You can’t have a travel blog without being a self-confessed travel addict. It will be no surprise, then, that faced with the Things having 3 days off school for half term… We decided to take a trip. I mean to be fair, if in doubt, we will always, ALWAYS take the trip. So why did we decide to do the Maldives with family? Read more
When mummy Wanderlust was here visiting us in the summer she commented on how settled we seem. She’s always admired how we make the most of where we are. And she asked what I would say to new expats arriving here (or anywhere) for the first time.
I don’t think you can ever be truly settled in a place that you know you’ll leave. We’ve always known we were leaving other places but this place is different. Because we can’t stay.
As far as we can be I guess we are pretty settled. I am pretty proud of how we get on with things wherever we are. We do make the most of it, whether we want to be there or not.
And we always end up enjoying the experience.
13 Pieces of Advice for New Expats
1. Get Out of the House
Do it and do it every day.
Now I get it. In some places this is easier said than done. If you’ve moved to a place where you need to drive everywhere, you mightn’t be able to drive straight away or even ever. It might be a mission to leave the house and get somewhere else. You might live on a compound and have very little reason to leave on a day to day basis.
The advice still stands! Take a walk or get in the car and drive around. The first day I got a car I drove it round our compound with Thing 1 and we had a blast! 2.5 years into our assignment I still stick to this rule. The odd day on compound now is a fun relaxing time, not a cause for cabin fever.
A change of scene can really do you the world of good.
2. Be Spontaneous
Say yes. Say yes to everything.
Go out when you don’t want to. Accept that invitation to coffee or dinner or a play date. It gets you out of the house (check off advice no 1!) but it also gets you talking to people and making friends. It works both ways too… My friend Laura (of Life With Baby Kicks) sent out a distress signal when she arrived here not knowing anyone and I invited her for coffee having read one blog post. She was spontaneous in accepting but you know what? I was pretty spontaneous in inviting her too. Its not the sort of thing I do every day but I did it that day and we would be 4 friends down if I hadn’t. Not to mention my blog would have a different name (her husband thought it up and I love it!). To be honest I might not even have a blog at all!
You just never know what might happen today so just say YES!
3. Be Adventurous and Brave
Get stuck in!
My point is that you have made the decision to leave your comfort zone so make it fun! Make it an adventure! Get to know the culture. Do something or go somewhere you would never have done or gone to if you had stayed at home. Try new food or learn a new language. Do the exploring that you should have done at home but never did because it would always be there. There’s a stereotype about trailing spouses but I can assure you these days it’s very rarely true.
There have been so many times when I have left a location saying “I wish I had…”. Despite my best intentions I know that will happen again this time but only because my list is too long, not because I took the time for granted.
4. Be Friendly and Kind
You never know what sort of a day someone is having. They might have just received bad news from home. Their kid might have been up all night. They might be waiting on the next job move news. Or they might just be having a bad day. Everyone has bad days sometimes and bad days can seem so much worse when you’re far from home. Whatever the reason, most people are not intrinsically bad people and you can make their day better by extending a helping hand or just a smile.
The expat community is a super friendly and supportive community on the whole. When I had to go home for a family emergency last summer play dates were arranged my absence. Meals appeared on my doorstep and my kids got picked up from school… I hope it goes without saying that I look to repay those kind deeds wherever I can (and I tried to pay then forward before).
Random acts of kindness go a long way and will never work against you.
5. Avoid Negative People
Now. All that being said about being nice to people…There are SO many awesome people to meet on the expat trail.
BUT there are some people who are just going to complain about everything. That might be because of the situation they are in or it might be the type of person they are. You might know their background or you might meet them in passing and never know their story. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need negative people in your life at any time but you especially don’t need them when you are a new expat.
I still remember meeting the first people who we felt were genuinely having a brilliant time here. We’d only been here for 3 weeks when we met them and asked them how they found it. And instead of the slow inhale, lack of eye contact and mumbling about “yeah…its great…I mean it is what you make of it”… We got “We LOVE it!” with a bucket load of enthusiasm and 2 bright unwavering smiles. I immediately knew we needed them in our lives and I asked for her phone number on the way out. (Don’t think you could do that? See number 3 – be brave!!!) (PS Thanks Gemma!)
6. Be Positive
Negative people can bring you down but you can bring yourself down too. Look for the positives in the life around you. Life here isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but then again, where is it? There’s always 2 ways to look at things.
Gave up your career to move? Enjoy the time to pursue a new career or interest. Or be grateful for time spent with your kids.
