This week I’ve been dealing with importing my husband’s car into Belgium. The experience has included both victory (getting the importation documents issued quickly) and defeat (being stopped by the Belgian police because the German dealer plates on the car are only legal in for driving in Germany). It reminded me that being in a new country can turn straightforward tasks into monumental challenges. These experiences are frustrating and bring all of the stressors of being an expat to the forefront; inability to speak a language, lack of familiarity with the way things are done in a new country, frustration with people who don’t seem to be able to or don’t want to help. Like most expats, I am familiar with the horrible feeling of being reduced to tears by a setback which, though minor, is the latest in a long line of minor setbacks and is the one which has thrown me over the edge.
The flip side of the frustration though, is that completing these tasks gives me a sense of achievement that I would not derive from accomplishing the same thing at home. I’ve also learned from my tears and moments of feeling utterly defeated to give myself a break.
1. I set my expectations differently knowing that it will take longer to do something in my new country.
2. I acknowledge that the task at hand is not going to be as easy as it would be at home.
3. When something is not going my way, I stay in the moment and try to avoid the panicked fast-forward in my brain that turns a setback into an earth-shattering calamity and causes me to react emotionally.
4. I try to celebrate the small victories throughout the process rather than focusing on my perceived failures in accomplishing the goal.
This helps me to stay calm and patient and work through the task . A surprising bonus is that by keeping my frustration at bay, the people I’m dealing with are more patient and inclined to do more to help me.
The vehicle importation process has encountered several setbacks and it’s not over yet but I have stayed calm and been helped out by a number of people, including a total stranger and I’m confident that I will get it done. Though, It’s lucky the police didn’t impound the car, because then I would have cried!