How to be a resilient expat

  • resilient expat
Published on 2021-03-29 at 11:00 by JerryANelson
Living abroad offers enriching experiences of growth, broadened perspective, enhanced cultural understanding. Yet its transition-rich, change-driven, cross-cultural nature can place considerable demands, leaving us stressed, disconnected, our identity in flux. 

Building on existing literature and benefiting from recent developments in psychology and brain-body connections, The Emotionally Resilient Expat shows the key to successful transitions and beyond lies in emotional resilience to adapt, adjust or simply accept.

Some tips include:

  • Reframing interpretations
  • Identify what you can control
  • Embracing challenge and failure

Reframe your interpretations

How you build on beliefs you have established about yourself and your circumstances has a lot to do with framing. Even the beliefs you have about other people is a part of that framing. The frames you have built help determine how you see the world and your place in it. They can even determine how you interpret your life.

Frames can be positive or negative. They can be within your control or beyond your control. Because of this, they are either helpful or not. Your frames expand or limit your life possibilities.

Reframing helps you put events and circumstances into a different context that is more favourable. It's as if you're changing the meaning of an event or experience in order to put yourself into a more positive and resourceful state-of-mind. 

Identify what you can control

Regardless of how out-of-control you might feel at times, there are some things in life that you can control.

Mindset. Be positive.

Work ethic. 

The way you treat others. Remember the Golden Rule?

Wellness. Eat healthy foods. Exercise.

Seek Support

Embrace challenge and failure

By embracing challenges and failure, you are accepting yourself and your situation as a part of life. It is an opportunity for growth, but it is not a measure of your future or self-worth. While some things are out of your control, failure and success often go hand-in-hand — with success usually coming as a result of past failures.

What are some examples of resilience at work?

Having an attitude to stay, not feeling disgusted and therefore not running away from a difficult assignment/posting can crudely be considered as ‘resilience at work'. 

A friend, Joe, can offer a personal example. Joe has worked in the Development field, Research, Training, planning and other managerial assignments. He was posted in maintenance and operations departments during his last job but, having no experience. It was a very disheartening position.

Joe's boss spent many years in that department and was considered an expert. Unfortunately, the boss in New York was biased negatively against Joe because of some reasons which Joe doesn't remember.

Joe knew he was in for a hard time, and that is exactly what happened. With putting in extra time and hard work, Joe countered the pressure he felt. Joe's boss still wanted him gone from the department, but Joe didn't want to leave under those circumstances. 

Joe's bosses' boss was planning a trip to Joe's facility, so Joe scheduled some time to talk with him about the situation.

Joe explained to his bosses' boss about all this. Everyone was happy with his working style except for his immediate boss. Then Joe got himself transferred to another facility where he faced tremendous pressure. Yet, he stayed and completed his annual obligation. 

That is how we can show what resilience can do for us at the workplace. Joe spent a tough time, but it was worth that. He enjoyed the challenges there and was satisfied at the end with what he had contributed.

The takeaway

I often observed that people who had lived overseas for long periods of time migrate towards each other. I knew it had to be because they had similar cross-cultural experiences... and it didn't much matter where in the world they came from. To those who have only been exposed to a single culture, it may seem rude... but the frame of reference and world view are so much broader among expat's that it's difficult to embrace a singular-culture mindset.

HARDSHIP has an incomparable VALUE. Hardship deeply propels us to grow into better human beings. <stop reading and cue the Hallmark music>

When going through tough times, we become better human beings because we are more able to sense what other people are going through. Hardship offers us this beautiful human awareness wrapped in pain and suffering. 

This is a gift for us and others in need of compassion. The nature of challenging times and misfortunes is not as relevant as the way we react to these unfortunate events. What matters the most is how we recover from these sad situations.