know?
Because they always want to go to New York too. And I’m like, no, don’t do that. My little sister just moved to New York in the middle of January and I was very frightened and just unsettled. But she’s thriving, but I can’t un-recommend non-American just to-
Carlie: Un-recommend. Don’t go there.
Christine: Yeah. Like that is a (inaudible)
Carlie: Zero stars.
Christine: That’s how it’s feeling right now.
Carlie: And your work now is all about helping black women, people of color to follow a similar path to yourself in, you know, chasing that life abroad and setting themselves up. I want to ask about the unique challenges that people of color experience. You know, speaking as a very privileged white woman who just jumped on a plane, landed in London, moved to France and, you know, has had the fortune in life to not have those experiences. Can you kind of paint a picture for me and so many other ignorant white people about how your experiences are different abroad?
Christine: Yeah. This is a really great question. Because I think first, we have to talk about passport privilege. Right? I’m American. I have a blue passport that helps a lot. It helps a lot. I remember I went on a kind of digital nomad tour to Southeast Asia and I was like, oh yeah, I didn’t get any visas at all. I could get them all on arrival. And then my friend was like, oh yeah, you wanna go to Vietnam? Because she’s Vietnamese, she’s like my family will take care of you. I was like, I can’t girl because I didn’t get the visa and I’m not going to. I’m just gonna do it the easiest, laziest way possible. Right?
So, I first had to talk about passport privilege because that is such a game changer as to how you get to move around this world. Who is considered a migrant, immigrant-
Carlie: Versus an expat.
Christine: -an expat.
Christine: It just is what it is. So first, being American is a huge privilege and that’s the whole conversation with passport privilege. We could probably talk about it for hours and how crazy it is.
Christine: But also, I think as a black woman, and I’ll say again as an American black woman, because blackness isn’t universal, it isn’t monolithic at all. So speaking about diaspora, people from the African diaspora, so people who are originated, are peoples originated from the constant of Africa. Our experiences in blackness are very different. How we consider ourselves, how we relate to ourselves.
So as you can imagine, someone who is from Nigeria or South Africa in which they are not the minority, where even being called black, is it necessary because everybody is black, right?
Christine: So it’s like, they have a different kind of relation to blackness, as opposed to a black American, in which not only do we have the stigma of being perceived as less than inferior, we have history with it, but also a systemic racial problem, right? So racism was systemically instituted and our country was built upon it.
So I have to say all those things because it’s important to get the full perspective, right? So for me, in my podcast, I talk to black women from across the diaspora. How has living abroad been a pathway to wellness? How have they been able to be more of themselves by being abroad? And when I speak specifically to black American women, it’s an interesting dynamic because again, we have the passport privilege to be able to go and do. And honestly we have the economic power in relation to the rest of the world to go and do as well.
But there is this perception, not even perception, propaganda, let’s call a spade a spade, propaganda that says everywhere outside the United States is scarier, weirder, not safe, you know? But, especially if you’re black than it’s like all out, I don’t know, racism wars that are happening. Basically the sentiment is, if you think the US is bad, oh, if you go abroad, it’ll be worse. And that’s not true. It’s not true. It’s not true at all. But like that’s the sentiment.
People always ask me, especially black women, they’re like you live in Spain, but are they racist? And I’m like, I understand caring about how a local population’s gonna perceive you as a person of color, as a black person. Because, you may be exhausted from your experience in the United States and you’re like, look, if they’re not down with it, that’s fine, I’m just not gonna go, because I don’t have time for it. But I think a lot of people utilize it as a way to cut off their opportunities and their perspectives.
Carlie: And possibly not even realizing that they’re doing it, right?
Christine: That’s the thing, right? They think they are being safe, they are being careful, like everywhere else is crazy, but this is at least, I know this crazy. And I’m a big believer of going and seeing for yourself. Go and make up your own mind. Because I have spoken with and have had different types of women on the show that have lived in all these places where people don’t think black people are. You know, like Russia or Singapore or you know, Kazakhstan and all of it, Bangladesh. And it’s like, black people are there and they’ve been thriving for a while.
