Expat Life | Holding on to your Confidence


When the newness and excitement of an overseas move wears off and you begin to settle in, there is a strange feeling that may overcome you, or maybe its just me. It's a little uncomfortable, kind of awkward and I've been trying to figure out how to put it into words. Trying to figure out how to explain to my friends and family what it's like to live in a foreign country. Because I should be on cloud nine everyday, right? And most of the time I am, but what are these feelings of being uncomfortable and awkward actually affecting in me? Well....

It's confidence.

And there it is. Living your life as an expat can truly shake your confidence in ways that you never thought possible. Living in America for 29 years, no matter what city, I have always felt confident in my daily decisions, like where I grocery shop, what lane I need to be in while driving, how to communicate with people, how to dress, how to buy movie tickets, HOW TO CROSS THE STREET, etc, etc. Having never lived as an expat, I've never thought twice about how to do daily activities and have felt confident in my decisions. I have had almost total confidence in myself.

To further dive into this I need to give you some examples of just how my confidence has been tested. For instance, even a simple text message to a British friend was a little intimidating at first....I'm thinking, will they really understand what I am saying? Or even when speaking in person, some things get lost in translation (English vs. English) and it can be awkward when the conversation suddenly becomes quiet. It makes you wonder what you said wrong. I am so thankful that I live in a country with friendly people or my confidence would be completely crushed because of the silly things I say. Thank you England!!

Driving, good gracious. I miss driving and feeling safe and happy and carefree! I actually did make myself roll down the windows on a sunny day a few days ago, with the music blaring, and just pretend I was back at home, driving my easy to drive, pretty car. It was a boost for my soul for sure. Driving is something that has always been so easy and enjoyable for me. Now, I feel like I am 15 and haven't the slightest clue what I am doing. It feels so foreign. It can be a total confidence shaker to revert back to the beginning days of your driving career after you have already mastered it in another setting.

Shopping in general has been interesting because I never know what I am supposed to be doing at checkout. Some places make you bag your own groceries and some don't, and I just always feel awkward when asking. And then comes paying. The chip and pin cards are new for us and I usually manage to mess up the transaction. Or if I am counting out my British coins, it takes me forever. I feel like a 7 year old counting out his pennies at the ice cream shop!

Other confidence shakers include: Figuring out the trash schedule and what type of trash goes in each bin, looking right when crossing the road (oh I need a whole post on this), understanding road signs, and my least favorite...learning how to cook again with temperatures in Celsius and measurements in ml and g. Ugh.

So how do I try and hold on to my confidence? Well it's really a mixture of things. I try and tell myself these things on the regular...

1. Don't be so hard on yourself.

You just moved to a different country. Of course you are going to have some setbacks. I think most people, well at least me, move to a different country expecting this fairytale. And it absolutely is in some ways! So when you start feeling your confidence slip, you think it must be you being a baby. But it's not. There is a major amount of adjusting to do. It takes time. Allow yourself the time. And laugh!!

2. Keep trying.

There will be setbacks upon setbacks in regaining your confidence. But guess what, tomorrow is a new day and you can try again. Take your confidence shakers and learn from them. I hate crossing the road here, but guess what, I gotta keep trying. And one day, I will look in the right direction for oncoming traffic!! I hope you have a most hilarious picture in your mind right now of me trying to cross the road and not looking in the right direction! I've literally been pulled back by a British friend, like I was a child and she was my mom telling me not to walk into the street!

3. Embrace the experience.

My most favorite of all. Embrace this experience. Open your heart and see the positivity in your situation. There are so many people who would give up everything to be in your shoes. This is an incredible learning experience and one that should be cherished. One that you may never have the opportunity to experience again! So get out there, make a fool of yourself and embrace it :)

Everyday I keep gaining more confidence and learn how to do better. It's always a work in progress and I am learning to let go and just live in the moment!

Van and I at a super swanky Monaco bar......totally out of place :) 

What has shaken your confidence? What helps build your confidence?
Happy Friday folks!!
-Jamie

20 comments

  1. I am super impressed that you are driving here! I don't! x

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    1. Haha! Don't be impressed! I am getting better with each outing but I still freak out a bit each time I go. And with a manual, I just about give up every time...

