18 November, 2015

To thrive as an expat

As a new mum many mums read books about how to help their baby's thrive. There aren't so many books around about how to thrive as an expat, however. For me, anyway, it was mostly figuring it as I muddled along.

A little while ago I found an interesting post by someone who's lived as an expat mostly in Africa. She's got some challenging, but good advice for expats.

They don't complain. This is hard. I certainly complain, a little, but try to focus on the positive.

They learn a little language. Yep, hard too, especially Japanese that is one of the hardest languages in the world. But I have learnt a little.

They aren't easily intimidated by the unknown. Curiosity is good, a desire to learn new things. I'm not so great at trying new food and having kids has made us limit the unknowns quite a bit. Not to mention that we're here long-term, so trying new things isn't high on our agenda. Because of the next point.

They work hard and do their jobs well. They aren't tourists. I think we do this.

They stop working and enjoy the country. Camping has been good for this for us. Vacationing in-country is important.

They adapt and adopt local customs. Spending more than two years of full-time Japanese language study drove this into our minds. It is a value of our mission too.

They are authentic and maintain their own customs. Yep, we're still discernibly Australian.

They develop friendships with the local community. This is hard without good language and is something I wish I had more of. Thankfully there are many Japanese people in the school community and the OMF community that we've gotten to know.

They develop friendships with the expat community. This hasn't been a problem, as our ministry is so connected to the local international school.

They have an adventurous spirit, even if they have to force it. Yep, camping stretches us, and our boys. It's the boys who particularly limit us at present, I think. Two of them particularly aren't adventurous souls.

I don't have any points to add to these, except to say that in a world of online socialising, it is easy to have one foot in your "home" country and the other foot in the country you're living in. That isn't healthy. Many of the above point address that issue: learning the language, have friends who live locally, and enjoy the country (but not too much). Be Present.

Before we came to Japan we did receive one piece of advice that has been important. 
Find things that you can only do where you are and enjoy them.

We've applied that in Japan and Australia, to things as simple as a doughnuts and as complex as a motorhome trip to the centre of Australia. It's helped us to have a Be Present attitude and encouraged us to seek out what's enjoyable and unique about wherever we are.

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