Feeling far away from family and friends? Think of some super cool places you could meet them for a holiday. Can’t understand the locals? Take lessons and learn a new language. Missing the sport that you did at home but can’t do here? Take up a new one or learn a new hobby.
7. Let Yourself Whinge
We all have off days whether it is here or at home. Bottling it up doesn’t help and being Polly Positive about everything get annoying to everyone – including you! Have a vent but do it and move on. Don’t get caught up in those conversations that spiral and whip up negativity and discontent.
8. Find Your Tribe
They are there. I PROMISE!
Sometimes you’ll meet them in the first few weeks. Sometimes you’ll have to look for them. But they are there and you will find them.
Your tribe will understand you, let you vent, pick you up when you’re down and feed your kids when you’re exhausted. They will celebrate with you when your kid learns to swim or ride a bike and will love your kids as much as your time at home does. They will be there to whinge and they might even go on holiday with you if you’re lucky!
I have a regular breakfast date with 2 other people who arrived at the same time as me. One of the group calls it their therapy. We joke about it…but (for me at any rate) it’s true!
In all my international moves I have arrived wondering how on earth I could make friends that were as good as at home or in X location. Sure enough I turn around after a few months to find my kid of people are already in my circle.
And I’m already realising how hard it will be to say goodbye.
9. Be Realistic
We leave our homes and go where we don’t understand the language. We don’t understand the health system and we certainly don’t get the processes and bureaucracy. Home is remembered as somewhere where it is easy to live, where we know the quirks of the systems and have grown up living and breathing cultural norms and rules. When we go home to visit the weather might be glorious and we spend time rushing around seeing all the people we want to see.
We forget that our own countries can drive us crazy. That it rains sometimes (lots) or that we can go for weeks and weeks without seeing our best friends because life is just so busy. Life is good at home but make sure you’re not remembering it with rose tinted spectacles or you’ll have a rude awakening when you move back.
10. Make It Home
We make it a point to make our place ours as soon as we can. We unpack all the boxes as soon as we can (except for the standard one that has moved with us since 2009 without ever getting round to unpacking it lol). Our standing joke is when you open the last box you know that you’ll get the next job move.
In all seriousness, you can’t expect it to feel like home if you’ve made no effort to make it feel like home. We decorate, we put up pictures, we ship furniture wherever we go. Expat life can be pretty unpredictable and you might not know when or where you will be next but you can’t live life always thinking about the next place or on the What Ifs.
We always say we are where we are until we aren’t and it is worked pretty well for us. Home for us isn’t bricks and mortar and it certainly isn’t a country. Home is a feeling. It is where you are happiest. It is people.
As we tell the Things… home is where the 5 of us (can’t forget the dog) are together.
11. Have Plans
You always need a plan, something to work towards. For some people it might be financial like saving money towards a house or education for the Things. We are saving and I guess you could say that is part of the plan… but my plans are more short to medium term. When’s the next holiday? When will I next see my mum and my best friends? When will I meet my nephew? As travel addicts we need to know when the next trip is. As expats we want to know when we will see those people who have known us forever. We might have made new friends but we most certainly have not forgotten the old ones!
12. Ask For Help
When my new friend was hospitalised within days of arriving, they had no option but to accept help from total strangers. When Laura arrived here someone even offered to let her borrow their washing machine. I see people on Facebook groups asking for advice before they have even arrived. And if you are really struggling, maybe you have depression. It’s so common in expat circles and so so important that you get help for this as soon as you can.
There are always people who can help you. You aren’t alone in this ride.
13. Work Hard and Be Patient
Finally I guess I would say that it might sound easy enough to do all these things (or maybe it doesn’t). But the reality sometimes it’s just really hard work. Sometimes you miss people more than you ever knew you could . Sometimes you are tired or sick or you’ve just had enough of trying to decipher the medical insurance quirks.
It does take time and it does take perseverance and it doesn’t happen over night. It will get better! Keep on keeping on and one day you’ll turn around and you’ll be… Settled.
I have to admit I was a bit stumped to start with. I thought about it for a while after the girls let us know the topic. I’ve taken lots of journeys of all kinds in my life. Some have been more memorable than others I guess! Read more
Ok, ok I know this is a bit controversial. Why on earth would you choose to travel to a popular destination at the same time as the world and his wife? And (worse still) their feral kids? With the entry of Thing 1 in to mainstream education last year we resigned ourselves to restricting travel to (mainly!) school holiday dates. This means higher priced flights and accommodation. It means crowded resorts and long, long queues at the popular tourist attractions.
