Trying life out as an expat can bring a lot of benefits and change the trajectory of your life for the better. But what if you and your spouse did it together? With that special person by your side sharing in this major life experience, it can be doubly meaningful. There are a lot of curveballs to being an expat. If you approach 2-5 year relocation time as a team, you can be sure to weather whatever comes your way. Here’s our round-up of the personality traits that will help you two to thrive while abroad.
Be Open Minded
Different religions, customs, and social mores are a given when you move to another country. Some of them will probably clash with you or your partner’s way of doing things. For example, in some countries it is more acceptable to be “touchy feely” and even kiss on the cheek upon meeting. In other cultures, though, just touching someone else’s arms casually in a conversation can be viewed as a violation of personal space. Depending on you or your partner’s cultural background, you may feel more comfortable with one way of doing things, while your partner falls on the other end of the spectrum. You may find the style appealing or, conversely, off-putting. Try to adopt an open-minded stance to your new culture and your partner’s view on it, which may be different from your own. It doesn’t mean you have to change your views, but for the sake of diplomacy, find a way to tactfully bow out of things that you don’t agree with, or simply wait to judge if someone does something that seems odd to you.
Stay Strong & Be Resilient
Traveling and moving can take it out of you. Just moving alone is ranked as one of the most stressful activities. Now, imagine you’re moving to another country and the stress all but doubles. The ability to bounce back from setbacks and frustrations is key. The new apartment only has stairs and no elevator? Welcome to the big city! The grocery store doesn’t carry Heinz mustard and it’s your favorite? Find a new favorite condiment! The public transportation system is erratic and you’re really missing your car right about now? Grab a book and enjoy the reading time! Ideally, you’d help each other keep a light-hearted perspective in situations such as these. Finding the bright side will take on a whole new meaning when you’re being slapped in the face with constant differences on a daily basis.
Explore Your New World
Hopefully you are both willing to try to get involved as you lay down roots. Attend happy hours with colleagues at work, make an effort with lunchtime chats, or have everyone over for a BBQ after a few months. If you have kids, join the PTA, volunteer for weekend activities (if you work), or at the local animal shelter or library. A certain amount of extroversion is going to be handy here from at least one partner. Remember that one person can balance the other out in areas like these. And make sure to ask a lot of questions. Never assume! You know what that does…
Commit to Learning
As a couple investigating a new city, you’ll inevitably bump up against some things you don’t know or understand about the culture you’re now immersed in. For example, why are the Mexicans throwing huge buckets of water on the floors to mop? And also, why do I have to take my shoes off when I go to my friend’s house in Japan? How embarrassing! I didn’t wear matching socks and there’s a hole in the toe…
Remind each other that it’s ok to ask questions and clarify when you don’t understand. The ability to act like a child when you don’t know something, take in new information with grace, and then take it all with a grain of salt, and not so seriously, will help greatly as you navigate day to day life.
Maintain a Sense of Humor
There will inevitably be things that go wrong: one of you puts your foot in it, makes the other cringe, or orders one thing from the menu, and gets a completely different thing. Don’t forget to laugh and see the comedy or irony in situations like these. A good natured amusement of your new life together will go very far in keeping things harmonious. If you can laugh together, that only makes your relationship stronger and your memories together better. Remember, too, that the more you travel as a couple the better you will probably get at it and your compatibility will deepen.
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