Let’s face facts; like it or not, the expat culture is an extroverted one. Expats meet and greet one another frequently over drinks, (it’s also a drinking culture) coffee, dinners, parties and sports. This can pose a challenge for the expat introvert who is most happy at home curled up with a good book, or having a one-on-one in-depth conversation.
What can the expat introvert do to optimize their experience abroad, while remaining true to their introverted nature?
Tip # 1: Make friends with being quiet.
If you can truly accept the fact that you are an introvert and feel comfortable in your own skin, you will exude a calming kind of quiet.
As Susan Cain states in her groundbreaking and readable book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking:
Introverts are usually more comfortable listening than they are talking, and when they do speak they usually have something worthwhile to say.
Introverts are frequently creative types who enjoy spending time alone and recharging. If you’re an expat introvert, it’s important that you honor and befriend this aspect of yourself, and let go of any judgments you might have around being an introvert.
Tip # 2: Learn some ‘extrovert’ skills.
At the same time, there are some skills that extroverts have that can be easily learned. It can be helpful to learn some conversational gambits like asking open-ended questions. Extroverted people love to talk about themselves, and if you don’t, just getting them started can be enough.
Another book I recommend is The Art of Conversation: Change Your Life with Confident Communication by Judith App. This gives some sure-fire ways to start conversations and keep them going.
Tip #3: Be on the lookout for other expat introvert individuals.
If you’re an expat introvert, there will be some times, particularly if you’re a career expat or spouse, when it isn’t in your best interest to stay home.
Another way to handle being in a situation with lots of people is to keep your eyes open for other introverts. This may sound counter- intuitive (what if neither one of you wants to talk!) but these are the very people you may connect with the most easily.
This may be someone who is on the sidelines, listening more than talking, and who seems relatively comfortable being quiet. You might want to commiserate about all the noise around you and even share your preference for quiet, if it seems right.
The tips to keep in mind, are the richness of being an introvert, albeit difficult, in an extroverted milieu; how acceptance of yourself just as you are is key, and that there are other expat introverts that you can connect with. If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to feeling comfortable anywhere, without a need to envy expat extroverts.
Author: Dhyan Summers
Dhyan Summers, MA, Licensed Psychotherapist in the US is the Director of Expat Counseling and Coaching Services and has been a therapist for 38 years. She was an expat for 16 years, counseling expats since 2007. She recently repatriated to the US and now lives in Ashland, OR. You can visit her website at www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com.