This week I'm delighted to welcome Emma from the superb travel blog Wanderlust and Wet Wipes! Emma has traveled more and further than most of us and is now an expat in Doha. We're delighted to have her on Mammaprada this week talking about life as an expat. I hope you enjoy her tips... there isn't much she doesn't know on this subject!
Over to Emma
Having been expat in various forms for around 1/3 of my life, I’m often asked what advice I would give to a new expat, starting out on their journey. And you might be surprised to know that the answer varies ALOT.
It varies depending on the time of year. Goodbyes seem to be seasonal so depending if I’m saying a lot of hellos or a lot of goodbyes I might change my answer. It depends if I personally am new or if I’ve been in a location for a while. It depends where I have been and when in my life I was there. It depends on where you are and when in your life you are there. It depends on what else we all have going on in our lives at that particular time. How old our kids are… all manner of things.
But there are probably 5 things that it doesn’t matter where you are, who you are or what you’re doing in your life right now (or me for that matter) that never change.
Here are my top 5 expat tips:
1. Avoid negativity
This is the number one rule. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all allowed to vent from time to time. But avoid proper negativity (and with it those proper negative people) at all costs. They will drag you down and suck out any optimism and energy you may have that day. Some people are like that but they will. Not. Help. You.
So what do you do instead?
2. Get out of the house
Step away from the TV. And the phone. And the internet. And whatever else is distracting you. I know it connects you to home. I know it feels safe.
It also stops you feeling the need to go out. And you need to go out. Ideally you will go to meet new people. I don’t really care how. You might go to a coffee morning or a playgroup. You might just accept that invitation from someone to meet them for a cup of tea.
If you can’t face meeting yet another new person then just get out any way. Go for a walk or a run. Go to the movies. Anything really. Just get yourself out of the house. (And no, doing the school run or the grocery shopping does not count).
Saying yes to invitations attracts more invitations. Meeting new people increases the chance of you…
3. Finding your tribe
I can’t say enough how important this is. I’ve yet to meet an expat who didn’t see the value in having a really good tribe around them. Many people say it’s actually the people that make a location and I would totally agree!
I know from experience that it’s not that easy. You can’t go for a walk and not talk to anyone and meet your tribe. You do have to talk to strangers. You do have to get past the awful chit chat stage whilst sizing each other up to see if you’re potential new besties.
4. Look forward
If you’re a first time expat, you might be struggling with homesickness. Come to that, if you’re a seasoned expat you might be struggling with homesickness. There’s not always rhyme or reason to having the expat blues.
You need a plan. Always have a plan. It doesn’t matter what it is - exploring your new country or region, date night, a spa day, a holiday, a trip home… It doesn’t even matter when it is - even if we know we won’t be home for a year, we are always planning that next trip.
Whatever you need to look forward to, make sure it’s planned even if it’s not booked. You’ll feel better, I promise.
5. Be patient and kind to yourself
Make sure you take time to do things you love. Don’t get too distracted with moving logistics and new expat activities. Whether it’s reading or running, movies or meditation do things that make you happy ad light you up.
And take your time. This new expat thing is hard and you won’t feel settled immediately. It will take time. And patience.
And you know what? If it really hasn’t worked out for whatever reason, then make a new plan. Get an exit strategy. No plan is irreversible. Talk it through with your partner / office / family and do the right thing for all of you at the time.
I’m talking after a good period of time here - 3 months is not enough time to decide if a place is for you. Now, I am the LAST person to preach about being patient. I want to be settled with my house in order, paperwork done and tribe found the day after we arrive in a country.
It doesn’t happen like that. Allow yourself time to settle. Focus on those milestones - be they the trip home or the spa day. More likely than not, before you know it 6 or 12 months will have passed and you’ll turn around one day and realised you’re there, it’s happened!
So there you have it. I’m not an expert, by any means, and this is not a panacea. But it might just help.
Emma's a pushing 40, travel-mad mum to 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4) and a crazy dog. Originally from the UK she's lived in 10 cities across 5 continents all over the world. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar. Emma started blogging about her family travels in 2017 when she had an epiphany about how to have successful adventurous family holidays.