The Overwhelming Benefits of Embracing Your New Culture Overseas

When you first arrive in a new country, everything seems overwhelming. You didn’t realize the electricity goes out from time to time and you’ve never dealt with this problem. Your car gets a flat tire on a lonely country road and you don’t speak the language, nor do you know how to change the tire. There are so many expats wanting to get to know you but you don’t know which ones are those with similar interests.

In all of these instances, there are solutions—and often better ones than you would think.

The number one rule when moving abroad is to “let go” of your inclination to want everything just as it was at home. Each country in the world is different; each has its own culture. Embrace the new culture and go with the flow…that attitude will get you through that first bewildering year and ensure you become wonderfully happy in your new home.

It’s like starting a completely new life. Many expats comment on how much younger they feel, like they are learning things all over again, much like the days of their youth. Imagine how it feels to once again have new experiences every day. This is the type of retirement that keeps you young and fresh. Much different than sitting on the couch watching TV. In fact, many expats like me don’t even have TVs anymore because there is so much to do.

So…when the electricity goes out, grab a book or your Kindle and a glass of wine, go out and sit on your patio and read while taking a few seconds to look up at the stars…where you’ll see more than you ever have before.

Flat tire? No Spanish? No problem. Flag down the next car that comes by, point to the problem and before you know it, the local people will jump out and fix the flat for you.

Go to the many expat events you are invited to. Eventually the people who will end up being your friends will pop out of the mix. It is easier to make friends in expat locations. And you’ll likely have friends from all walks of life and from different countries, making your life so much more interesting than it was at home.

I’ve been an expat for 10 years. I never imagined I’d stay in Nicaragua this long. Something inside suggested that I’d have my adventure for a maximum of five years, then probably move back to my house in San Diego. That’s why I kept it and rented it out, just in case. But Nicaragua changed me.

I actually became the person I’ve always wanted to be, a person I couldn’t be in the U.S. Here I’m free; there I wasn’t.

My love for material possessions has disappeared. Money is no longer the holy grail that I was always trying for, but never could quite reach. I have a healthy diet and live a much simpler life. I’m fluent in Spanish. I work on projects to help my Nicaraguan community. Social activities are abundant, fun, and economical.

Bonnie W. Hayman writes her experience living in Nicaragua as an expat.