Five Challenges In Your Expat Life And How To Overcome Them
Moving to another country, especially if you don’t speak the local language, can bring huge challenges for you to deal with. Things get even more complicated when you have your kids with you. Then you know, like every mother, that their well-being and adjustment comes before yours.
Three years ago, we relocated from Israel to Toronto, Canada so my husband could join his family business. Even though we had a very ‘soft’ landing (his parents and siblings were a great help for us at the beginning), it was still a very challenging journey. The Expat life is not easy, I can tell you this.
From the perspective of these three years, I can write a few things that helped me adjust to my new life. There are some things that I didn’t do, and I wish someone had told me about before I moved.
So here’s your chance to learn from my experience:
Problem 1: Need to gain some new friends?
Solution: Send your kids to daycare/schools
I know, we love them more than life itself, you are staying at home, so why waste your money on daycare? I know all these sentences. But I highly recommend finding your children some regular ‘social place’ to hang. You still don’t know yet, but your kids are your key to your new friends. When they ‘fit’ you start to ‘fit’. You come to pick them up, you see other mothers, and you nod each other. Then you meet one of them at a birthday party, chat a little bit, she invites you to a play date the next weekend.
She will become your friend, and she will introduce you to another one and another one. Before you know it, your weekend will be booked with social gathering and activities, for you and your kids.
Problem 2: Want to meet other expert women from your homeland?
Solution: Get a job or volunteer in your ‘native’ community
You can try to get a job in your ‘homeland’ community in your neighbourhood, this way you will be at the ‘centre’ of things and can communicate with other people from your home. If you can’t or don’t want to go to work (an immigration issue, pregnant, mat leave, personal decision…) I do recommend you to volunteer. It can help you to connect more with the right people and enlarge your net connections.
Problem 3: Having language problems?
Solution: Sign up for a class that you are interested in and get a friend that speaks the native language!
Of course, you can sign up for your ‘second language’ course. I found it a little bit annoying. They are more interested in you speaking right than speak fluently…This is why I recommend two things:
1. Sign up for a class, but on a topic that interest you. In the class you will hear a fluent language, you may not understand every single word but it will surely teach you more than to read a ‘language book’.
2. Find a friend (maybe even from this class) and schedule to have a half an hour conversation over a cup of coffee.
These two things can really teach you the local language fast!
Problem 4: Don’t know your town and neighbourhood?
Solution: Drive even if you’re afraid in the beginning!
The day we landed in Canada, I told my husband that I’m taking the car for two rides. One with him and the second without him. I just need to feel the wheels and the roads by myself. Before I went on the road, I open a map and view the neighbourhood and the city’s streets around our house so I will know where I’m going. In a week I knew everything: Where the expensive supermarket is, the cheapest one, how to get to the only store that sell the tastiest coffee from Israel and the most fun playground for the kids.
I knew how to get everywhere, and it gave me a sense of myself again and great confidence. I highly recommend not being afraid of driving in your new city. It will create a feeling of independence.
Problem 5: Lost ‘yourself’?
Solution: Don’t forget your dreams and set up your goals for the coming year
Generally speaking, I’m a person who likes to set up her goals for the next year, three years and five years ahead. Some of you who attended some ‘self-development’ workshops know that it is probably the basic thing one should do if she wants to make progress in life.
Now, when you are an ‘expat’, it’s even more important. Precisely because everything else has changed for you, your goals should be stable and clear. Your dreams shouldn’t change because you moved to another country, maybe just to tweak them a little bit.
If you have never done this before, it goes like this:
On a clean piece of paper, write how a typical ‘dream day’ of yours will look like in a year from now. What time will you get up in the morning, what for, where you are going to live and how your house will look like? How many kids you will have, where you will spend your yearly vacation, what will be your weight etc.…
It’s a good idea to add pictures from the internet that will demonstrate how things will look like; our mind is capturing pictures much better than text. Then, do the same process about three and five years from now.
The next step is to set a list of ten things to do in the first year that will help you get closer to your “dream day”. It’s much recommended to take a pick at what you wrote every morning, just to keep everything in mind…
And a last word for you, my friend:
Don’t forget to be gentle and kind to yourself during the first and even the second year as an expat, it’s not an easy journey, and you should take it step by step.
Be proud of what you have accomplished every day and don’t give up on yourself!