So moving abroad is a little bit nuanced, depending upon obviously your passport, obviously how you relate to your blackness, but also understanding that, really, the global perspective is one in which anti-blackness is condoned and perpetuated. I mean it is. You know? I mean, if anyone’s been to Thailand, you see all of the skin bleaching products or the people that they put in their soap operas, who are not Thai.
Carlie: As someone who is so naturally Casper shade, like my moon tan, I would love a little bit of colour. And so it blows my tiny mind. I saw those products when I was in Thailand many years ago, the whitening products, and I’m like, why would you do this to yourself when you have such a gorgeous skin tone that makes you not look dead all the time?
Christine: Right? But I mean, we also understand the proximity to power, wealth, whatever, colonization that has happened throughout the world.
Christine: And so I think when, you know, as a black woman deciding to move abroad, it’s all of those things. But I hesitate to say just all of those things because I don’t want people to feel like, oh, is this another burden? Like just always having to have a burden. But, it’s life. It’s kind of like the landscape that we’re living in. You can escape some of it with the more economic power that you have. Sure. But also these things are what they are and you have to then decide to move intentionally.
What is it that you’re looking for? What is the experience that you’re looking for in your life? As opposed to just kind of like, I’m just gonna move to wherever and it’s gonna be fine. I think it takes a little bit more intentionality, I would say, and that’s what I recommend. But also, I feel like there’s plenty of black people who have moved abroad on a whim and it’s working out for them. But, I would say there are lots of different things to consider. Does everyone consider them? No. Some people are just like, I’m gonna live my life and I don’t care.
Carlie: Some people have the privilege to not need to consider them, right?
Christine: Yeah. And I also would say, it’s a little bit different being a black woman as well. You know, I’m not sure because I’m not a black man, I don’t know how they navigate. But I think that, you know, patriarchy, sexism, racism, like all these things don’t stop just because you move to a different country. It’s a different flavor. It has different historical context, but it doesn’t stop.
Carlie: And what is that different flavor that you’ve experienced, being a black woman in Spain?
Christine: Yeah. Spain is so funny, right? Because it’s proximity to Africa, it’s historical ties to Africa-
Carlie: There is a Spain in Africa. I remember reading about this like a year or so ago and was like, what?
Christine: Yeah. It’s Ceuta and Melilla. They are on the continent. It’s supposed to be Spain. I’m like, that’s clearly Africa, but there you go. Colonization and things like that.
Christine: I would say that being a black woman in Spain is very interesting. It is definitely night and day experience between, I would imagine, having a Western passport and not having Western passport. Right? I am dark skinned. Like, I’m not like ambiguous where someone’s like, is she something else? I’m like, no, she’s a black girl.
So I think depending on where I am, people are gonna be like, okay, black girl. But then they hear me speak Spanish and they’re like, you’re American or something. They’re like, you’re something. And you know, how quickly people ask me, where are you from?
Now, is it malicious? Is it so they can be like, oh, am I gonna treat you with respect or not? Can you buy things in my store or not? Like, I don’t know. I think some people are probably genuinely curious. Maybe other people are malicious, trying to decide, like, can she afford these- I don’t know. I don’t even go anywhere fancy- spices at the spice shop. For sure.
I think also it’s interesting, in my opinion, that Spaniards sometimes don’t have a full grasp of their history and how it has affected the rest of the world. Like there’s been definite situations where I’ve asked people, why do you think so many people speak Spanish outside of Spain?
Carlie: There’s a reason.
Christine: Right. And I’m bringing that up because sometimes their answers, the things that they say might be just ignorant and strange. You know, they use some racially charged language, but it’s like olden time language, but they’ve never progressed outside of it. And you’re just like, why would you say that? Like that’s so… And they’re like, oh, it doesn’t really matter. It’s like, it does.
Christine: It does. And so it’s such a weird, sorry, this answers like convoluted, but it’s like a weird dynamic because it’s a Western European country that kind of faints ignorance conveniently, a lot of the time, about its effect on the world. And then of course it’s proximity to Africa. I would say that that probably sums up my experience. It’s just a lot of disparate notions being thrown at me. And I’m saying, this doesn’t make ant sense, guys, because you have Google and you guys consume a lot of different cultures’ entertainment. So it’s kind of bizarre in that way.
