So what makes a 'good expat'? This last few weeks I have been reflecting back on all my various moves around the world and thinking about how they went overall. What were my main things that I learnt at each location? Are there expat personality traits that have helped or hindered the process? Are there certain personality traits that are best suited to this life?
Asking around friends and reading multiple articles by other expats, I think one of the strongest requirements is...
Curiosity- to be open to experiencing new things. If you are curious about things then you will be (hopefully) more open-minded and willing to adapt to the new environment as you begin to understand the 'why' below the surface of the new culture you are in. This then leads to greater tolerance and patience to work with what is set in place and not try to bend it to the culture you moved from. Fast assimilation with the new local culture helps a lot in settling down fast and starting the next stage in your life.
Having a sense of adventure helps to explore the new location and nearby countries to take you away from everyday life, as everyone needs a break from the everyday, no matter where you live.
Organisational skills do play a huge part in moving countries, but you can leave a lot of this to others or just 'roll with it', so I don't actually feel you need to be a hyper-organised person to be an expat. Though I hold up my hand to this one, I am super-organised, I admit it. I like to be in control, no scratch that, have the feeling I am in control even if I may not totally have a firm grasp on all events! In fact that has been one of my big learning curves - you have to learn when to let go and just let things roll. Knowing when to give up control is just as important as taking control.
Sociability and being an extrovert often crops up preferred character traits. It is true that if you are an extrovert is can be easier to meet new people, and help with getting that foot out of your house. But until you have made friends and developed a good circle of friends the extrovert is far more likely to suffer from loneliness, isolation and in the most severe cases, depression. Extroverts NEED other people and moving location as an adult to a new country to make new friends is very hard, whatever your personality. Introverts find it harder to step out of the front door, but can stay happier for longer before loneliness kicks in.
Ultimately we all have the same needs for connection and thrive rather than survive on expat placements when we find friends. Friendships are essential to stay happy and healthy. I feel that it is not without reason that most expats are married couples as the partnership can give that vital ongoing, consistent support that you need when relocating abroad. Though not all marriages survive international moves, as they do test your relationship to the limits:
"What doesn't break you, makes you stronger."
Are you an expat? What do you think? Are there traits that you feel help you with the moves more than others