Expat Life - Accentuate The Positive

Published on 07/02/2011 in Expat Life

It is important in your first year to keep your mind on the positives in your new life. Your first year is always the hardest in terms of adjusting and making a go of your new life. Many people will quit before the end of their first year and head back to comfort of their old home. Those who are able to move through this first year and into their second and subsequent years are the ones really embracing their new life. Try some of these quick tips to keep you looking on the brighter side of life:

An expat in SpainInject something new. Look out for new places to visit and things to do. Don't spend your weekend moping around your house. If you were stuck in a rut in your old home nation, you are just as likely to do the same in your new one unless you make some determined choices to enjoy your challenges and the adventures of your new life. Make each new day an adventure and explore another part of your town or meet with some new people. Visit the local museums, art galleries, markets and local festivals. These are all a little more exciting in a new country. Remember to take your camera and get some great shots to share.

Be Inspired. Talk to others about what they do in their spare time. Try something you have never done before. Maybe you will finally find out what Ultimate Frisbee is all about, or take up the art of Tai Chi in the mornings.

Get Involved: It is a great time to join groups and sports teams. Your new life will be far more enjoyable if you make an effort to get involved with many different groups of people.

Embrace new traditions and treasure old ones: While embracing the culture and festivals of your new home, it is important to retain your own important cultures and festivals. At times, this may be difficult. While living in Japan we were surprised to work on Christmas Day, as this was not a holiday. Similarly in China we worked on Good Friday and Easter Monday for the first time ever. Many countries will not have public holidays on your usual holidays, so pick a day when you are not working and make an effort to have a great celebration anyway.

Improvise: If you cannot celebrate your festival the way you are used to, celebrate it in whatever way you can. Gather together with others and enjoy your festivities with a new cultural twist. If you cannot buy your usual food for these celebrations, again improvise. It really doesn't matter if you don't have Easter eggs for Easter, any chocolate will do. Turkey at Christmas or Thanks giving can be substituted with a chicken if need be.

Make new occasions: Other days may become more important to you in your new country. National holidays are a great opportunity to celebrate with other expats. We find days like ANZAC day become much more of a celebration with friends when living overseas. Make new celebrations. We have enjoyed learning about Diwali celebrations thanks to Indian friends we have met in China. It is a wonderful experience to be able to share all of these celebrations with each other. Enjoy your cultural festivals and those of your new home. Learning about the culture of your new home is an exciting part of living overseas. You get to try out new food, activities and you open a door to meeting new friends.

Be a good friend: Being open and inviting others to celebrate with you, be it major festivals or birthdays, will ensure you have a great group of friends around you. Friends are your single most vital asset while overseas. They will become your support group, so be sure to foster a good group of diverse friends. Try to expand your networks into groups of people beyond your work colleagues. You can do this by pursuing hobbies and sports. Invite people over to your house for coffee, beers, dinner, whatever. Start with people from your work, your landlord, your neighbors, your kid's friend's parents. Having people over is your best way to get to know people in a more relaxed environment. If you are not comfortable inviting to your house, due to space or lack of cooking skills, invite them out for a meal.

Connect with local residents: There tends to be a strange space some expats get into in regards to local people. Some expats will complain they don't know any local people and they are hard to get to know. Yet, many have never even invited their neighbors to join them for a meal. It can be difficult when there is a large gap between your average expat wage and lifestyle and your average local wage and lifestyle. This can be particularly noticeable in parts of Asia where poverty is a real issue. However, don't let this stop you from trying to make some connections with the citizens of your new home. Just open your door and just let people into your life.

Accentuating the positive of your new life is all about being open to new ideas, activities and people. So loosen up a little and enjoy what is right outside your front door.

Written by: F. Drummond

About the author:

F. Drummond is a writer, specialist in international relations, teacher and parent of two young global nomads. Currently living in China, she writes about international living, parenting and creating global homes which support our international lifestyles and the needs of our third-culture children.

Her website http://gaijinchic.com offers advice and ideas for internationally mobile families.

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