Now that the over indulgences of the Christmas period are passed and the party is well and truly over, it is time to start thinking of the new year ahead. As New Year is traditionally associated with an opportunity to throw out the old and welcome the new, we thought it would be a good opportunity to consider how expatriates can use 2012 to make the most out of their experiences abroad while staying true to their own background and culture. Here are 6 New Year’s resolutions that could really change your expatriate experience abroad… for the better.
1) Try more local foods
Today’s global economy means that many expatriates have no major difficulties in getting their hands on foods that they love from back home. Whether it is a particular brand of potato chips that they can get in a specialty store or a take-out meal from their favorite fast-food joint, expatriates throughout the world find it easier than ever to stick to their much-loved foods of choice. While this is great some of the time, far too many expats stick to the same old staples all of the time and really do miss out on experiencing some of the more interesting sides of life abroad… the cuisine. If you’re the type of expatriate who only shops at import stores and restricts your dining experiences to fond favorites from home, then why not give yourself a challenge this year and get out and try something new. Not only will eating like a local be much more affordable, sampling some of the local cuisines will give you an opportunity to learn more about the country you’re living in. Who knows? You may even find a new food that you love.
2) Stay in touch with friends and family back home
When you’re living overseas it can often be challenging to maintain regular contact with friends and family back home, especially if you are living in an entirely different time zone. However, it is very important that you make extra effort to stay in touch with the people that you care about. Not only will this demonstrate to these people that you do care about them, it will ensure that you maintain a relationship with them and are kept in the loop about what’s going on at home. This year why not challenge yourself to write at least one email make one phone call to some of your friends. If you phone a different friend each week you will be able to keep in contact with more of them and your friendships will be much stronger for it. If you want to email more that one person, simply write an email describing the major developments that have been happening in your life and then tailor it to each individual, enquiring about their own news. This won’t take long and your friends will feel valued and close to you, even if you are on the other side of the world.
3) Make friends with a local
It’s very easy to live life abroad in an expatriate bubble, surrounded by fellow expatriates in your own home away from home. If you live in a country where the language and culture is extremely different from your native country, it can be extremely difficult to make friends with the locals. However, if you are to truly embrace life overseas, it is important that you do make an attempt to make friends with the local people, as this will broaden your horizons and give you insights into the culture and traditions of your host country in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible before.
4) Make an attempt to learn the local language
If your native language is different from that of your host country and you have yet to master the art of conversing with the locals in their own language, then 2012 could be the year to change all that. Set yourself a huge challenge this year and make a serious attempt at learning the local language. Ignore the fact that you may not naturally good at learning languages, have a strong accent or have tried, but failed, in the past. Try to speak to at least one local person and don’t be dismayed if your early attempts fail; you will find that people appreciate a tryer!
For language learning ideas see our free section on: learning a foreign language.
5) Get to know your host country better
Many expatriates relocate to a new country and then live their lives in a silo, checking out the same bars and restaurants and limiting themselves to a solid group of friends. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it is important that you do explore the surrounding area and the culture and traditions of your host country. Start with local magazines, newspapers and expatriate papers and look through the upcoming events. Try and attend something new at least once a month; that way, by the end of the year you will have done at least 12 different things that you may not have thought of before. Alternatively you may wish to challenge yourself to mystery tours. Simply take the underground or public transport to a location that you have not been before, get off and take a good look around. If you don’t like what you see you can always get right back on the train / bus and go back to where you came from, but at least you will have found somewhere new and, who knows, you may even discover hidden places that you love.
6) Record your experiences
As long as you’re living life as an expatriate you should record your experiences in a diary or blog. While doing this may not seem so important right now, one day you may wish to have a resource that you can use to look back on how much you did and all the things that you achieved while you were living overseas. Challenge yourself to write at least 500 words a day. The subject matter can be anything: a description of your day, an observation you have on life in your host country, a moan about the things you’re missing from home… it doesn’t matter. If you really can’t face the prospect of putting pen to paper, why not create a photo journal, taking one photograph a day.
What were your expat New Year’s resolutions this year? Share them with our community by leaving a comment below.