Expatriates have a lot to be thankful for. During the holiday season it can be hard to see beyond the lack of snow, the distance from family, the different foods and traditions. I have spent my fair share of holidays wallowing in the reality that my grandmother is not here to play Scrabble with me and no one else will rise to the challenge.
But I have also spent many holidays surrounded by heaps of delicious food, friends who have walked through darkness and light with us, and laughing until I cry while playing games and recounting stories.
Even beyond the holiday season, however, expatriates have many reasons for gratitude. Yes, there are lonely, long, hot (or cold), dusty (or humid), busy days. There are days when the local food makes you sick and the local traffic makes you want to scream and the only thing that might help is that unique scent found only in your childhood home. But guess what? Everyone, expat or not, has those days. And few people, expat or not, can return to that childhood home to capture that smell again.
So instead of complaining, instead of focusing on the difficult things, how about cultivating thankfulness?
The expatriate life is a mixture of gains and losses and I think the successful expat is the one who knows the value of thankfulness, who can see the deep privilege they have been given, and who chooses to live there, rest there, and speak from there.
Gratitude 1 of 13
Click through to see 12 things most expatriates are thankful for, from the small like space on an airplane, to the massive, like longterm friendships.
Airplane Space 2 of 13
Expatriates are thrilled when the seat next to them remains empty. More than once I have assisted travelers on their first-ever journeys. Buckling belts, buttering buns, holding hands over bumps. And while I do find this purposeful, I confess: I'm happy when there is an empty seat beside me.
Short Trips 3 of 13
Any trip crossing fewer than three international borders feels like a breeze and is cause for great thanks.
Minimal Jet Lag 4 of 13
Dealing with a time change of less than three hours is also cause for great thanks, the resulting jet lag barely worth mentioning.
New Traditions 5 of 13
Expatriates are thankful for the freedom to create individualized holiday traditions. No more Auntie's fruit cake! No more endless games of Twister! Or whatever your beloved relatives rain down on you during holidays.
Local Traditions 6 of 13
Expatriates are thankful to learn about local traditions and holidays, to enter into new seasons, like the Muslim Eid holidays, or local independence days.
No Traditions 7 of 13
Sometimes, expatriates are thankful to simply ignore traditions. Home country holidays can slip by almost unnoticed, other than the internet and news. They might not tell people at home, but they didn't do anything for Halloween. And they, and their children, survived. Thrived even.
International Potlucks 8 of 13
Who doesn't love a table filled with food from around the world? Life as expatriate often results in parties with people from all over the globe. Why not add Congolese food, Chinese food, French food, Djiboutian food, and Ethiopian food to your Christmas meal?
Communication 9 of 13
Expats are always thankful for emails, Skype calls, and Facebook messages that can be long or can be a quick: "I thought of you today." We are not forgotten.
Close Friends 10 of 13
Expatriates are thankful for friends who live close and who stay in the area for longer than two years.
Old Friends 11 of 13
And they are thankful for friends who live far away but who stay in touch, who keep sharing their lives, and who keep a place in their homes and hearts for when the expat returns.
Familiarity 12 of 13
Expats are thankful to have familiar faces and places staked all across the globe. They feel connected to multiple nations and histories and families and know this brings depth to their own lives. Many places can bear a small taste of home.
Opportunity 13 of 13
And above all, expatriates are thankful for the unique privilege and opportunity they have to live a life engaged in the creativity of learning other cultures and people. Being thankful, and reminding ourselves of this, also reminds us to not take it for granted.