The New Normal — Ask An Expat
Feeling lost isn’t necessarily the worst emotion we can feel in these unusual times.
Losing your mojo isn’t unusual. Perhaps you’re feeling under the weather, maybe life has thrown a curveball or two in your direction or perhaps you’re in the midst of a global pandemic slash national lockdown.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to throw you off kilter, it’s being inside with your family for 24-hours a day for the foreseeable future. And it’s why expats are uniquely placed to deal with it better than many others in the same position.
Does that sound a little outlandish, boastful even? Believe me it’s no badge of honour, nothing to be uniquely proud of but solitude and co-dependency (not the scary, weird kind) is something expats know a lot about.
Remember when you first moved to that city with the language you could barely speak, the social norms you hadn’t yet understood and the transport system that both intimidated and baffled you? Remember how you instantly had a ton of mates, loads of friends to natter with at the school gates and a social life that was both exhilarating and exhausting? Of course not, it didn’t happen.
Instead you gingerly explored further each day. Smiling at strangers and praying they wouldn’t start a conversation, hoping that you might just hear an accent you recognised. Perhaps you loitered in parks wondering if any of the other mums spoke your language and could unlock some of the city’s secrets that so far seemed like a sheer wall looming in front of you.
Comparing notes in the evening with your spouse, you both puzzled over the social riddles that had formed your day. Is it normal to do this here, do foreign offices always do that? So different.
There was wine, there was humour and there was the need to extend more patience, grace and understanding towards each during those weird times than you’d ever needed before.
The New Normal
From experience it takes around six months to settle in and start to feel at home in a country. What does it take to feel at home? Friends help, a settled home and a routine. Friends take time, creating your base can take months, but a routine? That can be put in place in weeks. What’s startling, at least to me, is how quickly the odd and uncomfortable becomes normal. Queuing around the block to go shopping, going out once a day on a well thought out, curated period of exercise, can you even imagine how bizarre that would have sounded three months’ ago? I’m sure you’ve spent time thinking about this as well as many other nuances our current situation throws up.
It’s the same during that settling in period in a new country. We quickly learn to lower our expectations. We quickly realise that predicting the outcomes of a trip to the supermarket or post office is futile, it almost never goes the way you expect. And why should it? If there’s one life lesson that creeps into your brain, it’s that your brave new world most definitely does not revolve around you and your expectations.
And Then You Soared
Yes, it’s unsettling, of course it is but it does change, rapidly. A daily trip to the shops becomes a tram ride to a favourite park. A play date leads to a social life, a chance meeting in a coffee shop turns into a lifelong friendship. Very soon, what was unpredictable and scary becomes the new normal and you did it, you. Want the inside scoop on babysitting services, you have it. Need a recommendation for a dentist, doctor or paediatrician, that’s you too. You’ve learnt not just to survive but thrive in your new normal.
And now, can we thrive and not just survive? Ask an expat.