|No matter how idyllic expat life looks, there are lessons to be learnt|
It is impossible to be an expat for thirteen and a half years and not learn something. I have watched expats around me, and learnt from them. I have learnt some things the hard way, but looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every experience has helped mould me and the expat life I lead today. I have reached a point of happiness, contentment and satisfaction with the life I have carved out overseas with my husband and three sons. But there is no denying there have been bumps in the road leading to the present day. There have been tough, tough days. But each bump is a lesson learnt. Here are ten bumps…..
1. Habits can be broken. When you move to a new country the things you are used to doing, and the way you do them, may no longer be acceptable, possible or feasible. It means changing what you do and how you do it.
2. Necessities can become unnecessary. All those foodstuffs you thought you could never live without? Turns out you can – with a little weaning and cold turkey. That particular shop you loved? When it’s gone the world doesn’t stop turning. You may miss things for a while, but eventually you move on. You learn to live without.
3. Every negative feeling has an end. Expats go through culture shock, even experienced expats who have done it all before in different countries. It’s a lot easier going through a hard, negative period when you know those feelings will come to an end. It is part of the expat package.
4. Your way is not always the right way. The people in your host country may do things a little differently. They may turn everything you know on your head. And sometimes you find a better way of doing things.
5. For everything there is an alternative or a substitute. Can’t get something you deem essential? Ask around and the natives or seasoned expats will have a secret ingredient as a replacement for you.
6. Adapt or wither. You cannot move to a new country and expect life to carry on as it was. And truth be told, if that is what you want why move in the first place? If you don’t change your mindset, embrace change and adapt to your environment you will lose a little piece of yourself every day until you realise you have withered away to a shadow of your former self. Tough lesson, but true.
7. Go local. Learn the local language. Being able to confidently communicate with the local people helps you adapt, feel at home and find your way around your new environment. It makes everything a little less daunting and the idea of leaving the house a little less scary. Learn about the history and culture of the new land you call home, even if it is a temporary home. If you know why things are the way they are it helps you accept the things that may be wildly different from life as you knew it. Learn about the politics of your new home.
8. Explore. There is a whole new world around you. Seeing new sights is uplifting.
9. Make friends with the locals, they are your best tour guide, information source and linguist aides. Make friends with other expats, they are the voice of experience and they know what you are going through.
10. Expat life is not a holiday. Normal life continues at home or away with all its ups and downs. Moving overseas does not mean there is no more drama in your life, or that you can escape what happens back ‘home’. Sometimes it can actually make problems worse as solving issues back in your home country is harder. Expat life is not an escape from life.