Eight Months into Relocation with Three life lessons
When I think about it, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I kind of lost track of time. Six months (eight actually, but who’s counting?) into my relocation seem at the same time as short as a weekend, and as long as my entire life. I have a hard time reflecting on a period that feels like it is still part of an ongoing adventure movie. However, I think there are three main life lessons that I learned so far, and that are worth sharing while I practice them.
When in doubt, ask a follow-up question
One of the things that frightened and excited me was the cultural differences you encounter when relocating to a new country. Being an Israeli has its advantages and disadvantages, and if I found myself having misunderstandings with friends and colleagues, it was usually due to cultural miscommunication. Reactions that back home make total sense can at times come across as insensitive or even rude. And, in parallel, different types of behavior that back home would be defined as obvious hints for disagreement or even rejection, can simply mean a misunderstanding or a subtle demand for more time. In the beginning, I was easily offended by the different reactions I received, but then I decided to change my approach from the “victim of circumstances newbie” to the “curious newbie” and embrace a humble state of mind. Since I don’t really know what goes on in other people’s minds, I can easily reach a conclusion—based only on my thoughts and emotions alone—that might lead to a conflict or being hurt for no reason. I realized that by asking follow-up questions, I am able to get rid of many potential barriers that result from a lack of communication. Yes, I still cringe and feel weird when I “don’t get it” on the first time and must ask for clarification. However, I found it much more useful in the long run as I can avoid assumptions that exist only in my head about what other people mean and make sure I understand exactly what they do, in fact mean...
Loneliness is a choice
More than a decade ago, while traveling by myself in South America, I was asked if I feel lonely. Since I was traveling on my own and had my own route, I kept meeting new people all the time and had to often say goodbye throughout the journey. My answer was that I always feel “15 minutes of loneliness” (borrowed from the magnificent book “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Saying goodbye is difficult for me, so I always try to keep it light and easy with a cheerful “See ya later” and embrace the that I will feel lonely for a while until I find my next friend to travel with. Relocation is obviously different than a trip around the world, but the state of mind is similar. When you are open to meeting new people, even if some groups or friendships don’t work, it’s important to remember to let opportunities come and accept it when those opportunities leave. Furthermore, I keep reminding myself that building a social circle takes time, and that’s ok. Somehow, feeling like a stranger among other strangers creates a feeling of belonging.
Everything is personal
I heard many time that in the business world you need to have thick skin and remember that this is the b2b world and nothing is personal. I don’t accept that. If there is a value that I follow since my first step in the business world, and that has been even more true during the past six months, is that we are in a world of person to person, whether it is business or not. I was surprised and touched by people in my team and my organization who were willing to help me with questions I had, although they didn’t stand to gain anything from supporting me. Furthermore, when we were closer to the end of last quarter and a procurement manager worked extra hours to help me carry a deal to the finish line, I got to the conclusion that when you build strong relationships with people, whether they are your colleagues or your customers, they will probably go the extra mile for you.
Looking forward, here are my two cents
If anything, the last eight months have shown me that true, lasting relationships are the key to success and to great well-being. While socializing and taking in as many opportunities as we can to meet others might seem secondary to tasks that seem more urgent, it is these opportunities that create the possibility of being able to secure long-term success, but also long-term mental health. To create those relationships, you not only have to take advantage of opportunities when they come your way; you also need to ask questions at every turn and work on accepting that relationships can become dynamic, fast, and even temporary. But hey, that’s just after six (or eight) months… Talk to me in a year!