Originally from France, Brisbane counselling professional Ana Salido knows what expatriation is really like, and with a strong background in psychology, is perfectly placed to provide expat counselling …
Very often I get messages on Instagram asking me if it’s easy to find a job in Australia, if it’s easy to find an apartment, if it’s easy to make friends, and if it’s easy to earn money.
I am still surprised by these questions, which in my opinion do not mean much. What do you mean by easy? My answer to this type of questions is always the same: in life nothing is really easy, it depends on your attitude, your willpower, your determination and the efforts you are willing to make to achieve your goal(s). It is not realistic to hope finding a job easily and to earn good money if you do not speak English for example.
Common Challenges for Expatriates
When we decide to go live overseas, the word easy is no longer part of our vocabulary. That’s because it’s not easy to:
- Live away from your family. We must accept that we will miss important events such as births, weddings, birthdays, end of year celebrations, funerals …
- Keep strong friendships with your old friends when you live so far away from them, often in conflicting time zones.
- Live in uncertainty. The first months overseas are challenging. You have to learn everything from scratch and to create a new environment for yourself.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Every day there is a new challenge. It could be administrative, or a simple task like calling someone to solve a problem, when you do not speak the local language, or driving on the other side of the road.
- Have the feeling of speaking like a 10-year-old child because you can not speak the local language. I remember my first few months in Australia, I wasn’t able to follow a conversation because of my lack of vocabulary.
- Keep your identity while trying to integrate in your host country, particularly if you are a “trailing spouse“. When I came back to France after a year in Brisbane, I was the “Australian” and in Australia I am the “Frenchie”… The first two years I had the feeling of no longer having an identity, or even more a country, because I no longer had my place in France, and in Australia, I will never be an Australian. It doesn’t matter to me anymore, I have learnt that #homeiswheretheheartis, my life is in Australia, so I am a world citizen who lives where I feel good.
- Find a job. Between the visas constraints and administrative procedures to get your skills assessed and your degrees validated, it can quickly become a mission.
- Develop new eating habits. In Australia as in many Anglo-Saxon countries, lunch is taken on the go, it’s often a quick snack unlike in France where we like sitting down and taking the time to eat and enjoy – even at lunch time.
In my opinion the real question to ask then is: Is it worth it? And my answer is a big YES!
Benefits of Expatriation
- Discovering a new culture. The key to making the most of this adventure is to be curious. If you are judgemental and/or constantly comparing things with your home country, you will most likely miss the best of your adventure.
- Learning a new language. It is essential to be a part of your new country, to make new friends and to find a job. The sooner you speak the local language, the sooner you will find a balance in your new life, and it is also important for your self-confidence.
- Discovering a new country. After three years in Australia, I am still excited to discover new places with new landscapes. Recently I went to the West Coast. I discovered a new side of Australia, wilder, with a lot of aboriginal tribes which was a contrast with the East Coast and especially Brisbane where there aren’t as many indigenous people. It is always a nice feeling to explore your new home country.
- Discovering new places. Expatriation allows us to discover some countries that maybe we would never have visited from our home country. because they are so far away and expensive. My first year in Australia, I had the chance to go to Fiji. It was amazing! From France I am sure I would never have had the chance to discover this idyllic place.
- Having an open mind. It is an important key to integration in your new country. Avoiding judgment and comparison with your home country is the best way to take full advantage of what your new country has to offer, but also to avoid the feeling of frustration. You can repeat to yourself every single day that food is better in France than in Australia, but this will not solve the problem, it will only create more frustration, that’s it.
- Getting out of your comfort zone … You could ask me but what does it really mean to get out of your comfort zone? Getting out of your comfort zone is to learn the local language, to make new friends from different countries, to find a job, to learn about your new country, to start new activities … There are so many expats who recreate exactly the same life they had in France (or whatever their home country is), but on the other side of the world. In my opinion this is not what expatriation is. Getting out of your comfort zone requires courage and a self-confidence to fully embrace your new life.
- Meeting extraordinary people from all over the world. Expatriation has allowed me to meet people from Australia of course, but also from South America, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand … It’s just incredible to discover so many new cultures, to eat country delicacies of which I had never heard of, and to learn basic words in new languages.
- Enjoying your home country just for holidays. Since I moved to Australia, I have tried to go back to France once a year. I appreciate France as a tourist now, for its good aspects such as cheeses, champagne, and its culture.
- And having the freedom to discover yourself. In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of this article. Expatriation is a great way to learn about yourself. Far away from your family, your friends, the society in which you always have lived and its preconceived ideas, norms, expectations, and beliefs that this society has placed in your subconscious since you were a child, you are finally free to choose for yourself. You are free to take the time to find yourself. The distance allows us to be who we really want to be. For me, expatriation has allowed me to do things for myself and by myself. I no longer have to meet the expectations of my loved ones and my family, which has allowed me to spread my wings and become the best version of myself.
So for all you guys who are still hesitating, I have three little words for you: GO FOR IT!
As you have understood, the word “easy” is not part of the adventure, and yet expatriation is an incredible experience, which deserves to be lived at least once in your lifetime. Keep in mind that expatriation is a lot of organisation, but also a lot of improvisation. You cannot control everything before leaving, you will have to manage some things on the go – such as finding a job (if you are not sent overseas by your current company).
And if you live in Brisbane and find yourself struggling to adapt, please make an appointment me for caring and supportive expat counselling, by somebody who has personal experience and psychology training.
Author: Ana Salido, B Psych, M Science (Organisational Psychology).
Ana studied psychology overseas, and is able to provide counselling and therapy in both English and French. Her goal as a counsellor is to help her clients achieve their goals and overcome barriers in their personal and/or professional lives, utilising psychological strategies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.