Adjusting To Life As An Expat Can Be Extremely Challenging

By: Donald Saunders

Sitting at home and picturing yourself with a new life in a new country it is very easy to paint a very rosy picture, but how does this compare to the reality once you've made the move? Well, the answer of course is a little like asking how long a piece of string is.

The biggest problem is that there are so many variables in the equation and so many factors which are simply unknown. It's easy, for example, to say that you're not worried about the fact that you don't speak the language, believing that in the short term you'll probably be able to get by in your mother tongue and that in the long term you'll be able to pick up enough of the language. But just how good are you at learning languages and how easy is it to pick up the language of your chosen country?

By the same token you may well be looking forward to all that exotic food, but just how will a long term change in your diet agree with you and your health? All that wonderful high quality restaurant food that you've been used to on holiday trips may be quite different to the meals that you find yourself eating when you're shopping and cooking for yourself in your new home.

But these problems are minor when compared to adjusting mentally to living in what is very often not only a different country, but a very different society and culture.

Many of those things which you have found curious or fascinating during short holiday visits may prove quite difficult to adjust to when they become a part of your everyday life.

If you look carefully at many countries with a substantial expatriate community you will often find that the community has developed a substantial support network, often including an expat club which holds regular meetings, organizes outings and events, publishes its own newspaper and much more. Indeed, you will often find than many expat lives revolve around the expat club and its activities, which might lead you to ask why these people have moved to a new country.

The truth in many cases is that, once the novelty wears off, many expats regret their decision but have cut off their retreat so that they now have no choice but to stay put and make the best of their situation.

Now, before you find yourself thinking that this chap clearly falls into the 'not so happy' expats group, nothing could be further from the truth. For many expats the decision to move is indeed the best decision they have ever made and, while there will inevitably be problems in adjusting, these problems are more than outweighed by the benefits. But how can you know which group you are going to end up in?

Well, the simple answer is that you can never be sure, but there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of becoming one of the 'happy' expats.

The first, and most important, is to test the water by living in your chosen country for a reasonable period of time before you cut your ties with home and the important word here is 'living'.

Ideally you should spend at least a year in the country and, right from the word go, throw off any thoughts of being on holiday and make a conscious effort to live as you would wish to live in the long term. Steer clear of traditional tourist areas and activities and integrate yourself into the local community, shopping and eating like a local and taking time to learn about their history, culture and lifestyle, as well as starting to learn the language.

By divorcing yourself from the expat community and immersing yourself in the local community right from the word go you'll soon discover whether or not your chosen country is for you.

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