Oh sweet expat life - the beauty and the beast
After 8 months in my new Expat Life I would like to take the opportunity to summarize the good, the bad and the ugly 🙂 As an Expat Wife I guess I have some insights for you.
If you are thinking about starting an Expat Career/Life there could be some good insights for you. However, if you are already abroad I hope my thoughts give you some company. Also, if you have any experience on this topic feel free to share some thoughts in the comments below or send me a message. Would be great to reflect more opinions.
THE DIFFERENT PHASES
As I have studied and worked abroad before I am very familiar with the 4 phases of emotions you go through: Elation, Resistance, Transformation & Integration. There are several different articles describing these phases. All of them vary a bit with the definition but the common understanding is that moving abroad and adjusting yourself is a process. First you feel excited, then overwhelmed, things might not go as planned and the new culture is much more different than expected. Finally, you are making yourself comfortable with the new surrounding and start to adjust to your environment.
There are tons of articles on that topic. I pinned some nice blogs I came across on my Pinterest Account. I have linked their posts so check it out to learn more.
Nonetheless, I have the feeling that each phase has its good and bad parts and it is not the goal to rush through all these phases very quickly to reach the final step called INTEGRATION. Rather you should take your time with each phase and experience it to the fullest.
Every stage has its good and its bad vibes. Even the last stage integration has its down parts as you are finally feeling home but most likely have to go to a different place soon to start all over again.
EXPAT LIFE – A FRIEND WITH TWO FACES
I call the Expat life a friend with two faces. A friend because this life is a welcomed new companion and I enjoy spending time with him. Maybe it will even become a long-lasting relationship.
I call it a friend with two faces as each day he offers me another angle.
I was well aware of what to expect and was looking forward to get familiar with this new life. The great side of being an Expat: You have so many new opportunities. Everything is upside down. Everything feels so new and ready to be explored by you. Right?
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THE FRIENDLY FACE OF BEING AN EXPAT WIFE
This friendly face of the Expat Life broadens your horizon. It lets you meet many new people. It changes your mindset, values and believes in a good way. It opens your eyes to so many new facets of life.
I often imagine myself traveling the world and taking back home (wherever that is) all the positive things. In that way I would be able to create my very own culture.
With the friendly face, you start your day with a ‘I can do’ attitude. You sign up to charities and networking sites. You go out and explore new neighborhoods. You upload pictures on Instagram showing how much you love your new city. And for sure, you really mean it. Cultural differences are interesting and exciting to you. Basically, you try to absorb every inch of this new lifestyle. You really like to figure out what life on the other side of the planet is like. Personally, I appreciate it so much that I don’t know what the future might bring. It excites me that I am here now without planning it and I wonder where I would end up next. I kind of enjoy this uncertainty as it makes my life and the opportunities seem endless.
THE GRUMPY FACE OF BEING AN EXPAT WIFE
The other side however leaves you behind with a big question mark. You check your emails and nobody replied to your applications. You want to volunteer but there are no free spots for weeks. You go out to the supermarket and adopting to the new culture you start with the learned small talk: Hey, how are you? Nice weather, right? Oh, I love the sweater you are wearing. But all you get back on that day is: Aha, its 5.99 dollars.
I know, this can be frustrating. I guess this is typical for the phase I am in right now after 8 months abroad. I started to adopt myself but not have understood the concept by the fullest. I guess, I am still making a fool of myself from time to time but that is alright.
WHEN THE GRUMPY FACE IS A PAIN IN THE A**
Bad days are normal and make you worship the good things even more. However, if you have just moved abroad and have not started a job yet you will be missing the routine of a daily life. This often so hated daily routine makes it easier for us to cope with bad days as it keeps our mind busy. And I guess we all agree that there isn’t anything worse than having a bad day with an empty schedule. When your brain has too much time to think you start to ask yourself frustrating questions and make yourself wonder why you are doing this.
I personally hate those days as it feels like someone pushed the slow mode button. I hate the thought that I am wasting my potential and nothing works out.
THE SECRET IS…
True, it takes a lot of energy to go out there presenting yourself to a new environment every day. You constantly offer your volunteer work, ask for a job, even ask for friendship and it is definitely not easy. It might be simple for a very talented sales person who likes to market themselves (somehow every American I met so far). However, for people like me it’s a wired feeling to make that approach all the time.
Therefore, I am making the most out of the good days. On these days I am more outgoing, taking more risk than normal. Really, I am doing everything: Approaching new people, contacting all the persons I met so far, setting up endless profiles on all the social platforms out there. Even writing applications to jobs I could only dream of. And so on. You don’t want to try this with the grumpy face of Expat Life in your back. It would just not work out.
iF YOU DON’T ASK - NOBODY WILL KNOW
The important thing is that you should not stay at home, quietly complaining why nothing works out. You have to let the world know that you are out there. It might sound silly but actually I found out that lots of Expat women forget or underestimated that.
You can have a perfect CV, a nice smile but as long as you don’t ask for it nobody will come to your place like Santa unfolding all the opportunities that are out there.
One of my mistake: I misunderstood the whole volunteering market. I thought it would be the easiest thing. I mean, come on, I am offering my time and skills for free and I am 100% motivated to support the good cause. However, it turned out more difficult than I thought. I ended up signing in for so many projects and hardly heard back. Either there were no spots open or the introduction for new volunteers is too far in the future. This is still strange for me. I have the feeling that there would be so many interesting projects out there but I just don’t know them.
My learning: The whole volunteering as well as the job market is more organized over a personal network than the world wide web.
SO AGAIN, THE ANSWER IS: PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE AND ESTABLISH A NETWORK.
Not so easy as it sounds but not impossible! I would be very interested to know how you are establishing a network in a foreign country. Let me know in the comments below. I will post an article about that as soon as I have succeeded in this task to share my wisdom.
In the meantime, check out my other posts about being an Expat Wife if you are interested. Have you seen my free download motivation chart? Also, there is a post about how to decide on your next step.
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