As an expat New Year’s resolutions are more about memorising foreign irregular verbs or visiting that landmark you keep putting off, rather than slimming down or saving.
Love it or hate it, a new year ignites those with well-intentions to set goals and shed a few of the less attractive habits formed over the past year(s). But an expat’s New Year’s resolution list differs in so many ways, as daily challenges can be anything from not understanding recycling rules to having to mime illnesses to your doctor or feeling isolated.
What would be your New Year’s resolutions as an expat? Here are some New Year’s resolution ideas only expats will understand.
New Year’s resolutions for expats
1. Learn enough language so you don’t sound – and feel – like a babbling toddler
Or you can aim for fluency. Although, if it was your New Year’s resolution last year, too, it’s probably time to stick notes of those pesky irregular verbs and tricky vocabularly around the house.
Before long you’ll be onto your third language, when you can call yourself a ‘polyglot’ (and claim all the multilingual problems only polyglots understand).
2. Use the language you’ve already learned (the dreaded ‘p’ word)
If you’ve been told learning a language isn’t hard, the hard truth is they might be right – even if your tongue protests at foreign guttural sounds. Practising is hard, though, and many people confuse the two. Small children learn easier, for example, because they don’t fear playing with their new language skills.
Sure you might say ‘chás problem’ (cheese problem) instead of ‘cheis problem’ (no problem) for the first six months but it’s a pretty comic way to break the ice – and it beats sitting clammed up, too shy to join a conversation for hours.
Besides, many foreigners have butchered the language before you – the locals are used to it.
3. Make at least three new local friends
Or at least one really good friend who invites you home for dinner. Local food at its best! Plus it’s refreshing to escape the expat bubble, once in a while.
4. Try that weird dish you refused to try
You’ve seen the five-year-olds gobble it down, so it deserves a try. The true way to a local’s heart is through their speciality dishes, no matter how bizarre to your tastebuds.
Yes – this New Year’s resolution probably involves offal, raw meat, blood or UFOs (unidentifiable fried objects), all the kinds of things Europeans are experts at turning into tasty local cuisine. Being Europe, you’ll then have to follow this with trying all the regional differences of the same dish.
6. Visit that major landmark you keep putting off
Don’t be that expat who lives in Paris and hasn’t been to the Eiffel Tower.
‘You live there and can visit any time’ is an unreliable mantra. Remember that friend who had to relocate suddenly? They regret not seeing it, too.
7. Cook a dinner of local dishes for your (foreign) parents-in-law
It’s surprisingly easy to whip up an impressive spread when you have all the local ingredients on hand, unlike trying to replicate certain dishes from home in a foreign land.
Impressing your foreign mother-in-law at her own cuisine, on the other hand, is down to you.
8. Revel in a little cultural indulgence of your own
Everyone needs to be spoilt with a goodie package from home, once in a while.
9. Be a ‘country ambassador’
Being abroad generally means missing your favourite traditions but it doesn’t mean you can’t share these with new friends. Although small European kitchens mean your Thanksgiving dinner abroad might be chicken or goose at best, local friends always get a kick out of eating foreign dishes they’ve always heard about.
11. Get your local driver’s licence
Who really drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road? Being a dexterous driver is a skill to be proud of, even if it’s only at the office party – and legally necessary once you’re an official resident abroad. Some expats can only exchange their driver’s licence if they take a driving test in their host country, however, so this New Year’s resolution might easily double as a New Year’s resolution of learning patience.
12. See a local festival (no matter the crowds)
There’s no better time to experience local culture than during the burst of a colourful festival – and experience first-hand the local quirks and crushing crowds on tiny European streets. You could be hit by pig’s bladder at a Belgian carnival, throw tomatoes at a Spanish festival, eat a kilo of white asparagus in Germany, go ‘orange crazy’ in the Netherlands, join the top French festival of Bastille Day, or watch the ‘cows come home’ in Switzerland’s spring festivals.
13. How many countries to visit this year?
As an expat, it’s generally not a matter of ‘if’ you will travel, but rather how many trips you can you fit in this year. Don’t forget to add in those weekend getaways on your top list of places you’ve been meaning to visit around your host country.
14. Visit your home country more often
It’s easy to keep in contact with those mobile friends and family who can easily visit – although becoming a ‘guest home’ for everyone has its quirks – but it takes some effort to keep in touch with the rest back home.
You won’t need convincing to achieve this goal, although your bank budget might.
15. At the same time, make visits home less hectic
When you’re juggling three visits a day from friends and extended family, going home starts to feel like a seemingly huge effort. Renting a holiday home so people can visit you in one place, instead of you travelling to 20 places, means you can also find ways to have a real holiday, too.
16. Call your mother more
If there was a goal that deserved a permanent place on the New Year’s resolution list, it would be keeping in better touch with family and friends back home. Technology today means no one has to miss out on grabbing a quick family recipe or frantically finding out how to cope with your toddler swallowing a coin.
18. Step away from the phone, tablet and TV
While keeping in touch with home is important, being present and active in your new environment is the only way you’ll settle in. Does being a modern expat make us less homesick, but more lonely?
17. Memorise multiple timezones
No one likes a call at 3am in the morning, not even your mother. This could also be the year you write a stern letter to your bank or telephone company back home – their 4am marketing calls aren’t much fun, thanks.
19. Join a club or create your own
The only way to meet new people is find new people to meet! Knitting, cooking, running, salsa, blogging, or language exchange – it’s hard not to find something you like for your New Year’s resolution ideas.
20. Stop comparing
Life abroad is not necessarily better or worse, just different. There are so many small little differences to discover – and even adopt as your own – but it’s hard to cherish these through a cloud of complaints. You might have to bag your own groceries or sun-dry your laundry, but even the worst experience can be turned into a riveting story when you go home.
And no matter how many times you mentally convert and compare prices to back home, they’re still going to cost the same when you buy them in your new country. New year, new you.
21. Discover the secret to packing the perfect travel suitcase
Rolled or folded? Casual or dressy? Warm or cool clothes? No matter how much you prepare, there’s always half a suitcase of clothes that you couldn’t fit in or didn’t wear, although you have already mastered how to fit a week’s baggage into a carry on.
22. Go easy on yourself
You’ve already made the colossal move abroad but it doesn’t end there – often the realities of expat life are far less glamourous then people back home imagine. There’s language and local culture to learn, immigration battles, overcoming small expat fears, and trying to fit in. Don’t be too hard on yourself – or your host country – if you have a bad day. It gets easier every day, and a little less overwhelming.
May 2017 be your best year abroad yet!
The original article can be viewed here.