Yesterday, I had a conference call with our head office in the United States. They asked me, “When we talk with potential co-workers, what kind of background are you looking for? Do you want people who’ve lived overseas, done similar work, something like that?”
To which I replied, “To me, all that matters is that people come over here with a learner’s mentality. The most important thing is for them to be curious. Previous experience and accurate expectations are helpful, but I didn’t even have much of that when I moved here. The most important thing is that they’re curious.”
If you want to live and acculturate in a new country, curiosity is the key.
You’re going to be angry when the post office won’t let you pick up your wife’s package- or when they won’t let you pick up your own mail because the address on your ID doesn’t match the address on the envelope. Sometimes, a little bit of rage against your new host culture will bubble inside. But the difference between becoming bitter and sticking with it lies, in large part, in your curiosity. As often as you remember, “OK, I’m here to learn, not to be an expert,” you can take a breath and begin to brainstorm why this conflict just happened.
You’re asking questions and making discoveries each week. In time, the dots will connect. At least some of them will. You’ll begin to expect surprises and you’ll hold more realistic expectations.