The Importance of Changing Your Mindset When You Move Abroad

When I moved to France 7 years ago I didn’t really think about the fact that living in a different country would, over time, drastically alter my way of thinking. I also didn’t realise that, even though I adapted to my new home, not all expats would do the same. Let me explain…

There are a huge amount of expatriates in France who haven’t adapted to the French way of life. I have British friends for example who don’t speak French (nor try to learn) and who have only made friends with other English-speaking expats. The problem with this is that it limits how much you open your mind to France and its culture. If you don’t make an effort to speak French or make French friends, you might as well still be living in your home country, because you’re not truly “living” in France. As soon as the French see that you’re making the effort to speak their language, the walls will quickly come down.

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Making friends with French people opens up doors to a world of opportunities. You have the occasion to learn about the French way of life and their traditions. You get to do things like:

– learning their funny expressions such as “parler anglais comme une vache espagnole” (to speak broken English) which translates as speak English like a Spanish cow and “chercher midi à quatorze heure” (to overcomplicate something) which translates as to look for 12pm at 2pm

– learning about how you have to look each other in the eye when you cheers, how you cannot put bread upside down on the table and how you shouldn’t cut lettuce with a knife!

– cooking, eating, drinking, talking (often about food and drink) with them and learning about the importance of food and conversation in their lives

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And of course, so much more!

It’s also very important that you don’t compare France to your home country. I spent YEARS doing this. Complaining about French bureaucracy, French customer service, French banks and so on. I recently told a friend of mine who has just arrived in Paris and who is battling red tape that “The sooner you accept that this is the way it is in France, the less stressed you’ll be.” Stressing gets you nowhere in life. If a document you need will be ready in one month you’ll have to wait one month, there’s no point trying to fight it! France has its laws and regulations and yes, admittedly, it has a crazy amount of red tape but it’s a fantastic country to live in and you just have to accept its quirks. And anyway, that’s why you have companies like Bilingual Minds who can help you to get settled in, but you don’t wan’t to rely on them forever!

The most important thing is that you open your mind. I’ve seen a lot of expats come and go during my time in Paris and the majority of the people who left never adapted to life in France. They stayed in a small expat bubble and sadly never experienced life in France to the fullest. Living in a new country is scary, I understand that, but to fall in love with France you have to be open-minded and remember that it’s not the country you grew up in so there will be surprises along the way!

17 thoughts on “The Importance of Changing Your Mindset When You Move Abroad

    1. I disagree Jon, I identify as an expatriate because an expatriate is simply someone living outside their native country which, of course, I am!
      The important thing I think is to understand that just because you are an expatriate doesn’t mean you are an outsider!

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  1. After nearly 30 years of retirement in France my wife and I are on the point of having to return to the UK.
    We are so sad about this, but both our families are still in the UK and we need to be nearer to them as our health deteriorates. We have enjoyed and integrated into French society as the years have passed and now find that we do not feel that the UK is the same country that we left.
    Compared with Europe the UK is an inward looking country still with delusions of greatness. It thinks that it still has a modern efficient health service whereas the UK health service is fine if you can afford to buy your way past the queue of non-deserving people and don’t have to queue until your problem is much worse.
    The infra structure dates from Victorian times except for a few ageing motorways. The only high speed line had to be built by the French to connect their National network of high-speed lines to London.
    In my home town the air quality isn’t fit to breath. No wonder all the children are on inhalers, these didn’t exist when I went to school or at least I wasn’t aware of them.
    But we do have weapons capable of ending the Human race which we buy whatever they cost, not being capable, any more, of building them for ourselves. Very sad.

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    1. Very sad to hear that you have to leave France David. I agree with you entirely and couldn’t have put it better myself about England, Brexit was a very sad day for the UK but most Brits still believe it was for the best. I can’t say the same, it was a very sad day that highlighted the close-minded attitude of a lot of people. I hope you will find some comfort in the delicious tea and scones at least!

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  2. What I do not understand is why people seem to think it so important to become like the people of the country in which you decide to live. The middle-class elite guardianistas of our country actually encourage Asian and other immigrants to ‘celebrate’ their culture and stay exactly as they are, speaking their own language, eating their own food, wearing their own clothing and following their own traditions,. yet any British expat who does that in France or Spain is mocked, castigated and derided as a Little Englander ( note: not a Little Britainer). Explain the logic, please?

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    1. Hi George. I don’t think that expats/immigrants should become like the people of the country in which they decide to live, but I do think that they have a lot to gain from making an effort to learn their language, embracing their culture and creating relationships with them. That doesn’t mean that immigrants should abandon their mother tongues, traditions, etc…The two are compatible, are they not? I speak English as often as I do French, I feel like I’m part of the “Expat community”, but I’m also part of the local French community. The point we were trying to get across in this article is that by putting yourself out there, being open to new ways of being and adapting, your life might become more enjoyable. Some people are perfectly happy living in the same way they did back at home without trying to learn the language of the locals, and that’s absolutely fine. I personally think that they might be missing out, but that’s just my point of view and I don’t expect everyone to agree with it.

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  3. I left a reply/comment here based on living in France for many years and communicating with thousands of British expatriates and millions of readers, but it has not appeared. Is this a place of closed rather than open minds, I wonder?

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    1. We didn’t have time to approve your comment George, that’s all. You commented at 9:48 pm and then again at 7:49 am and we were closed from 6 pm to 9 am. We weren’t trying to stop you from expressing your opinions 😀

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  4. As an Arab living in Canada, I say the same things to people from my ethnicity. Talking about politics, culture, things to do or did and your openness to try new things make the experience easier, healthier and better. Thank you.

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