In early 2011, I stumbled upon a nifty little blog called Expat Science and started corresponding with the woman behind the posts, a French psychologist named Catherine Transler. When I mentioned that I enjoyed her short e-book, Dealing with Loneliness Abroad, she told me she was working on a more substantial book. I didn’t hear from her for a long while after that, so it was with some surprise that I saw her name in my inbox a couple of weeks ago.
It turns out that a cancer diagnosis had slowed her down somewhat (hence the long silence) but fortunately for us, it didn’t keep her from achieving her goal. Turning International has finally been published, and I’m happy (and relieved!) to tell you that it was truly worth the wait. Drawing on the latest research from the fields of resilience, human emotions, and positive psychology, Catherine has written a thoughtful and insightful guide to expatriate adjustment.
The book opens in the early 1990’s, with a pregnant Catherine and her husband driving to The Netherlands to begin a new life there. Blissfully unaware of the ordeal that awaits her, Catherine assumes that her previous experiences in international living — acquiring a PhD in Belgium and a post-doc in London — will guarantee success in this new environment. She soon discovers how very wrong she is.
Her struggles to “make the journey back to balance and independence” become the launching pad for “Turning International,” although this is not really a book about her. What little she reveals of her own story is intermingled with those of the many expats she interviewed along the way.
I like a book with some scientific heft to it, and this one delivers. (No fear, it’s not all jargon-y and incomprehensible; nor does it assume that we, dear reader, are idiots. It’s quite a comfortable read.) Catherine skillfully picks up strands from various branches of psychology and weaves them together in a way that makes perfect sense. She writes with the authority of one who knows her subject inside out, personally as well as professionally. At book’s end, she briefly— and with great dignity — touches on her cancer and how it changed her perspective for the better. Powerful stuff.
While I’ve got my book reviewer hat on, may I mention one more little gem? “Finding Your Feet in Chicago: The Essential Guide for Expat Families” was written by another French expat, Véronique Martin-Place, and covers all the essentials of living in the Windy City. Véronique spent four glorious years in Chicago, and if there’s anything she doesn’t know about expat life there, it’s not worth knowing.
Ironically, just as the book was about to be published, she and her family left Chicago for Shanghai. The good news is that she loves it there. The better news is that the longer school hours are giving her more time free time for things like — oh, I don’t know — writing. Can we expect to see “Finding Your Feet in Shanghai” in the near future?