Maslow and the Expat Journey

Thanks wikimedia commons People have needs. According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, you can categorize them into five levels. His argument is that as humans, we ultimately strive for “self-actualization”, but have to cover our basic needs before we’re able to concentrate on higher goals.

The Physiological level is that of basic survival needs: food, clothes, shelter, and things to do with bodily functions we won’t go into. Most likely, you have these needs covered, right up until you become an expat.

Maslow’s next level is all about Safety. Once you have your basic survival needs met, you can start worrying about the neighborhood. Is that rustle in the bushes a saber toothed tiger or a bunny? Today, you know which route to take to work, where to buy groceries, maybe you’ve even been with the same family doctor all your life. But what about that new place you’re moving to?

Then comes my personal favorite: love and belonging. Don’t underestimate what a lack of social circles, professional networks, friends, and family can do to your system.

Your international assignment can help you reach your self-esteem and self-actualization goals, but it can also drag you down. Depending on your personality type and essential motivator preferences, you'll have to have certain psychological needs met to feel good. Living in a new environment can be challenging until you figure out how to adapt your behaviors.

Maslow is also featured as the father of humanistic psychology in this book by Jessica Grogan, PhD Encountering America: Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self (Harper Perennial 2013).

This week we'll examine all of his pyramid's levels and provide some coaching tips about how to approach them. Looking forward to your comments!