How did she make 10 years abroad successful?
Once upon a time there was a girl who left her home country. She realised it’s been exactly 10 years she’s been away. She’s been amazed how the time flies! The girl has lived in 5 countries on 3 different continents, worked with people of over 60 different nationalities. She struggled many times, but achieved and learnt even more! How did she make the past 10 years so successful?
She learnt how to expect the unexpected and truly enjoyed it. She enjoys the variety of things she experiences. She has learnt how to be tolerant and patient. Exposure to such diversity is the best teacher. She consciously puts herself in new uncomfortable situations. People when confronted by the unknown switch on a survival mechanism. By putting themselves into ambiguous and uncomfortable situations she learnt, opened up to new experiences, grew and developed her skills.
She did plenty of uncomfortable things. The girl is extremely motivated when it comes to getting to know other cultures, going to new places, meeting new people, trying new things… but when it comes to adjusting to others in spite of this broad knowledge, it seems like it doesn’t work that well. There are no good excuses really. Perhaps being used to her old habits, perhaps liking herself the way she is, perhaps not being aware
of the impact she makes, or perhaps the other way round - being very well aware but ignoring it. She never had bad intentions behind doing or saying inappropriate things but she forgot the intentions don’t matter, it’s always about the perception! Some people were telling her she cannot fake and become someone she is not. But she thinks she can. She thinks she should. She has made a conscious decision of being abroad, having people from other cultures as her friends, and as her colleagues. She made an unsolicited decision to adapt to them, to make them feel comfortable about her behaviours, reactions, and communication. So she shall adapt to the multicultural surroundings. Not because she has to, but because she wants to, because she chooses to.
She makes an effort to meet people of the country she lives in. She wants to learn different perspectives. People are her best source of knowledge, what they say, how they say it, what they eat, how they eat, what they wear, how they react to jokes she tells, it all has a meaning. She was a great observant and could enrich her international experience. She felt that truly inspiring people are scarce. Once she found them, she didn’t let them go.
She always appreciates the bright side. She is grateful for the chance and amazing experience of living abroad, traveling to new beautiful places, meeting people she can learn from, trying new things, may that be new food, new hobbies, and new languages. An old proverb says ‘traveling broadens horizons’. It really does, such an experience let her grow and become better, more open, tolerant, wiser and stronger.
She always tries to do her homework, reads books about local history, watches local movies, follows local news, and tries local dishes… benefits from living abroad rather than creating her little isolated bubble. Every fact she learns lets her understand people’s behaviours, reactions, situations and adapt to them. She’s had quite a few ‘a ha’ moments that way.
She doesn’t complain about local people, regardless of how peculiar they sound. She knows they are different, not worse! How does she do that? Firstly she has admitted the differences do exist. Even though people around her may look the same, she keeps herself reminded they may have different beliefs and values. They may speak the same language, but have in mind the opposite. Misunderstandings in cross-cultural situations are unavoidable. She never judged others, instead tried to understand where those differences come from.
She struggled a few times and had to acknowledge the crisis. It’s never been easy but she is aware that there are always ways of overcoming it. The honeymoons pass quickly and the reality kicks in. Her best tested way is making a list of things she likes about the new place, new culture, people she just met. There are always positive sites that may outshine things that have just started bothering her. That helps her having an objective view of her situation.
She doesn’t pretend she doesn’t miss her home. She did it at the beginning, pretended she was stronger and more independent than she needed to be. Now, she doesn’t try to be a superhero who doesn’t miss family and friends. She stays in touch with them and gets herself little things that remind her about home and the time spent there.
She thinks twice as soon as she feels like returning home!!! Sometimes she gets a wrong impression, especially in those miserable, lonely or tough moments, when she feels that the grass is always greener… at home. She did it. She went back home because she’d thought she would be happier. She was wrong. Not because she was unhappy back home but because she missed being abroad. She is not sure if what she experienced could be called a reversed culture shock. But one thing she knows is that she missed her international life. She left her home country again, and never regretted it. She didn’t run away. She just went back to what she loves the most – international, challenging and exciting environment.
Fairy tales always end well. This one is not over yet. The world is big and it’s not meant to be lived in one place… She is unstoppable!