This seemed to be a good time to highlight expat living…living in a nation that is not your own (not your home or birth nation).
For me, Vietnam is my heart nation, but at the same time, it is not my home nation.
As one expat friend said, once you go to another nation, your worldview (how you view the world and yourself in that world) changes. So, yes, living overseas for the past 7½ years has definitely changed me. When I come back to the States for a visit, it always takes me a bit to readjust. And I have realized that sometimes you just have to learn to live life feeling a little bit like a “fish out of water”.
What I want to highlight in this blog is the coming and the going…and especially the going…of expats. Expats usually tend to live in a nation for short term stints (under a year to 2 years) or long term stints (10 to 20 years or more). You live with the reality that there will come a time that an expat friend will leave. Also, because the expat life tends to be back and forth between here and there (the current nation of residence and the home nation) there can be a lot of extended travel with different life situations. As an expat, you do have to learn to live with some uncertainty. You have to learn to live loosely…having roots but also knowing how to uproot, at times uprooting often. In my experience, the most odd and difficult feeling to cope with is the sense of grief as you see friends leaving. At these times, a season is closing for them and a new season is opening, but in a new place. So the friendship is something that is in flux. You may have enjoyed weekly gatherings of fellowship together over the past 1, 2, or more years, and then it changes. They move on…not just to another town, but to another nation. I wouldn’t say this is bad, I would just say it is different. It requires adjustments in your own self.
I have also learned in this age of technology “connection” can be defined and accomplished in ways that those in the past never imagined. We just came through a period where Zoom and such apps have opened a whole new world of connection to use across the globe! We do have to be intentional to learn it and to use it. We do have to see a different way…re-adjust our worldview yet again. But the opportunities on the other side of that adjustment can be phenomenal.
One last bit of learning for me…I don’t say “good-bye”, I say “see you later” or “see you again”. I do believe in an eternal connection that I share with my friends. They may not be in my current location and my present weekly activities, but at the same time I do believe they are in my future. We have been connected for eternity. And at times our thoughts will turn to each other. We might think for no apparent reason…but these are good times to remember them with love and shower them with prayers and blessings.
Cheers to expat life! And learning to thrive in change.
When you are greeted with “Welcome” are some of these the responses you find rising up in you? The feeling of being accepted, embraced, received with gladness or delight?
Living in a nation that is not your own accentuates the inner need for feeling this “Welcome.” You are away from family and things that are familiar. Rejection, or just feeling on the outside of things, can be so easy to experience. You are an “outsider” to the culture and customs. You are the “outsider” to the language (even if you know it well, it’s not your mother tongue). You are the “outsider” to the history. You can’t depend on your “natural” responses to be the correct responses because this nation is not your norm. Their culture is not your norm. In this situation, there is a need to learn to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable.
So when there is this sense of WELCOME, that can be HUGE in the life of an expat.
Why are you welcome? I have found it is not so much because there is absolute agreement on things or that you do everything right within the cultural context. No, the WELCOME comes as a gesture of kindness. It comes with compassion. It comes in spite of the differences and challenges. It comes because we are human, and each life is valued and honored. It comes because we each need community. We need love and acceptance.
And then, when this WELCOME has been given to us. We need to stop and be aware of the valuable gift that has been given to us. We have been gladly received into someone’s presence, home, or group. We have not only been permitted and admitted, we have been willingly embraced by another. Cherish the gift that has been given to you…then give it forward to another.
Well, you may think this is a strange question considering the caution and mandates that have rolled out over the last year about social distancing, etc. But I think this is a worthy question for us to ask ourselves, even at such a time as this.
What is so significant about hugs? As one who grew up giving and accepting hugs easily between friends and family, it is a very natural thing to want a hug AND to give a hug. I’ve had to curtail some of my automatic custom of hugging others because in Asian culture, hugs are not automatic. This is one of the areas that I respect, but, at the same time, I’ve also attempted to bring this influence into their culture. HUGS!!!!
There is another side to the significance of hugs. Science has done some research and found some interesting information about hugs. Specifically, this research was about human touch, and hugs are one of those significant ways of touching one another. So, as we come to this year (or longer) marker of global social distancing mandates, I believe it is time to remember HUGS!! Touching one another. Being close to one another.
*Here is what the research says…
**A well-known family therapist, Virginia Satir, gave some guidance on “How many hugs do we need?” Here is her guidance:
**One interesting statement that I read along this subject line was, “Most western people today are touch-deprived.” Why is this so?? The author goes on to explain that in the western culture we have developed solitary lives. Also, we live life at such a fast and busy pace that we have reduced our socialization, thus our touching of others or being touched by others has decreased.
So, what do we do with this information?
HUG!!! Don’t be afraid of personal touch. Don’t let the social distancing we have had to endure cause us to avoid touching one another. We can even use safe guidelines (washing hands, covering our mouths to sneeze, etc.) and still be touchable people.
*So here are some practical ways to get TOUCH into your life…
Sources for this Blog:
Cindy writes about her adventures, observations, and other nuggets from living in another nation. She and John live in SE Asia. She will also share nuggets from her 58 plus years of life.