In a recent article collaboration with Thelma & Louise Club, one of the questions I was asked was whether anyone could be an expat. Of course my answer was yes, I think most people can do this. 8 years ago I would never have thought I could, I wasn’t adventurous, I was a true home bird, didn’t really like travelling but somehow I ended up on this journey and its been the making of me. So that got me thinking…….In order to be a “successful” expat what tools do you need in your arsenal?
There is of course no set rules for people on this path or indeed those considering a life abroad. I am certainly not the font of all knowledge, when it comes to all things expat, but I have definitely increased some aspects of my personality to survive and make the most of these adventures. On the flip side of that, there are also traits that I’ve had to try really hard to get rid off (being less neurotic and a control freak for starters) giving the new expat in me a massive adjustment, not forcibly changing myself but certainly becoming more self aware.
So just like a carpenter needs his tools to build something beautiful, I think you need some specific emotional tools to build a beautiful expat life.
Prior to this life, I was most definitely someone that cared what people thought of me. I would over analyse for days over peoples reactions towards me, desperate for their approval and acceptance. I learnt very quickly upon my arrival in Prague, that the locals an be very abrupt and at times quite cold towards foreigners, but this wasn’t a personal attack on me, this was just a fact. So I had to harden up, care less and go about my everyday knowing that some days someone maybe completely shit to me for no reason and to brush it off. Of course, anyone that lives abroad will know, there can be some crazily hard days. Days where nothing seems to go right or you are fighting against local bureaucracy and you just want to scream, pack and leave. It’s these days that can be the make or break. Be resilient, know that you can’t control it, it is what it is and just try to build that extra bit of hard skinned attitude, keeping a check on situation but not taking it personally……….easier said then done sometimes even for the most seasoned of us.
I know, I know, you are either a glass half full or half empty kinda person and that’s hard to shake. I don’t think I was either to be honest, flitting somewhere between the two dependant on the situation, but I made a conscious decision that I chose to be on this road, so I have to make the most of it. There have been many people I have come across, on my expat journey, that get so dragged down by the differences in their new country or focus only on the frustrations, that they ultimately don’t survive or enjoy it. Listen
I’m not some crazy skipping, singing, overly cheery annoyance,
there will be days that I get down, that’s only natural being away from home but I would like to think that I have a generally good outlook, because quite frankly I love this life and I’m going to make the most of every moment, good and bad.
I was so rubbish at being on my own. When I was in Jersey I would crave company and I was someone who would always be happier around people, simply because my over analytical tendencies would ultimately get the better of me and I’d end up in a negativity spiral with no one to drag me out. Moving to Prague, we knew no one. I worked from home and was by myself 8 hours a day, sometimes with no other human interaction until Hubby was home. Tough initially but do you know what, I was shocked how quickly I was able to adapt and not fall apart. Our desert arrival was even more extreme in terms of how alien everything felt, but within the first 2 weeks of being here, Hubby went away on business and I had a week alone in a new country. I knew no one or anything Kuwait. I TOTALLY survived, took myself off to coffee mornings meeting complete strangers, went shopping, sat in Starbucks and read a book BY MYSELF! I felt quite liberated and in a silly way a bit brave. It was so far out of my comfort zone but I was able to cope and now I love my alone time. Hubby has no issues knowing that I am filling my days independently of him and making my own way in this land of sand.
We can all get so bogged down in life and lose a sense of what is really going on. Keeping in touch with your emotions and perspective is so important, as you can very quickly spiral, especially when life abroad gets hard. I have been in situations, where we have hit a bump in the road and I convinced myself that was the end of journey. Being away from home when bad things happen, feeling guilty for not being there for the people you love. These things will happen regardless of where you are, it’s not down to your location. Hubby came home last year to find me in absolute floods of tears, fearing something dreadful had happened, he finally got it out of me that all that had happened was that our Christmas plans had changed ever so slightly! But for me at that moment of vulnerability and not being part of the process back home, I freaked and it was the end of the world. Perspective Jersey Girl!? That wouldn’t have happened if I was sat in Jersey physically having the discussion, but the distance and the emotions all got in the way and perspective went out the window!
In the words of Elsa, let it go, let it go!
I try really hard to just let go; let go of judgement, control, expectations and fear. Throw everything you’ve got at this life, don’t let anything hold you back. I think I had kept an emotional foot in my old life in Jersey, I wouldn’t have been able to settle so easily. You have to jump feet first, however scary, risk it all because isn’t that what life’s all about? Open your mind, embrace everything. It is so important when considering a move abroad, you don’t expect to just replicate your life in your home country or romantically hanker after it. Allow yourself to push those boundaries, challenge yourself, do new things and magic can happen. Even the things that drive you absolutely nuts about your expat home, believe me no matter where you are this will happen, just let it go! Because it’s both the good stuff and bad that feeds into your experience, so what if sometimes shit happens, it makes beautiful flowers grow faster.
Is there a perfect personality for this life? No
Is it perfect? No
But it’s perfectly balanced to not make life boring and its a whole lot of fun
(most of the time)