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Can traveling turn extroverts into introverts?

Can traveling turn extroverts into introverts?

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.



If there is such a thing, I am a certified extrovert. I’m the one who strikes up a conversation with who ever happens to be in the checkout line or elevator. I usually sleep on the plane, but if I didn’t, I would talk your ear off all the way to our destination. I have always been this way. In Puerto Rico, where I have lived for nine years, they would call me “bien presentá.




I think part of this way of being stems from being the oldest of four and having to find ways to stand out from my siblings to get attention. It also comes from moving so many times. Every few years I found myself in new situations and cities, interacting with people from different cultures, however culture may have been defined at that time. Being afraid of meeting new people would have kept me from getting much needed information and would have kept me from making friends. It would not have worked for me at all.



Knowing what an extrovert I am, why would I purposely choose to travel on my own?


I travel on my own in part because I am a hugely independent, self-sufficient woman who gets tired of bending to the needs and desires of others while traveling. I don’t travel often so I want to see and do what I am interested in when I do travel. Botanical gardens, art museums and “off the beaten path” places are more to my liking at this stage in life.


Right behind seeing what I want to see is having the chance to escape both mentally and physically. Spending time by myself allows me to grapple with my own thoughts and think through things that I have filed away for times like this. Traveling on my own allows me to reflect on who I am, what I want out of life, where I might want to live next, and why I need to travel more frequently. It gives me the time to consider relationships with others and how I can strengthen them or move on from them.


This mental and physical break allows me to truly be outside the confines of my own little world and let my mind wander. Some of my best business ideas come when I walk away from the office and simply ride the brainwaves wherever they may take me. The little voice that often finds fault with and rejects new ideas gives way to the one that reminds me that the possibilities in life are limitless. I walk away feeling rejuvenated and energized to start turning those ideas into reality.



Being on my own during this process allows me to think clearly and deeply without interruption. While I can count on meditation practices to help me do this at home, physically removing myself from all the energy-sucking daily chores present in my house helps me reach further mental depths. In a wide open park in the middle of London or alongside the shores of Lake Zurich, with my eyes wide open, I find a level of inner peace that I do not know in my daily life. It makes me think that maybe there’s something to being an introvert…for a few minutes anyway.



How does this brush with the introvert world impact my day-to-day life?


The challenging part for me is finding a way to hold onto that inner peace, that calming wash of light that both centers and energizes me, when I return. Once I’m back in the daily grind of life, I feel a pull toward the laundry and dishes piling up, returning client calls, and running errands around metropolitan San Juan. And yet, there is also a pull in the direction of the shores of the Mediterranean and ancient Roman ruins where I found my spiritual connection. How to incorporate the two into my life–that is the question. I have not yet found the answer that works for me. However, I will keep searching for it because even this mega-extrovert needs some quiet time to process her thoughts from time to time.




Dr. Julie Parenteau is an intercultural communication consultant and language instructor living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To find out how to work with her or contract her as a speaker for your upcoming event, visit


Global Customs for Public Displays of Affection

Global Customs for Public Displays of Affection

Written by: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.


This week we are celebrating love and friendship at Global Perceptions by looking at global customs of affection. We start the week by examining norms for public displays of affection. Etiquette for Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) varies across cultures. The consequences for breaking the rules can be life-threatening, making it important for expatriates, travelers, and study abroad students to understand cultural norms.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Couples across Korea limit the amount of public affection shown. Koreans will hold hands, but kisses are very unusual even for those who are dating. Such displays are saved for more private locations. One major difference about Korean culture is that good friends, regardless of gender or age, also hold hands as a demonstration of their friendship.


In much of the Western World, hugs and kisses are standard ways of greeting friends, family members and romantic partners. Couples are known to hold hands, drape their arms around each other and steal more intimate kisses on occasion. Latin and Southern European cultures who are known for being more effusive, may even consider slightly more touching to be appropriate. Groping, however, crosses the line.
Rules for PDAs in the Middle East and China are much stricter. In China, for example, only people of the same sex are permitted to hold hands in public, while in the Middle East

Courtesy of Delaware Employment Law Blog

people may be imprisoned for kissing in public. Such acts go against religious traditions.


