20 August 2014


One of the many things that I have learnt as an expat is that friendships are priceless. You don't know how much they are worth until you lose a few and realise how hard it is to form new lasting friendships. Friendships are personal and thus more difficult to build. Most people cannot even remember when they last made a new close friend which they would want to keep forever. As expats we need to start this process all over again.

A strange thing that I have also noticed is that often people don't easily reach out to you, because they fear rejection or they don't even like themselves and these stop them from making new friends. I have found so many lonely people. Wonderful people, who just don't believe that they can be a good friend or that they have anything to offer and thus they don't try. Their walls are so high that no one is granted access.

I find it so extremely heart wrenching that lies from their pasts keep them from enjoying the wonderful benefits of friendship.

Friendships are not about what you have to offer or about what you have in common. It is about commitment, about supporting each other through whatever might pop up, unconditionally and selflessly. Often it's nothing more than properly listening and responding in love. Listening is probably the most neglected aspect in friendships today. As friendships grow they reach different stages of trust and yes during each stage you have to choose to share more and make yourself more vulnerable. There is always a risk involved, the risk that you might be hurt or disappointed, but where there is no risk, there is no reward. We need to learn to risk whatever it is we fear, to reap the rewards of friendship. 

Picture credit: grace2f.org

19 August 2014


I often find this emotion with expats, even with myself. I guess that it is natural, but it doesn’t mean that it is pleasant. I guess we know that we are going through a process and sometimes it makes it easier, but sometimes it just doesn’t. It is funny how we react when suddenly everything that we know is taken away. You grow up, you study, you learn the ropes, you can explain, help, delegate well and with confidence and the suddenly you sit somewhere totally foreign where you cannot even help yourself, even if you wanted to. The only way that you can help yourself is by asking for help, researching or finding out how it works in this new environment and asking for help and waiting to be helped are not necessarily everyone's strong points, but indeed skills that an expat needs to acquire to survive and avoid frustration.

To put it bluntly, expats sometimes feel dumb. Dumb because they have to ask so many questions or have to learn so many new things (from social interaction in a new culture to basic administration). And the smarter you think you are, the dumber you feel. We are not used to feeling helpless, clueless, powerless or unconfident in our home environments, but now in this new adventure it is inevitable. Things don’t run at our pace and there is very little that we can do about it. Maybe you are used to a fast paced environment where you can easily and confidently play ball all over the court, but now you only have a thin stick and a golf ball and you are supposed to play this fast paced game on a court that you don’t even recognise as being a court. So you feel dumb and you maybe start to think that everybody else thinks you are dumb as well. It gets frustrating. You know who you are inside, you know that you have potential and you even love yourself, but often you just feel like you are tramped in the body of a headless chicken or a clumsy Michelin man. Maybe you are even trying to convince people that you are not normally like this...

Frustration. We need to figure out where it is coming from. Yes, we are overwhelmed and exceptionally stretched, but what is lying under the frustration? What underlying emotion is driving the frustration? What is the sentence that we hear in our thoughts that creates the underlying emotion? For example, you might have the thought “I don’t want people to think that I’m dumb” and then you place extra pressure on yourself to prove yourself, but then you end up feeling helpless, because you can’t possibly know everything and do everything perfectly in a new environment. There are too many variables and things that you cannot possibly anticipate or predict. This then leads to the frustration and maybe even a sense of failure or embarrassment. :/

Ask yourself some questions.

Why am I frustrated?  “I’m frustrated, because the lady keeps telling me what to do.”

How does “the lady keeps telling me what to do” make me feel?  “It makes me feel incompetent.”  

Am I really incompetent? “No”

What does “feeling incompetent” trigger or remind me of? “It reminds me of my teacher telling me that I’ll never make it to university.”

So the negative thought (lie) creates the feeling of incompetence which drives the frustration. The key is to keep track of your thought patterns and try and identify what thought drives the underlying emotion which in turn drives the frustration. Get hold of the thought and you can disable or lessen the frustration. It is not always as simple, but I have had such amazing results and eye opening moments while doing these exercises with my coach. At the end it is totally worth it and very freeing.

As expats we are surrounded with change and we need to stay flexible whether we like it or not. My advice is to find someone to talk to. An objective ear is always good and can help you get some fresh perspective in your situation. Take a deep breath, accept what you cannot change and stay focused, flexible and motivated, you are brave just for taking the leap to another country! 

Picture credit: simplelifestrategies

3 August 2014

Emotional outbursts

Firstly let me define my understanding of an emotional outburst. Having emotions are normal and when I speak about emotions I refer to the entire range from anger and frustration to sadness, disappointment and depression. It also doesn't mean that you necessarily burst into tears, not all emotions make you want to cry.

Every day things happen which trigger our emotions. The red light for an emotional outburst should flash when your reaction is not justified by the situation, thus when you overreact in a specific situation. For example, if you scream at a shop attendant, because a product is out of stock. It is normal to be slightly irritated, but screaming is overreacting. Maybe a colleague’s rude remark leaves you wanting to break a coffee mug or everything about someone is just annoying you constantly. This might indicate that it’s time to have a look at yourself and what’s going on inside. You might notice your emotional outburst immediately or you might have been overreacting for many years in certain situations and not even realised it. In those situations we can become aware of it by looking at the reaction of others around us to indicate to us that our reaction might have been excessive. This is not easy, because you might have already accepted that you just “have a bad temper” and that it‘s part of your personality, which it is not by the way...

Emotional outbursts happen when our internal emotional buckets are full and we have no more capacity to deal with new emotions. When new emotions are triggered, our buckets overflow and we often act in a way that we do not even approve of. You know that you are not an angry or depressed person, but you just can't seem to stop yourself from reacting in that way.

Emotional outbursts are our bodies' way of telling us that there are emotions bottled up which we have not been dealing with. It's not something to worry about, but it is great to become aware of the situation and empower yourself to manage it better. This will enable you to set yourself free from being controlled by underlying emotions and it will be less likely for your emotions to catch you off guard. It also gives you the opportunity to fill your bucket with pleasant emotions such as love, peacefulness and joy.

Don’t be intimidated by your emotions. Write them down, take the situation to your coach or have an honest chat with a trusted friend. Get some insight into the origin of the underlying emotion and learn to empty your emotional bucket. Emotional outbursts are opportunities for personal growth. By identifying the emotion, you can validate it and let it go, leaving you feeling freer, less wound up and less overwhelmed. Being honest with yourself and dealing with certain emotions are not easy, but you will always be better off afterwards. 

Photo credit: wikia.com