Saturday, January 22, 2011

Being a global nomad....

Since living abroad already since I was 20 years old, I feel more like a world citizen than as a typical Dutch person. As a child I already knew that I wouldn't stay in Holland, it was just too small and cramped for me. So the first opportunity to go abroad for me was when I was 20. I moved to the USA for a one year au-pair agreement I made with a lovely family in Brielle, New Jersey. That trip gave me the travel bug for sure, if I didn't have it already....

So when I moved back to Holland and I met Dirk (yes, we are 20 years together!) almost immediately after I told him I want to travel the world, so if he liked to keep dating me he better travel with me... and he did and since we have been living in 6 countries: Spain (Canary Islands ~ Tenerife & Lanzarote) Greece (Rhodes), USA (Eugene, Oregon) back to Holland for a few years, got married and moved to Thailand (Jomtien), USA (Ridgefield, Connecticut) and now in South Africa (Johannesburg).

So you can see not only 6 different countries, also 4 different continents... with different cultures, languages, food, religions, driving on different sides of the road, shopping labels and traffic signs not in your language, many many different aspects you have to adjust to each time you move. Get a new doctor, dentist, ob-gyn, new school, get used to new shops and leaving behind the brands of food you are used to, new hairdresser etc.. etc..

However we got good at these adjustments of cultural changes, but each move it takes time... and you need to be patient to give yourself that time to get used to, feel at home in your new home, your new neighborhood, new friends.

So below is a list I found on the internet that will help you make that transition to your new place and I will give you an example how we experienced it or feel about it.

Factors Important to Successful Intercultural Adjustments

Open Mindedness... The ability to keep one's opinions flexible and receptive to new stimuli seems to be important to intercultural adjustment. Especially the first time you move abroad you have to understand that not everybody does the things in the same way you are used to. But remember each country has their reasons why they do it a specific way, normally you will figure this out after a while, but keep an open mind!

Sense of Humor... A sense of humor is important because in another culture there are many things which lead one to weep, get angry, be annoyed, embarrassed, or discouraged. The ability to laugh off things will help guard against despair. Think to yourself about it in this way: Do I laugh about this in 6 months or cry?? Most of the time it is annoying at the moment, but later you can laugh about the incident.

Ability to Cope with Failure... The ability to tolerate failure is critical because everyone fails at something overseas. Persons who go overseas are often those who have been the most successful in their home environments and have rarely experienced failure, thus, may have never developed ways of coping with failure. This is so true, but you are leaving your comfort zone and chances that somethings go wrong is so much bigger than back at home, just realize that you are not the only one!

Communicativeness... The ability and willingness to communicate one's feelings and thoughts to others, verbally or non-verbally, has been suggested as an important skill for successful intercultural communicators. Yes, friends become like an extended family, since you don't have your mother, sister around, you need to learn to share more and deeper feelings with your friends, otherwise you go kooko! Why do you think I started a blog?? LOL

Flexibility and Adaptability... The ability to respond to or tolerate the ambiguity of new situations is very important to intercultural success. Keeping options open and judgmental behavior to a minimum describes an adaptable or flexible person. Do as the Romans do when in Rome... you have to adapt to your host country, life just becomes a lot easier!!

Curiosity... Curiosity is the demonstrated desire to know about other people, places, ideas, etc. This skill or personality trait is important for intercultural travelers because they need to learn many things in order to adapt to their new environment. Agree: you can't live your life like you did in your home country and not being interested in the people around you, that is the beauty of living in different places, to figure out and experience how other people live. But I see many expats around me that try to stay in their own bubble... they will never adjust and have a happy time!

Positive and Realistic Expectations... It has been shown frequently that there are strong correlations between positive expectations for an intercultural experience and successful adjustment overseas. Isn't that the attitude you have to have wherever you are? Even in your home country! Be positive and make the best of your life, wherever you are!!

Tolerance for Differences and Ambiguities... A sympathetic understanding for beliefs or practices differing from one's own is important to successful intercultural adjustment. That is a big one as a life lesson for my children, I love that in their short lives they already run into so many different cultures and customs. No school can give them that experience!

Positive Regard for Others... The ability to express warmth, empathy, respect, and positive regard for other persons has been suggested as an important component of effective intercultural relations. Again here, I find that is an important lesson in life regardless where you live!

A Strong Sense of Self... A clear, secure feeling about oneself results in individuals who are neither weak nor overbearing in their relations with others. Persons with a strong sense of themselves stand up for what they believe but do not cling to those beliefs regardless of new information, perspectives, or understandings which they may encounter. Indeed, you are sometimes a minority and if you have a low self esteem this experience by living abroad will not help, so be a leader and not a follower. Lead your own life! There will always be people who have a bigger house, bigger car, are more beautiful than you are. But it is not important what you have, it is important that you live in the moment and enjoy your circumstances. Make the most of it! It is a wonderful life!

Another point that I find is really important but not on this list.... Before we moved to Thailand we had a culture shock course and the teacher told us that the key to success is to learn/speak the language of your host country. We did that; of all the countries we lived in we either spoke the language or learned it, and it does make a difference!

Well... if you ever move to another country or even move states or across your own country, there are a lot of valid points in here that count for you as well.

Have you ever moved far away and find that you ran into these points??
Tell me about your moves and experiences!

Have a Super Sunday!


Mary said...

Wonderfully stated.

Wendy said...

Super post. So glad in all your travels you got a chance to stop by our little corner of the world (CT)!

Gerda said...

Thank you so much for a lovely post for "restless" souls all over the world. Great ideas to enable one to cope in a new country/city. I am going to suggest this blog to new expats in India (Delhi and Gurgaon)Enjoy South Africa. Missing it a lot after spending 2 months there over Christmas (I spent it in Port Elizabeth).

Mireille said...

Thanks Gerda!

Maci Miller said...

What a wonderful post and wonderful life lived. I envy all your travel and admire the courage to go forth in a new place and start over again. Hope to travel more in the future and see places great and far. I really believe you learn so much from seeing new places and meeting new people. Such a beautiful world to see and discover! So many wonderful people yet to meet!

Tanya said...

Great stuff! All important points for a successful overseas settler. I work with TCKs, and it's interesting to compare this list with the kids who cope the best/struggle the most with overseas posting and re-entry. It gives me ideas - helping the teens I work with develop these factors may be a big help to them longterm.


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