Balance

When I moved here almost two years ago, I couldn’t help but compare everything to home. I had traveled quite a lot, and spent plenty of time in foreign countries, but I found the UAE a difficult place to live. The bureaucracy was frustrating, and the sheer ineptitude that became obvious in some quarters was aggravating. The driving was terrifying. The heat almost unbearable at times. The job–wow. I found myself very easily caught up in the spiral of frustration and negativity that causes many newcomers to leave the area, walking away from their employment contracts.

The comparison game is a part of moving abroad for the first time, and I don’t think it can be helped. But keeping in mind that all the frustrating and aggravating things are actually part of the reason you move, that is, to experience a new place, pitfalls and all, improves your mindset some.

And it also helps to remember that life at home is filled with trials and tribulations, too. They’re familiar ones, but not necessarily less irritating.

If you’re an expat reading this blog, what kinds of frustrations do you face, or did you face when you first relocated? I would like to see a list of things–balanced by a list of similar ordeals back home.

I’ll start: I still find the sluggish pace that many citizens here stroll when they’re in the mall or other places an annoyance. They’re usually in gaggles, and I have to slow down, wait or say “excuse me,” or try to dodge the obstacles wasting and intruding into my spare time.

To balance that, the numbers of inconsiderately loud mall rat teenagers in the USA is plenty irksome. They intrude into my consciousness and bother me in a whole different way, their petty conversations, punctuated by an excess of “like” and “whatever” and “oh my god,” my personal least favorite Americanism, and etcetera lowering my IQ with every passing second, making my eyes cross and compelling me to duck into whatever unappealing but quiet shop lies nearest.

I can learn a lesson from the slow-moving locals in the malls here. Take it easy. Enjoy the moment. Relax a little. But it’s true that I can shop more speedily at home.

Your turn. What is a peeve you face or faced, and what is something comparable from home? It can be big or small.

Last week Jenia wrote a post querying readers, seeking comments. There were a fair few responses. I need your help to make this post worthwhile, too. Let the comments roll.

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12 thoughts on “Balance

  1. I’ve never lived abroad, but I’ve traveled and spent several weeks in various countries. I find one annoyance to be the lack or punctuality. Americans are very time-conscious, but I’ve found people in other countries not to be.

  2. Love this post – actually I was just talking with a coworker about how is so easy to fall into the comparison trap. It’s really easy for us to complain about our jobs and when I do I remember that I didn’t have one back home – that I was laid off – and I remember that even though this job may be infuriating and sometimes just downright baffling, it’s still a job and at the end of the day that was what I was seeking by moving here.

    On a different note, I totally agree with you about the pace. One time at school I was walking quickly to class and one my girls stopped me, put her arm around mine and said “Miss, you walk too fast. Let us look at the day and slow down!!” Seriously one of my best memories teaching lol. Now, I’m not in so much of a rush to get to class (and mainly because the kids aren’t either!! hahaha).

  3. Oh, and I admire your ability to take the lackadaisical attitudes of your students in stride. I’ve heard others who have taught abroad–people who take their teaching very seriously, as you do– who could not handle the change in attitude toward their subject matter. They quit and returned to the US. I can imagine how frustrating that is for you. However, I’m sure your students view taking English as many US students view taking foreign language classes: as a waste of their time learning a skill that does not affect them in their everyday lives. Hang in there, Shon.

    • To succeed as an expat in this environment, one must totally rearrange his thinking. I’ve simply had to learn how to function in a very different version of normality.

  4. Simply, I am happy abroad. There are challenges, but I am enjoying navigating them. I have no expectations and no sense of normal. I ebb and flow as needed and it works. I try not to think too much of home. I try to embrace and adapt. Not every moment is rosy, but most are. When I think realistically about home and here, here is always better. Every place/person/thing has its advantages and disadvantages. My mantra is just trying to focus more on the victories and think creatively about how to grow with the challenges and not let them overtake me. Hippie maybe, but mindset is everything.

  5. As the previous post said, mindset is everything. Also perception. When I was younger I lived in several different places. Maybe at that time I didn’t care as much because I was a young mind. Now is different. Perception and mindset change as we experience different things. Whether we are in one place or another, we will experience good and bad moments. I remind myself to enjoy the good moments and take the bad moments and learn from them, then move on. Not easy to do but that’s the idea. With teaching, one semester I get students that care less about being in class but another semester I get serious students that want to learn. I learned that no matter where we live we face different challenges and it is up to use to work things out. Sometimes I think outside of myself to see if that helps. It is not easy to face the things you dislike, but maybe you can find the things you like. Or maybe think in terms of the other people, just for fun. Every experience and every develops becomes a part of you. So try your best to most out of the present 🙂 There is no right or wrong but it is how we take the matter into our minds. Best to you and your family!

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