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14 Things Only People Who Have Worked Overseas Can Understand

14 Things Only People Who Have Worked Overseas Can Understand

Some two and a half years ago, I decided to make a bold decision and follow my partner to the far away land of art, cheese, and fine wine — France. He had just landed a five-year work contract there. While a long-distance relationship did take place at first, eventually I decided to sort out all the loose ends at home, pack up my entire life into two suitcases, and move to another country for an indefinite period of time.

While I did have my fair share of the “expat blues,” cultural faux pas, and difficulties with navigating the paperwork, in the long-run, moving overseas and starting a job abroad proved to be a tremendously positive life experience.

As an expat, you are likely to encounter numerous misconceptions and false assumptions about your lifestyle that people back at home make. Additionally, you are likely to deal with a number of odd questions from the new acquaintances you’ll soon meet in your newly adopted homeland. If you have ever worked or lived overseas, I’m pretty sure you can relate to the following 15 things!

1. We do not automatically become fluent in another language

A lot of people assume that changing your geographic location serves as a super-booster to your language learning skills. The truth is, it doesn’t. You don’t wake up on the next day after your arrival, go to the grocery store, and start casual chit-chatting with a cashier. Even if you have spent months studying the language back at home, you won’t magically become fluent from day one. Language adoption takes time and has a number of factors that play into a person’s level of fluency. In fact, asking us why we are fluent already most likely will make us feel embarrassed, as we haven’t yet reached our desired level of proficiency.

2. We are not “lucky” or “blessed”

It may seem that we are now living in a better country with amazing job prospects and sun 365 days per year judging by our Instagram or Facebook feed, but that’s not 100% true. In fact, finding a job and sorting out all the moving stuff and paperwork requires anything but luck. It’s more like hard work, persistence, and tremendous dedication to making things work that plays a major part.

Anyone can choose to work and play where we are now. For some reason, most people decide not to make the leap of faith and put effort into the potential prospects elsewhere (and there are always opportunities available for those who seek them).

It’s not that we were “lucky” or “blessed” to get that opportunity and you didn’t. It’s just the fact that we played hard to get it and you’ve chosen not to.

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3. We do miss our friends and lose contacts

The friendships you establish abroad as an adult cannot be compared to those nurtured for years at home. When you first move, you are likely to miss all the little things — like being part of the annoying gossip at the water cooler in your old office, not to mention more strong bonds like you had with your college mates and childhood friends.

While working aboard, you will inevitably miss friends’ weddings, will have to decline invitations to college anniversary meetups, and miss out on other social gatherings you would have gladly attended.

While scrolling my Facebook feed, I still feel really sad when I see yet another close friend getting married, or my old gang having great times together on a night out, without me. Sadly, the price you have to pay for your decision is losing some important social ties and missing out on important events like your nephew’s graduation or your BFF’s son’s christening.

4. We have bad days too

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    Another shocker — moving abroad does not automatically solve all your life problems. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns.

    Some days, we lash out aggressively on social media about the officials losing our carefully gathered, 40-page-long personal dossier, or the incorrect spelling on our credit card — and then being asking to pay on top for the issuing of a new card. Or not knowing where the nearest grocery store is and walking five blocks in the wrong direction in search for food for breakfast.

    When you write back with things like: “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. You are living in France/on the beach/in the most beautiful place on Earth. It can’t be that bad,” you are not winning our affections.

    Yes, the weather might be better and my new place might be gorgeous. Or perhaps the cost of living is cheaper, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with the same routine and problems that you face at home.

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    5. We don’t make instant connections with the locals

    Making friends as an adult expat in a non-English speaking country isn’t as easy as you may think. You don’t just walk into a bar and make everyone instantly attracted to you by speaking a few local words with your foreign accent.

    Yes, you have the new coworkers who may eventually invite you out for beers in a month, or three, or a year (depending on the host country’s social culture). In fact, you are likely to act odd (and foreign) enough to scare off some potential buddies by breaking the informal cultural rules like trying to hug someone instead of doing cheek kisses (faire la bise) in France. Also, don’t assume everyone hates you or is acting rude because they don’t smile back, like in Russia, for instance.

    Making local friends abroad isn’t as easy as one might think. Most often, new transplants tend to mingle with other expats mostly — and there’s nothing bad about that.

    6. We feel extremely lonely at times

    Yes, living abroad can be marvelous. And yes, it can get extremely lonely on some days too. Sometimes, we think that no one back at home understands our true woes and life challenges. However, a lot of other people travel long term and work abroad. Maybe they are not facing the same problems as you, but they know exactly how you feel. Try connecting with other expats through Facebook groups or expat forums to help you beat the initial blues.

    7. We know that routines can become huge challenges

    Remember your first trip to the local grocery store? For me, that was a total disaster. I had my usual shopping list in mind, yet when I arrived to the store things went slightly amiss. I couldn’t find a lot of the usual brands I buy, and if I did, those things cost a small fortune. I had zero idea of how the local brands would actually taste and simply had to guess. Also, I had no idea what some goods were called in French, thus could neither locate them on the shelves, nor ask an assistant to guide me to the right direction. My trips to the supermarket would take two hours instead of the usual 30 minutes — even for minor shopping.

    Next, figuring out things around your neighborhood will take time too. Where’s the closest corner store, where I can grab some forgotten items from my shopping list? And the pharmacy? And the bakery? What are the working hours? Do they close for lunch? And don’t get me started on figuring out the go-to coffee/lunch/shopping locations in a new city.

