Three expat tips - Empathy vs Identity

Three expat tips - Empathy vs Identity

Born in Romania, educated in Denmark and currently working in Netherlands, in the past 4 years I've been abroad, I got to know a lot of great people, most of whom, I met during my studies. For 2 years I worked as a Student Helper, which provided me with the opportunity of meeting many types people. I got to learn their needs, their behaviour in various situations and their view on the world around us. This whole experience had a great contribution in developing my sense of empathy.

However, I noticed something. Did it ever happen to you, while talking to someone, to begin emulating the person's pose, gestures, maybe even the accent? Melding yourself mentally to them, while at the same time slowly losing yourself in the process?

Expats tend to show this behaviour. As a foreigner in a new country, you already have to deal with a disrupted sense of identity; add this to working in the creative industry and it can make you relive your early high-school years. You now need to filter all the information you're receiving through your own personality, yet your personality is continuously adapting to the people around you.

Simply put, there isn't a fast way out of it, but it does get better with time - and with that cliché out there, here are a few things you can do to keep yourself afloat.

Keep around you only the people who bring you value.

Since it will take some time to get adapted to the new life-style and to the new people, you should always seek to only surround yourself with the persons who matter and simply don't mind the others. It will make you happier and smarter.

Don't be afraid to be the dumbest in the room.

It does feel good when you're are the person who has all the answers, but don't be. It's simple math: if you are the smartest in the room, there is a tiny amount of new things that you can assimilate. However, when you are not the brightest bulb, your potential for learning expands vastly. Remember one thing: Just stop talking.

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. ~ Dalai Lama

Test the limits.

All this creative knowledge you're acquiring can also be used in unconventional ways - especially if you have a weird sense of humour. 2016 is the year when people are getting triggered by anything. If you want to have yourself a private performance, just let out a tiny offbeat joke, sit back and watch the show. It might seem childish, but an angry person will always be more honest than a happy one.

All in all, take the opportunity of being an expat, to meet as many people as you can and to discover the things they like and dislike. Understanding why others behave the way they do and comparing it to yourself, will help you discover who you are, not only as a creative, but also as a person.

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Hugo Kalf - Managing Director

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