How many times have we been on vacation and said how much we’d like to live in that place? Living in a foreign land looks exciting based on other peoples Facebook postings but can be, at times, a little challenging. Sometimes this overwhelms the actual experience and we forget to look at the many positive things about ”living abroad”.
I discovered this recently when we purchased our first home in the Netherlands. The house needed renovation, which in itself added stress – even without the added challenge of dealing with builders and lawyers in a foreign language. As is often the case, the work took longer than expected so the move had extra snags.
Our new home is in Heusden, a picturesque fortified town which can be full of curious tourists, so shutters in front windows are a "must have" if you don’t want to feel like a museum exhibit! After much research we decided on some shutters from a UK company, as they were unusual and didn’t completely block our quintessential Dutch view of the windmills and harbor. They have already caused much conversation with the locals and tourists passing by but it was only when, after contacting the company to show them the shutters in situ, were we reminded of how lucky we are to be living in such an appealing town.
The shutter company, Jali, featured our window and it’s shutters in their e-zine and Heusden got a "shout out" as well.
Seeing our home-town through someone else’s eyes made us aware of how our lives appear to non-expats, but as all ex-pats know, daily life is not like a vacation. Living in a foreign country can be fraught with challenges… learning a new language, dealing with new rules and "officialdom", finding ways to meet people and new friends and handling situations with family still at "home". Yes, it is exciting to be experiencing all these new things but can also be exhausting! Sometimes these things can overwhelm your experience and you can forget that you are supposed to be enjoying yourself! It takes the view from an outsider, enthusiastic to visit your new home-town to remind you just how lucky you are to be experiencing life in a foreign country. The challenges help us grow as individuals and we develop strength of character as you learn to be more self-sufficient and hone your people skills, embracing the opportunity to chat with strangers. In my case anyone I hear speaking English on the street makes me smile. I’m like a thirsty man in a desert that sees a pool of water… I just have to have a little taste! The opportunity to live inside a culture gives us an appreciation of the world, and shows us how important making connections with others is, whether it is with other internationals or with the locals.