Many people really love the thought of taking the chance and living in a foreign country. It sounds so dreamy and romantic. But the reality for many expats is that very shortly after arrival in their new home, they find that there are often harsh realities to face about living abroad. Dreamy visions of spending the days picking tropical fruits, lazing on the beach, growing a lush garden and leisurely wandering through the market places can be replaced with realities such as no hot water, dirt roads, electricity shortages, no English or very little among many other factors. Ones’ hopes of getting online as soon as you arrive could be quickly dashed. How frustrating it is when you pop down to the local store for some needed necessities and you are met with a sign that reads, “Open Mon, Wed and Fri”. The fact is that daily life abroad can be quite tough initially. Stress can take its charge both physically and emotionally.
Yes, this may sound quite depressing, but don’t let it get you down. If you have your “toolbox” packed, the living abroad experience can be the best time of your life. In fact it could change your life as a whole for the better. The key to this outcome is finding a way to manage your day-to-day life. As an expatriate you need to find ways to free yourself of the difficulties you will inevitably encounter and thrive no matter what the conditions or perceived obstacles are.
The “toolbox” carries the following concepts which when applied will help to make your living abroad experience an adventure and not a disaster.
Adjust: Firstly we need to learn how to adjust. Adapt yourself to your new surroundings and the new way of life. Discover the culture for yourself. Accustom, reconcile and reorganize your life to fit in with your new surroundings.
Flexible: Always be flexible. Different countries perform functions and activities in different ways and at a different pace. Flexibility and understanding will save you a lot of stress and you will get along so much better.
Observe: Pay attention and observe! This is crucial to making it in a new land. Read up and become knowledgeable on your subject. Cultural books and tourist guides very often hold important information on a new culture, but I have to say that some of the best ways to learn are by observing firsthand. Watch how people greet one another. Make note of what is considered as appropriate behavior and what is not. This applies to language too. Keep your eyes open at all times.
Attitude: Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Find ways to do things. Have a positive and active attitude. I believe that attitude accounts for the success or failure of most things in life, including living abroad. Attitude will make the difference between a happy or disgruntled expat.
Experience: Find ways to get involved. Do not be an observer of your experience. Be the experience! Take full advantage of all the new and wonderful activities and opportunities to learn new things. Try the new foods, go exploring, sign up for Spanish classes or join the taekwondo club.
Support: Find people who are in a similar situation to you. Form a group and support each other. Once the honeymoon phase and excitement of moving to a new country passes and the realities of living abroad set in you will need people who you can count on to help you make this a truly memorable experience.
Quote of the week
“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” Arnold H. Glasgow.
Powerful action plan for the week
How would your life be different if you applied the concepts of the toolbox to your to your life everyday? Try it for one week and make note of the outcome.