I will say, Spain is notoriously bad, I would say, for young black women. Because I think every woman that I know, every black woman that I know in Spain, has been propositioned as a prostitute. And it is such a strange feeling. I’ve never been propositioned as a prostitute before in my life-
Carlie: But then Spain happened.
Christine. But then Spain happened. And I think how a lot of young women are socialized in the patriarchal society, we kind of take it inward and we’re like, did I do something? Was I standing out underneath this sign that said ‘’prostitutes’’? Was I dressed a certain kind of way? It becomes like a really weird head trip. And then understanding, again, migratory patterns, history and things like that, it becomes a little bit disheartening. It’s a little bit disheartening.
Now, do I get propositioned every week? No. Or every month? No. I can count on my hands. I remember them, how many times I’ve been propositioned. But I mean, I would be lying to say that that is an effect how you maybe perceive a country, because of how they perceive you. You’re like, does everyone think I’m a prostitute?
And look, if you’re a sex worker, that’s fine. But also it’s very strange because no one else is assuming I’m an accountant.
Christine: Or like, I’m a lawyer, which I am. Or like a business owner, which I am. Like that wasn’t the assumption. So Spain, I think, has a long way to go with its conversation around race. Because also, what I think is fascinating, is there are generations of Afro- Spanish, Chinese-Spanish, Pakistani, Moroccan- Spanish people who, to the white Spaniard, they’re not Spanish. And for me, I’m like, what do you mean they’re not Spanish?
But I come from the United States, where I’m like, I mean, if you speak English and we understand each other, we assume that everyone’s American here. So we’re just like, okay. But being in a country where they’re like, no, this person whose grandfather might have been born in Spain and everybody speaks perfect Spanish- not even just perfect Spanish, but like they have the, you know, old Pueblo kind of accent of whatever region they’re from- you’re like, this is a Spanish person.
Christine: And they’re like, no.
Carlie: Yeah, but no.
Christine: Yeah, cause they’re Chinese or whatever. And I’m like, wow. I find that to be strange. Definitely strange. For sure. But yeah, being black in Spain is interesting.
Carlie: But it’s obviously somewhere where the interesting sides of it don’t outweigh the sides that make you stay there.
Christine: No. And the thing is, is that I’m not a Pollyanna about life. Like everything has to be amazing and beautiful or there’s a utopia out there. No. Life happens, there are weirdos everywhere around the world. That’s just what it is. But for me, what outweighs, I don’t know, typical majority behavior, is the fact that as a foreigner in this country, I’m given this space. Noone’s really assuming or expecting me to be lockstep with Spanish societal norms or behavior.
Obviously I’m respectful, but noone’s like, yeah, you need this, this and this. Like I’m given that kind of leeway. And for me that is what’s so special about living abroad. There are always gonna be things that feel uncomfortable or strange, you don’t understand, are exhausted from- I’m speaking mostly about bureaucracy here in Spain, where you’re just like, why?
Carlie: Oh yeah, I can relate. Yeah.
Christine: You’re like, why are we doing it this way? But I think that it is the space that I’m given to decide who I am. Now, yeah, people may assume that I’m a prostitute or they may even assume I’m a good college student because look, I wear Keds every day, and so I could get it. I could see why they think like, oh, this a child on her way to school. But truly, I’m given the space to decide who I’m going to be and also what this chapter of my life is going to be. I think that’s really special. That I think is actually really powerful about living abroad. That space, but also the discomfort of living abroad.
Because living abroad rubs you the wrong way, in ways that you weren’t expecting. Because a lot of us will be like, yeah, I’m abroad, I love this. But it’s different. And it’s different in all the ways that you were hoping, Or you weren’t expecting it to be different. And it’s in that contrast that I think also opens up our world. It’s in the contrast, because living abroad requires you to be radically present in almost all moments at all times. Whether it be, you’re alert for language or just alert for different sites and senses and things like that. You’re just really present to your life.
And I think that, coupled with that space, creates magic in your life. You’re being really present. You get to make a conscious decision in your life and you’re given the space to try it on for yourself.
