Expat Resolutions

December 2010 The Expat Telegraph published an article I had written called Thoroughly Modern Expats.

For a number of years following I was a regular monthly columist for them.

Reading through the original articles that I submitted recently, I was taken by a) how relevant many of them still are today, and b) I had no online record of them of my own.

So I have added the original submissions to this blog, so if you want to read more of them just search for telegrapharticles, and while you are at it you may want to search for expatarticles as well to see other columns I wrote in the past for various newspapers in Spain.

I suspect that somewhere between the third mince pie and the first cold turkey sandwich at Christmas, a little voice in your head told you that you should ‘lose a bit of weight’ next year; that as you staggered from one Christmas party to another, the same voice probably said that it was about time to “cut back on the booze in January”; and hands up all of you who, as the clock struck midnight, looked at the cigarette in your hand and promised to “quit in the morning”.

The problem is you know exactly what is coming next: The New Year Resolution. That ‘magical’ list that will transform your life round instantly, right all the wrongs, correct all the in balances, and reverse decades of decadence!

Researching for the column it wasn’t too surprising to find a few ‘old favourites’ on the Top 5 list of New Years Resolutions:

1. Quit Drinking
2. Get Fit
3. Lose Weight
4. Stop Smoking
5. Enjoy Life More

For many of us expats that just about sums up a normal Monday morning, or a Tuesday, or a Wednesday …………………

At one time or another I have made all of the above promises (and more), and the only one that I have stuck to so far is not smoking, although that was less a New Years Resolution than an impromptu decision made a couple of years ago one June.

The problem with New Years Resolutions is that they are difficult to keep, they mean a change to your lifestyle, and they can isolate you!

As a fellow blogger from The Surf Report Blog (http://thewvsr.com/index.php/our-experiences-with-new-years-resolutions/) so accurately said:

“Everything’s smooth sailing until you’re required to take consistent action”

I suspect that for many an expat the main issue is one of support, or more accurately, lack of! What is it they say about “old dogs and new tricks”? I reckon the same can be said about expatriates and new tricks. It can be very lonely being an expat – living away from friends and family, struggling with a new language, having to make new friends and build a social life.

They say that a fear of not settling in induces the most stress amongst potential and new expats. ‘Being accepted’ is very much about becoming part of a community, involved in what is going on. Where better to do this than in the bars, cafes and restaurants? Little wonder that so many good intentions that expats bring with them to their new country about a ‘new lifestyle’ are forgotten in a blur of social activity.

As Robin Pascoe, the pioneer of expat blogging and veteran of over 20 years living the expat life, found out only this year, keeping a New Years Resolution can be incredibly hard, but breaking one can be so easy, as her recent Facebook update explains.

“Too much champagne, followed by margaritas last night, mean I’ve already broken a new year’s resolution….but my darling daughter arrived here in Arizona with her boyfriend who as of yesterday has become her fiancee!! I’m now officially a mother of a future bride!!” Robin Pascoe (http://expatexpert.com/)

Great news for Robin, but an even better example of one of the issues facing us expats, the unpredictable events, the need to make the most of every opportunity to be with family and traveling friends. It is far harder to say to a friend that has travelled half way round the world that you aren’t drinking this month than it is to tell your neighbour at home.

Thankfully these days we have the internet, that lifeline to the lifestyle, friends and family that we left behind. What better way to use it than to gather support, share experiences, or post results of the progress that you are making? A night of abstinence from the local pub is so much easier if the time is spent on line chatting to friends, or with others trying to achieve the same thing.

It is also easier if you can find someone to work with when making changes: a training partner at the gym, a weight loss group etc, but these are harder to find for the expatriate. It’s just one more example of something that you take for granted at home so this year, I’ve set up New Years Resolution Support Group on Facebook to try and provide just this type of support. I suspect it will be too late for many, like my friend who for some reason decided to give up smoking two days before New Year and in their own words “cheated just a little bit last night”. Technically their New Year Resolution lasted 12 minutes.

With hindsight I am sure they would agree that it wasn’t the most realistic thing to do, but then again would a New Years Resolution be a New Years Resolution if it was realistic? As fellow blogger Jeff Kay ( http://thewvsr.com/index.php/about/) wrote:

“One year, if you can believe it, I actually went on a fad diet, starting on the first day of the year. I was going to turn my life over to it, lose sixty pounds ………. Ha! I think I made it a week living under that horrible torture, before I cracked.”

Personally I have always found that the best way to make a change is through an initial period of avoidance. Want to stop drinking? Stay away from the pub. Want to lose weight? Stay away from restaurants. This works in the short term, but isn’t sustainable. For example for over 20 years now I have stopped drinking for January. Basically I just avoid bars and restaurants and don’t have any alcohol in the house. Far easier than spending hours watching other people drinking in my view, but not a option for 12 months of the year naturally. As our friend above found out it helps to be realistic!

And not just Jeff, one of my favourite tweets from a fellow tweeter this week was “My new years resolutions: Go to more pub quizzes, listen to more hip-hop and wear more make-up…” It’s all about aiming high.”( @MatDolphin)

As I said though, these days we have the Internet so for us expats there is no reason to feel isolated, alone, or “the only one” as these two tweets so adequately demonstrate:

“It’s only january 5th and I have already managed to break most of my new years resolutions” (@emiliabediliaa)

“I’m bout 5 days late but I need to think up sum new years resolutions that are actually attainable”. (@MaeveHarris)

Or perhaps we should all do what my mate @AlamarMarine tweeted: “best idea yet. I decided my resolution this year was not to have one and so far I’m doing well……..”

For the record, this year I have promised myself that I will get fit, improve my Spanish and see more of this beautiful country that we now call home. So far I have a cough, haven’t left the apartment and the most Spanish I have used is ¡feliz año nuevo!

Anyway why not join the group on Facebook, or send me a tweet (@MyAppleStuff) and let me know how you’re getting on with your New Year Resolutions?

Please feel free to search on Google for the published versions of these columns.

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