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Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Expat coaching, Life coaching | 0 comments

Social interaction

Naturally when you move to a new country you need to build up a new friendship circle and you might even have to meet the family if you moved to be with your partner. These situations can be challenging and my advice is again to not push yourself. Some activities are unavoidable, but develop a strategy that works for you.

If you function well in groups then invite a few new people or family over for coffee or dinner. If you prefer one on one conversations (like me), then make the effort to do your rounds with family members and new friends. It also gives you the opportunity to get to know them better and then you have something to talk about the next time round. It’s almost as if you have to start with social interaction skills 101 all over again. No one knows you, they don’t know what to expect from you and the first impression that you make is important.

Sometimes I found first impressions quite difficult, specifically in a group setting. Everybody knows each other and are talking and laughing and I sit there with a pretty face and no words. It is quite frustrating for me, because I’m like a fly on the wall looking at myself not being myself. I know I’m more social, friendlier, funnier and more confident, but sometimes I just have no words. At the moment I’m ascribing it to the fact that they speak a foreign language and even though I understand it 95%, I still can only speak 30%. English is of course no problem and I can chip in anytime with English, but I still seem not to and that sometimes frustrates me. I then leave an evening or a dinner feeling like I totally didn’t represent myself.

The important thing is not to get discouraged. First impressions can change and as you get more comfortable with everything, the situation will also change. Just never give up, never see yourself as the outsider all alone and uninteresting. Evaluate the situation afterwards and think about how you can be yourself more comfortably next time round. Do not beat yourself up and rather show yourself some kindness, you are coping with enough change as it is. Rome wasn’t built in a day! 😉

I have experienced that people usually are more afraid to speak to you than you are to speak to them and when you break the ice with one question about them, their work or week, they seem to chat quite easily. Don’t necessarily expect deep meaningful conversations the first time round, but there will be enough questions for you to ask to keep the conversation going. It sounds silly, but conversation is an art and it is something that you will have to master again. It is so easy when you have an established circle of friends at home and one new person joins and you are comfortable and confident, but in a new country it’s a whole new story. You have no circle, you have no ‘back up support’, nowhere to turn to if conversation runs out and as these fears build, it can leave you incapacitated in the corner.

No one said that it was going to be easy, but don’t stress and don’t give up. One step at a time and you’ll come out winning! 🙂

Picture credit: flickr

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Expat coaching | 0 comments

Small disappointments

We all want things to go a certain way or people to react in a certain manner and when this does not happen we experience disappointment. It’s normal and we experience different levels of disappointment on a normal day ranging from making a bad cup of tea, a friend cancelling, not completing all the tasks that you wanted to or someone slipping a hurtful comment.Give yourself some space.

These are all normally dealt with pretty easily as forgiveness runs freely and you generally understand that people’s actions are determined by their schedules and pressures and that it’s really not personal. You might not even have felt disappointed on a normal day, in your normal country and normal routine, but now it’s different. The problem is that as an expat your coping reserves are already running low. There are so many small challenges in a normal day that small disappointments can really catch you off guard. It hits hard and it breaks your stride. Suddenly everything is too much, too hard, too far and too different and it all comes crashing down.


Calm down.

Perspective, you need perspective. It’s a journey.

Work through your thoughts a bit and try to determine what is really upsetting you. It’s often a bunch of small challenges, rather than one specific thing. Maybe write them down on a page or draw them in topic bubbles. Writing them down can turn the “mountain” into a small heap again and make things manageable. It can also be helpful to explain to your partner or friends what you are going through and why one small thing can lead to you feeling completely overwhelmed. If your partner or friends are not expats, then it might be difficult for them to understand how normal daily activities can become overwhelming.

Also write down the emotions that you are feeling. It is important to pinpoint them so that you can manage them or they will end up managing you. An emotional outburst can also indicate that you are bottling up emotions and not properly dealing with certain challenges. It is important that you allow yourself time to reflect on your feelings and journey. Make a list of the small victories that you’ve had this week and be proud of yourself. Remind yourself that it’s a process and that everything is going to be alright at the end and if everything is not alright then it’s not yet the end. You will conquer this one, just as you have conquered the others, one step at a time!

Picture credit: Lifehack

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Expat coaching, Life coaching | 0 comments

Exploding emotions!

Often, too often, we allow emotions to cripple us. Emotions should warn us, but not control us. Too often our emotions become the problem because we don’t ask the correct questions: “where does the emotion come from? Or why do I feel this way?”

 I have heard the expression many times that an emotion is like a warning light on the dashboard of your car. It goes on when something internal is wrong. In that moment we have two choices, break the light and ignore the problem or investigate the problem. The thing is, that sometimes the little light is scary, especially if we don’t know where the problem lies, how deep it is, how long it is going to take to sort out or how much it will cost you. 

