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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!



Type & Culture Research

expatsmbti-research-results_60_tableI'm looking for

adult expats, repats, international assignees, accompanying partners, students, retirees, love-pats, and anyone living and working for at least 12 months outside of their home culture to help me with research. If you are one of those people, and if you know your confirmed best-fit Myers-Briggs Type result, please help me by answering 5 quick questions. If you don't know your MBTI(r) Type, you'll find some options in the FAQ for how to get it.

The goal is

to set up a database with thousands of entries and explore a) how different nationalities express their different personality types, and b) how our personality type preferences influence our adaptation to other cultures.

Answer these 5 questions to add your voice.

Here's where we are so far: 60 respondents, 53 usable

Obviously, we need some more MEN and some more ISFJs, ISFPs, and ESFJs expats, so if you know anyone, please share this survey with them. Thanks!




I will continue to collect data until all types are equally well represented, and hold follow-up interviews with those who give me permission to contact them. I have 5 interviews completed and transcribed (cheers, guys!) four of which NT and one SJ, so I'll be looking for Temperament-related language as well. I'll be using the Grounded Theory method, i.e. doing a lot of comparison and coding of what the experiences may describe from a type perspective. I was accepted as a speaker at the 2013 Association for Psychological Type Conference in Miami and look forward to sharing an update there! Participants who share their email address will receive a copy of the presentation as a thank you for their time.

I can't do this without you. Thank you for your help.

Find the survey at  and please share with everyone you know who lives or has lived abroad and knows their Type.



Research FAQ

expats_MBTI overlay imagesWho can participate?

Any adults over 18 years of age who have in the past or are currently living abroad in one country that is not their country of origin or culture for a period of more than 12 months.

OK, that was one long sentence with lots of identifiers and no commas. In long form, I hope to hear from you if you are an expat on international assignment sent by your work, or if you are a partner or spouse who is accompanying an expat abroad (which makes you an expat as well, really), or if you left your country of birth or culture to live abroad for whatever other reason, e.g. to study, to retire, because you fell in love with someone, and you are open to sharing what the experience was like.

What's the purpose of this research, anyway?

I want to explore correlations between Type and cultural adaptation. How are the challenges often experienced in international relocation related to Type instead of cultural differences? How do different personality types prepare for relocation? Which tools and strategies do they use when presented with cultural differences? Is the need for belonging on Maslow's Hierarchy higher on the scale, e.g. for Extravert Feeling types?

Gaining more clarity about how Type influences our effectiveness abroad will help expats and their accompanying spouses save time and nerves when relocating. This research and its results can be put to good use by anyone who wants to move abroad and be prepared to face potential challenges head-on.

I would like to participate, but I don't know my Type. How can I find out my MBTI(r) result and how much does it cost?

The quickest way to get your MBTI(r) result is to fill in the MBTI(r) questionnaire. The result is a four-letter type, giving insight into the patterns of how you gain energy, take in information, make decisions, and organize your life and work. Completing the indicator takes 15-25 minutes and is followed by a ca. one hour conversation with a certified Type practitioner to confirm your preferences.

The MBTI(r) questionnaire and all its materials are under copyright by the Consultants Psychology Press, CPP. Costs for the material vary by the style of report and accompanying manual you choose. They can range from ca US$30 to US$65 per person.

In addition, every practitioner sets fees for the conversation to debrief and confirm the result. In case you're wondering about "bang for your buck," you can apply your Type knowledge to all areas of your life, including finding your strengths in a career transition, diversifying your leadership style, improving interpersonal communication, or finding new strategies to reduce stress, to name a few. In other words, I'll be looking at your Type through the culture lens, but once you know your Type, you can use it for many other benefits as well.

I am certified to facilitate both Step I and II, and here are the parameters for getting your MBTI(r) as part of participating in my research:

  1. Email me at doris(at)expatsmbti(dot)com, write "MBTI for Culture Research" in the headline. In the body of the email, tell me the country or culture you are from, the country or culture your minimum 12 months international experience is about, and any questions you might have for me.
  2. I'll contact you to answer your questions, and when you're comfortable to go ahead, I will send you an invoice for the MBTI(r) material you want to order. Only for participants in this research, I offer a personalized report, Introduction to Type manual, and one-hour debrief for US$114. This is a significantly reduced fee, because I appreciate your input and data for my study.
  3. Once your payment is received, I'll send you the login details and instructions to access the online questionnaire.
  4. Once you've completed the questionnaire, I receive a notification from CPP and gain access to your report materials.
  5.  You and I set up a time and date to go over the results, and talk some more about how your Type preferences may have influenced your international experience.

If you would like to work with someone else, you can search for practitioners in your area through the Master Practitioner Referral Network, or use the facilitation services provided by the Center for the Application of Psychological type CAPT.

What's a confirmed best-fit type?

There are plenty of free online versions of personality "tests" available on the internet. The MBTI(r) is not a test. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(r) is the world's most trusted personality tool. It is supported by over 60 years of research into its validity and reliability. Filling out the questionnaire gives you one result, aka the first hypothesis. After going through a debrief and facilitation from a certified professional, you self-select which type fits you best, that's the second hypothesis. If the two don't match or if there are any doubts, the facilitator will guide you through a process of questions and behavior descriptions to confirm your type as best as possible, which is the best-fit result. Not every person gets a best-fit result in one sitting.

What do you mean by, "culture I call home?"

Given technological and transportation advances of the last 50 years, the world has become a much smaller place. People are mobile and many are flexible in their working arrangements. Think of traveling sales people, or service men and women in the army. It is not unusual to be stationed and transferred to many different countries with the course of one or two decades. If these are your first two decades, this leads to the TCK or Third Culture Kid phenomenon. In other words, it may be hard to say where you've spent the most time growing up if you moved every 2 years. Your passport may say German, but your parents are actually Italian and instilled those values in you. I'm looking for the culture you would most define as your own, your heart-home. Even if it's difficult to choose, I need a baseline to compare your host culture to.