Whether or not you agree with these cultural norms, it is best to abide by them at all times to avoid serious repercussions. So celebrate your affection where it is it culturally acceptable, but keep your hands to yourselves where it is not allowed. You may find that it is challenging to adjust but that the change is just the spice your relationship needs.


For more information on living and working effectively across cultures, please contact Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico!

Vegan food options in Vieques, Puerto Rico!

New to Puerto Rico? Struggling to find healthy food alternatives? Try these tasty ideas for your visit to Vieques!

Lighthouse in Vieques

Lighthouse in Vieques

For additional relocation assistance following your move to Puerto Rico, please contact Global Perceptions. We provide relocation and language learning programs for your whole family as well as corporate communication training. Contact us today!



5 Tips for Bringing Fall to Life as an Expat

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

5 Tips for Bringing Fall to Life as an Expat

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D., Owner/President of Global Perceptions


Fall is my favorite time of year. There’s something about the cool, crisp air ushering in the season that makes me feel renewed. Sipping hot chocolate after Friday night high school football games and picking apples from a nearby orchard add to my giddiness. Or at least

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

they did! Since moving to Puerto Rico eight years ago, I have seen precious little of the colorful trees shining in the setting sun. In Puerto Rico, there is only a slight difference from one season to another. So slight in fact, that I forget that seasons even change. That’s a pretty big change for a Midwestern girl accustomed to greeting the seasons with gusto.

Despite my change of venue, I have found ways to bring my favorite season to life, even in the Caribbean! Here are my top 5 ways to keep fall alive for expatriates living in Puerto Rico and other tropical locations.


1) Watch American Football

I am a HUGE Green Bay Packers fan! It’s hard to grow up in Wisconsin and not be. If American football is one of your passions, carry it to your new home and watch your team with local fans. Win or lose, cheer or jeer, get together as a family over nachos and chili, just like home. Sometimes even just the consistent schedule of games will help you recreate the fall feeling.


2) Bake, Bake, Bake

Get our your mixer and have a bake-a-thon! Fall without recipes made of pumpkin, apple and cranberry just wouldn’t be fall. Let the scents of cakes, breads, cookies, pies and muffins waft through your house, creating a sensation that transports you to the coziness of a fireplace-heated living room. Imagine yourself wearing flannel pajamas as you crack

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

A healthy fall treat that will leave your house smelling heavenly!

eggs, even though you are likely in shorts and a tank top. If you think ahead, you can even have pumpkin spice and butterscotch shipped right to your door via online shopping! And you’ll have something delicious to eat afterward!


3) Buy a new sweater

The feel of a new sweater is such a fall thing. The softness and warmth that it emits even while on the store rack beckons the aimless shopper. Cashmere, knit, wool….they all call out, promising to comfort in the best and worst of times. And somehow you know that whether it’s a cool gray or warm cranberry color, you will be comforted by its thread.


4) Pick up scented candles

When you start dreaming of enjoying Saturday afternoon walks in the park, listening to the crunch of the fallen leaves beneath your hiking boots, you know it’s time to find a

Sometimes giving into  your desires is the best thing you can do!

Sometimes giving into your desires is the best thing you can do!

substitute. Candles work wonders! Pick up something that screams FALL to you. I personally like apple-scented candles, but there are lots to pick from. Find one that works for you and light it!


5) Get on the plane

For those times when the nostalgia simply takes over and you have to see, feel, hear, taste and touch the fall, get on the plane and reward yourself with a few days in a place that offers just what you need. Consider a trip mid-October to early November in places like Washington, D.C. or Kansas City. The temperatures still aren’t too cold during the day, but they offer crisp nights perfect for trying out that new sweater.


For more ideas on making your transition to Puerto Rico a positive experience, consult with the Relocation Specialists at Global Perceptions! We have the local experience, but the global reach. Visit us TODAY at


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Dancing Through the Adaptation Process

Dancing Through the Adaptation Process

by Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D., President of Global Perceptions


As a newcomer in Puerto Rico, I was looking for ways to immerse myself in the local language and culture so that my cultural adaptation process would be a little smoother and so I would be a more credible intercultural communication professor. One of the things that really intrigued me about Puerto Rican culture was salsa dancing. I asked around on campus and one of my students told me about a place nearby that was starting salsa lessons. I vowed to find out more. The following week, my cultural orientation to life in Puerto Rico grew to include what would become an incredible personal passion. Let me tell you how it all started….