After moving to the Middle East we had an awesome but VERY tranquil holiday in the Maldives. Then we had a very hectic and a bit stressful holiday in India. THEN we had a shocker in Muscat over a long weekend. So why did we decide to do Phuket with kids?
More intelligent people would have got the hint that maybe exciting and challenging holidays were not for us… At least not for a while. But not to be deterred we set about thinking of a new adventure to take the Things on and came up with Thailand! Read more
I’ve had 4 or 5 people message me recently and ask about my thoughts on which is better – villa or hotel?
The short answer is that I don’t really know and I think it depends a lot on you as a family, if you are travelling with other people and where you are going. That being said, the following list might help you when making your decision if you bear the various factors in mind: Read more
I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while. I didn’t really know where to start to be honest! We spent 10 days in Kerala with kids 2 years ago and… (spoiler alert)… It wasn’t a massive success.
Now I know people who went before us and loved it. And I know people who went after us and loved it. To be fair to us, they did NOT go and have the same holiday that we had. Kerala is a beach destination and you can go to Kerala and sit in a resort for a week. I think you know Mr Wanderlust and I well enough by now to know that that is not what we wanted to do! Read more
How easy is it to go on holiday and gain those pounds as you over eat, eat out and maybe have a tipple or 2 (or 3). I’ve definitely had ups and downs weight-wise this year and the holidays have not been kind to my waistline!
Jen from Just Average Jen is quite the inspiration having lost over 10 stone (that’s 140 pounds or 63 kilos if you operate in those metrics) including while she was on holiday. Just check out her phenomenal before and after pictures here:
I’m so thrilled that she agreed to write this guest post for me: 7 Tips to Limiting Weight Gain on Holiday – all about how to make more sensible decisions while you are away. I really love the last tip about how sunscreen can help you lose weight!
So without further ado….here she is:
Holidays are all about indulgence aren’t they? Whilst we want to enjoy our holiday though we don’t really want to come home a stone heavier and unable to do up our jeans do we?! Here are my top tips for staying as healthy as you can on holiday!
1. Start the day well
Do you need a fry up every day or could you have some fruit to start the day? Making the choice of fruit will make such a difference and if you are abroad the choice may be different to what you would have at home.
2. Explore new places on holiday
Don’t just stay in the resort when there is so much to see, have a walk to see what is nearby and burn off some calories in the meantime!
3. Stay hydrated
If you are somewhere hot it is easy to drink more alcohol than you normally would just because you are thirsty, take a bottle of water everywhere with you and stay hydrated.
4. Self catering
If you have a self catering apartment make the meals you eat there fun but healthy, that way you can enjoy your meals out whilst knowing it is a treat and you have been making healthy choices too.
5. Smart Ordering
When you order meals make sure you have vegetables or salad with them. This way you will partly fill up on low calorie items and still enjoy the pizza or kebab you are having!
6. Keep Moving
If you are near the beach or have a pool do plenty of swimming, even if like me you can’t swim just walking around in the water, playing piggy in the middle with a beach ball or similar is great exercise without even realising it!
7. Avoid The Burn
Use plenty of sunscreen, whilst this doesn’t sound like something that would stop you gaining too much weight on holiday it will keep you healthy and just think, if you get sun burnt you will feel sorry for yourself if you’re anything like me and then eat more! So in a round-about way it is actually going to help you keep a healthy weight!
Whilst I am no expert by any means I have lost over ten stone by eating healthily and even lost weight on a 2 week holiday to Majorca! My motto is very much that you should enjoy your life and never deprive yourself unnecessarily.
My Blog, Just Average Jen, is about my weight loss, my journey trying to stay slim, happy and healthy including my relatable tales of when depression gets in the way and I comfort eat! We are all only human but if we want to be healthy and lose weight then we can.
You can find Jen over on her blog and on social media using the links below.
I’ve read countless Facebook posts recently alongside articles and discussions in expat groups all about the same thing. How are we defining ourselves as Expat Wives or Trailing Spouses or whatever the new term for us is? The discussions include debates on who is really the trailing spouse, different names for “us” and a long diatribe about what we are, aren’t, want to be, could be and should be. The question is.. what is the expat wife – a lady of leisure?
But it was a conversation last week that had me floored:
“So are you working here? Or are you a lady of leisure?” Read more