Successful expatriation is about making the most of the present. Life as an expat is not that glamorous, high flyer as one seems to think.
There is a perceived lack of support as you are not with your familiar circle of friends. Conversations on Skype or What’s App can’t replace the physical absence of your loved ones. Reconstructing your support system is important. Make it a point to pursue a few activities that bring you joy –gym, swimming, photography, hiking, group meditation, etc. Not having enough time or blaming it on the weather is not a good excuse. This is about making a commitment to your personal wellbeing.
Being part of a new team and a new work environment can make you feel lonely. Loneliness is a construct of the mind. It is important that you look after yourself by being aware of your emotions, doubts and fears. In these moments, you will ask yourself whether you have made the right decision or not. Recall your WHY and review it to ensure that you are in the right place and at the right time. Address your doubts by listing all the pros and cons of this new phase in your career. It is ok to admit that this may not be the right choice rather than hiding the truth from you. Be patient with yourself as you learn to navigate between confusion and clarity.
Create a lifestyle that helps to ease off the loneliness. Find out about the great places that you can visit, the great foods that you can try, the list of activities that this new home offer. As you plan your weekends in doing stuff that you have never done before, you will inevitably meet new people outside your work place and widen your social circle. The “novelty effect” of your new home will wear off after the first six months and by then, you will find yourself having a new routine. This new lifestyle of yours would not have been possible if you have chosen to stay in your home country.
Be curious and find out more about the local traditions and history of the place. Learning about the local culture actually is making a step out of your social comfort zone. Getting to know the natives is enriching. Learning about their traditions, way of living can bring you to a new understanding of the mysteries of life. Most people are ready to step out of their comfort zone for their career but not so many will do so when it comes to social relationships. I personally think that this is the biggest golden nugget of being an expat. You may end up building life long friendships with some of them.
Building relationships can be quite challenging in your new home. There is the possibility that being the friend of an expat is seen as being quite advantageous. Learning to put strong boundaries whilst remaining friendly and diplomatic is a great skill to acquire. It is easier to be with people of similar cultural background or with other expats, However that defeats the purpose of living abroad.
Interaction with the locals helps you to understand the local environment and shows a personal commitment to be socially part of your new home. Meeting people out of their workplace actually helps to build stronger relationships and mutual respect. Most expats struggle with understanding the intricacies of living a “normal” life in their new home country. Their jobs provide them with perks that are not usually accessible to the normal man in the street. They are not in touch with the local realities. Having to deal with the day to day demands such as going to the local market, fixing a leak in the tap at home becomes a challenge as they are not comfortable in dealing with the locals. This is an additional unnecessary pressure that can be easily addressed by gradually getting to know the local customs and being part of the local scenery.
Building your resilience is about getting used to being in uncomfortable situations. An expat’s life is the best ground for learning to be resilient. There will be unexpected challenges as your perception of reality is influenced by your cultural norms and values. Learning to take things as they come and go is very useful. Being able to let go of your expectations and keeping an open mind is half of the battle won. A successful expatriation is not about meeting your professional targets only. It is about making the most of your time in this new home of yours. There will be undoubtedly some golden nuggets to take away once it is time for you to leave.