Y todo comenzo....

Y todo comenzo….

Seeing the line of people standing outside the local club, I feel anxiety rise within me. I took some salsa lessons in the States, but this is Puerto Rico, home of all things related to salsa, and that alone makes me nervous. Stepping out of the car, I slowly walk the dark street to join the line. I have no idea what I will find inside, but I am hopeful. I love salsa music and the dances that accompany the music so this will be an adventure. The line moves and within minutes I walk into the space. Noticing how many people are inside already, I wonder, “Is it really possible that all of these people fit in here? And how can we dance like this?” Looking around, I spot another American guy and walk up to introduce myself. He greets me and tells me he’s from Iowa. “What a coincidence,” I think, “another Midwesterner who looks like me and lives here, but speaks fluent Spanish and is interested in salsa dancing.” I didn’t think there were any other people like me around so this is a nice twist. We talk for another minute before the instructor steps onto the stage.

“Damas y caballeros, bienvenidos a nuestra primera clase de salsa,” the instructor begins adjusting the microphone attached to his lapel.

salsa cambio en clave

Cambio en Clave! The key to my success!

The wide-eyed audience looks at him, waiting for the first step. My new friend and I get into a line of people and face the instructor.

“Uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete.”

Trying to see around all the others in front of us, our feet begin to move. “Oh yeah, I remember this!” Thankful for the previous lessons, I blend into the rest of the group as much as a white girl can. The class continues as we learn the first few steps. This part is easy.

“Ahora vamos a hacer las vueltas,” the instructor calls with a smile in his eyes.

Uncertainty waves through the audience as everyone starts talking to each other about how difficult turns are. Personally, I am wondering how we’re going to attempt turns when we’re packed in this space so tightly. Then I think about how easily Puerto Ricans fit their cars into the most impossible places and figure that if they dance like they park, this won’t be so bad. With a quick reminder of the order of the steps, I catch on. “Gosh have I missed this,” I admit. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I look around at the other people. Most people seem to be getting the idea. There is one guy however, who just can’t seem to make his feet move in the right order. Believing that I have enough skills at this point to teach him this basic turn, I offer to help him. After a couple of minutes he is turning on his own. “Mission accomplished!” I gloat, wondering if he ever thought a gringa would be teaching him salsa.

Putting new moves to the test!

Putting new moves to the test!

As the class comes to an end, I look to my American friend and ask if he’ll be back next week. He assures me that he’ll be there and we part ways. I drive home thinking that maybe despite all the other issues that I’m having, something about this country has redeeming value. I commit to making space in my schedule to participate in these salsa lessons each week because they make me believe that there is hope for me on this island.


Adapting to a new culture is challenging for all. If you are thinking of moving to Puerto Rico, I can help. I have been through the adaptation process in personal and professional settings and want to help you avoid the pitfalls that I discovered along the way. Don’t hestitate! REACH OUT TODAY and learn what it takes to successfully adapt to the culture and language of Puerto Rico!

Global Perceptions is a full-service communication and relocation consulting business based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on our services, visit or call 787.455.7764.

Independent decisions

Adventures in Study Abroad: Lesson 2



Southern Wisconsin Farm

Ever since I was young, people have recognized my independent nature. I have always wanted to do things by myself without the help of others. In fact, I chose to walk to the bus stop with an older neighbor girl on my first day of school, leaving my heartbroken mother to watch from the window. This is simply part of who I am. It wasn’t until I had the chance to study abroad however, that I truly felt independent. I went to college in the same town where my family lived to make going to school affordable, so this was the first time I lived away from home. I was solely responsible for my studies, health, money, and more. What I ate, how often I did laundry, when I went to bed—they were all up to me, as were the consequences of my decisions.

While traveling through Europe, I was confronted by all kinds of situations that I had never experienced before. For example, I went to youth hostels across the continent and was repeatedly assigned to a room in which I was the only female. I recall being so uncomfortable the first time that I called my boyfriend back home to talk it over. It was just so unexpected for someone from my cultural background.

