As of December 31, 2019, we have been engaged in this Expat Life for 6 years. We are now in our 7th year of living overseas in a country that is not our own and becoming friends with people who are not from our own home country--- Expat Life.
So we have been in this life long enough to have some experiences and challenges we have overcome AND short enough to still remember what those beginning days felt like!
In this blog I would like to share some things with you. It may help you understand us and other expat friends you may have. It may help you prepare yourself if you are thinking of joining Expat Life in the near future. It may help you know that you are not alone if you are already in this Expat Life and need some encouragement.
- Preparation time is never wasted AND know you can't prepare for (or control) everything. Prepare like everything depends on your preparation. Move out in this change like you have your trust in something FAR greater than yourself. Stay open and flexible. Something will pop up that you never knew to have on your radar.
- Give yourself time and space for the change. Know that change takes more energy than you realize. Change touches places in you that you don't realize until you are in the middle of it.You will adjust, just give yourself time. A bad day, a bad week, a bad month...doesn't mean you can't do this. It's an opportunity to GROW!
- This isn't "Kansas" anymore. Stop comparing where you are to where you were. The culture, the language, the way of thinking and coping, etc...they will be different. Accept it. Now, you can do things to make your home (apartment, room, etc.) your little oasis of "home". Play your music. Have your nick-knacks from home. Cook and eat the food you enjoy. Make it comfortable.
- People are people. Yes, there are differences. And at the same time, at the core needs, we are all the same. We need basic things for survival. We need to be loved. We need to know we belong. We have desires, vision, dreams. We have families. In the middle of differences, there are so many things alike!
- Understand the purpose and vision of this change. Keep it fresh in your sight. Answer the "Why" to this change. That will hold you when the struggles come and you feel like giving up. Know the friends or friend you can turn to for help to remember also. There should be at least one person in your corner that can be your cheerleader and/or coach when you get knocked down.
- Don't cut the ties but loosen the strings some. Yes, there will be "good-byes" and "see you later" moments in this change. AND there needs to be those anchors set that keep some relationships close even over the miles. Today that is so much easier with all the technology. But you still need to be purposeful with this step. I have a friend that we talk about one time every week for support (both ways). And there are other family members and friends I am in contact with regularly. Yes, it takes time and coordination with the time zones. Sometimes you may feel like you are making all the concessions for these contacts to happen. BUT the benefit of this consistent connection far outweighs any efforts or perceived sacrifices. Isolation is a huge issue for expats!
- Be creative. Have courage. Be kind. Three simple thoughts and at the same time HUGE as you carry these out. I like a quote by Emerson, "Every wall is a door". Be creative to find the door when you see a wall. Have courage to open that door and find your way through the situation. Remember kindness as you deal with the differences and frustrations of this Expat Life.
- Know your tools and keep them available to grab. I have many tools for all parts of me (Spirit, Soul and Body). Tools that help adjust and protect my attitude are the biggest helpers! Keeping the right attitude helps you through so many circumstances. My tools? Here are a few: 1.) A VPN so I can have freedom and security to access websites I need and desire to have access to. 2.) Photos of family that I place in my home. 3.) Nick-Knacks that I have had in my USA home for years. 4.) Books, journals, cards with inspirational thoughts 5.) A favorite coffee mug. 6.) Favorite spices and foods that I can pack easily.
Hopefully these thoughts give you a little peek into Expat Life, at least for us. We always tell our USA friends how much we appreciate their support AND we do!!! We have friends that support us in many ways and believe in this vision we have. We couldn't do this without them! It was never intended for us to live this life alone! WE NEED EACH OTHER!