How to succeed as an expat

I just had a wonderful lunch with one of my dear friends here in Koné. She like me, is experiencing life outside of her home country for the first time. Over a lovely meal we began discussing the usual topics. When are you leaving for good? When is your next vacation? I found this at the store. Did you know that…
Our chit chat turned to us discussing how we try to stay positive during holidays back home. Hmmm I wonder if this was brought on by Thanksgiving? I talked about how I found Christmas and Thanksgiving the hardest days to be on the island. I miss the family get together, the friends from out of town stopping in and the food. I will be honest, these two days are my most dreaded days. Nothing can pull me out of my rut. My usual tactics seem to fail and because of my lonesomeness I want to call everyone. This usual turns out to be a disaster because of two small details, first, everyone is too busy to talk and second, if they can talk they are surrounded by family and all that reminds me of home.
This whole discussion led us down a path of ‘how to succeed as expats’. Now we are by no means experts, but our ideas on how to live this life to the fullest was really narrowed down to a few points.
Forget about home. Okay, I know it sounds drastic but the reality is you don’t live in __________, any more. Sure when we all get together we discuss how we did things in our home country or about our culture but saying, ‘that’s not how we do it’ leads you to many disappointments. It becomes a daily series of disappointments and challenges. Should you forget everything you know? No. Should you never question anything? No, but it’s much easier to live with what you have, then dwell on what you don’t.
Immerse yourself in the culture. I have to admit I am still working on this one. But many people I know here run RAIDs, take drumming lessons, learn Tahitian dances and so on. The only thing I can say I have really adopted from the culture is baguette, Champagne and eating late. I need to work on this one!
Make good friends. Easier said then done I know but after two years I feel blessed to have many good friends here in Koné. They are my support system. I have had no less than 3 offers to come visit in the 48 hours that my husband is away. If I am in a jam, I know one if them will help me out. If I have a question about anything there is always someone who knows the answer or is willing to find it out. With no family around, you need people to be your family here.
Keep some traditions from home. I know I previously said forget about that place but on the flip side you need to keep the traditions that you feel important. We will celebrate Thanksgiving on Monday, even though it doesn’t exist here. I want Seth & Theo to know what it is and what we eat. It won’t be the same but it will be an adapted version. I have friends here that bring back suitcases of Belgium chocolate, bags of Swedish candy, toys from Zimbabwe, and maple syrup from Quebec. Those little things are reminders of who you are even if you don’t live there anymore.
Enjoy the adventure. You won’t live here forever and remembering that your time to explore, immerse yourself in culture and meet new people is limited. Someday, you will have to pack your bags and leave. And from what people tell me about leaving New Caledonia, it’s not as easy as you think. Le petit Caillou will forever more be a piece of you.
So, while this weekend I dream of turkeys, pumpkin pie, red, yellow and orange leaves and my family & friends I will not despair because I will have my own Thanksgiving being thankful for the life we have here. Happy Thanksgiving!

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