Global Nomad :: Nómada Global

When I initially considered having a client niche in the business of professional coaching, I first thought of “immigrants,” for I felt that I could very well relate to the needs of others like myself. I have lived in various countries whose cultures have greatly differed from one another, I have experienced adaptation processes in new cultures and academic or professional environments, and I have also felt the intrinsic need to build my life´s path in a country other than Colombia or Japan.  The idea of coaching immigrants was heading in the right direction, but it still felt very generic, as if I were going to specialize in men or in thirty-one-year olds for the mere reason of being a thirty-one-year old male myself. I wanted more clarity and preciseness.

In an effort to find more specific targets to coach, I thought of several other terms related to the word “immigrant” to help me carry out a brainstorming exercise. Words such as, “migrant,” “emigrant,” or “expatriate” came to mind, but somehow they felt elusive, as if they did not want to be identified or pinned down for future reference. It was very interesting, though, to find different interpretations of the same terms, leading me to conclude how these are words heavily charged with sociopolitical connotations.  When I think of “expatriates,” the thought of a male or female executive comes to mind. This person lives abroad for 2-5 years after accepting an offer to work overseas; a contract that often comes with considerable financial support for housing, children’s education, health insurance, moving expenses, and generous bonuses. Multinationals’ mid- and high-rank employees and diplomats are the first jobs that fall under this category.  In fact, many of the search results that populate the Internet after googling “expats” are dedicated to communities whose profile fit the abovementioned description.

Nonetheless, in an opinion article by a former Moroccan diplomat in Spain, I read about the distinction between an “expatriate” and an “immigrant.” He felt that both terms were associated to the socioeconomic status of migrants. If a person were socially and economically stable or successful, he or she was considered an expatriate. Expatriates, most of them from wealthy Western societies, moved overseas temporarily not for survival, but rather for a richer professional and personal experience. According to the writer, these people enjoyed being part of a privileged social and economic network both in their countries of origin and host countries. On the contrary, if this person were socially or economically vulnerable, and hence moved to another country out of necessity, he or she became an immigrant with an open return ticket. These groups of people came from very weak or inexistent socioeconomic networks that forced them to migrate, often illegally, to countries where life standards were considered to be better. The writer denounced such differences as well as the fact that the term “expatriate” had been granted an elitist connotation.

Yet another interpretation to this term came from someone I met during a business lunch. When we spoke afterwards, he manifested his interest in my work because he had understood I specialized in coaching refugees and individuals who sought asylum in other countries. For him, the term “expatriate” referred to someone who had been divested of his or her country of origin; people who were denied the right to live in their own countries. Once again, I encountered a geopolitical interpretation of the term, and I began to sense that maybe it was not the ideal word to market myself.

If “emigrant” refers to anyone who leaves his or her own country or region to live elsewhere, “immigrant” refers to anyone who enters a different nation or region other than his or her own for an indefinite time period, and “expatriate” refers to anyone who lives abroad for a limited time within a strong socioeconomic network, who do I want as my target? During the same conversation I had with the person I met at the business lunch, I casually mentioned the term “global nomad,” and it caught his attention. His reaction left me thinking about it for a while. A global nomad (or third culture kid) is really a descriptive word for individuals who have spent a significant amount of their developmental years in countries different from their parents’. It is actually a very specific term, but the literal sense of a “global nomad” seems in accord to the social globalization that we are experiencing. In an era where communication and mobility are facilitated and even encouraged, more and more people become nomads in search of economic, social, professional, personal, or cultural enrichment opportunities that transcend geographic boundaries.

Thus, in the broadest sense of the word, the term “global nomad” could include emigrants, immigrants, expatriates, and globe trotters alike. The more I think about it, the better it sounds. I have not yet decided whether I am going to market my coaching services through this concept, but I have a good feeling about it.

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La primera vez que consideré determinar mi nicho de mercado en el negocio del coaching profesional, pensé en los “inmigrantes” al sentir que podía sintonizar muy bien con las necesidades de otras personas como yo. He vivido en varios países cuyas culturas difieren enormemente entre sí, he experimentado procesos de adaptación a nuevas culturas y entornos académicos o profesionales y también he sentido la necesidad de construir mi camino en un país fuera de Colombia o Japón. La idea de hacer coaching a inmigrantes iba en la dirección adecuada, pero aún sentía que la idea era un tanto genérica, como si fuese a especializarme en hombres o en personas de treinta y un años por la sencilla razón de que soy un hombre de treinta y un años. Quería más claridad y precisión.

En mi esfuerzo por determinar mi clientela para hacer coaching, pensé en otros términos relacionados con la palabra “inmigrante” que me ayudase a realizar una lluvia de ideas. Se me ocurrieron palabras como, “migrante”, “emigrante” o “expatriado”, pero de alguna manera las sentí escurridizas, como si no quisiesen ser identificadas o apresadas para tirar de ellas en el futuro. No obstante, me resultó muy interesante encontrar distintas interpretaciones de un mismo término, llevándome a concluir sobre el hecho de que dichas palabras están altamente cargadas de connotaciones sociopolíticas. Cuando pienso en “expatriados”, la idea de un hombre o una mujer ejecutiva me viene a la mente. Este individuo vive en el extranjero durante unos 2-5 años tras aceptar una oferta para trabajar fuera; un contrato que habitualmente incluye un apoyo económico considerable para la vivienda, educación de los hijos, seguro médico, gastos de mudanza y generosas bonificaciones. Empleados de medio y alto rango de empresas multinacionales y diplomáticos son los primeros trabajos que entran dentro de esta categoría. De hecho, muchos de los resultados de búsqueda que pueblan Internet tras meter “expatriados” en Google están dedicados a comunidades cuyo perfil se ajusta a esa descripción.

