“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” ~ Shauna Niequist
Life overseas as an expat has its perks. Many times, moving overseas means living in a beautifully furnished house or apartment, provided by one’s employer, in a posh neighborhood. In many parts of the world, daily life suddenly includes cleaning ladies, cooks, nannies, and drivers. Our children have opportunities to attend world-class international schools, immerse in unique cultures, become multi-lingual, and take trips to parts of the world that most can only dream about.
It is easy to appreciate the goodness of life when life is easy. It is easy to feel grateful for our bounty when our life is full, when we’re living out our dream lives. But how do we feel appreciation and gratitude when our lives seem to be uprooted against our will? When our work requires us to move halfway across the world, away from our loved ones, from all that’s familiar and comfortable? When we are required to live among strangers and start anew in every respect of our lives?
Or when the novelty and excitement of a new country and culture wear off, and the mundanities of daily life return?
Attitude of Gratitude
Whether we like it or not, we are all capable of adapting to a new environment and new circumstances. Humans have an incredible capacity to adapt to change. We also are capable of seeing things from different perspectives and angles. Similarly, happiness is a choice; it is up to us. We can choose to sulk in frustration or anger and feel unhappy, or we can choose to embrace our circumstances, make the most of them, and choose happiness.
Yes, when the feelings strike you, allow yourself the time to process your new life. Allow yourself to feel angry about the lack of control you feel. Allow yourself to be sad about missing your family and friends, and special occasions and milestones. Allow yourself to feel frustrated by how difficult it is to complete everyday chores in your new life.
Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” There are many ways from which we can view various events in our lives, whether ordinary or remarkable. Rather than bemoan your move and new country of residence, choose to see it as an adventure instead. Choose to view each obstacle as a unique opportunity–an opportunity to live differently, to experience the world differently, to learn about a different culture.
Similar to changing your perspective is living in the present. Take each day as it comes and see what it brings. Make the most of your time in your new country by exploring your surroundings, meeting new people, and learning the language. Immerse yourself in the culture. Enjoy what your new country has to offer.
Find three things that you’re grateful for every day. Think of what you’ve gained in your new country. What are you able to do and see now that you weren’t able to before? What do you like about your new life? Appreciate the physical and cultural beauty of your new country. Moreover, you will develop a new appreciation for what you had and for your family and friends back “home.”
Get involved in your community. Make new friends, support local organizations, volunteer and be active in local organizations and charities. Helping others will provide a sense of purpose and a new perspective, and allows a glimpse of all the blessings we have in our lives.
What are some things you do to encourage a sense of appreciation for the things and people in your life?
Author: Ann Kreske
As a Third Culture Kid, I was born in Taiwan, but raised in the United States, and have lived in over ten cities and towns in three different countries in my lifetime. In 2013, my husband and I decided to fulfill our lifelong dream of living abroad, and, together with our son, moved to and lived in Thailand for two years. I felt I had arrived “home” living abroad, and we were all bitten by the travel bug. Formally trained as an educator and lawyer, I have worked in the fields of education, editing, special education and disability rights advocacy, and veterans law.