Carlie: And I suppose this ties into the message that you really put out there in your work, about a life abroad being a pathway to wellness. It may not seem like it from the outset. It’s putting yourself, sometimes, in really uncomfortable situations. But for you, for example, you mentioned that you moved abroad after, you know, a period of burnout. How was that a wellness journey for you and how did you find it really helped you?
Christine: Yeah. Moving abroad didn’t heal my burnout. And I just wanted to make that clear because I don’t want people to get on the plane and arrive somewhere with their arms open and saying, embrace me, new country, heal me. Like it doesn’t work like that.
Carlie: Surely it works that way, right?
Christine: We’ve been waiting for you. We stopped everything we’re doing just for you. It doesn’t work like that. What the wellness is, and what the wellness I experienced, is that it gives you the space, sometimes outside of whatever is agitating you, to settle. It may free up the resources for you to be able to invest in your mental wellness, in whatever else might be going on with you. But I think also it gives you the time to really decide on what it is that you truly want. And I think that’s actually a really important part of wellness.
I love bath bombs and crystals. I tell people that all the time. But that’s not wellness. Wellness is sometimes, and actually oftentimes, doing things that we’d rather not do, because we love ourselves and we want ourselves to move on from this place. You know, it’s like, we’ve been doing the same habit for like two years. Let’s move on, let’s graduate. Right?
And I think that’s what living abroad does, because you are outside of that comfort zone, you’re outside of your cultural context that might actually perpetuate your bad habits. They might be like, no, that’s fine. For example, in the United States it’s like, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And it’s like, but why-
Carlie: Work with a broken leg. Yeah.
Christine: Yeah. I was like, but why do we have to die? Like, why is it so violent? You know, it’s like crush it, grind it, all these types of things. And then I moved to Spain. Spain does not have that type of culture in the slightest, even in their startup culture. They’re not like, let’s kill it, kick it.
Carlie: Do they do siestas in Valencia?
Christine: They do. And it’s so important.
Carlie: I love that.
Christine: Right? So you have a societal, like, peer pressure. Things are closing and you’re like, oh, but I wanna do this. You can’t. What am I gonna do? Go home and lay down. Or just go home.
Carlie: Go home and lay down. I find that in France too, it took me a long time to accept that everything shut down on a Sunday, nothing was open past seven, eight PM at night, unless it was, you know, close to Christmas. And when I would rage against the machine and say to my partner, what the hell, I just wanna go to the hardware store at 10:00 PM, he’d be like, but why? Why should those people be working and not at home with their families? Why should people work Sundays and not have a day to indulge in their hobbies and just be with their families? And it took me literally years to be like, oh, it’s actually not bad. Just forced chill time, you know?
Christine: Right? And I think also, you see a different way of people relating to even their economy. Like for the longest time, it was really hard for me to think like- okay, I go to a store and it’s not open, because of course they don’t update their Google maps information, like that’s not gonna happen here in Spain. Maybe now after the pandemic, but like before, no- I go and I’m like, but where are the people? You know? Or, maybe they have the right opening hours and I go, they have a piece of paper that says, oh, we’re taking the rest of the day off. It’s like some (inaudible) paper.
Carlie: We’re having a siesta.
Christine: And you’re just like, what? And I’d be so mad. I’m like, these people don’t wanna make money and da, da, da. And I had a friend having to really sit me down and let me know it’s been quite ugly, like an ugly American. And I would’ve never thought so, because I was like, I’m cultured, I’ve traveled. And he’s like, not everyone chases every dollar or Euro. Like not every culture is like that. And that was hard for me to understand. First I was like, what do you mean? You don’t want to win all the money in entire world. Isn’t that the whole game we’re playing? And they’re like, no, we’re not. For you Americans, yes. But not for necessarily everyone else.
And that was a hard lesson to learn, I think, because of kind of how I was groomed. You know, going to university and then law school and being in startups. That was the prize. And being in a community in which that wasn’t, I think blew my mind, but also helped me to become a person I am today, as a business owner with boundaries, who doesn’t feel so much anxiety or stress about rest or not delivering certain things on time, right?