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  2. There is so much I am not confident about here in England! I'm too scared to even ride a bike. Someone is bringing one around on Sunday so I can borrow it and I'm too nervous to even try riding on the roads.

    I even get nervous to talk to British people a lot of the time - I don't like to be the centre of attention and I often feel really insecure explaining the circumstances that led me to studying in England. I recently had a visit day for my degree programme and when I asked the speaker a question, she interjected and asked me all sorts of things about where I was from and why I would come to university here (the whole grass-is-greener thing - they hear an American and think, "Gosh, why would you ever leave?").

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    1. Yes to everything! I think I am more terrified to ride a bike than driving a car actually! Maybe less protection?? And every time I speak, I am always waiting for the questions :) But, at least there are questions instead of being ignored! We are labeled as the Americans in our town haha!!

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  3. This was really fun to read! I'm always nervous at the grocery store, whether it's finding what I need, figuring out how to bag it, and which way the "chip" goes in the machine. You really captured the essence of how basic things can be so frustrating in a foreign country. I loved reading it, Jamie!

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    1. Thanks girl! Yeah, I always manage to "be the dumb American" at the chip machine haha! Oh well. Luckily I live in a small enough town to where they accept my excuse of being new and American :) As much as it is frustrating, I love it all!

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    2. If you are a "dumb American" then I must be a "dumb Scotsman". I do it all the time

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    3. This makes me feel a lot better, if you are a native and you still get it wrong :) Thanks for the confidence boost!!

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  4. Thank you for the tips! While I've traveled quite a bit, I will be becoming an expat in the fall and am glad for anything like this! It's good to have a realistic warning that, like anything, the honeymoon phase will wear off and you will just be overwhelmed and...well, you said it better in the post above! Most of all I love your point to embrace the experience for what it is, even all of the little confusing, frustrating parts! Thanks for writing this :)

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    1. I'm so glad to be of some help! Yes, the honeymoon phase does wear off and reality sets in. But for all the frustration, I wouldn't trade it for anything. That's so exciting about your future....it definitely will be life changing!

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  5. Thank for writing this post! The thought of going grocery shopping stresses me out beyond all belief. I actually dread it. I never know how to bag things properly/check out/pay. On more than one occasion, I have had items like fruits/veggies/meats confiscated from my basket at the check out stand and I still have NO CLUE why. Why can I not buy oranges on some days? Why does the clerk babble at me in Mandarin and set them aside? And also: gas stations? I sweat just thinking about pumping gas. Sometimes being an expat can make life ridiculously hard.

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    1. You are cracking me up!! Why are they taking your produce??? I would cry. Ok, you have it worse than I do....

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  6. Thanks for joining my linky - and for giving such great advice!

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  7. I have lived in London for seven years and I still refuse to drive, even though it's on the same side of the road as I was used to in Australia. It's just too scary. Good on you for giving it a go, you'll get it soon!

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    1. I probably will never attempt to drive in London haha!! But, yes I will continue to fight the fight :)

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  8. Having moved from the UK - seriously drivers in Michigan are mad, in the UK people seem to nicely stick in their own lane, here it's all about the weaving. I actually dread to learn to drive in the US! The whole UK food shopping adventure can be a nightmare - even for a British person especially due to wanting customers to recycle and bring in their own shopping bags. literally the cashiers would glare at you when you dared to ask for another bag. I do miss being able to pack my own bags though, some of the logic behind the way they pack items is really lacking!

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    1. It really is a physical adjustment to even ride as passenger on the "other" side of the car!! I have never driven in Michigan but there are different driving styles for sure between US and UK. And I am sooooo happy to hear that I am not just the newbie unsure of what to do in the checkout :)

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  9. I can relate to everything in this post. I always felt very self-conscious when we lived in Scotland and people would notice my American accent -- and don't even get me started on driving! At one point I forgot that we were SUPPOSED to be driving on left side of the road and screamed so loud I almost caused my husband to crash the car! Annnnd the one time I tried to drive I almost slammed into a truck. Expat life can be stressful, for sure.

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    1. I drive on the wrong side all the time!! Especially in a residential area though, my neighbors probably think I'm crazy :)

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