4 Skills Every Expatriate Should Learn
Many people dream of living in a foreign country. This yearning may stem from a general curiosity about the world or from reading about the romantic and exciting lives of expatriates. A third possibility may be that a job opportunity becomes available overseas.
Wherever your passion for living abroad comes from, there are a few personal qualities and skills that will make your life much easier. Fortunately, you most likely already possess the traits and interests required for a fulfilling expatriate life; but if you don’t, it’s never too late to cultivate them. Here are four recommendations for how to thrive in a new country.
Have a Sense of Adventure
Life in your adopted country will be challenging. There is simply no way around it. In fact, getting around your new city may be your first test. Traveling by plane, train and Uber is difficult enough in the United States or the United Kingdom, much less in a nation you’ve never been to before.
Furthermore, if you’ve chosen to relocate to a non-English speaking country, a language barrier could make reading street signs and accomplishing basic tasks like operating the washing machine at the laundromat frustrating. The solution to these woes is to have a sense of adventure. This means taking the perspective that whatever happens, good or bad, you will go with the flow and be grateful that you get to be someplace new.
Don’t be afraid to interview for a job if you don’t already have one. There are many supports that can help you in a job no matter where you live. If you are in a computer sciences job you can use a data wrangling cheat sheet to manage datasets or if you become a chef there are conversion tools online to help you understand the metric system.
Each day, from getting your coffee in the morning to finding your way back home after work, you will be forced to be conscious and aware in situations that you used to navigate on auto-pilot. Adopt the attitude that your new reality is an adventure to figure out.
Nurture Cultural Sensitivity
As an expatriate, learning the customs of your host country will make your life much smoother and more satisfying. At the same time that you get to learn about the etiquette and culture of your new home, its citizens will appreciate your effort.
A large part of developing cultural sensitivity starts with cultural curiosity. This means you should learn appropriate greetings and table manners, but also that you should dive deeper and learn about politics, religion and arts. The more you are able to understand the local culture in the context of its history and institutions, you will have a greater sense of how to interact with the people you meet.
Learn the Language
When you move to a new country, you should make every effort to learn the local language. The time you devote to studying the language will reward you with a better grasp of the culture and more rewarding relationships. Ideally, you would start learning the language before leaving home.
Whether you begin studying in advance or upon arrival, you can enroll for classes at a local university or language institute to continue your studies and make new friends. If attending a language course in person is inconvenient, you can always use the internet to enhance your language skills. Both trained language teachers and conversation partners offer lessons at reasonable rates.
Being patient will get you almost as far as language skills. When you move to a new country, you will have to get through miles of bureaucracy to sign up for healthcare, work permits, visas, utilities and more. All of these necessary appointments may take a long time and test your sanity.
So be patient, your new life as an expatriate is worth the wait. Embrace the culture of your new country and maintain your sense of adventure. You may never want to come home.