Cherish your relationship with your country of residence

A new country is like a new relationship. Sometimes the chemistry is there right away, sometimes not. Like in relationships, getting to know each other helps to understand other one better. Your own attitude also affects the development of the relationship.

Every experience of living in a foreign country is unique. How each person experiences the country, depends on personality, background, values ​​and life situation. It’s good to go with an open mind and form your own views of the country with time, at the location.

My country relationships

Australia was love at first sight. The country charmed with its sunny vibes, kindness and marvelous nature. Melbourne also with its coffee making skills. I feel like part of me still lives in Australia.

In Singapore, I was delighted by the multiculturalism and the warmth of the tropics. It was easy to jump into this relationship. The eternal summer didn’t bother – on the contrary, it was wonderful. Admittedly, I can’t know if this trait would have started to annoy me years later. Before we moved there, I heard prejudices like “Singapore is just a big shopping center”. I moved there with a mission to break such beliefs, and indeed I found all sorts of fascinating things behind the shopping malls, such as meaningful projects and lush jungle trails. I often miss that small, beautiful country.

Switzerland has been like a handsome, smart and a bit mysterious person: There has been breathtaking views and mouth-watering chocolates, but sometimes also feelings of alienation – being an outsider. Day by day, as I’ve got to know the place better and to see new features unfolding, it’s been more fun and comfortable to live in this country.

Relationship tips applied to countries

If countries are like relationships, could relationship advice be applied to it? Let’s try:

• Accept the country as it is. Be patient and flexible.
• Appreciate your country and pay attention to its positive aspects. Be grateful for the good it offers. Don’t take things for granted.
• Get to know places, people, language, habits, history – culture. Still keep also your own identity and interests. At the same time, get to know yourself better.
• Avoid talking bad about the country. For every negative thing, think five positive ones. Also avoid negative labeling like “Nothing ever works in this country.”
• Keep your expectations realistic. No country is perfect. Compromises have to be made almost everywhere.
• Remember the things you originally fell in love with in your country of residence.
• Try new things to keep the relationship exciting. Dive into the sea to greet fish, climb mountains or find new culinary experiences, for instance.
• Be proactive about problems. Try to change what is bothering you and if you can’t, try to change your perspective on it.
• Be honest. Check regularly how your relationship is going, and what could be improved. Seek outside help if needed.

You’ll carry your countries with you

No relationship stays the same over time. There will be ups and downs. Sometimes you laugh with tears in your eyes, sometimes you argue with red faces. Ideally, however, the general tone remains gentle.

Whether your country of residence becomes a long-term relationship or a short-term one, every experience expands and enriches your life. And like the human relationships, you will carry your countries of residence with you, even if you no longer live in them.

Oh, and a couple more relationship tips:
• Don’t go to sleep angry at your country of residence
• Give a kiss before you walk out the door!

Writer and illustrator

Helena Jalanka is a visual storyteller and designer originally from Finland. She is the author of the book “Greetings from Abroadland” and the illustrator of the book “The World is your Party”. She loves nature, traveling and arts.

Need illustrations, visual stories or creative consultancy?
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This article has been published first in Finnish, at the website of Family Abroad -project of The Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation and The Finland Society, 10.2.2021.

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