Tips For Expats

Tips For Expats

Before we jump into this topic you must know that you WILL NEVER be able to prepare for everything that will happen to you when you expatriate.  It doesn’t matter how much you plan or pack, stuff is going to surprise you at every turn.  Fighting it defeats the whole purpose of boarding the plane in the first place.  I know before I moved overseas, both times, I was practically researching 24/7 about every minute detail I could to lessen the fear that kept creeping in my bones as the days grew nearer to departure.  Although it felt good to know that I was not the first person to take this risk, it did not make the thrill and anxiety go away when it was finally time to go.

Below are some tips that I want to give to you that I wish I would have really took in before I had my previous experiences.  I would not have had to learn the hard way!  Hopefully, you can learn to zig in situations where I formally zagged. 

Be Open

I’m going to safely assume that you are at least a semi– open person if you are reading this.  You are curious about living somewhere different then from where you were born, or you might be wondering why some people are drawn to this lifestyle.  This bit of advice to be open starts us off for a reason because I have found that becoming an expat is very sexy when we are married to our own idea of what that may look like.  When you take the plunge and are actually living that reality, a lot of the romanticism wares off and you quickly have to deal with the same mundane things you would in your home country, but in a new language!  Don’t get me wrong, there is a reason why people keep embarking on this lifestyle, its great, but its not a fairytale.  My tip to stay open boils down to being flexible with how events may unfold in front of or around you.  You are willingly leaving what is comfortable to you for something unfamiliar so you have to welcome the challenges that that may bring.  Staying open in the beginning is expected, but maintaining that spirit for the long term is where it takes extra conscious effort.  Take it from me, the moment I neglected that open-minded side of myself while I was an expat was when it all began to spiral down. If you do not keep up a positive, open attitude you will find that there will be several things to complain about- and often.   You can’t assume the world is on your time, or that the way you were taught to do things is the right way- it’s just A way.  Staying open throughout your expat life, and life in general, makes the ride more smooth and the bumps in the road humorous and not hurtful.  

Be Patient

God knows this is something I still struggle with.  You have to trust that all will unfold for you and happen exactly when it is supposed to and not a moment earlier.  It can be very frustrating because if you are like me you may be used to wanting something and pressing on until you get it.  Yes, that determined attitude can help you on your expat expeditions, but if you are not careful you may grow aggressive and not assertive.  Learn to let go and have faith that it will all come out in the wash.  Personally, I spent my expat life, so far, in different parts of Europe which is almost synonymous with bureaucracy.  One MUST learn patience if you want to survive in these countries dealing with the pace of certain endeavors.  In those moments where I almost lost my cool I realized how privileged I had been to have had things in my past accommodate me so effortlessly.  What a wake up call.  For those moments you find yourself panicking and riddled with fury due to external forces out of your control remember, it’s out of your control.  The best you can do is believe that it is that way for a reason.   A way that I practice patience on a day to day basis is to learn to laugh at myself.   I highly recommend this!  When you don’t take yourself too seriously, it’s hard to take everything else so seriously. Also, with anything that may annoy you in your new found habitat, look at it as a story.  Share it with others!  Trust me, it will make someone smile.  For example, when I lived in France I accidentally bought denture glue instead of toothpaste and found out too late.  Did this stop me from ever brushing my teeth again, or setting out to buy the right bottle of dental hygiene product?  No.  Did it piss me off at the time?  Yes.  Is it a great story?  Absolutely!  These are the gems that you add to your treasure chest of experience when you dive into a new life in abroad.  (P.S. My French is MUCH better now because of this incident- win/win!)

Be Proud

You are a rockstar.  Seriously.  You are considering packing up and doing something that most people only dream of.  That is huge!  Give yourself some credit.  Believe that you would not have the urge to take this chance if you were not fully equipt for the ride.  When I look back on the times I’ve had and the chances I have took, I mentally pat myself on the back.  It’s pretty great to know that I am not lying when I share some of my stories.  It makes me feel like I am getting the best bang for my buck when it comes to my life.  That is how you should feel!  Be proud of yourself that you have allowed your imagination to run wild and that you have not let the malevolence of the world stop you from pursuing your dreams!  The most exciting part is that you have no idea what this decision will lead to!  I can assure you that it will change your life.  That’s a given.  I can’t tell you how, but I know that it will.  Take a second and just reflect on how you are feeling in this very moment.  You might be counting down the days to your flight, or you might have just gotten home from grocery shopping at a market where things were labeled in a language you could barely read. Shake your own hand.  Realize that you are an inspiration to several people that you will never even meet.  You matter and this decision that you have made, or are thinking about making, will effect everyone you know. Trust me.  You are shaking up the status quo and that is what we all crave deep down.  Also, don’t be afraid to have pride for where you come from.  I am proud to say I am American BECAUSE  I have traveled so much.  This is a side effect of expat life.  You will identify with where you came from while finding identity in where you are now.  It’s priceless.  Be proud that you are inadvertently drawing out the inner child in people where their adolescence may have laid dormant for years, or even decades.

Be Practical

When I moved abroad I basically sold everything I had.  I did this to have money when I arrived in my new country, but old habits die hard.  It did not take long for me to start wasting my hard earned cash on stupid sh*t that didn’t matter.  Thank God I found Minimalism!  Anyway, the bit of IMPORTANT advice I can share with you is that you need to be practical and level headed when you become an expat.  Life is still life and no matter what you do, you won’t out run your responsibilities.  Trust me.  You can think that it is not that big of a deal or that you have it all under control, but if you are lying to yourself the truth WILL rise to the surface.  Think about the reason why you took this leap in the first place.  Do you want to be able to save some money?  Travel?  Live as an expat long term?  Well, you can’t piss away all of your paycheck every month if you expect to accomplish your goals.  It is really easy to feel like in order to fully integrate into your new place you need to wear what others wear and do what others do, but everything in moderation.  I know this isn’t really a fun aspect of expat life, but you will thank me in the future.  You will quickly realize as soon as you get off the plane and into your new place, there is no more safety net.  It is not as easy to ignore responsibility anymore because you are LITERALLY the only one there to deal with it.  Don’t let that fact scare you off!  Let it empower you to soldier forward into the unknown with a clear head and a full wallet!

Be Happy

Can we take a moment to realize what we have been talking about?  YOU ARE BECOMING AN EXPAT!  Do you know how cool that is?  I can’t say it enough- not a lot of people are brave enough to do what you did/ are about to do.  Be happy that you have been presented with the opportunity to get up and go.  You are being proactive and that is a chore for most people.  Despite all the seriousness that may come with your new life you have so much to smile about!  You are going to change forever.  That is exciting!  You will have stories upon stories that will be able to fill a library.  Allow yourself to get giddy about your future.  Let the smile from joy start to pain your mouth.  The universe knows something that you don’t yet that you will find out.  It’s as if there is a big gift waiting for you, but you have no clue how bad you wanted it until you receive it.  Don’t let others’ fear get in the way of your bravery.  Ignore all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas of the world because they are the ones that will follow you with both lust and envy simultaneously.   This is your time to let go and find out who God made you to be- so BE THAT.  Furthermore, be grateful for the times that you will have that aren’t so glamorous because those are the moments where growth occurs.  You have planted the seed and I hope that this blog will help you to water it!   I highly suggest you connect with other expats around the globe because once you do you will realize that there is a whole tribe waiting for you.  You will never feel alone no matter where you are.

If you are interested in some of the communities I belong to, send me an email- I’d LOVE to chat!

Bon Voyage!

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