Expat lessons from my five-year-old

August 23, 2016 | Life, Life France, Life Germany, Life Italy, Life Spain

ariel The five-year-old who inspired this post.[/caption] Trial and Error Are a Good Thing When you arrive in a new country with a new language, the first thing on your mind is getting settled in and not screwing it up. Figuring out how to pay the rent with a brand-new bank account in a new currency is pretty top priority, but inevitably, we’ll make a random gesture that means something a lot more interesting than it does at home — and, boom, we’re in for it now. What does that blaring sign above your head say? Oh, yeah — “failure”. But that’s rubbish. When my five-year-old tries to say a bigger, more complex word and completely bastardizes it, I don’t look down my nose and think “failure”. I think “persistence”. Most of the time I’m just amazed at how much he can learn and how quickly he adapts. The same applied when the “oh, ovens are hot” experience came around. Whether you’re five or fifty, trying something new and messing it up is normal — and can actually result in something new and fantastic. That person you accidentally insulted? They found the incident funny, you became friends, and they’re now giving you language lessons. Awesome! New Customs and Rituals — You’ll Get It Eventually Okay, it’s time to get real here. Five-year-olds and social manners? It’s a love-hate relationship. Even with all my best efforts, there are times where my children pick their nose in public or cough without covering their mouth. I, as an adult, go, “Really? Really? Isn’t it obvious?” But every expat has probably committed a similar social sin. For example, I live in Paris, where each building has at least five trash bins. You should have seen me the first week of our arrival, manually going through our garbage bag to dig out the paper boxes for a separate bin, with the gardien d’immeuble checking over my shoulder. Here’s the best example, though: slippers are the footwear of choice throughout Japanese establishments and are generally worn at all times — except when they are not. At first, it seems endlessly confusing, but “normal” slippers are actually culturally forbidden in Japanese bathrooms! That’s what special “toilet slippers” are for. As an expat, you’ve no doubt run into the same thing on your side of the globe, and it’s hard; really, it is. But the good news is one day my five-year-old will learn that coughing means covering your mouth and you’ll pick up the new cultural customs as well. The important part is to keep an open mind and be open to corrections from others. Enjoy the Newness When I take my five-year-old to a new playground, I can promise you there are no thoughts of “Should I even be here?” or “Oh, what if I don’t like this playground as much?” There is just sprinting for the nearest swing set. Hello, expats, this is for you and me. Often times it’s easy to get so caught up in the details of moving, adjusting, and working within a new environment that we forget the best part of living abroad — we’re somewhere new and exciting! Take the chance to do a little wide-eyed wandering and enjoy the actual perks of being an expat. There’s No “Absolute Truth” — Get Curious Ever talked to a little kid? Their sole and favorite retort is “why”? Expats should totally jump on the “why” train. A sense of curiosity is crucial when you explore the world and sail into uncharted waters, Young boy, playing with airplane because it encourages you to try something that’s never been tried before. In brief: you can kick conventional wisdom to the curb by taking after a five-year-old and asking one simple question: “Why?” In Conclusion More importantly than anything, a five-year-old is still growing and learning — and so are you. Rather than going through the motions and just accepting things, without making an effort to change and adapt, you can embrace your inner child and get out there. You’re an expat, for all the mystery, funny mistakes, and incredible experiences that this entails. ****** This article was first published in InterNations Blog Rita Golstein-Galperin is a Career Makeover Strategist® for expat women and the founder of Expat Renaissance. www.facebook.com/groups/CareerMakeoverRevolution/]]>

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