I knew as I was getting ready to move overseas for 5 months that balancing my work and life would likely prove difficult.
My husband had been awarded a sabbatical to teach overseas at a university in Kosovo, and due to the nature of my business, I could run it just about anywhere. In fact, as a cultural trainer, living overseas would offer the perfect opportunity to keep developing my own cultural intelligence!
But I also knew enough about myself, as well as the culture I would be living in, that I would likely experience a bit of a clash between it and the American work culture I was leaving behind.
And it started before I even left home.
I added a few new projects to my plate my final week in the U.S., one of which was due just 2 days after I arrived in Kosovo. I had a 2-day layover in Istanbul – a city I’ve always wanted to visit – yet, I found myself working a few hours each morning over breakfast just to keep up.
And then the first week or two after arriving, I felt a consistent level of anxiety. I had so much to do in terms of work, yet I wanted to explore my new city and schedule coffee with old friends.
I was quickly finding it hard to do both. And I felt pulled in every direction.
I finally took some time to explore a local park and reflect on the reasons for my heart palpitations.
That’s when it really hit me: I’m a planner. A perfectionist. And often a task-driven workaholic. And I’m living in a country that runs on doing the opposite.
I knew this intellectually when I left home. But actually being here and learning to find balance in this context was another story. I wanted to succeed in my work and ensure that my working remotely was a seamless transition for clients. But I also wanted to enjoy my friends here and make the most of my time in Europe.
I was constantly trying to straddle a more carefree existence here with the scheduled and more rigid expectations of the U.S. And I felt frustrated.
I’m now a month into my stay, and I’m not even going to pretend I have all the answers — or that I’ve had an “ah-ha” moment that made everything easier.
I’m just more aware now of where some of my struggles are coming from.
I notice them and try to reflect on what I can learn from them. Because I know there’s value in me gleaning insight from a culture that places relationships first. That doesn’t plan 2 days, let alone 2 weeks in advance. It teaches me to be in the moment. To savor what’s around me. To enjoy my morning makiato. To not take myself too seriously. And to not only reflect on the influences my own culture has had on me, but to also look at what I can learn from my new one.
I’ll continue to share insights gleaned from my journey, but in the meantime, if you’ve ever had a similar experience, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment on this post, or connect with me via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.