Bryan, Drew and I really love our life here in Ecuador, but we certainly have had our bad days. Days when we really miss our family and friends, and how relaxing it is to just blend in and “speak easy” in English. I love the Spanish language, but some days the frustration from not being able to communicate freely, kind of gets me down.
We know that we need to get used to different ways of doing things, and usually we just roll with it. Normally we are happy and very upbeat about living here. We actually feel kind of privileged to be here. But why are some days so difficult? How do we deal with bad days without feeling like throwing in the towel and just giving up? And why does it seem that some people can live in a foreign country loving it, while others run in the other direction and tell everyone that they should run away too?
Sometimes this all comes down to need, focus and perspective.
For our family moving here has given us a better life. The idea of a better life can mean very different things for different people. For some people a better life might mean a bigger home, a newer car and having more prominence and prestige. For us it means none of these things, it means working less and having more time as a family. On top of that, almost all of the Ecuadorians we’ve met are very respectful and patient with us “gringos.” And this country is amazingly beautiful.
The way people deal with things that they perceive as negative has a lot to do with what it is that motivates them to want to relocate to a foreign country. Sometimes people feel things should be done exactly the way they were “at home” and at the same time they expect to have all the benefits of a lower cost of living and the best bits of a new culture. Their motive for a better life is driven by the desire for more prominence, prestige and comfort. So if they are treated in any manner other than what fits with their desire, it’s not acceptable and everything they go on to tell others about their experiences is told with a negative slant. This leaves their listeners wondering how anyone “could ever live in a place like that.”
On the other hand if the driving force is motivated by the desire for a more simple, family oriented life, perceived negatives are not such a big deal. They are just seen as something that needs to be overcome, avoided, or something that will simply need some getting used to. The focus is on the goal of becoming comfortable in, and more accepting of their new surroundings, rather than expecting everything and everyone to conform to a perceived right or wrong way of doing things.
Right or Wrong
Sometimes people get set in their ways and think that there is no other way of doing things than what they think is the right way. This way of thinking can close a lot of doors and alienate a lot of people. I’m not talking about big moral issues, I’m talking about things like the “right” way to line up at the bank, or the “right” way to pack groceries, or the “right” route to take to a certain location. If the people they are dealing with, don’t do things “right” these types of people are constantly annoyed and feel that things are just being done wrong, and perhaps the people they are dealing with just aren’t that smart. They then walk around looking down at everything and it ruins their experiences and relationships. They can also ruin the future good experiences of the people they talk to.
We write this blog for people with motivations similar to our own. For people that can roll with the punches. People that can see the abundant good, and continue to reach toward their goal of a better life centered around more quality time with their family. For people that are accepting of cultural differences, and also realize that things like purse snatching or pickpocketing here, are no different than purse snatching or pickpocketing anywhere else.
Bad Days, What to Do?
When we have bad days, we look ahead to when we will be able to communicate fluently. We look ahead to when we will get used to a new way of doing things. I might pop in a movie (in English) to take my mind off of what ever is bothering me, refocus and brush it off. Or we might take a walk through the city (Cuenca) and go out for ice cream.
For us putting up with discomfort from the language difference, or culture differences is nothing when compared with having to work full time and having no time with our daughter.
Bad days are just that, we deal with them, and continue to move on. On bad days we focus on the future, and think about when things will be easier, and more normal to us than they are now. That doesn’t mean the bad days are easy. They aren’t. In fact, they can be really hard, sometimes tears are shed. But a bad day is not the end of the world, it’s just part of the adjustment.
If people can’t put up with the discomforts of what living in a foreign country amongst a different culture might bring, they shouldn’t move to one. But they also shouldn’t think that the people that can happily live in one are just glossing over the truth for some ulterior motive. We all know that saying the glass is half full is not glossing over the truth, it’s focusing on the positive. For people like us, the fact is that it probably all just boils down to need, focus and perspective.
- Need: To be really happy, we need more time to do the things we love to do as a family.
- Focus: Things will become more normal, and will get easier with time.
- Perspective: Any short term discomfort is nothing when compared to the long term benefits.
Are you an expat? Share what helps you deal with your bad days by commenting on this post. Who knows, you just might help someone having one right now