A Suitcase Full of Expectations
During my first two experiences abroad, I had the chance to live expat life to the fullest. It didn’t take that long, before I had settled into my new environment and, in the spur of the moment, my agenda started to become filled with coffee dates with local friends and weekend trips with people from all over the world. One cup at a time, I built my own network and friendships that turned out to be very solid and precious.
Of course, I had ups and downs during my time abroad, but I collected countless memories that made saying goodbye hard and my life as an expat unforgettable. And yes, I expected every beginning in a new place to be a huge success, probably forgetting that, sometimes, good things don’t happen in the blink of an eye.
Good Things Come in Threes?
After living in two different countries and making amazing memories with international friends, it was time for me to pack again and leave for my third adventure abroad. I couldn’t wait to start this new chapter, in a new city and in a new country. The idea of learning about a different culture and discovering unique places sounded as exciting as it had the first time I had made a move abroad.
I could feel the adrenaline rising, while I packed my suitcase with clothes for three different seasons, pictures of my loved ones, brand new books… and many expectations.
When Expectations Meet Reality
Leaving two wonderful experiences behind, I was looking forward to living that amazing expat life again. But this time, moving to another country wasn’t as I expected it to be. In fact, I quickly realized that the local language was an obstacle to communication and socialization, since I wasn’t used to the speed and different accents of a language that I was putting into practice for the first time. It made getting to know locals a “mission impossible” and, as time passed by, I couldn’t find anyone I was really clicking with. In the middle of all this, planning my weekends and my free time became unexciting and monotonous, since I had no new friends to share my interests with.
Where was that perfect expat life I was so thrilled to live again? All my hopes and ambitions for my stay abroad started fading away, while I was feeling powerless being confronted with these circumstances. However, while I couldn’t change the situation, I could change my attitude towards it. In fact, when facing unmet expectations, we have two choices: sitting down and complaining or embracing the reality and turning it into an opportunity to learn and grow.
Sometimes Plan B Is Better than Plan A
When your plans don’t work out how you thought they would, keep in mind that it is still always worth the adventure. Sometimes unmet expectations can lead to something much better than you hoped for.
To be honest, before moving I used to spend hours staring at the computer screen looking for a nice, well-decorated, centrally located flat. Little did I know that I would end up living in a pretty old house in a small town outside the city and only have one train every hour that could get me to work. Although I was disappointed about the situation, I tried to focus on the things I had and tried to make the best out of them. Since I had no super expensive rent to pay, I took the chance to save some money and use it for treating myself to nice dinners and weekend trips, without feeling guilty. And peaceful countryside walks turned out to be my favorite thing to do after a long day at the office!
Be Patient with the Process
Good things take time and not everything comes together immediately. Maybe you are still longing for that beautiful flat, a large group of friends, or a higher language level, and maybe you feel frustrated about not having what you expected to easily find, when starting your new life in a new country. But this doesn’t mean that you will never achieve those goals. You just need to let go of expectations and the frustration that comes with them not being met, remembering that there’s no rose without a thorn.
Go to a language class, speak to that person or group you find interesting, take part in local activities — don’t focus on what you don’t have now and, instead, make plans to accomplish your goals and keep working hard. Facing unmet expectations with determination will make you a much stronger person, ready to step out of your comfort zone.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride, because sometimes the process is the most important and beautifully challenging part of the journey.
There Is a Time for Everything
Sometimes you try your best and push yourself, but things simply remain the same. In this case, you should see this moment as a time of learning and working on yourself, maybe as you have never done before and maybe in a personal area, that you didn’t think you had to work on.
As for me, I struggled with comparing my current expat life with the previous ones at first. But after taking a deep breath, I realized that I didn’t need a busy agenda and plenty of friends in order to enjoy my experience abroad. Even though that was my number one desire when moving to another country, I realized that I needed more time for myself than I imagined and I had to learn to do things on my own, without necessarily relying on other people. I now enjoy exploring the city with my backpack on and reading a good book in a new coffee shop — and every time I do so, I feel like I’m getting to know myself a little bit more. The overall result was totally unexpected, but still amazingly rewarding.