Lack of Patience as an Expat and 5 Ways to Deal with it

By Gabriela Sirbu
November 24, 2021
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5
 min read
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Be patient! It takes time… Wait a moment! Let me think about it! 

The dictionary says that patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious”

How do we accept and tolerate delays and problems and suffering without becoming anxious? How do we do that when we feel the energy of impatience running up our spine and giving us shivers, and it is so difficult to keep that feeling inside our body? It needs to get out, but how do we get it out without affecting people around us in an unpleasant way?

When we decide to move to another country, many things require patience: paperwork, visa, finding a place to live, finding a job, learning the language—especially learning the language at a level that can guarantee a good job. But, of course, if there is no need to learn the language to have a job, and you know that you will only be there for a few years, it can be ok not to use the time to learn the language that well. 

Yet, if you intend to spend more years in that country and have a social life among the locals, it is a good investment. The language we learn in layers, and we catch it faster or slower, according to our experience when learning foreign languages or similarities with our mother tongue. 

At the same time, learning a new language has to do with how much we liked school or not. If you didn’t like to learn in your mother tongue, it might be difficult to start learning now a different language. 

Patience is also needed when it comes to making friends in a new country. Some cultures can be more accessible, perhaps because there is a long history with immigration, and people are more used to it. For instance, Canada, USA, France, are only some of the big countries where immigration is part of history. It may be more difficult to become friends with the locals in countries where it was not that common to receive immigrants, even in the big cities. If one ends up in the countryside, there may be a better chance, since the number of inhabitants is small. People can get curious and make a step towards foreigners. At the same time, that is not guaranteed.  

If someone is married to a local, that person needs patience for the spouse’s family to get used to the fact that there is a foreigner among them. Patience to get to know the family members, and patience to allow them to learn the exotic addition to the family, with a new language, habits, clothes, and way of being. 

You need patience with yourself and give yourself time and space to take in the new impressions, the new people you meet daily, and the new social system. Time to observe the written social rules and time to discover the unwritten codes. Those no one talks about because they are in people’s backbone, and there is no need to speak about them among locals. Yet, it can be a challenge when you’re new and do not know the local history and habits of the people who adopted you. 

Patience is also wrapped around the relationship with time you’ve grown up in. In many cultures, “time passes” and it is the most valuable resource we can have since we cannot get it back. In other cultures, “time comes” and time is a resource used consciously to reach good results, well thought through, “matured” in the minds and hearts of people. They need to feel comfortable with the process that leads to the results and not feels rushed and “whipped” through it. These people are more careful to “how” they reach a result, instead of focusing only on the outcome, regardless of the methods used. 

If the culture you come from is one where you’ve heard a lot of Hurry! I don’t have all day! Come on! Let’s move! Faster! I needed it yesterday! Then the challenge of time is going to be even bigger. 

In this kind of culture, people do not allow themselves to breathe even, and the results are more important than people. You may find yourself trying to implement “your system” in the new environment, yet, it may not always be a good idea. Perhaps a better idea would be to use the time in the same way locals do and try to find out why is it so important for you to reach your goals fast. Is it because this is the way you’re used to, or is it too painful to tolerate the feelings of waiting? Is there some anxiety or panic involved? 

Here are five ways to deal with lack of patience as an Expat:

  1. We can express the lack of patience and describe what it does to us when we need to wait for something to happen. We can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having to wait and its consequences. That means we have a conversation partner who is not shutting us up by telling us how well they deal with the same situation or telling us a story about when they had a similar problem. We need to be allowed to speak it out until the end. We need someone who knows how to listen. 
  2. We can also find something else to do when we need to wait for something to happen or a person to decide. Being creative and prioritizing can help through the discomfort of waiting. It also depends on how important that thing or person is. 
  3. Another way to express the lack of patience can be to exercise. One hour in the gym or running/walking or swimming, or anything else that implies moving your body or your brain, is an excellent way to help the discomfort of impatience get out of your body. 
  4. People who have a hobby can lean into that. Then, work on that hobby, no matter what that may be: drawing, knitting, painting, carpentry, gardening, cleaning, etc. If you notice, the activities I mention have something to do with being in physical activity.
  5. You can ask yourself the following questions:
  • Can I do anything about it?
  • If I am losing my patience and get anxious and irritated, how is that helping the situation? 

See which answer you are coming up with for each question and see where it takes you. 

All in all, we need patience. Patience so we can wait for the time to bring what is in store for us.  I wish you to be patient!

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About the Author

Gabriela Sirbu

Gabriela Sirbu is a therapist, speaker, and writer at migrationofemotion.com. She is a former journalist, has a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Transformation from UiT - The Arctic University of Norway - and a specialization within practical psychology from the Norwegian Gestalt Institute in Oslo.

A Romanian expat studying, living and working in Norway for nearly 20 years. It was Norwegian culture that inspired her to pursue a specialization in practical psychology. She realized that “war” and “conflicts” are not carried with guns, but with an invisible boomerang of words and feelings. And this boomerang travels with us everywhere we go, no matter how far we travel, or how often, or how much we hope to leave it behind.

Now she works as a therapist and holds seminars and workshops on multicultural communications where the main goal is to help people become aware of how their invisible luggage is influencing their communication patterns, their behaviour, and their life.

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