Imagine for a moment the following scenario:
You leave your loved ones snug at home. You’ve packed all your belongings, and kept only one suitcase of essentials to bring with you. You’ve now arrived in this great exotic location that is to be your new home for a couple of years. You are anxious to experience it all. Then you are shown to your new home. The kitchen is outside the house. The toilet is actually a hole on the other side of the yard. The weekly market you had been told about only stocks onions and tomatoes. The bus to reach the next big town only leaves when it’s full but there’s no telling how often that happens.
Your first day at the office arrives. Your exciting new job “saving the world” turns out to be quite different than what you had anticipated. The organization has an office with no computers, internet, telephones or even a bathroom. The boss, who is also the mayor of the village, resembles an absentee landlord. Although you were hired to do technical support, he’s asked you to take over the running of the organization. The staff is friendly and hardworking, but think you are there to spy on them by their international funders.
After all this, you finally managed to find a working call box and dialled home. Your cat died the day after you left and your sweetheart is crushed.
Err… what now? How would you manage all of this? What’s to be tackled first? What’s to be compartmentalized or put off to the side as not worth sweating about?
In other words, how does one positively and effectively cope with this?
Simple and complicated answer: resiliency. No matter the situation, how one faces it comes down to just that.
Here are the six aspects the resilient expat will employ in the course of their day-to-day life/work experiences (which, of course, the test-subject above would need to make good use of to stay sane!):
Sometimes we equate feeling healthy with only the physical aspects it represents. But true health is more than this. It is the ability to physically and emotionally respond to stimuli. For the expat, wellbeing is having fully charged up batteries that keeps them going no matter the circumstances.
Many people will say “I’ve heard it all before”. And the minute the door closes on learning for anyone operating in an intercultural environment, the moment they begin to lose sight of the opportunities their position creates for personal and professional development. Learning from mistakes, just as learning by making mistakes are great field tools for the expat!
The only constant is change. But how to deal with it when things are changing in an environment that is already a change from what is considered normal? Adapting to new environments and dealing with some inherent frustrations are the many joys the expat life.
While most would say that are tolerant and self-aware, the reality is that building trust and developing cultural understanding are the keystones of adapting to a new environment. Being inclusive of others isn’t enough, though. Expats must find meaningful ways to be included in return.
Dealing with never-ending unexpected events can tax even the most creative problem solver – especially when the resources are either non-existent or simply not available. Expats have to dig deep and use a plethora of skills, knowledge and abilities they sometimes didn’t know they had.
Expats rely on a complex array of support mechanisms that help them stay grounded while high flying around the globe. Staying connected to family and friends is essential, but so is networking with other expats and creating bonds that help focus their experience abroad.