YOU HAVE MANY decisions to make when moving overseas.
Which country will you move to? Do you want to live in a big city, small town, farm, or beach? Will you buy, or rent? What will your budget be? Are you willing to learn a new language?
The most important thing to decide is which type of expat you’ll be.
Are you going to be someone who sees living overseas as a burden, because you have no other choices? Or will you be someone who views the move as a new stage of life, and a positive adventure?
The first type of expat – the “existers”.
To them, life abroad isn’t something they enjoy – it’s something they “have to do”, because they feel they don’t have an alternative.
They moved overseas because they didn’t like something about their home country – the taxes, the political situation, medical care, cost of living, inflation, etc. Whatever the issue is, they felt they couldn’t live in their home country anymore, and had to escape.
These expats are easy to identify, although they’re difficult to encounter, because they rarely leave their homes.
They spend most of their time watching the news from their home country, or reading about it on the Internet. Their focus is often on the past, and always on what is negative. They believe life is a zero-sum game, and they feel that they’re on the losing side.
Unfortunately, that’s how they feel in their new country too.
Of the hundreds of expats, and potential expats who I’ve met, this attitude is fairly common.
If you meet one of these “existers”, they’re likely to be doing the following:
- Complaining about the situation back home – even though it’s thousands of miles away, and they haven’t been there in years.
- Complaining about how things in their current country are “wrong”, because they aren’t being done the way they used to be done back home.
- Speaking to the waiters and shopkeepers in English – since they’ve never bothered to learn the local language.
- Telling you all the places to avoid, because they’re “unsafe” or will charge you higher “gringo prices”.
- Ordering a meal they don’t enjoy, just because it’s cheap.
Just being around them is tiring.
Eventually, they tend to meet other people with the same attitudes. They spend their time complaining to each other, and reinforcing each other’s beliefs.
The second type of expats – the “enjoyers”.
For this group of expats, a bad situation in their home country may be the main reason they moved abroad. However, they focus on the positives – what they can do to have an enjoyable life now, and in the future.
When you meet them, they’re more likely to be doing the following:
- Participating in an activity they enjoy – taking dance lessons, helping out at their church, attending a local event.
- Telling you about some great, local restaurant.
- Starting a business, like they always wanted to do.
- Learning, and speaking, the local language.
- Discovering places to visit, far off most tourist maps.
- Having coffee with their friends, both expats and locals.
Even if there are things they had to give up – their favorite food, TV show, or hobby – they’ve found something new to replace it. They saw a problem, but made the effort to find a solution.
Which group will you be in?
“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
The most significant factor to determine how happy you’ll be overseas isn’t the government, the economy, the Immigration office, your neighbors, or anything else like that.
It’s your attitude.
Will you decide to be miserable, and spend your time focusing on problems? Or will you decide to be positive, and look at all the opportunities in your new country?
We’re all at least a little bit of both groups. But you need to decide where you’ll focus your time and energy. It’s your choice. If you want to be happy living overseas, first you need to decide to be happy.
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Scott Lilly is an expat from the US, currently living in Paraguay. You can read his tips and advice on moving overseas at MovingOverseasBook.com. He has also written two books on moving overseas.