In Rome, I arrived at the train station without a lodging reservation. Previously I had not had problems going up to any of the hostels and getting a room, but that day was different. I wandered around the blocks surrounding the station, but found no vacancies. Then I noticed a small hotel and thought to myself, “This is what they make credit cards for. Stay here for one night and then find a more inexpensive option tomorrow.” The concierge standing guard must

Roman Convent

Roman Convent

have read my mind because he pointed down the street and told me to knock. I didn’t fully understand him, but hesitantly knocked on the door anyway. I was granted two nights lodging in a room of female Japanese tourists in a convent! That’s right, I stayed in a convent in Rome! How many people can say that?

After touring Munich one day, I opted for a cheap dinner at a recognizable fast food restaurant. As I sat with my sandwich and fries, a twenty-something man looked over at me and began to speak. My inability to speak German spread over my confused face. The man quickly switched to English, striking up a conversation which showed that we had something in common. We both knew Wisconsin! His girlfriend was studying in Madison and I had grown up not far from there. We talked for a bit and then he offered me a ride back to my hostel. It

German Fast Food Restaurant

was cold and dark and I was not sure of the way so I took him up on his offer. He even permitted me to call my boyfriend from the car phone in his Mercedes! A solitary dinner turned into a pleasant experience.

As I now look back on those seemingly minute moments, I see them for what they were—very naïve decisions made on the part of a young woman without the cultural cache that I know possess. I recognize the uninformed theories that I used to make those decisions and am eternally grateful that there were no serious consequences as a result. On the flipside of the coin, had I not had experiences like those, I may not have become the resourceful, culturally-informed woman that I am today. Those circumstances taught me to look for the good in people, to always have a Plan B, to assess the situation and choose the best course of action for me, and above all, I learned to rely on myself, trust my instincts, and become independent. It is these experiences that have shaped who I am today.


Please tell me how your study abroad experience has impacted your life by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you!

I have applied my study abroad knowledge to start Global Perceptions, a communication and relocation consulting business based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information on our services, visit or call 787.455.7764.

Get over your fear of English TODAY!


Are you a professional who fears speaking English? Does your fear keep you from climbing the corporate ladder? Does it keep you from getting to know the people who could help you advance? Does your lack of confidence keep you from speaking up in meetings? Do you avoid making presentations because of it?

Many others feel the same way.You are not alone! There are lots of people like you!

This week alone, I have spoken with two new clients who suffered from this same fear. One commented that she had given up an incredible job opportunity in the States because she did not think she could handle the English requirements. The other is a qualified professional who lost her job and needs better English to get a decent job for someone with her expertise.

Both of these women told me about how they understand English well, but get stuck when they have to speak. They freeze and the words escape them.

This is common! I hear it all the time! I repeat, you are not alone!

So how you do you get rid of this fear? Here are five steps to get you started:

1)  Quit saying that you don’t speak good English. You’re English is infinitely better than most Believe in your abilities!Americans’ (Spanish, Mandarin, etc.). Stop selling your abilities short! You have a wider vocabulary than you think. Don’t worry if your pronunciation is not perfect. You can still get by much better than most Americans in your country.

2)  Make use of opportunities to practice. No matter if it’s in person or online, talk with other English speakers every chance you get. Go to workshops or seminars in English. Visit coffee shops where English speakers gather. Start up a conversation with someone in line at the post office. Put yourself in positions where you will have opportunities to improve.

IMG_09823)  Take classes. Online programs have come a long way over the years, but I still argue that face-to-face interaction is the best way to learn a language. If you can pay for a private tutor, even better. That way your teacher can focus on you. Your pronunciation doubts can be corrected. Your insecurities can be addressed. And, you can gain the insight of a native speaker who knows the culture.

4)  Keep a positive attitude! Tell yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS! Yes, you really can! No matter your age, income, or social status, you can learn to speak another language if you think you can. Focus on the positive! The more you tell yourself that you can, the quicker your skills will develop.

5)  Just do it! Forget about grammar rules and split infinitives. Don’t worry about your pronunciation. Just do it! What are you waiting for? START TODAY!

Don’t wait any longer! Begin celebrating the break-throughs and small accomplishments that you make on a daily basis. They will build into something bigger and more powerful—an IMPROVED YOU because you made the decision to leave fear aside and move forward. YOU decided to learn English and did it!

GlobalPerceptionsLogo (2)

To learn more about our custom-designed classes to help you get over this fear, contact Global Perceptions TODAY! Don’t put this off any longer! We have helped many others and can help YOU achieve your goals too! Call 787.455.7764 or email for your FREE consultation!