So I think that’s part of the healing that happens. It’s not easy and it’s not lovely. It is deep conversations with yourself. Reflecting on your ugly notions and beliefs, and deciding to try something else.
Carlie: It’s really like healing and wellness through growth, right?
Christine: That’s the thing. It’s not automatic. It’s not gonna happen right when you get off the plane. Or, you know, I think with people who love to move to Paris, and I’ve interviewed some people that live in Paris, the biggest thing is that people break their own hearts moving to Paris and France because they have this romanticized notion about what this city, what this country’s going to do for you. And really, it’s a reciprocal situation, right? It’s a symbiotic situation. You have to give in order to get. And a lot of people don’t understand that. But that’s the way the wellness is.
Carlie: I’m really curious in your coaching work, because you do promote for other people wanting to move abroad and how to make that move sustainable. And one of the ways to do that is to start your own business. How do you then, I suppose, rectify that American, or Australian even, approach to selling and doing business with where your customers might be, and if they are somewhere like Spain or France, for example, they don’t have that same always on make money mentality?
Christine: Yeah. I think that the way I approach entrepreneurship is, entrepreneurship as a form of self-actualization. And so, as I evolve as an entrepreneur, as I give more, as I’m in my service more, I become more and more my true self. So, I approach entrepreneurship and coaching that way.
And also, I tell all of my clients, its so important to one, understand your number, like the money that you need to make your life go around. Because that’s just the name of the game and it’s so important for sustainability. But also you’ve gotta understand your lifestyle. And I find that all of my clients are expats, repats or aspiring expats. So they kind of understand the international component, at least a little bit. And so I tell them that they have to figure out what that lifestyle’s gonna look like for them, so that they can then build a business that caters to them and to their life.
Now, how does that fit in with having a market that might be different to your values? My biggest thing with my clients has always been like, be true to yourself. We’re not going to grind, grind, grind, or feel like we have to, I don’t know, work around the clock because we’re starting a business. My biggest thing is that if our voice and our messaging is authentic, we’re going to attract many different people. They may not always buy with you, because maybe it’s not in alignment with what they’re looking for. But I think the thing is, is that if you try to cater to one specific market, and that’s not in a line with who you are, that’s gonna be an issue.
So for example, a lot of my clients have worked corporate and then they’re switching over to consultancy. So they take something they used to do in a corporate atmosphere and they refined it to a consulting offer. Now, their clients could be all around the world. Their clients could still be in whatever their job market was, and they are just working remotely for them. But my biggest thing is that, as long as we are proferring the correct solution for your skill sets, like this is the solution I offer, then whoever is going to be attracted to it, is going to be attracted to it.
I’ve had clients that have been in the UAE, in Niger, in the United States, in the UK, and I haven’t changed my marketing to fit those specific markets because, truly, what I’m selling is a solution for an individual, particularly woman, who’s looking to scale their business. So that works for me, but that’s because I sell professional services. If I was selling t-shirts, things like that, maybe we think more about the target market and if that is tied to a specific geography. Because nowadays, a lot of these online businesses don’t necessarily have a geographic location.
Carlie: Location. Yeah.
Christine: So, it really depends. I don’t know if that answers the question, but it really depends.
Carlie: And where do you normally start with someone? Because I think a lot of people might think it’s a really great idea to be able to move abroad and sustain themselves by being a consultant or starting a business. But a lot of people, I think, can’t really visualize what that looks like or what that could be. How do you, kind of, help people understand the potential they have, and the skills they have to offer, and the knowledge they have that they might not realize?
Christine: Well, the first thing I do, is I definitely ask them, do you really want to start a business? Because starting a business, isn’t something to go into lightly.
Carlie: And it’s certainly not for everyone’s personality, right?
Christine: Exactly. And it’s not an alternative to having a job abroad. Like, if you really want to have a job and you want an employer to sponsor you and things like that, you can do that. If you’re not having much luck, then I’d highly suggest you employ a really good career coach with a recruiting background. They can get you abroad. But it’s not an alternative to being like, I can’t find a job in France. I’m going to start my own business. No. I would actually say don’t do that at all.
Carlie: I would say, don’t do that either.
