Navigating the uncomfortable gray moments of global citizenship

When was the last time an uncomfortable gray moment showed up in YOUR life abroad? You know, those moments of exasperation where you could either spiral down into blame, shame, and cultural clichés, OR up-level into self-acceptance, personal integrity and intercultural mastery?

Well, my uncomfortable gray moment showed up a few weeks ago, when I arrived eight minutes late for dentist’s appointment and she REFUSED to see me.

As an American and a global citizen who has been living in Germany for 19 years, I know that Germans take particular pride in being punctual.

So when my dental hygienist turned me away for arriving eight minutes late, I could have allowed myself a knee-jerk reaction like:

  • beating myself up for not calling and rescheduling the appointment
  • judging my dental hygienist
  • falling into cultural stereotypes  (Germans are… Americans are… Women are… )
  • blah, blah, blah

But, I paused, took a breath and consciously said to myself…




None of the above.

Instead, I apologized for the delay and we rescheduled.

As perfectly imperfect beings, these uncomfortable gray moments will show up as we navigate our lives as global citizens away from our home towns or home countries.

And they’ll test our commitment to self-acceptance, personal integrity and intercultural mastery.

For those of us on this path, whether by choice or for love, a meaningful global lifestyle includes a meaningful understanding of many cultures, human interconnectedness and embracing uncomfortable gray moments in the spaces in between.

But it’s up to us to decide what to do when each moment arises.

Here are my 3 tips to help you navigate your next ‘gray moment’ as a perfectly imperfect global citizen:

1: Choose healthy self-acceptance

For me, apologizing for the error and seeking to make amends took blaming and shaming off the menu of possible responses. Healthy self-acceptance enables you to stand in integrity and empowers you to move forward.

2: Be aware of your cultural tendencies

Our own cultural tendencies not only portray the values of our home culture, but they also describe how our values and behaviours have evolved over time. Identify which shifts you’re willing to make. Identify what you are willing to accommodate from others. This kind of self-awareness and clarity will support you in achieving cultural balance as the new YOU emerges.

3: Be aware of the cultural tendencies of your ‘new home’

These tendencies not only collectively portray a society’s values, but they also describe the relationship between these values and behaviour.  Being aware of your new home’s tendencies will support you in navigating and moving beyond the perfectly imperfect moments of being human as you evolve.

Our globally mobile lives are beautiful and colorful, brimming with joyful moments in warm, vibrant hues. Other times, we’re called to sift and sort through the uncomfortable gray moments in the spaces between cultures.

As someone who has navigated various reinventions in Berlin, Washington DC, New York, Madrid, and for the last 19 years (and counting) in Cologne, I’ve learned, we continue to face uncomfortable gray moments of:

  • the unresolved grief of all we’ve left behind (even with ALL the gains)
  • the questions of redefining our ever-evolving identity
  • the questions of belonging and
  • the challenges of building sustainable relationships

…regardless of where we are in the world.

And here’s what I’ve also learned:

  • we create our reality (consciously and unconsciously)
  • global reinvention is a process NOT an event  
  • the uncomfortable gray moments are actually invitations to show up as a higher version of our authentic selves.

So, the power question is:  Are we willing and equipped to up-level into higher expressions of personal integrity, self-acceptance and intercultural mastery?

I arrived 8-minutes late for a dentist’s appointment, apologized for the delay and rescheduled.

The beauty is, regardless of how I decide to move forward, it’s from an EMPOWERED, rather than a reactionary place. And the same choice is available to all of us as we navigate our global lives.

Have you had an uncomfortable gray moment lately? What worked well for you? In hindsight, what would you do differently?  

…and if you’re currently stuck in the “messy middle” of an uncomfortable gray moment, feel free to reach out and leave a comment.

You’re not alone 🙂

Monère Renoir Wanner

Monère helps global citizens navigate the difficulties of establishing a new life abroad and create thriving international lifestyles.

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