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Building Cultural Intelligence with Trisha Carter

Entries in Belonging (2)


Insiders and Outsiders – the pain and the gain

Panelists Trisha Carter, Ryan Haynes, Marian van Bakel at #FIGT16NL

In 2016, I led a panel at a Conference in Amsterdam.  ‘Insiders and Outsiders –Is Belonging Overrated?’. 

It was the conference of Families in Global Transition an organisation that speaks to the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures globally.

The people who were there were expats, migrants, global nomads.  But most of them weren’t the employee who was moved.

They were the partners and the children of those who had been moved around the world by corporations, diplomatic corps, military, missionary, or NGOs.  They were the people who fell in love and moved cultures to be with their partner, raising children who represent different cultures, speak multiple languages.  They were the people who had returned ‘home’ to find they no longer felt ‘at home’. And they were the educators, the service providers, the researchers and the writers who tell the stories and support these groups on their journeys.

If anyone knew about being on the outside – these conference attendees did

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Insiders and Outsiders

Have you ever felt that feeling of being an outsider?  Feeling like you didn’t belong, weren’t welcomed, weren’t sure what to do?  

Perhaps you’ve felt it occasionally when you’ve moved outside your usual places of belonging.  Perhaps you feel it daily in your work or everyday life. 

We know from a psychological perspective that we are driven to find belonging.  We want the comfort of feeling at ease; that we know what to do, what to expect. We want the group of people around us, to accept us as one of them and to support us.   

“The need to belong is a powerful, fundamental and extremely pervasive motivation” … without belonging levels of mental and physical ill health increase.

Baumeister and Leary 1995

At a very basic level our sense of belonging is often tied to people who are like us.  The people who speak our language, share our ethnic background, or our religion.

And yet, in a globalized world with people studying, working and living in countries and cultures different to their passport countries, that picture of belonging is changing. 

If our sense of belonging is dependent on being the same gender or race or religion, or class or educational background as the other people in the room, or on the bus or in the neighbourhood, that feeling of belonging may be diminishing.   

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