When you first become an expatriate, you’re sure to experience a roller coaster of emotions.
On the one hand, there is a part of you that is excited about all the changes. Everything is different from what you have grown accustomed to in your country of origin — the environment and the weather, the language, the food, the customs and traditions, the fashion and style, the kind of daily routine you build.
On the other hand, you have a primal urge to cling to all that is familiar and comforting — and when you realize that this is no longer accessible, your levels of stress and anxiety will rise. Embracing your new way of life becomes a challenge.
A Crucial Mistake to Avoid
In this situation, it can be easier to curl up in a ball, constantly compare your life abroad to the life you had before, and torture yourself with the idea that you could never be as happy, content, comfortable, or confident here as you were in your previous home.
Succumbing to this temptation, however, will only cause you to miss out on all the opportunities for building a happy and meaningful life. Rather than remaining fixated on the life that you left behind, why not look forward — and discover how those very changes you dread can ultimately make you a well-adjusted individual?
Perhaps the only thing you must accomplish is learning how to ask. Instead of keeping to yourself and struggling to find your way around a new place on your own, take the first (and biggest) step towards a bright future by asking other people for help.
It’s one of the simplest forms of communication there is — trying politely to draw someone’s attention, asking for the time or the nearest bus stop or the word for ‘market’ in the local language. You initiate contact. It doesn’t even have to be a full conversation: when you reach out to other people — strangers as they may be — you open yourself up to further communication and more complex interactions.
From there, you can learn any number of new things that can help you thrive in your new environment.
What You Will Learn by Asking for Help
There are different ways of getting things done.
Forget about your tried-and-true methods for getting chores done, running errands, or even doing your job. They may no longer apply here, so you need to relearn the whole thing in this new environment.
You’ll soon discover that while you stubbornly clung to the old ways, there are much more effective methods that could have solved your problems easily. So you become more flexible, understanding that there’s can always another technique to try.
There’s no use trying to recreate something that would simply fail to fit in where you are now. Your favorite dish, for example, won’t taste exactly the same since some of the crucial ingredients are missing.
Your new acquaintances or friends will tell you about a similar recipe they can teach you, or an entirely unfamiliar one that makes use of the best local ingredients you have yet to sample. In the end, you can choose to welcome a new experience or blend it with what you know, thus creating another path to explore.
There are many different circumstances to thrive in.
Once you accept that asking for help allows you to accomplish new things, you will find out just how capable you are of thriving in unfamiliar circumstances. You will realize it’s possible to change your habits and accommodate new perspectives that ultimately enable you to succeed.
There are countless stories to be heard.
A major factor that causes expatriates to become hesitant about connecting with new people is the language barrier. They fear that their lack of fluency in the new language will cause them to fail at any activity they might attempt, or to be ridiculed, or to remain hopelessly misunderstood.
However, language is something best learned on your feet, so to speak — you pick it up as you go along. It may take you several tries to make yourself understood, but you will always have plenty of chances to practice. Plenty of native speakers will be willing to help you find the right word or to explain something to you. And as you become better at speaking the language, you can immerse yourself in everyone else’s stories — they will enrich your mind and spirit.
Asking for help and reaching out to others in a strange environment gives you a chance to test your mettle. Your instinct may be to stick to your own tribe, but imagine how much bigger your tribe will be if you embrace the culture of your new home. You may be an expatriate, but you can make a home in any corner of the world — all it takes to start is a slight nod, a smile, or a somewhat embarrassed, haltingly worded question about where to buy a good cup of coffee around here.
Bevan Berning is an immigration professional and the owner of Pathway Visas, an immigration agency dealing mostly with skilled immigration to Canada and Australia. He is South African by birth and has been residing in Dubai for the past eight years. You can connect with Bevan and Pathway Visas on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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