New Year’s Resolutions?
We associate the New Year with a new chapter in life. We make resolutions for a new start: a new, healthier you; start that diet, go to the gym regularly, cut down on alcohol. Our resolutions may include learning a new skill, doing ‘something different’ of any description so we feel good and virtuous about ourselves. Our New Year’s Resolutions last until about February, so if you’re still enjoying them, well done! If we peel back the layers of these resolutions, what we are actually doing is looking for a way to step out of our comfort zone.
Often, we think of pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone to become a more complete and broadly experienced person. The thing is, expat life is already pushing us out of our comfort zone every single day. By our very nature, and by taking that step to move to a new country, expats are pushing boundaries and getting further away from our ‘normal’ day-to-day life than most people ever will.
However, after making that giant leap, taking any more steps outside your new comfort zone can sometimes be a very scary move indeed. Once all your stuff has arrived, you’ve unpacked, and you’ve made your new house a home it can be very tempting to ‘hibernate’ a bit. You’re creating a new familiarity, a new safe place, a new comfort zone. Yes, you’re in a whole new country, but your living room can become your haven. It can also be tempting to stay there for a while to catch your breath. Which is fine if that’s what you need to do, but if you leave it too long, you’ll miss out on a whole new life waiting for you outside your front door.
It’s easy to fear making too many changes at once, to want to modify only what is necessary and maintain some familiarity in your life. However, as an expat, you’re much more likely to live happily if you can throw yourself into the new and to let go of a comfort zone that really isn’t there any more.
Acknowledge that you’re out of your comfort zone
First you must acknowledge that once you’ve moved overseas, you have already taken a massive jump out of your comfort zone. Unless you entirely reverse your decision, things aren’t ever going to be the same as they once were.
Readjust your expectations. Know that things aren’t going to run the way they did back home, that your creature comforts may not be as readily accessible, and that life may run to a different beat here.
When you make that acknowledgement, the new often isn’t as scary as it once was.
Next, get out of the house! Say yes to every invitation that is extended to you. Go to every event that may be on your calendar. Be proactive.
Be bold, be adventurous, and try new things
Taking the mental step towards accepting the new is one thing. But you do need to follow it up with a very real and a very physical step. Already, working and living abroad are going to help you get a better understanding of the culture and norms of the place that you now live in.
However, once a week, preferably on the weekend, you should dedicate some time to trying something completely new and hopefully something that’s common to people living in the country that’s now your home. For example, in Germany, a family walk in the countryside on a Sunday is customary. You’ll find plenty of eateries on the beaten track so you can stop for Kaffee und Kuchen, or beer and schnitzel if you prefer! What is happening in your neighbourhood?
Use every opportunity to explore your new area and visit places you could never have dreamed of. A favourite New Year custom in Japan that we enjoyed regularly was Hatsumode, or the first visit of the new year to a shrine. We made the ‘pilgrimage’, if you like, to Mount Takao each year and made many wonderful memories.
Be willing to take risks and make sure that, if you’re travelling with your family, you’re all taking those leaps together. Even if you don’t like one of your weekly excursions or activities, you have learned something new from it.
Ask what you’re missing and why you’re missing it
There are certainly going to be some indulgences from home that you might find yourself missing. More often than not, it’s the little things than the big things. British expats are forever going to complain about not being able to find a good cup of English breakfast tea, for instance.
However, you should ask yourself: why is it that you miss some of the things from back home? Is it because they really had such value to you? Or is it simply because you expected them and they’re not there? This question often comes with the revelation that you could be getting upset over something very minor, indeed, allowing you to develop a more helpful perspective. You can understand that this is an opportunity to push your boundaries and gain more confidence.
Appreciate the growth you’ve made
Once a month or once every two months, take a look at some of the changes that you’ve made to your life since moving overseas. You’re going to realise how long it’s been since you had your favourite food-from-home, since you watched your favourite TV programme, or did other things that are now behind you. You’re also going to see the new little habits that have become part of your daily life, showing you that living outside your comfort zone isn’t as difficult as you thought.
Look back on the new activities and trips you’ve tried over the past month, too. Appreciate that what you might have once been apprehensive about is now in the rear-view mirror, helping you develop confidence to keep living outside your comfort zone.
Forget about your comfort zone
As soon as you became an expat, that comfort zone became a thing of the past. All there is now is to accept it, and to embrace the new. The best way to do that is to explore your new home and try something new with your family each week. Appreciate the new experiences you’re bringing into your life and enjoy expat life.