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7 keys to a happy move for expats

A few weeks ago I sat down for a glass of wine with a good friend of mine. Much like me she’s en expat of many years, but over the past few months things have been tough for her. Family stuff back home. Work stuff here. She was exhausted and looked at me with the big puppy eyes and said “Can’t you just give me one of those ultimate checklists of what to do?“. Naturally I listened and supported her as a friend. But then I got thinking. What is the ultimate checklist for a happy move? It took me a weekend of reflection, but I got there. The list I wish I could have given her then. And I trust you’ll agree that these things are pretty darn important for a happy and balanced move.

  1. You must inspire yourself! Be 100% ok to shine and be your own hero. Other people might not always agree with you and that’s ok. Shine for yourself anyway. Be very aware that motivation is not the same as motivation. Motivation is moving away from what you don’t want (not wanting to live in a certain place because you don’t like it), whereas inspiration is to move towards what you want (picturing in your heart and mind what you really want for yourself). Keep promises to yourself and stay on mission!
  2. Persist against frustration. Frustration needs to be your friend. Immigration, language courses, paperwork of all sorts, relationship challenges or cultural differences. You name it, it’s frustrating. You need to learn to walk through the challenges in your relocation and your life in general, not around them. The fastest way from A to B is through the challenge. 
  3. Learn to delay gratification. You can’t avoid it, you have to pay your dues in life. Yes it sucks sometimes, but it’s also the most liberating thing to realise. Pressure breeds desperation and hence decisions that are often irrational and not what you want in the long or short term. Discipline and big picture thinking on the other hand helps you truly land somewhere and realise the big picture of the small sacrifices you have to make for a shorter period of time.
  4. Regulate mood. It’s hard to smile when you’re crying inside. It’s not easy to miss something or someone so much that you feel like you’re slowly being split in half. Our mood changes all the time, but the best way to regulate mood is by taking action! Because when you move your mood changes. Inevitably. One of my favourite coaches always says: ‘Action drives emotions. Emotions drive experiences. Not the other way around!‘ Sometimes you look back in life and don’t know how you did something, but you did it! Often how you did it (whether you were aware of it or not) was through regulating your mood. Movement = action = experience. In short, when everything feels like shit – take action!
  5. Hope. This is not about sitting somewhere and wishing or waiting things to be what they are currently not. This is about having something to look forward to – ALWAYS! They can be big or small things, but they need to be there constantly in your life or you’ll feel stuck and like there is nothing joyful on the horizon. A holiday, pizza night with the family, going for a daily walk. Routines. Create daily hope in your life and your energy stays up. This is so important when you move!
  6. Empathise. Want people to understand you, even if your choices in life have been very different to theirs? Can I let you in on the best kept secret? Just be compassionate. Someone wise once said that ‘compassion is love in action’. When you are seeing it from the other persons side and have compassion for the side they’re coming from your outlook changes. And so do your chances to build strong and lasting relationships with the people who stay behind and the ones who come with you.
  7. Control impulse. One of the hardest things for travellers and adventurers. So many of us just want to follow that sudden urge and go. The true maturity is to learn to distinguish between the little voice from within and the irrational impulse that just wants you to get up and run. Best way to manage this? Avoid the shiny things that don’t serve you anymore. You know what they are. The relationships, activities and people you’ve spent more time on/with/near than you should. Leave them be and follow the ones that serve you instead. Put energy into what you want to create more of, not the things that eat your energy.

This list is true for most expats, would you agree? I’ve also created a really cool e-book for International students, because I know that when you add studies and performance to the relocation, things start to change. The International Student Guide is packed with advise and tips most students don’t even know about.