Transformation Areas

The Challenge and Joy to live Internationally

The challenge and joy to live internationally start from the very beginning of the journey. After the excitement of an international move has faded, what will a non-working expat wife do to fill her day? When all the boxes have been unpacked and the thrills of the new culture you find yourself living in have become well, less thrilling, how do you fill the days and get the best out of the experience?

I have been in this exact situation several times. In the last 20 years, we have moved 8 times and learning how to navigate in a new city has not always been easy. In certain cases, the language has been a huge barrier. In others, finding the right connection to people has been challenging.  Nevertheless, I have always done my best to create a very rewarding experience for me and my family, in order to enjoy the time we spent in every place.  In my experience, moving and living abroad requires a great deal of emotional strength. Learning your new every-day life (from grocery shopping to school or doctors) requires you to be very open-minded, patient and ready to deal with a very different culture. Sadness and frustration might kick in from time to time (I know, it was easier at home!), but be reassured that every system works. You have just to learn how. 

Challenge and joy wife expat

Defining the Dismal Expat Life
Challenge and Joy!

Defining the dismal expat life requires a positive mindset. Believe me, it will be challenging and rewarding. Once you are over the initial culture shock, the rewards are huge and countless. Being abroad is not like living at home. You will figure out what works best for you. Until then, here a list of ideas to help you get started.

1 – Acknowledge Your New Situation

Many expat wives struggle to feel grounded in their new culture, because they see their life abroad as temporary. So it is, but it is also important to think that the temporary is the definitive for a certain period. Others wrestle with maintaining their self-identity. The loss of a professional identity can be especially frustrating for women who are unable to work abroad. Understanding the underlying causes of how you feel and acknowledging your feelings should be your first steps to dealing with the expat unhappiness in a productive manner. Challenge and joy to live internationally are indeed very much linked to acknowledgment.


2 – Create a Supportive Network in Your New City

While it is important to remain connected to your family and friends back home, that’s not enough. For those living in a city or area with lots of other expats, reaching out to other women who can relate to what you are going through, is a great support. Every time I moved to a new place, it felt important for me to connect with other people going through my situation. It helped me understand that I was not alone in the situation. We all went through similar patterns. For expats who are in more rural or “hardship” locations that lack an extensive expat network, get online! Find a Facebook group near to you that could share similar problems. Chances are they’ve already gone through what you’re going through and can offer advice.

Filling your days with household tasks can make the hours go by quickly (at the beginning of the adventure), but won’t provide you with the sense of satisfaction and achievement you used to get from a rewarding life back home. Pick-up long-lost hobbies while abroad or discover new ones. What about writing a book, joining a painting group or learning yoga? If you have school-age children, can you participate in a parent-teacher organization? When my boys were in elementary school, I always tried to add some ‘international’ flavor to the school’s events. One year we organized a small Christmaskindle market, following my husband’s tradition. Another time, we created an international cooking fair. Small things add up to let you feel included and welcomed. I always loved and believed it was important too, to bring my culture to every new situation by creating new opportunities.

3 – Thriving Abroad

Being an expat is a special experience, but not a unique one. The difficulties are vast and great. Once you get through this path and overcome some of the initial challenges, the learning experience and the fun you can get out of it is incredible!

However, there are many expat women living in far-flung places around the world who are not satisfied with their living abroad. Sometimes they can’t figure out how to start. If you are feeling lonely, talk to someone about it. Reach out to a friend within your support network. Check-in with the human resources department at your spouse’s employer to find out how they can assist. Perhaps they could put you in touch with other expat wives.

I went through all the same excitement and difficulties of living on a foreign soil. Somehow, at a certain point of my life, I became a stranger to myself and needed a professional buddy to accompany me in the most important journey of my life: that into myself. Admittedly, there are so many changes, transformations and adaptions, that it can be normal not to feel the joy and the thrill linked to all this. A hand reached out and offered the right personal support. Thanks to my coach I could overcome the biggest challenge: my mindset! And the interior journey started with a simple question: What has been stopping you, slowing you down or keeping you from thriving in your new chapter of life?

Ever heard of an intercultural coach? I am one of those: in between a health &  life coach and a cultural coach. A coach that can help expat wives gaining better insight about themselves, establish personal goals, and figure out how to overcome challenges abroad. In other words, coaches can help you not only survive, but thrive abroad.

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