A few years ago I had had a particularly bad day. I texted a friend (hi, Martha!) complaining about expat life in France and she responded with a meme. It was a picture of an anchor with a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”. Interesting. I don’t know much about sailing. So why did she send it?
No, it wasn’t literal. It’s a generalized proverb that encourages navigation through difficult times in your life. The sentiment of the message resonated with me, so i saved it.
Continuing with the sea analogy, life as an expat or expat spouse isn’t what I’d consider “smooth sailing”.
When your ship leaves the dock/when you leave your home country, remember that the waters will be unfamiliar and unpredictable. It’s normal to face waves/challenges that can test your sea-worthiness, so always keep an eye out for trouble.
Sometimes you’re lucky and the squalls/problems are small and insignificant. But other times you’ll encounter issues so large that it threatens the stability of your boat. So what do you do? Don’t panic. Remember that you and your spouse can work together to overcome. Pause, take a breath and then both of you start looking for buckets to bail out the water.
Don’t forget what wise ol’ Freddy said about being skillful sailors. Recognize the challenge for what it is: another opportunity for growth as individuals and as a couple.
Moving within the European Union
We spent four years in France before a new relocation contract took us to Germany. My husband’s company required him to change international business units so we said goodbye to Paris and hello to Hannover.
The neighbouring countries have little in common. Each has their own unique government, tax laws, health care, transportation infrastructure, holidays, food – everything! These changes demanded that we make immediate adjustments to our lifestyle in order to accommodate the move.
Although the geographical distance between the two cities is small, 6-hours by car, the cultural and administrative differences run deep. Unfortunately, we hadn’t anticipated nor prepared for the culture shock waiting on the other side of the border. When faced with our new reality we felt overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated. Not exactly a great start to expat life in our new home.
And as you know, even in the best circumstances, change is hard. Double it when you’re living 10,000 km away from home and your support network. Which is why it was essential to lean on each other and work together in those first few tough months. Now, 16 months later we’ve both learned how to adapt and can happily enjoy our life in Germany. Even without buttery french croissants.