February is the new beginning of the year
For many people the beginning of January signifies a time for renewal; a time to define some new goals.
And, let’s face it, the end of January brings for many of that same group the frustrating questions: “How did January fly by so quickly?” and “ What happened to my motivation and my goals?” People living abroad are certainly no exceptions. If anything, due to the stress and ambiguity of living in a different culture, goals can be even easier to lose sight of.
The good news is you can reset and create new habits and intentions any time of year. The key is to break your bigger goals into smaller manageable action steps and acknowledge yourself for all the small wins along the way. Another important factor is to not choose goals that are “shoulds”, but instead do things that motivating and meaningful for you. In other words, choose things that make you smile and give a contented sigh versus furrow your brow in determination (and frustration).
And, even more good news, this is where people who live abroad have an advantage. You (and your spouse/partner and children) can tap back into the reasons for why you initially chose the adventure of living aboard. Most likely those reasons will involve, having new experiences, growth as individuals and as a family, as well as having fun. Once you identify the reasons it will be much easier to not only create goals that resonate with you but also enjoy the process of carrying them out.
So here are a few ideas to get you started. But not just any ideas; living abroad- specific ideas to help you create goals and actions steps to make the most out of your international experience.
The companion goal to lose weight or get fit is often to eat better, but, here, we mean eat local. Food is a great cultural gateway and introduction to a new country – not just what people eat but how they establish mealtime rituals. It is a way that people connect and nurture each other. So you might meet a new friend along your food journey or establish a new family “tradition”.
Get More Exercise
Get out and explore your host city. If possible walk the streets and listen to the noises and language. How do people greet each other and interact? Are they casual or more formal? Expressive, like Mexicans, or reserved more like Japanese nationals? The best way to get to know a new country is to observe without judgement. Keep an open mind. This is great to do on your own or with a partner/spouse and children.
Spend More Time with Friends
In this list, it’s all about making new friends. If you are having an Intercultural Training program or Partner Support program, you will learn about building personal and professional networks to establish yourself in the new country, but, some quick tips are to get involved with your children’s school activities, volunteer at an organization you are passionate about or join some classes (cooking, wine tasting, tennis etc). As expats ourselves the best piece of advice we were ever given was to accept every invitation you are offered! You never know where it may lead, but, for certain you will learn valuable lessons on how to integrate into your new host culture because just like food, it’s a window to the cultural norms.
Learn a Language
Even if the business language at your workplace is your native language, still make the effort to learn the local language. It will show respect to your colleagues and be an ice-breaker in social situations. You’ll be amazed at how much the locals will support and help you find your words. This is also a fun activity to do as a family; you can practice at local restaurants, shops and even at home.
Now it is up to you. What else can you (and your family) come up with? Remember to ask yourself questions like: Is this goal fun and enjoyable? What would be the first step? Who’s support do I need? How will I know I am moving towards my goal?
And remember to break down your goals into smaller steps and perhaps most importantly have fun creating and working towards those goals.
Post written by Alyssa Bantle and Joanne Danehl, experts in intercultural training and language in Crown Relocations.