Happy Independence Day

My Independence Journey 

Written by Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D., President of Global Perceptions Communication and Relocation Consulting


US cupcakeAs a young girl, I remember waiting for the fireworks to start on the evening of the Fourth of July in Minnesota. That was one of the few days we were allowed to stay up late because it wasn’t completely dark until nearly 10:00pm at that time of the year. Soaked in mosquito repellent, I remember running around with my siblings and eating fruit-flavored candies until the first burst of color appeared overhead. That moment was always so exciting as a kid!4th_july_balloons_1lg

In high school, I spent the Fourth of July with a family of refugees who had recently moved to the U.S. to escape Kosovo after their home had been demolished in the war. We couldn’t communicate with each other very well, but I still wanted to show them around. I took them to the local park where the annual Fourth of July celebrations were taking place. With rides, games, and cotton candy galore, they were overwhelmed. Eventually we found a place to sit on a hill and watch the colors explode above us in the fireworks display. They looked on in awe.

hilltop fireworksAs a young adult, I still enjoyed watching the fireworks in Wisconsin. Watching them in Madison, the capitol city, was always the best. The Rhythm and Booms performance was timed to music and was widely attended. People would begin staking out their space early in the morning and spend the day catching up with family and friends. Being there together felt like we are all giving the United States a big happy birthday hug.

Now I celebrate the Fourth of July in a different way. I celebrate my Boricua Birthday! What is a “Boricua Birthday?” It is the anniversary of the day I set off on my own Independence Journey.  I moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico exactly seven years ago today to write another chapter of my life. I left my home, my family, and everything familiar to travel a different path. That path has been full of bumps and curves, potholes, and blind turns, but I have found my way through all of it. Today I celebrate the independencechallenges that I have conquered and the people that have helped me get to this point. I celebrate my own Independence as well as that of my fellow Americans around the world.

Happy Independence Day to all who celebrate their independence and the struggles that have gotten them there! This is your day too!


Tell me about your Independence Journey by leaving your comments below!

For more information about Global Perceptions, or to plan your relocation to Puerto Rico, contact me at or 787-455-7764.



Wake-up Call

Written by Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D., President of Global Perceptions Communication and Relocation Consulting


 Wake-up Call

IMAG0142Cocka doodle doo! Cocka doodle doo!

It’s early morning and the sky is still black. The normally bustling neighborhood is silent at this hour. Then it hits again.

Cocka doodle doo! Cocka doodle doo!

“All right, already, I’m awake,” I shout.

Through sleep-mattered eyes I peer at the clock—4:30am. It’s much too early for me to be awake, especially in the middle of July when there are no classes in session. This is supposed to be the time when I make up for all of the quality sleep time that I missed last semester, but it appears that someone, or rather something, has a different opinion.

Cocka doodle doo! Cocka doodle doo!

“All right, that’s it! I’m coming after you, you stupid bird!”

Feeling my blood boil, I wrap a pillow around my head. I have had enough of that ridiculous rooster waking me up before the crack of dawn, and I’ve only been here for a week. “So this is how the farmers live,” I think. The problem is that I am far from anything that resembles a farm to me and even when I lived in the small farm towns of Wisconsin, I was never bothered by a
P1020488self important rooster. Now that I am in the middle of a major metropolitan area, I certainly did not think that a rooster waking me up would be one of my dilemmas. Traffic jams and long lines were things that I expected. A rooster was not. I began to wonder just how people lived here. I mean why is there a rooster in the neighbor’s yard in the middle of the city anyway? This simply made no reasonable sense to me.

The next few minutes were silent and I drifted back to sleep. Dreams of the peaceful countryside back home filled my head allowing me to calm down. Half an hour later though, the rooster was back to his antics. “This is too much. How am I ever going to manage to survive here if I can’t even get a good night’s sleep?” I wonder. Giving up on sleep for the moment, I turn on the television. The bird may have won today, but I vow to win the overall tug of war battle with that bird. Before long, he will have met his match.

Or so I thought…fast-forward seven years and now all of my neighbors have roosters. In that time, I have learned to sleep through their wake-up calls and largely ignore then during the day. They no longer annoy me like they once did. Now my biggest concern is keeping my dogs from killing the darn roosters. In the beginning this challenge seemed insurmountable. Now it is an everyday occurrence. I guess the rooster won after all.

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