Global Cosmopolitans

The key players in the next stage of globalization, and the creative edge they bring to companies.

Sustaining a Global Cosmopolitan Relationship Through Complexity, Difference and Change

Is there a guidebook for making it as a Global Cosmopolitan couple?

"Is there a guidebook for making it as a Global Cosmopolitan couple?" In a recent presentation to an MBA alumni meeting in France, one experienced Global Cosmopolitan currently living in France raised this key question that the rest of audience echoed. While it is easy to give some advice about life in a dynamic and engaging partnership, the challenges require a great deal of creativity.
Global Cosmopolitans have life experience filled with complexity, diversity and change. As they discuss the on-going challenges of a global life, they articulate the many advantages and challenges that they encounter. They can feel very energized by the excitement in their lives and the amount of learning that is possible. They can love the exotic weekends enjoying a newly discovered venue together.
Yet they know that that there are no simple formulas for creating a life for themselves and their children. They know from experience that everything can change in a minute. While they can say that they love change in their lives, creating a feeling of safety and knowing in their couple can be particularly important given that they are on "the road less travelled."
While they may have many friends, even other Global Cosmopolitans, they can feel very isolated when needing to make new choices that can impact on the life of their couple and family. Even experienced global companies have difficulty understanding or helping individuals, couples and families with decisions about international moves.
Experienced global couples know how important it is have and be able to share the self-awareness necessary to make to know yourself, hear your partner, and develop a relationship that has real dialogue and uses the same creative thinking that you can apply to work problems. For Global Cosmopolitans, the learning curve requires paying close attention to what helps or hinders them as a couple when they confront the complex tasks of dealing with significant change.
Long Distance Relationship
Managing a long distance relationship is never easy. But across time zones!? Sara's story is typical. Born in India, she and her now husband met in California, where they were both working. Her decision to get her MBA in Singapore, while her husband started a new job in Canada, seemed right at the time, but now she was living in a state of constant longing for the moments of being together. They had many decisions to make together about what next, and, inevitably, one of them was busy or asleep. Their best friends and family were either in California or in India, trying to be helpful, but often suggested that coming home would be the solution to their decision-making puzzle. To add to the complexity, they had to decide where to live and how to get good professional opportunities in the same city. Sara realized that in spite of the cost, they needed a long weekend together so that the longing, fatigue and anxiety would not ruin their relationship.
But it is not just distance. The challenge becomes: How can I deal with complexity, change and difference within my couple? Some changes require both individuals to look at their needs and values. Individuals in couples are not always in sync.
Anna and Stephan, both business consultants, met while working in London. They enjoying creating a life together separate from their cultural backgrounds. His parents in Germany and her parents in Italy started raising questions about when would they be coming home. Stephan started suggesting that he wanted to work in Germany now that they were thinking about having children. Anna knew that she could get work in Germany, but did not know if she could maintain the type of couple life that they had established. Stephan felt that they could withstand the pressures of re-entry; she did not think that they were ready. Their short-term solution could have been prolonging their stay in London. After a long and open conversation and a few phone calls, they realized that they were both ready for a change and working in France or Spain would give them time to think about where they wanted to create a home.
Re-entry can have a huge impact on couples. Couples often meeting and living together in a country where their families do not live, often establish patterns of behavior that are relatively independent of their cultural background. Re-entry can also mean returning to old ways of behavior.
Global Cosmopolitans have to think about the impact of their lifestyle on the values their children might acquire as a result of their lifestyle and the choices that they make. The complexity of their lifestyle, different backgrounds and different points of view about giving their children a cultural grounding that reflect their values can require challenging dialogue and creative thinking from those around them, as well as themselves.
"Our 14-year-old daughter wants to go to boarding school in London if we move again." Her Global Cosmopolitan parents from two very different cultural backgrounds had never lived there, yet the school was excellent. Her parents knew that they needed to move yet again. This was not the best time to be moving a teenager, or at least this one, to another country where she would have to learn another language. Before they figured out what to do, their daughter was accepted to the same school her mother had attended. It took all the creativity of a Global Cosmopolitan daughter to find the solution!

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Linda Brimm, Ph.D., is a Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, and the author of Global Cosmopolitans: The Creative Edge of Difference.

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