Monday, 4 August 2014

The A to E of Expat Traits

To live as an expat is to face some weird and wonderful challenges, and that’s before you even get to the language barrier. So, here is an A to E of some equally wonderful personality traits that you will all recognise, either in yourselves or your expat friends.

Image Source: creativecommons/Suriya Donavanik
A if for Adaptability
When getting to grips with a new country it doesn’t matter how much research you have done before hand (and the more the better), you still have to roll with the punches and adapt. Whether it is queuing practices or greetings that in your own culture would be decidedly overly familiar, adapting, and fast, eases the transition no end. And adaptability relies heavily on being open to new experiences.

B is for Broad-minded
Being broad-minded is being willing to expand your horizons and to change preconceived ideas. It is the gateway to understanding a different culture. After all, as you know, the most effective device for avoiding the cultural faux pas as well as truly embracing your new home is experiencing as much as possible! From food to public transport, it’s not until you try it first-hand that you understand a country. Openness is important, as is curiosity.

C is for Curiosity
The most fundamental of traits, curiosity is the spur to explore what you don’t know and to enjoy a new world to the fullest. Curiosity is what keeps you still interested, fuels the ability to adapt and the motivation to stay broad-minded. It is also a useful tool for starting up conversations with people.

D is for Dynamism
If you are truly going to embrace your new country you have to be dynamic about talking to people. The locals are the best source of information for absolutely anything practical from which taxis to use (if any) to best places to buy food. But you also have to be willing to muck in and make the effort to contribute. Learning the language (or a few phrases) can have a beneficial effect beyond anything else. Putting in the effort is polite in any society. Even if your pronunciation is enough to extract a wince, the fact you’re trying shows an enthusiasm to engage with the local community. And finally…

E is for Energy
Uprooting does require a great deal of energy. However, even once the furniture has found its new place in the house, the energy does not die. Energy is needed to keep up A-D. Even to stay interested in your new home needs constant attention after a while.

However, the most important result of having energy is that the amount of enthusiasm and life an expat puts in is the amount of energy and life they get back. Sometimes even in triplicate.

Have any anecdotes that agree or disagree? Please comment!

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