    If I could give one piece of advice to my past self, it would be to do your home base research in advance! Post questions in expat groups, browse Foursquare or Yelp or any local alternative if you don’t want to spend two hours running around the neighborhood in search of tea on the day you arrive.

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    8. We can get ill too, and that’s 100 times worse than at home

    Getting seriously ill sucks, but when you are ill abroad, multiply the “sucks” factor by ten. You need to have a good command of language if you want to visit the doctor (in the case that you already have your health insurance stuff figured out). You can’t get a lot of drugs without a prescription abroad, and even if you do, you still need to explain what’s your problem and you may not be able to ask for your usual drugs as they can go under a different brand name. If you need to stay at home, there’s no one to look after you or bring you comforting soup. When you are ill abroad, all you can feel is tremendous self-pity. Don’t make it worse by writing something like: “How did you manage to get a cold in such a warm place?!”

    9. We hate when our loved ones get sick or in trouble at home

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      You know what being desperate is? It’s when your loved one is in trouble and you are miles away with no chance of being next to them in the next few months.

      Sometimes, your phone rings during an odd hour and you know it’s going to be nothing good. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to some of my good expat friends. And when you hear the news is bad, the worst thing is that you can do nothing about it. Just wait and see how it goes without your direct involvement.

      10. We learn to value the simplest things most

      If you ask us how life is going abroad, we probably won’t start telling you about visiting fancy restaurants or having epic adventures. With equal excitement, we’ll talk about how we got into a pleasant chat with an elderly lady and could understand 98% of what she said. Or how we’ve gotten our first piece of praise for speaking so fluently. Or about our first dinner invitation to a local’s home.

      Living abroad makes us value the little things a lot. The most lavish things are not always as enjoyable or as memorable as the cheap, simple things we’ve experienced.

      11. We don’t really like our birthdays

      Usually, your special day ends with the last phone call you get from home and after you’ve browsed through all your greetings on social media. After that, you just get dressed and act as if it’s yet another ordinary day in your life. You may throw a small party with some of your new friends, but it’s going to be nothing compared to the good-old feasts you used to have with your loved ones back at home.

      12. We don’t know when we’ll come home next

      We miss you like crazy too, but too often we simply can’t tell you if we will be coming home for holidays this season. Sometimes, our working/living permits require us to stay in the country for at least a year. Sometimes, we spend our vacation days too lavishly and run out of them well before Christmas. Sometimes, we have important things on our plates and simply can’t leave for even a few days. Add up the flight costs and additional travel expenses, and traveling home becomes quite a challenge for us.

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      13. We may not plan to move back home

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        Another question that often baffles me is: “When are you moving back home?”

        Do you really think that I invested so much time and effort into working my way here and packing my life into a suitcase just to move back in year? Highly unlikely.

        I might decide to come back home someday, but for now, my life is here. And I’m trying to make it work. Please, support me rather than acting like it’s “just a phase.”

        14. We will change

        Living and working abroad shapes your personality a lot. You become more mature, independent, and open-minded. You quickly adopt new rules, social cues, and cultural norms, and may even end up having reverse culture shock when you come back home.

        Usually, you return home as a better person than the one you left as. You now have a bunch of amazing experiences and cool stories to share, and a vast network of personal connections with people from all around the globe — whose couches you are welcome to crash on at any time!

        If you ever get the chance to live or work abroad, grab it!

        photo credit: Pinterest

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        Elena Prokopets

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        Last Updated on October 15, 2019

        How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

        How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

        What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

        To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

        All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

        There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

        With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

        What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

        1. Think Big

          From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

          “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

          There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

          Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

          Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

          Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
          Instead be ambitious.

          2. Find What You Love to Do and Do It

            From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

            “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

            This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

            Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

            If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

            Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

            Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

            Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

            3. Learn How to Balance Life

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              From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

              “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

              All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

              If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

              However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

              If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

              In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

              To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

              4. Do Not Be Afraid of Failure

                From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

                “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

                There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

                Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

                His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

                He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

                Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

                Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

                If you find it difficult to fight your fear of failure, here’s a guide for you: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

                5. Have an Unwavering Resolution to Succeed

                  From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

                  “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

                  This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

                  It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

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                  If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

                  Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

                  6. Be a Person of Action

                    From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                    “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                    Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                    Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                    When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renaissance era Italy, we think of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Or think about the present day, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                    You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                    All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                    Applying this to you?

                    Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                    7. Cultivate Positive Relationships

                      From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                      The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                      The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                      People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                      This is key to good leadership.

                      It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                      But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                      What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                      As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

                      8. Don’t Be Afraid of Introducing New Ideas

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                        From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                        “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                        It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                        Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                        If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                        9. Believe in Your Capacity to Succeed

                          From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                          “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                          Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                          It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                          Keep dreaming!

                          10. Always Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

                            From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                            “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                            Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                            Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                            If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                            However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                            11. Don’t Let Discouragement Stop You from Pressing On

                              From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                              “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                              It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

                              When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

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                              Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                              If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                              This is How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

                              12. Be Willing to Work Hard

                                From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                                “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                                You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                                Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                                True success comes from work.

                                You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                                Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                                13. Be Brave Enough to Follow Your Intuition

                                  From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                                  “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                                  In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                                  If you strongly believe and desire something, chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                                  It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                                  Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                                  Final Thoughts

                                  What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                                  Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                                  More to Help You Succeed in Life

                                  Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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