Christine: Right? So past that, if you know, okay, I want to work for myself, I know why I want to work for myself, great. My biggest thing then becomes, we need to do a skills assessment, especially if you have no idea what you wanna do. Right?
Carlie: It kind of takes me back to being in school, when you’re deciding what career would suit you best. And you go through those questionnaires when you’re like 14.
Christine: Yeah. Well, it’s not very much like a questionnaire. I just tell them, take your past CVs for the past five years, write down all the jobs that you’ve done, all your duties. Because particularly for women, we’re always asked to do things outside of our job description. And if you do it well, they’ll come back to you. And you’re like, I’m an accountant. They’re like, yeah, but you plan all the best parties, so can you plan all of our parties forever? Like that’s what’s gonna happen.
Carlie: I actually had a colleague who was the go-to birthday organizer in the office. Like, she was the one everyone looked to every single birthday to arrange the cake, and send the email, and do the decorations. And one day she just was like, not doing it anymore. I’m done. I’m out people. I’m handing over the batton and it’s someone else’s job.
Christine: You see? So that’s why I always have them write down all of these different duties and things, and skills. Because we are so wildly talented.
Carlie: Even though we don’t wanna be.
Christine: Especially when we don’t want to be. Right? Because we do, kind of, that like cost analysis in our head. And we’re like, I could say no, but then it won’t ever get done. And then let me just get it done.
Carlie: I’ll just do it.
Christine: Yeah. We’ll just do it. Which is horrible. And I’m glad that your colleague put her foot down, because we need to do that more often. But, we do have all these skills and these talents that we maybe have discounted, which all could be monetizable if you want it to be.
And so I first have them do that. And then I ask them, what are the things that you want to do, and you actually would like, and you don’t have a problem doing? We take those things. And then I also have them really comb their network and say, okay, for all these things that you can do and that you like to do, which of these skills do you have a network of people who may support you already? If you said, hey Greg, I’m actually starting a business where I organize every organization’s birthday parties and events-
Carlie: Yes. Pay me money.
Christine: -and he’s like, oh my God, this would be so amazing. Yeah. Like, that’s what I have them do, because, just because you may have a poor experience in a corporate environment, it doesn’t mean you have to burn down every bridge. It doesn’t mean you have to start at zero. Like, you’ve went to school maybe, or you’ve had these experiences. You don’t need to throw them away. You get to just repackage them for your best interest.
And so that’s how I get people started. And usually once we start having those types of conversations, and people start really being honest about the life that they want to live and where they see themselves, then the business really starts formulating and coming together.
Carlie: Yeah. And sometimes, I guess, you’re just that push that they need to see beyond what seems logical for them, and understand what’s hiding beneath the surface, that could actually be their true path.
Christine: Definitely. And the thing is, is that entrepreneurship brings up all of the insecurities that you know you have and the ones that you did not know you had at all. It is wild and strange in that kind of way. But I think that is where the growth comes. That’s where the self-actualization comes. I mean, it’s so weird because I am not a therapist. I took like one psychology class in college and I think I got like a B plus, like I didn’t even get an A.
But a lot of my work has to do with, you know… We do strategy. We talk about analytics. We talk about data driven decision making. But a lot of it is about talking them down off the ledge, because something that I’m asking them to do or an opportunity that they have that’s been presented, triggers something from childhood. And I had no idea. I thought we were ready to go. And they’re like, actually this reminds me of when I was in the spelling bee and I choked. And all of a sudden I’m like…
Carlie: Sounds like you are a pretty good therapist.
Christine: Look, I pass along the information I get from my therapist. And then I recommend all my clients. I’m like, look, you may need to get a therapist as well. And that’s cool, because you’re changing and you’re growing and how you see yourself is evolving. And that’s usually where the big obstacles are.
But yeah, it’s really wonderful to see someone take an idea from, you know, like the deepest crevice of their mind, and they bring it down and they actually create it. And it’s always so affirming for me and I love it. I love it so much.
Carlie: Do you find there are some common destinations that your clients and your podcast audience are really interested in, in moving abroad, particularly for the first time?
