10 lessons expat life will teach you

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Published 2 months ago

Moving overseas will initially fill you up with excitement about the adventures to come, and gradually may bring up worries about practical matters. Regardless of how easy or tough the reality is during your time abroad, expatriation will be for sure a growth experience, from which you will learn a tone of things about yourself and your interaction with the world.

Be curious

Travelling and moving from one country to another, whether it is for work, family, leisure, or other reasons cultivates an inner desire to learn more about the world. Curiosity can relate to something small, such as tasting new cuisines or reading about the traditions of a population, and it can extend to other things such as learning a new language, interacting with different communities, and being less judgemental towards different lifestyles, beliefs, and values.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Living abroad, even when you take into consideration all the benefits of your work contract, isn’t a straightforward undertaking. In your host country, you may find yourself in positions that you wouldn’t have had to be in back home. For example, imagine you are in a hospital’s emergency room but cannot speak the local language, or every day your children come back from school, they tell you how much they miss their friends back home and dislike their host country. Such difficulties put things into perspective, and help you control your stress and anxiety when small changes happen in your life. Also, you manage to start seeing problems as life lessons rather than barriers which are stopping you from achieving your goals.

Replace things

Moving abroad often means that you must bid farewell with some of your most beloved people; it also means that you are saying goodbye to your favourite places, daily routine, and many items (especially if you are not hiring a container to ship your things). But soon, expat life will teach you that the people and experiences are the real gems in life; the things you can buy are all replaceable, and you shouldn’t shed any tears for them.

Be independent

In your home country, you probably have an established support network of family and friends who are there to help and listen to you when hard times strike. The truth is that no matter how far away you are from these people, they will always be there for you one way or another. However, practically, living abroad will develop your self-reliance, especially during the first months of your stay when you haven’t yet connected with the local community or other expats. Be proud and celebrate achievements such as preparing a nice meal for yourself, going on a solo excursion, or navigating the city.  

Make friends

Maybe you thought that making new friends after a certain age is impossible. However, expat life will most likely break this belief of yours. Finding yourself in a new country generates the need to socialise with other people who share the same experience and feelings with you, as well as the need to connect with the local community and become part of it. Thus, you become more open to meeting new people and keen on accepting networking invites. Of course, new friends won’t replace long-standing friendships. However, they will play a significant role in your expat life.

Appreciate home

There’s no such thing as the perfect place, and even your home country may often feel limiting or uneventful. However, after a few months overseas, you start to reminisce about the things that make your country unique, and you see the downsides being transformed into charms. The hectic commute is now remembered as an adventure; your family home has become your refuge, and you find the nosiness of the population cute and caring.

Ask for help

Back home, you were probably getting help before you even asked for it because the people around you knew you and your needs well. Whereas at times life abroad can feel lonely, as an expat you strive to escape this pattern in order to lead a healthy and merry life. One way of doing this is to allow yourself to ask for help when needed. Whether you turn to your colleague for a lift home because your car broke down, or to a fellow expat for some advice regarding your accommodation, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help and making your life easier — it will also help you build stronger relationships with people.

Take risks

Leaving everything familiar back and taking the decision to move overseas involves a lot of risk-taking. Expatriation may end up being the most rewarding experience in your life, but you will never know until you try it and go through the difficulties it entails. Once in your host country, you will have to take more risks including making decisions about the area you will live in, the type of accommodation, your children’s school, your banking, and medical care. However, with time you become accustomed to change, and you identify and learn from your mistakes.  

Work hard

In your host country, you almost start from scratch. You have to prove your skills and value to your employer in a short period, so they feel comfortable with their decision to invest in an expat employee. Also, you have to meet certain expectations and gain the trust of your colleagues and the other stakeholders. Adapting to new work ethics and finding your way around new practices requires serious effort, hard work, and time.

Find the balance

At the end of the day, you are in a new place, which invites you to discover both its qualities and flaws. You don’t have to focus merely on one aspect of expat life (e.g. career, family, studies, etc.) but you can look for the balance between your goals and ways to make the most of this opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and rediscover yourself.