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The Mindful Expat

When we go abroad to life in a foreign country we ideally get prepared by the company we go for, if we go for a company. Most of the time we visit an intercultural training which teaches us the do's and don'ts and how to manoeuvre our live around in the setting of this country.

But is it really so important to know the do's and don'ts of a specific country? I don't think so. In my opinion it is more important to develop a general awareness of the diversity that comes with living in an international community. Especially when you interact not only with members of your host country but also with people from all over the world.

And this is where mindfulness plays a big role. Mindfulness gives us the awareness that every individual is unique and although there are stereotypes that can be true, they are never true for everybody, and certainly not for an entire country. Mindfulness teaches us to detect what is happing in our bodies and minds when being confronted with difficult situations in an international context. This becomes often the case when we recognise how differently communication works in your home country compare to other cultures.

Mindfulness also teaches us, that most aspects that make up a culture are not visible to us. We can not see other peoples values and beliefs, we don't know how they grew up, what their experiences were or how they react to stressful situations, or how they are feeling about living in a foreign country on their own without the extended family around.

Also in your private life mindfulness can be a great help. Becoming aware that our children are not only exposed to our "home culture" but also to the culture of the host country, and other cultures if your child visits an international school can be profound. Children adapt to the international setting differently from us and become what is called a "third culture kid" (TCK). This can be at times stressful for you as a parent because your child might behave or speak in a way that is not customary in your home country. And, although it is a great experience to grow up in different cultures, it can also be very stressful for our children. They develop their identity in an environment that is foreign to us, with a set of values and beliefs that is probably very different from ours. It might sometimes be difficult for them to find a common ground with your beliefs, but of course they still want to be accepted and loved for who they are. That can be challenging for the whole family at times.

As you can see, being a mindful person can help you to find your way in an international and sometimes ambiguous environment and potentially helps reducing your signs of stress.

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