Christine: Not my clients. My clients are all over the map of where they want to go and do. I think the podcast audience, right now, a really popular location is Portugal. It’s just super hot. I mean, I’m just like, maybe I should go to Portugal, check it out myself.
Carlie: Thought you were gonna say Thailand, but maybe that’s like, so 2018 or something.
Christine: I don’t know. I really haven’t heard that much about Thailand. I love Thailand. I mean, I could definitely see how people settle there. But, definitely right now, it’s huge.
Christine: Portugal. Portugal and Mexico.
Carlie: Yeah. I would love to go to Mexico. Sounds amazing.
Christine: Oh, it is. I love Mexico so much. And it’s so diverse. The geography, the type of lifestyle you can have in Mexico. It’s really amazing.
Carlie: Finally, Christine, I’d like to know how you would like to make or leave an impact with the work that you are doing with black women and women of colour, and especially with the conversations and the guests you’re having on your podcast as well.
Christine: Yeah. I started Flourish the Foreign as a passion project. And almost kind of like a love note to my younger self, to be honest. That’s cheesy, but it’s true. Because I’ve always wanted to move abroad, since I was 17. I didn’t make it happen until I was 30, that’s when I moved. And I think that I would’ve moved much earlier, had I seen people that looked like me moving abroad and talking about it. That would have made the complete difference for me.
I always tell people a story, when I was living in Miami, I’d graduated from law school, I had joined a startup and we were on trade mission to Namibia and South Africa. So, it was really amazing for me because I was like, I just went from law student to now I’m on a trade mission. I’m cool. You know?
Carlie: Love a work trip. Yes.
Christine: It was super amazing. And so we were in Namibia and, at the time, the US ambassador to Namibia was a black woman. And so she hosted us in her compound. And I remember meeting her and intellectually, I know that black women can be ambassadors, but I had never met an ambassador. And I was like, wow, this is insane and amazing, and I just want to soak in this vibe, like, I just want to know more about you. Obviously it was inappropriate, I’m with all these other people, I can’t just be like, hey, what’s this all about?
Carlie: Can we have a moment? Yeah.
Christine: Yeah, you know, like, what’s going on? Tell me your life story. And that was one of the reasons why I started the podcast. I would also travel the world and bump into amazing black women. And they would tell me their life stories. And I’m like, everyone should hear this, not only me, and I’m a horrible reteller of stories sometimes. I’m like, oh, and this happened, this happened. I was like, I need to share this. And that’s why I produced Flourish in the Foreign.
Honestly, I would love for it to be an archive of black women’s stories. I would love to just continuously capture the stories of black women, because it’s so important. It’s so important. I mean, I’ve had people ask me, aren’t you afraid that you’re goning to run out of black women to interview for your podcast? I was like, no, I’m not.
You know, there’s this very interesting, I don’t know, perception that black women don’t do this, or that our migratory stories are only going to be ones of struggle and strife, coming out of war or some kind of economic situation, in that kind of way. And that’s not the entirety of our stories at all.
And it’s really important that we are the ones telling our stories, because, I mean, obviously history is written by the victors. And for the vast majority of black women throughout the diaspora, regardless if your ancestors were involved in trans-Atlantic migration or not, for a lot of us, our ancestors were subjugated. And so the history that we may know of our ancestors is bastardized, because it’s written by the victors. And it’s really important that this story of black women in this age is told by them. They’re joys, their struggles, how they see themselves, how they describe themselves. It’s really, really important.
And so that for me is my impact. I would love to be able to continuously capture these kinds of stories, because it’s so important to hear them and to know that they exist.
Carlie: Well, I’m so glad we’ve had the opportunity today to share a bit of your story on the Expat Focus podcast. Christine, thank you so much for coming on.
Christine: Thank you so much for having me. This has been so much fun. Just, thank you so much.
Carlie: And if you’d like to listen to Christine’s podcast, it is Flourish in the Foreign, wherever you get your podcasts.
That’s it for this episode. Don’t forget to roll back on our other interviews. We have some amazing guests who share their insider tips and experiences of living in countries all over the world. Subscribe to the Expat Focus newsletter at expatfocus.com to get all the latest episodes and more, straight to your inbox. And I’ll catch you next time.