Monday, June 07, 2010
The Authentic Journey of Margarita Gokun Silver: Musings of Multi and Cross-Cultural Life, Sharing and Mentoring from Russia and Beyond
Meet Margarita Gokun Silver. She's a life/executive coach specializing in expatriate and cross-cultural coaching through the Global Coach Center and a fan of Authentic Journeys Facebook Fan Page on Facebook. I have taken a few of her classes including strategies on navigating cross-cultural adjustment and introduction to Russian culture. I enjoy her cross cultural trainings very much and am overjoyed to interview here on Alaivani.
Margarita I am fascinated that you have lived in and experienced so many different cultures. Would you be moved to share some unique aspects about the culture or lifestyle of any place you have lived?
This can take pages! I think the unique aspects that I remember have to do not only with cultures themselves but also with where I was in my life when I experienced them. That's what gives them color and vibrancy. One example would be being a parent of a young toddler while living in Argentina -- I can fill pages and pages telling you about how child-friendly the country is and how wonderful everyone is towards children.
What commonalities have you found among people in diverse cultures or countries?
I think one big commonality is that people everywhere are searching for happiness. They understand it differently and they include different things in the definition of happiness, but they certainly want it and try to achieve it.
When you move from country to country or shift cultures, do you "take things along with you"? What I mean to say is do you adapt aspects of different cultures into your lifestyle or try to maintain your ethnic roots?
I don't have a hard rule on whether to "take" something with me or "discard" it. Each culture offers us something unique, and if it fits and if it feels good to keep it in the next place then, by all means, I do. If it doesn't, I file it away until the next time when I may want or need it. As for the ethnic roots, I think we all carry some of them with us wherever we are -- even if we don't recognize it or fight it.
Are there any cultures or countries left on your list that you have yet to experience? What draws you toward those cultures/countries?
Too many to count! The reason for wanting to go there is always different but one thing that unites them all is the feeling of newness and change you get to experience when you go somewhere unexplored.
I read on your bio on your website that you're originally from the former Soviet Union and your family migrated to America. What kind of changes have you seen in the culture of your hometown if you have visited again since you left with your parents?
Huge changes! One being that the country where I was born and lived throughout my childhood/adolescence doesn't exist anymore! The city I grew up in (Moscow) has changed completely both on the inside and the outside. Some changes I like, but others I can live without. The biggest change that bothers me is the change in the value systems and of how people relate to each other.
What are some unique aspects of your culture in the former Soviet Union that Americans may not know or do not understand (because of stereotypes)?
I think there are a lot of clichés about what Soviet Union was and about what Russia is -- and although these clichés are changing, they are still clichés. If before the word "Russian" elicited visions of bears and drunks on the streets, now it's the oligarchs that come to mind whenever Russia is mentioned. Yet Russia is a lot more than that. :) It's difficult to list unique aspects because there are so many of them, but if anyone is interested in what Russia is beyond the stereotypes, there are lots of books and resources out there (including our own "Welcome to Russia" cross-cultural on-line training... a shameless plug, I know).
Margarita, I am fascinated about your approach to cross-cultural teaching and coaching. Who inspired you and do you identify anything unique in your approach?
I coach a lot of expats and in the process I notice that those who have had the benefit of a cross-cultural training before coming to a new country adjust with a lot less stress than those who have not. That's why I decided to combine my coaching with cross-cultural training - and create a series of courses on-line so that those people who cannot afford individual cross-cultural training, can do so through the web interface. This approach doesn't only allow people to do this on their own time, but it also combines the cross-cultural information with coaching techniques. In a way, it becomes a "self-help" manual of cross-cultural coaching.
Since your business is web-based do you find any differences or obstacles in running your business when you move to different countries?
Having a web-based business makes it easier when you move, but since coaching is a very personal field, one still has to get out there and meet people. So web-based or not, the move often wrecks havoc in real, people-to-people networking. But at the same time, it makes both the networking and life interesting, doesn't it?!
Who are some of the most inspiring people you have coached?
There have been so many that it's difficult to isolate a few! Everyone brings their own inspiration with them, but one thing that I find inspiring across all of my clients is the moment when something shifts and a learning leap happens. Those moments are priceless.
Is there any special tip or advice on cross-cultural communication or adjustment you'd generally like to share with the readers of my blog?
If you can, get cross-cultural training before you move. Read one or two books of fiction by a writer of a country you are going to (preferably set in that country). And do some research into that country's proverbs -- they can tell a lot about the country and its people.
I appreciate your time, Margarita and am deeply honored you took some time to participate in this interview.
Margarita Gokun Silver is the Founder of the Global Coach Center, a coaching firm that specializes in expatriate and cross-cultural coaching, training, and consulting. For more information please visit http://www.GlobalCoachCenter.com/.
Do you want to be a part of this interview series? Join my Authentic Journeys Facebook Fan Page and be featured! :)
Would you like to participate in the cross-cultural interviews here on Alaivani!? We'd be honored to showcase your life story here!
More information on this post, "Teach Us About Your Culture".
See an archived list of cross-cultural interviews here.
Thank you for reading and spending your time on Alaivani.com
The previous interview in this series: The Authentic Journey of Cuisine: Radhika's Love for Cooking, Food and Cross-Cultural Living
Copyright ©2010 Jennifer Kumar, LMSW Cultural Adjustment Coach/Mentor