Nobody’s perfect. There’s something about moving to another country, that seems to highlight this. When you become an Expat, it can be very easy to slip into old habits and routines, as they provide a sense of security. However, often these end up hindering your experience rather than helping it – leading to some very common Expat mistakes.
Here are five mistakes, that I have witnessed other Expats make and some of which I have been guilty of too. Hopefully this will help you to avoid making the same ones!
Mistake 1. Comparison
Comparison really is the thief of joy when it comes to your Expat life. Often Expats compare negatively the experiences in their new country, compared with their old.
Just like no two people are the same, neither are two countries. There are different rules, different cultures and even different languages and currencies. It’s understandable why people would compare, given this, but it really isn’t helpful for your experience.
The more accepting you are of life in your new country, the smoother and easier your journey will be.
Living in Italy is wildly different to living in the U.K. The pace of life is slower (especially here in the South), the systems and bureaucracy seem antiquated and working conditions vary considerably. However the food is incredible, the cost of living is cheaper (that’s relative, I know) and there is a sense of warmth and community, that is somewhat lacking in London. It’s all swings and roundabouts. This is why I think it’s such a pity, when Expats compare life here negatively to their previous one.
For me, moving to Italy was a fresh chapter in my life and so I didn’t feel the need to compare the new with the old. However, I’ve witnessed other Expats do this, especially with regards to working conditions. In my experience, the more accepting you are of life in your new country, the smoother and easier your journey will be.
We have to remember that, for the most part, Expat life is a choice. Therefore we can’t expect a country seeped in its own traditions and way of doing things, to change for us – just because we’ve arrived. Maybe, it’s time we changed for it. This for me, is one of the most powerful personal awakenings, that living abroad can bring.
Mistake 2. Not Immersing Yourself
I’m not going to lie – being an Expat can feel very lonely at times, particularly if you don’t speak the language. It’s therefore really tempting to reach out to fellow Expats, who perhaps share the same birth country as you or background. Whilst this is important, I also understand just what a fine line it can be.
On the one hand – the need to easily communicate, to have some common ground, to laugh at things that only you find funny – is necessary. It helps you to feel alive. It’s this that has certainly helped me, in my lonelier moments. My Expat friends and community I love dearly and knowing them has certainly given me a different perspective to life in Italy. However to solely stick with fellow Expats, ultimately denies you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in your new country. It’s all about having a healthy balance.
Making new friends and connections can feel daunting at any age and in any country! Mixing and mingling with the locals, when you can’t yet speak the language, can feel like torture. Yet it is where I have had my best experiences and where I feel I truly understand the difference in cultures. Ultimately it is how I think you can learn the most about yourself and about your new life.
Mistake 3. Complaining
We all love a whinge and a whine now and again. However being an Expat seems to take that to a whole new level. A lot of complaints that people make, are focused on how things used to be in their home country in comparison to life in their new one. However, as I’ve said before, to compare just strips the joy away from your new experience.
Life as an Expat isn’t always easy. However, I am a big believer in that it is all in how you perceive it.
Personally, I found a lot of complaining in Expat groups, particularly on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong – in these groups, there are sprinkles of goodness, inspiration and positivity. There are also though, a lot of Debbie Downers. People who will find fault with absolutely everything. Often they have not had the best experiences and so they feel the need to share those with everybody else. Negativity likes company.
Life as an Expat isn’t always easy. However, I am a big believer in that it is all in how you perceive it. If you choose to have an open mind, to have patience and to be in the present moment more – I honestly believe that you will find less things to complain about and more things to appreciate. Your experience will become even more enriched as a result.
Mistake 4. Not Learning the Language
Hands up, this is my sticking point. I have been really fortunate in that the friends I have here, can speak English in varying degrees. I know though, just how much more settled I will feel, when I can confidently converse with the locals. This takes time and dedication though, so don’t feel bad if you’re not instantly fluent!
The mistake comes when Expats expect the locals to understand their language – particularly if it is one as universally known as English. I must admit I was surprised and a little sad, that English isn’t widely spoken, especially here in the South of Italy. It’s a language that can open so many doors. However, I understand that life here is different and so I have never been so self-righteous as to expect people to speak my mother tongue.
Moving to another country means adopting a new way of life and a new language, if that is the case. In my opinion, it’s the only way you will truly be able to uncover the gems of your new home.
Mistake 5. Being Negatively Influenced by Others
It’s one thing to be inspired by others – it’s another to be deterred. When people make the decision to move abroad, it’s natural that they want to understand other people’s experiences and get advice. I’ve created this blog for that very reason, after all!
It’s important to remember though, that no two journeys are alike, especially if you are surrounded by people quick to point out the faults. I always believe that with any advice in life, take what resonates and release the rest.
This is where I talk about those infamous Expat groups again. For it is in these groups that often I see people being influenced by someone’s negative experience and well, that saddens me, for my Expat journey has been nothing like people said it would be.
Double down on your ‘why’. Why you are becoming an Expat?
Here’s what I was told:
- The bureaucracy in Italy is a nightmare.
- I would never find a job, because even Italians left the country for better career prospects.
- Residency, healthcare and basically everything I needed to set up my life, wouldn’t be easy to achieve.
I listened, I processed everything and then I told myself a different story.
Here’s what actually happened:
- The bureaucracy was a little slower and antiquated, but not a nightmare.
- I secured three job interviews followed by three job offers. The job I accepted, provided me with excellent experience which has enabled me to further my prospects and better myself.
- I sorted everything needed for my life here, easily, long before the initial Brexit date of March 2019.
So you see, it was nothing like people said it would be.
Please don’t buy into the negative experiences of others. Often, contained within them, are that person’s own individual blend of limiting blocks and beliefs, that you honestly don’t need to inherit.
Instead double down on your ‘why’. Why you are becoming an Expat? Why do you want to move to this country? Why do you want to have these experiences? Staying focused on your own ‘why’, will stop you from being deterred by others.
Becoming an Expat is a growth experience and so it’s natural to make mistakes. Learning from them is what’s most important.