Sin embargo, en un artículo de opinión escrito por un ex-diplomático marroquí en España, leí acerca de la distinción entre un “expatriado” e “inmigrante”. El autor sentía que sendos términos estaban asociados al estatus socioeconómico de los migrantes.  Si una persona era social o económicamente estable o exitosa, a esta se le consideraba expatriada. Las personas expatriadas, mayoritariamente provenientes de aquellos países occidentales pudientes, se mudaban al extranjero de manera temporal para una experiencia profesional y personal más rica, no para sobrevivir. Según el autor, dichas personas eran parte de una red social y económica privilegiada tanto en sus países de origen como de acogida. Por el contrario, si esta persona era social o económicamente vulnerable y por lo tanto se mudaba a otro país por necesidad, ella se convertía en un inmigrante con fecha de retorno indefinida. Dichos grupos de personas provenían de unas redes socioeconómicas muy débiles o incluso inexistentes que les obligaban a migrar, algunas veces de manera ilegal, a países donde la calidad de vida estaba mejor valorada. Así, el autor denunciaba tales diferencias y el hecho de que al término “expatriado” se le hubiese otorgado una connotación elitista.

Otra interpretación más de este término vino de alguien que conocí durante una comida de negocios. Durante ésta, me manifestó su interés en mi trabajo porque había entendido que me especializaba en hacer coaching a refugiados e individuos que pedían asilo en otros países. Para él, el término “expatriado” se refería a alguien que había sido despojado de su país de origen a la fuerza; personas a las que se les había denegado el derecho a vivir en sus propios países. Una vez más, me encontré con una interpretación geopolítica del término y comencé a sentir que quizás no era la palabra ideal para darme a conocer.

Si “emigrante” se refiere a cualquiera que sale de su propio país o región para vivir en otro sitio, “inmigrante” se refiere a cualquiera que llega a una nación o región fuera de la suya durante un período indefinido y “expatriado” se refiere a cualquiera que vive en el extranjero durante un tiempo limitado dentro de una red socioeconómica fuerte, ¿qué tipo de clientela deseo? Durante la misma conversación que tuve con la persona que conocí en la comida de negocios, casualmente mencioné el término “nómada global”, el cual le llamó la atención. Su reacción me dejó pensativo durante un rato. Un nómada global (o “third culture kid” – niño de tercera cultura en inglés) es en realidad una palabra descriptiva para aquellos individuos que han vivido un tiempo significativamente largo durante su etapa de desarrollo en países distintos a los de sus padres. Es un término muy específico, pero el sentido literal de un “nómada global” me parece estar acorde con la globalización social que estamos viviendo. En una era donde la comunicación y la movilidad global se facilitan e incluso se fomentan, cada vez más gente se convierte en nómada en busca de oportunidades económicas, sociales, profesionales, personales o de enriquecimiento cultural que trascienden nuestras fronteras geográficas.

De esta manera, en el sentido más amplio de la palabra, el término “nómada global” podría incluir emigrantes, inmigrantes, expatriados y trotamundos por igual. A medida que pienso en ello, me va sonando mejor. Aún no he decidido si voy a promocionar mis servicios de coaching a través de este concepto, pero creo que no voy desencaminado.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Global Nomad :: Nómada Global

  1. As an expat I’m not too sure I could identify with “Global Nomad”. First of all, the term “global” indicates far more than having for a home a second or third country. Perhaps if I had really lived in more than three countries I would identify with the term “global” more. Secondly, while living in Spain I have attempted to integrate into the local culture, not be a globetrotter standing out among the locals. As far as the term “nomad” goes, it carries with it the sense of wandering, of not having a true fixed home. This may happen if one is constantly changing countries or spends very little time in different places, but for an expat who has been here for nearly 11 years, I don’t feel like I’ve been wandering at all. Quite the contrary. Perhaps the term “Assimilated Foreigner” might be better to describe me!

    • I see your point, but let me be the devil’s advocate here: if we look at the terms literally, then an “expatriate” would entail someone who USED to have a nation of his or her own, but not anymore, just like we have ex-partners or ex-colleagues. I have referred to the term “global nomad” as an all-inclusive word, but I am sure that some of you will identify more with “expats” and some others will do so with “immigrants.” Besides seeing yourself as an expat or an assimilated foreigner, do you consider yourself an immigrant, as well? Why or why not? It would be interesting to know your reply to these questions.

  2. Es verdad que nómada suena un poco a alguien que no es capaz de quedarse en un sitio más de dos meses, pero no le veo connotaciones ni positivas ni negativas así a bote pronto, I like it!

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