Don’t forget to take yourself with you

P1080428Some years ago, after a couple of relocations abroad, I suddenly realized in horror: “I am lost, I no longer know who I am!”

Every time I relocated, I was really well prepared. In a word, I was the perfect expat-to-be.

The moment I knew I would be relocating, I started language lessons for the new place. Everyone told me to try and learn as much as possible about my new host country, to avoid that famous ‘culture shock’. I was to learn the differences between myself and the Dutch, French, American and Italian cultures. People told me it was very important to know what the locals do differently.

Upon arrival I took more language lessons in my new hometown and as the perfect student I focused solely on that local language and its culture. I adjusted, integrated, assimilated like a veritable chameleon – right up to the above-mentioned moment.

I found that I had left myself back home. I had packed my furniture, all my personal belongings and my entire luggage, but I had forgotten to pack myself. I had forgotten to be proud of where I come from; to know who I am and what I want.

You can change country; you can change where you live; you can change your clothes or your hairstyle, but you always take yourself with you. Wherever you go you are always in good company. Your personality, your talents, your potential, behaviors (those things you do), your thoughts and your cultural background – they are all part of you, whether you like it or not.

In hindsight, I now know that the biggest challenge to moving abroad is to be yourself as much as possible, to be authentic and to be proud of your own background. To respect the locals and their culture by focusing on what we have in common rather than what all our differences are.

Who am I? What do I want? What do I have to offer? Do you know the answers for yourself?


 

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‘I can’t believe THAT!’ said Alice

‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’

Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

Chapter 5 – Wool & Water, Alice in Wonderland

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