Your next expat assignment or “where do we go from here”?

The last couple of months have been almost like a roller coaster in my household.  It’s bidding season at my husband’s work – those of you on diplomatic assignments will know what I mean.  Those of you who don’t, let me explain.  The bidding season is the time when your dreams and hopes get crushed one by one during a period of 2 to 3 months of excruciatingly slow wait.

Okay, so maybe I am being a little bit dramatic here.  But for those of us who during the bidding get to gaze at the list of cities with names such as Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, etc and imagine ourselves there – the process of watching them slowly disappear as they are assigned to someone else is painful.  You’ll agree, won’t you, that after you’ve seen yourself on the streets of Paris snacking on pan de chocolat or taking a train trip through the Swiss Alps or swimming in the Mediterranean, it’s kind of difficult to get used to the idea that you’ll be doing neither.  Instead you’ll be on your way to a place you never thought you’d get assigned to.

But those disappointments do happen.  And, since at some point we all come to realization that we have no control over bureaucrats on the assignment panel who excel at making back room deals, we need to learn to find a way of falling in love with our next post.

How do we do this?  In 2 very easy steps:

First. We find and rip apart all the photos of Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome… okay, just a joke here.  The first step is actually changing our perspective.  From bitter, I-want-to-bury-that-assignment-panel, hate-this-lifestyle perspective to maybe-there-is-something-I-will-find-interesting-in-that-place-I-am-going-to perspective.  Or you can try Forest Gump perspective – “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.  Or you can try your dog’s perspective.  Or… you decide.  The point is to snap out of the perspective that drags you down and offers you nothing into the one that’ll get you excited and inspired.  Because you’ll be going to that post anyway so why not go in a better mood?

Second.  Your new post isn’t really all bad, is it?  I mean there must be something on offer there that maybe isn’t available in Paris.  Think through all facets of your life – schools, house, career, education, travel, household help, fun, etc, etc, etc – and then consider what’s available for you at your new post in each of those dimensions.

It looks like I’ll be going through this process soon enough.  Care to join me?

Have any additional suggestions?

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One response to “Your next expat assignment or “where do we go from here”?

  1. hello, can I say……….been there, done that…. 18 years of expatriation in the diplomatic sector, most in what are considered undeveloped countries… some were by choice (we could bid on 3 or 4 and hope to get no.1…does that sound familiar? Others were proposed to us…. all in all, there is beauty and learning advantages to have everywhere… I learned early on to have what I called a portable hobby, something that could come with me or in the airfreight and would help me during the first few weeks or months while HHE was en route and transportation was not available yet. I also learned early on to seek local artists and art venues and learn as much as possible. It’s opened the door many times to wonderful friendships and I learned techniques that are not in books, and becoming familiar with my environment, making the experience a positive one very quickly and the assignment a good memory to have and cherish.
    Forming groups around a topic of interest was another way to make friends and get involved in the multicultural as well as the local communities. Cooking is an activity that can be taught or shared anywhere in the world using local ingredients and inviting groups to join in. I organized cooking classes for children in places such as Chad or Nigeria, founded a culinary group in Ethiopia, took classes of weaving and cooking in Chile, worked on a book with a American author about Mexican pottery in Mexico. All this was before the “internet revolution” so nowadays. I am sure that it must ben even easier to form or participate in social activities even before arrival in one country.

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