Thursday, November 23, 2006

Expat Days

How often have you or a fellow expat said that you were having a “China day”, a “Swiss day”, a “[name the host country] day”? Isn’t it remarkable how often we blame our day on the host country?

Then somewhere in the year, there comes the day that has special meaning at home – whether it’s Bastille Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc. – and it just doesn’t in your host country. You make the choice to replicate the day in your host country or you try to ignore it as not relevant to your current life. With either choice, you find yourself uncomfortable.

It is so easy to blame our discomfort on the host country. After all, we should be entitled to this day off, we should be able to buy the proper foods, we should be able to enjoy the day like normal; .... but we can’t.

Try some of the following ideas, the next time you are having a “[name the host country] day”.

  1. Call it an “expat day” and change your perspective from blaming the host country to accepting that this is a natural part of being an expatriate.
  2. Accept that as an “expat day”, the “should be’s” are coming from you; not from the host country.
  3. Think about what you would be doing, getting or having if you were in your home country.
  4. Give your permission to be sad about what you are missing, rather than angry at the world you are in.
  5. Listen for your feelings. What are you missing from home? Is it the people, the food, the environment?
  6. Dig deeper into those thoughts and find your underlying beliefs and values. Is there support in the environment you are missing? Does the food symbolize family, love, warmth?
  7. Accept that you probably can’t fully recreate your home, even for this one day, in your host country.
  8. Learn from your values and beliefs and create a tradition that honors those values in a new way.
The host country may now be your home in the deepest sense of the word. You probably love some of the holidays, traditions and ways of your new home. At the same time, accept that the foundation for many of your values was laid when you were a child. These values and beliefs are often layered deeply below our adult experiences. The expat day or expat moment gives you the opportunity to look beyond blame of your host country and mine those layers of values. By bringing them to the surface, you can take responsibility for cherishing them, polishing them or just tossing them away. Leaving you with one less “expat day”.

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