“Do it yourself.” “Be self-sufficient.” “Don’t rely on anyone.” Many people, especially those who have grown up in the United States, embrace these ideas and pride themselves on being self-reliant. However, you simply can’t do everything on your own. And when you’re an expat, living in a strange and new location, the sense of isolation can become intense.
To become part of your new community, you need to turn your thinking completely around. You’re not showing weakness when you ask for help; you’re providing an opportunity for others to show kindness and to feel good.
To help overcome your reluctance to ask for help, remember these three important points:
Don’t expect people to be mind-readers. We’re taught to mind our own business, and that offering unsolicited help makes us a busy body. We also develop inattentional blindness as a protective mechanism against the immense amount of information coming at us daily. So people will hold back until you pointblank say, “Could you help me with something?”
Don’t be vague. Be specific with your request and make sure your helper knows why you’re asking him and not someone else. This will make them feel invested in your success and want to help.
Don’t push, if they say no. If the person you’re asking doesn’t have the time and resources to help, don’t take it as personal rejection. Turn it into a request for a referral by saying, “I appreciate your honesty. I really need help, so can you recommend someone else?”
On a practical note: Find the telephone numbers for the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for each place you plan to visit and keep those numbers with you at all times. If you lose your passport or are a victim of a crime while living overseas, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for help as soon as possible. If you don’t have that number, contact the Department of State in the U.S. to obtain information on local services.
Perhaps, as an expat, you need help dealing with the unique challenges of adjusting to life in a foreign country. Or perhaps you were disappointed to discover that your “old” personal problems or family challenges didn’t disappear when you relocated. If so, I offer online counseling for expats. Please contact my assistant and schedule an appointment. I’d love to help you settle into your new life successfully.