While much has been said about overcoming hurdles, I'd like to shift focus to the brighter side of the expat journey - those moments that add colour, depth and joy to our lives.
This blog delves into these positive moments, weaving personal and client stories to inspire you, at a time when you’re likely returning from a summer or winter break, depending on which hemisphere this finds you 😊 When we return to our normal lives, it's easy to skim over the positive experiences, to underestimate their value in the face of challenges. This post aims to spark awareness, to encourage you to embrace these moments and perhaps, even seek them out.
The Magic of Novelty
We are hardwired for novelty. Imagine this: I've just landed in Belgium, a wide-eyed 22-year-old, and there's a beer on my table that could probably double as a barbell. Seriously, I think it was the biggest beer I'd ever seen. The pub is like a time machine, centuries old, and the language around me is a symphony of unfamiliar sounds. Oh, and ordering food? Well, my index finger was my translator that day! Sitting back and looking out at the old town I felt my world expand. That scene, as simple as it was, ignited a craving for novel travel experiences.
Do you remember your initial spark that set your journey in motion?
My clients often recount their early stories, their faces lighting up with each retelling. It's these tales that reminds them of their adventurous spirit, and brings forward memories of more recent experiences. What's your story of novelty and adventure? Hold onto it; it's a key to unlocking more enriching experiences.
Connecting Through Your Unique Expat Story
The beauty of being an expat lies in your unique story. Your name, your accent - they're doorways to curiosity. People often ask me where am I from and why am I here. I talk of moving from Australia to Germany for love and for the European adventure! How challenging it was initially (particularly the direct feedback culture), and equally how much I am learning and enjoying the German way of life - I can rattle off the many benefits of life here; the social system, living near the mountains and easy access to the rest of Europe. People want to know your journey, and this curiosity can forge connections.
Conversations kindled by curiosity have a different spark; they tend to deepen connections. This is a common occurrence, more so in expat communities. The joy of sharing your story is matched by the joy of listening to others'. It's a two-way bridge to forming meaningful bonds.
If you haven't crafted your expat story, now's the time. What compelled your move? What hurdles did you face, and what triumphs did you celebrate? Make it fun, engaging and authentic. I remember working with a client to help them shape their story about finding personal independence and resilience that she hadn't experienced before. Crafting your narrative not only helps you connect with others but also fosters a deeper connection with yourself.
One client's story resonates deeply. Moving to Colombia with rudimentary Spanish, he recalls with pride, the first time he was able to spend the entire evening with locals, speaking only Spanish. I like this example, because such a positive experience can happen in a small timeframe (in this case 3 months) and act as a step to other milestones. This same client later moved to Europe and found learning another foreign language relatively easy.
I adopted another tip from this client - to seek out small conversations with locals and other expats, even if the other defaults to English, I stay in the new tongue, and there's often a sense of satisfaction that grows with time. Breaking down positive moments like this can help build enjoyment and momentum.
A Transformed Identity: The Global Citizen
Many expats describe a transformation that unfolds – with time – towards an expanded identity as a global citizen.
Such a transformation isn't isolated; it's a gradual build-up of newfound friendships, diverse conversations, and new perspectives. Considering this for myself and my clients has brought depth to our expat journeys.
With an expanded worldview, the barriers that once defined your comfort zone drop away, replaced by a deeper understanding. From debating economic and political systems to accepting cultural nuances and differences, this shift in perspective signifies growth. Living abroad, even momentarily, injects curiosity and insight into your very being, transforming you in ways you couldn't have imagined.
Have you felt this identity shift as an expat? Do you feel more connected to the world or is it a work in progress?
A Family Affair
For those with families, remember, the perks extend to them. Children raised as global citizens have an open-mindedness that's a gift in itself.
And of course, there will be countless positive experiences. In my next blog post, I'll delve into the complexities and rewards of expat family life.
Before leaving the brighter side, it's worth pondering a paradox: often, it's the toughest experiences that transform into the most cherished ones. Research confirms that the most precious experiences are the ones that demand the most from us. So, if you find yourself on the challenging end of the spectrum, remember the saying, "when you're going through hell, keep going!" And keep in mind, the path to abundance takes practice and time. Positive experiences are like stepping stones, each seemingly insignificant on its own but collectively constructing a meaningful journey.
So, as you navigate your expat journey, embrace the positive experiences. They're the fabric that weaves magic throughout the expat adventure.