Finding Your Space by Learning & Unlearning

Every relocation takes us to a new place with a heart full of expectations about settling in right away, living a perfect life from the start, making friends, having fun, and achieving goals. But it is not always a smooth ride, coming and starting over in a new culture and living in a cross-cultural society is not easy. It is even harder when we have strong opinions and language barrier, to adapt to the change, one has to learn, relearn and unlearn a lot of things on the way

The quote by Eric Hoffer resonates with us specifically during the Covid time, which ushered in both change and chaos into our world while we are navigating life in times of significant change

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”― Eric Hoffer

To remain relevant, competitive, and successful, as an International Talent, we must be in a constant state of adaptation — continually unlearning old “rules” so as to relearn some and learn new ones. This requires critically questioning assumptions about how things work, challenging traditional ways of thinking, and learning about the culture and relevant stuff about the new host country.

Few lessons picked up along the way for a confident and thriving life after relocation. 

Be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn

Many of us have a hard time letting go of things that are familiar to us. We all have certain habits and patterns that once served a purpose. Yet we struggle with giving them up fearing that it will upset our comfortable patterns.

But like clearing out our closets, it’s important to take inventory of certain practices and patterns. We need to keep in mind that some things in life have their season. There comes a time when we put away our winter clothes and bring out the spring collection. As well there are times to let go of old practices that no longer deliver the value they once did. Be courageous in unlearning so that you can make space for new practices and patterns that influence your future.

“Unlearning is about moving away from something—letting go—rather than acquiring. It’s like stripping old paint. It lays the foundation for the new layer of fresh learning to be acquired and to stick. But like the painter who needs to prepare a surface, stripping the paint is 70% of the work while repainting is only 30%.”

Find your space, don’t just try to fit in 

The greatest way to be dependent is to be independent and we must love ourselves first before seeking out to be loved or loving others. We get lost trying to fit into a certain group. We become empty vessels and persons we don’t recognize anymore in trying to do this. Take your time to discover yourself and what you really want. Work on yourself, be better then come back stronger.

Be kind, empathetic, and less judgmental to others

You do not know what they are going through or what they might have been through. And kindness always bounces back. Smile at them, be nice, say hi and ask them how they are, and mean it – it doesn’t cost you anything. You might be the best thing that happens to them in a whole month, and that counts for something. We do not lose anything by being nice – if by anything, we gain much more. Joy is only joy if shared.

Find your tribe, but at the same time keep an open mind about friendships 

Be with people who treat you as you can be, not people who simply tolerate you – you deserve to be treated right. We all deserve a stable support group, a place where we feel wanted, and needed. We need a shoulder to lean on sometimes, a place we are not afraid to express our imperfections, a safe space to grow. You do not need fifty fake friends, just one real one.

Be kind to yourself, learn self-care

life is not that serious. You can get there by just taking it easy on yourself. Sometimes you will let yourself down, sometimes you will feel stupid, you will feel shame, but it is okay, it is being human. Work-life balance is very important. Do not drain yourself of work. Always find time to socialise, to handle your physical fitness, to refresh your mind, to reflect on your journey, to visit a new place, to talk to your family.

Get involved in things that you love

Get yourself out there. In getting involved in things you are passionate about, that’s when you find yourself, that’s where you find your tribe. There is no time for self-pity, but at the same time give yourself a break when you need it.

We hope that this article gives you that nudge to take that first critical step towards change, learning and looking forward to your future. We all have to take that first step forward to help us influence our future by taking time to learn, unlearn and relearn in our current time of drastic change.

If you are an International Talent looking for opportunities or keen to find your tribe, feel free to connect with Expat Spouses Inititaive, they are the biggest professional network of International Talent in the Brainport region, working to integrate the International talent professionally and personally. They host several career development and networking programs that enable International Talent in finding their feet and tribe in the Netherlands. 



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We Are Not Alone Campaign, is presented in collaboration with Expat Spouses Initiative – Eindhoven, LIVING IN, Holland Expat Center & Brainport Eindhoven. Through this campaign, we aim to bring the International community together and engage them actively.


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