The first few months of expatriation are particularly intense, whether it’s your first or your umpteenth stay abroad. You’ll have to find your feet, understand local codes, confront the language barrier, get the whole family settled in, create a new social network and many other details that every expatriate inevitably experiences. Of course, every context has its own challenges and particularities.
Recently, an expatriate who had just arrived in her host country asked me what tips I had for getting off to a good start on successive expatriations. That’s what inspired me to write this article, in which I describe my five personal tips, also based on my professional experience, offering also a few exercises.
#1 – Jump into your new host country with both feet!
If you go into your new life with one foot in your host country and the other in your home country, you’ll have a hard time finding your balance!
Your expatriation has forced you to move away from your loved ones, perhaps quit your job to follow your partner, or let go of those things you hold dear. Sacrifices that will only be justified if you manage to make the most of your time abroad.
Therefore, you might as well make the choice to commit yourself fully to the experience.
Don’t regret it! Enjoy without guilt!
Confucius said it so well: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart!”
#2 – Accept that it’s sometimes hard!
Expatriation isn’t always a breeze! In fact, it’s considered a major life transition. It’s not always wonderland! You’ll go through several stages, from the different phases of a life transition to the famous stages of culture shock.
It’s often an adventure full of promise, but one that also involves mourning what you’ve left behind! You’ll have to close a chapter to write another. Moving to a new country has its ups and downs. It takes a lot of time and energy! Be patient because it will take several months before you finally find your feet.
It’s essential that you give yourself time and accept your emotions, however contradictory they may be. Become your own best friend, be kind to yourself, recharge your batteries, accept that this is a transitional phase and speak to yourself with kindness and empathy… as you would to a friend.
#3 – Make your curiosity your best ally!
If you’re curious by nature, you’ve already got a head start. If it’s not your main strength, this is the perfect opportunity to develop it. Curiosity is a real ally in helping you not only to enjoy this new adventure, but also to better apprehend a new culture and its particularities.
Curiosity helps you learn… and learning helps you understand! Whether it’s learning a new language or customs, being surprised, getting to know yourself better, living differently, eating differently, doing differently, perhaps even being differently.
Curiosity allows us to discard preconceived ideas and stereotypes. Sometimes even to accept that you don’t understand everything… and to value differences instead! In this way, you’ll enrich yourself and be able to fully savor the benefits of your expatriation.
You can also activate your curiosity whenever you’re faced with a difficult situation. Simply ask yourself: What’s going on right now for me or for others around me? What are my choices? What do I want? What can I learn? What’s possible?
All these questions set you on the path of discovery, learning and solutions, rather than taking you down the path of blame, judgement, or self-criticism. Curiosity is the key to moving forward and finding solutions!
#4 – Become a detective in search of the positive!
It’s not a question of denying what’s wrong, but of counterbalancing your brain’s negative bias. Your brain is designed to notice what’s not working, so it’s up to you to intentionally pay attention to what’s working well.
Actively seek out the positive! Appreciate and savor every good moment in your day. It’s true that nothing is perfect anywhere. And yet there are advantages and opportunities everywhere!
So why not make a conscious decision to focus on the positive things this new host country has to offer? It’s good for you, and in turn for the people around you who are accompanying you on this adventure.
Do you find this difficult? Try a gratitude journal! Every evening, before you go to bed, take the time to write down three things you’re grateful for today: whether it’s your child’s morning kiss, your first stammering in the local language, an interesting exchange with a neighbor, the nice little store you found in your neighborhood… list the good things that happened to you, take the time to underline them and savor them! The icing on the cake is that this exercise is a proven happiness booster! It’s sure to boost your daily well-being!
#5 – Ask yourself the right questions!
Once you’ve settled in and the logistics are well underway, take the time to take stock and step back from your current experience. Take stock of what’s working well and what’s not; then look for solutions to improve what’s not working for you.
It’s also the ideal time to ask yourself the right questions, so you can set goals that give meaning to your expatriation. By setting clear objectives, you’re putting all the chances on your side for a successful expatriation. And the simple fact of moving towards your goals will bring you a great deal of well-being and fulfilment in your expatriation.
Every expatriate has his own little tricks! There are many other ways to make a success of your expatriation. What about you? What are your tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below.