Detective meets various people in various difficult points in their lives. He has to try understanding their emotions, their ways of being, how they live. He has to gather a lot of information and make sense of them. He has to draw parallels between various clues he found…
I have been reflecting recently about the things I’ve learnt, things I’ve achieved, challenges I faced over the past two years of living in the UK. Yes, it has been almost two years since I moved! Absolutely crazy how fast the time goes! When thinking about those things and when making various summaries and plans it occurred to me that living abroad is somewhat like being a detective. Let me tell you in what ways.
Detective is open to meet and understand new people
And so are you. As an expat or an international assignee, you do have to go above and beyond to talk to new people and actually try to understand their world, their values, their habits. As much as a detective needs to familiarize himself with his clients’ stories, you are encouraged to ask for stories of local people to accelerate the process of adaptation. Developing your empathy and openness is the key. You are a detective of the new culture you have moved to and you need to (want to!) make the effort to get to know it better.
Detective is doing his research before going to the field
And so are you. Either before moving abroad (if it’s a long-planned move) or right after (if the move was more spontaneous or assignment-driven) you start to feel the need to know a bit more about the country, about the culture, about the history, about the people, about the habits, about the do’s and don’ts…
As much as a detective does a bit of research before diving into his assignment, you also feel the need to gather some information before throwing yourself into completely unknown situations.
Detective is constantly looking for links and clues and does not give up in his search
And so are you. You are exposed to a lot of information and many new stimuli. You need to filter them and make sense of them. Your brain is working on full steam to connect the dots and find some similarities between where you’ve been before and where you are now. It also processes a lot of things that are weird, unknown, stupid, different or annoying.
Initially the detective is happy that he is finding more and more clues, more and more information. That can mean that he is getting closer to solving the case. And so do you – the first couple of weeks or months can be a point where you have a lot of information coming in and you love it. With time however as much as a detective needs to sit down and order the clues, make links between them and draw conclusions, you also will need a time to reflect on all the news things that have happened.
If a detective can’t find enough information, as much as you can’t find enough similarities between where you’re from and where you are now, he does not give up. He consults with other detectives, he does some more research, he keeps looking or going over the clues he has already. That’s exactly what you can do as well before giving up. You can ask for help, you can talk to someone you trust, you can make the effort to learn something more to better understand your new home.
Detective needs to be mindful so that his work does not affect his family and friends
And so do you. Especially if you’ve got children this point is very important. You can’t transfer the negative emotions and struggles that you’re having on to the people you love and care about. It’s not to say you can’t talk about the difficulties you’re facing or questions you might have, but it’s to encourage you to be mindful about how your mood affects others. Some cases that detective needs to work on are difficult and involve confidential stories. Have a filter on what you say to your children as in some cases they may actually be adapting better than you, and there’s no point transferring your fears to them. If you have a family, there’s a great expat blog that provides a ton of information and advice about living abroad with your children – Expat Child. Definitely have a look.
But it’s not only the family that might be affected. Make sure you treat your research as something likable, as something positive that will help you adjust to the new situation. Especially if you’re an assignee or a trailing spouse where there’s not many options to change your situation very soon. Keeping a learning mindset will help you stay positive. You can always speak to your friends and family at home to ask for advice or just ask them to be able to vent. Be careful however in how certain struggles of living abroad might affect the partner you live with.
Detective reads people well
And so do you. The more time you spend abroad the better attention you pay to how people behave, what it means, what message they want to convey. It doesn’t come easily nor it comes immediately. But it does. And this helps you develop your cultural intelligence as well as improve your relationships with international colleagues. As much as detective needs to read clues people give him during a conversation, as an expat you also seem to start paying more attention to what and how people say.
In addition to learning to read people better, there’s a high chance you will understand yourself better. You can start to be a detective of self! What I always encourage people to do and I see works well for myself is to reflect once in a while on your priorities, on your dreams, on your goals, on your feelings. Just to switch off and focus only on what you would like to have or feel in an ideal world. To understand where your frustrations might come from, to understand what you’re striving for and what make you feel good where you are now. By living or working abroad you get to learn more about yourself faster than you would ever do if you’ve never left.
One of the ways you can reflect on what’s important to you is signing up to Project Abroad’s newsletter! Once you sign up you will get a password to access an exercise booklet which will help you to prioritize your focus and come up with a motivating affirmation. Hang it beside your bed and wake up with a positive thought about yourself each day! Newsletter subscribers will also receive a digest of great resources from this and other blogs as well as exclusive expat and assignee advice. Are you in? 🙂
Main picture’s credit goes to Pixabay.com