Love it or hate it, a new year ignites those with well-intentions to set goals and shed a few of the less attractive habits formed over the past years. But a Kenyan living abroad New Year’s resolution list differs in so many ways, as daily challenges can be anything from not understanding your resident country to facing demanding relatives back home.
So I compiled some resolutions that you, my fellow diasporans and even returnees can relate to:
1. Learn enough language so you don’t sound like a toddler when you speak.
Or you can aim for fluency. Although, if it was your New Year’s resolution last year, too, it’s probably time to stick notes of those pesky irregular verbs and tricky vocabulary around the house.
2. Make atleast three local friends
I know this is as difficult as a camel walking into a needle hole but you gotta try. In the two years I have lived in Sweden I have made two friends. Each year a new friend. Hahaha.
4. Try that weird dish you refused to try
I might just try some Swedish rotten fish they serve for Christmas and maybe find out what they call it.
You’ve seen the five-year-olds gobble it down, so it deserves a try. The true way to a local’s heart is through their specialty dishes, no matter how bizarre to your taste-buds.
Yes – this New Year’s resolution probably involves offal, raw meat, blood or UFOs (unidentifiable fried objects), all the kinds of things Europeans are experts at turning into tasty local cuisine. Being Europe, you’ll then have to follow this with trying all the regional differences of the same dish.
5. Be a ‘country ambassador’
Being abroad generally means missing your favorite traditions but it doesn’t mean you can’t share these with new friends. Although small European kitchens mean your Thanksgiving dinner abroad might be chicken or goose at best, local friends always get a kick out of eating foreign dishes they’ve always heard about. Brand Kenya all the way!
6. Get your local driver’s licence
If you are a Kenyan and have driven alongside mathrees then who really drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road? Being a dexterous driver is a skill to be proud of, even if it’s only at the office party – and legally necessary once you’re an official resident abroad. Some immigrants can only exchange their driver’s licence if they take a driving test in their host country, however, so this New Year’s resolution might easily double as a New Year’s resolution of learning patience.
7. Visit your home country more often
It’s easy to keep in contact with those mobile friends and family who can easily visit – although becoming a ‘guest home’ for everyone has its quirks – but it takes some effort to keep in touch with the rest back home. You won’t need convincing to achieve this goal, although your bank budget might.
8. Stop comparing
Life abroad is not necessarily better or worse, just different. There are so many small little differences to discover – and even adopt as your own – but it’s hard to cherish these through a cloud of complaints. You might have to bag your own groceries or sun-dry your laundry, but even the worst experience can be turned into a riveting story when you go home.
And no matter how many times you mentally convert and compare prices to back home, they’re still going to cost the same when you buy them in your new country. New year, new you.
9. Discover the secret to packing the perfect travel suitcase
Rolled or folded? Casual or dressy? Warm or cool clothes? No matter how much you prepare, there’s always half a suitcase of clothes that you couldn’t fit in or didn’t wear, although you have already mastered how to fit a week’s baggage into a carry on.
10. Go easy on yourself
You’ve already made the colossal move abroad but it doesn’t end there – often the realities of expat life are far less glamourous then people back home imagine. There’s language and local culture to learn, immigration battles, overcoming small expat fears, and trying to fit in. Don’t be too hard on yourself – or your host country –if you have a bad day. It gets easier every day, and a little less overwhelming.