Let’s say that your “dashboard” shows a light of irritation, you may stop to think and realise that you are just hungry and it’s pretty easy to solve or you might realise that it’s something about someone else that irritates you and you might need to dig a bit deeper to find out where the irritation is coming from and why it is affecting you so much. Or you might notice your irritation, but have absolutely no idea what the underlying problem is. Don’t worry! You are totally capable of dealing with it and you don’t need to understand and fix it in an instant. Take some time out, even if it is just 10 minutes and just sit and think about where the emotion is coming from. Sometimes something as simple as irritation can be underlying fear, shame or sadness which can easily turn into frustration or anger if not acknowledged and dealt with.

 Emotion should not scare us, it should rather guide us to become more self aware so that we can manage ourselves better and always be filled with joy. If we do not manage our emotion, it will control us and then we will start to act in ways which we do not wish to act. Be bold today and don’t be scared to look at what is lying underneath the emotion. Do not allow the emotion to control you, but be brave and face the emotion. Allow yourself to become more emotionally aware and set yourself free from controlling and exploding emotions.

 Picture credit: creativereview

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Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Life coaching | 0 comments

Placing yourself first vs selfishness

Oh the terrible evil! Let me make one thing clear first. There is a difference between selfishness and putting yourself first. In our lives we need to put ourselves first in certain areas to ensure that we are emotionally stable and healthy. We need to look after our bodies and our hearts, if we don’t, then we’ll lose a part of ourselves and we would be less able to successfully support and help someone else. We become thinly spread and at the end drained, tired and unable to motivate ourselves or others. What you need to do to stay emotionally healthy will be different for each person and it is something that you need to decide for yourself.

Selfishness comes in when we put ourselves first at the expense of others. When we become self consumed and blinded to the needs of others. Selfishness is so sneaky, it creeps in so slowly and before you know, it’s all about me and in that moment you see yourself as the victim (because you are not being agreed with or treated as you think you should and this seems unfair to you). If you recognize this behaviour, then a red light should be flashing.

As soon as you start seeing yourself as the victim (self pity), everyone else’s actions will be amplified and any negative reaction from someone might be experienced as an attack. When selfishness increases, your grace for others start decreasing and soon patience and kindness go out the window. In short, selfishness does not make us more satisfied, it actually makes us unhappier, because it creates an insatiable desire which nothing and no one can still and it makes us feel that we are constantly being treated unfairly.

So how do we manage the fine line between selfishness and putting ourselves first? Firstly we can learn to define our boundaries clearly and then consider where we are overstepping boundaries onto other peoples’ lives in selfishness. Imagine your life as a field, if you keep living on other peoples’ fields then you are stealing from them and being selfish, but if you keep letting others steal from you by allowing them to pitch their tents (needs, desires, opinions) on your field, then you are not looking after yourself enough and you might be burdened and too thinly spread. Ensure that you live comfortably on your field by allowing time for resting, loved ones and lots of time to give, to love and be loved.

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Posted by on Apr 13, 2014 in Expat coaching | 0 comments

Embarrassing moments…

I thought that it’s about time that I write about interesting or almost embarrassing moments for me since living in a different country. It’s all part of the “inburgering” process I suppose! J

The first time that I went to a grocery store, I innocently walked with my basket of items up to the cashier. I put the basket down in front of her. She looked at me, I looked at her, she looked at me, I looked at her, but she didn’t ring up my items?! I realised that I must be doing something wrong, but it took me a few moments to realise that she was staring at me because I’m not unpacking my groceries from the basket! This was strange for me, because in SA they unpack your basket for you. So small, but so embarrassing! They also don’t pack your groceries into grocery bags, thus you have to do it yourself. So it looks like this: you try to unpack your basket, while she scans your items and slides them to the side. You then rush over to start packing your groceries into plastic bags (while you are actually supposed to pay), then you stop packing and pay. Then while you continue packing the next person’s groceries start sliding by. Talk about pressure! Thank goodness for the self scanning option which makes buying groceries easier these days.

Bus tips

I’ve never really taken a bus in SA, as I always drove by car, so the things that are obvious to bus users in The Netherlands are not obvious to me. For example, the bus comes at a certain time, but it actually only DRIVES BY at a certain time. If you want the bus to stop, you have to jump up and wave your bus card, otherwise it assumes that you are waiting for another bus and it just doesn’t stop. Super confusing when you wait and it just drives by because you didn’t signal.

Also, when you want to exit the bus, you have to press the “stop” sign in the bus just before your desired stop, if you don’t, the bus just drives past. I know it sounds incredibly obvious, but if you have never been on a bus, then it just isn’t.   

I’m fortunate not to have too many embarrassing stories. At least you learn quickly by making mistakes and it is of course part of the adventure!

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