6 tips for self-care living overseas

self-care living overseas

I’m just going to come out and say it. Life can be hard living in a foreign country, especially when there’s a language barrier. You then add in different norms for social behavior, different traditions and overall different customs, and it can be exhausting. I’m finishing up my 8th month in Spain and while this year overall has been amazing, there have been frustrating moments. I’ve realized more than anything that you have to take care of yourself first. My days and weekends are so much better when I’ve just taken the time for me. Here is what I’ve found works for me. I hope this can help any of you who are living the expat life.

My 6-tips for self-care living overseas

1. Take time for yourself

Now I want to start this by saying that I am about as extroverted as they come. And yet living overseas, I’ve never needed more alone time in my entire life. Each day there’s a lot going on. You’re communicating and thinking in your second language. Confusing situations arise. Situations that anger you arise. You just tend to feel … overwhelmed sometimes. It’s in these times that I just lay on my bed alone with my thoughts. Maybe I do nothing or maybe I watch videos on youtube. Other days I may go for a walk alone in one of my favorite parks or I’ll have a coffee alone. Overall, you need to give your brain time to think and process. A lot is going on and you’re changing as well. Do not forget to give yourself space to breathe and just be.

2. Physical activity

Sometimes the expat life can just downright anger me. Like there are situations where someone is rude or seems to do something in a careless way. Or things are different than back home and not in a way I like (example: people think it’s okay to go to carnaval in black face here … easily the thing that angers me the most). If I’m not careful, that anger and frustration could be taken out on the wrong person. And no one likes that to happen.

These feelings are likely inevitable and you need a place to just get it out. Go for runs, join a soccer team or join a gym. Maybe get a punching bag. Channel all that anger and frustration to a good place.

3. Don’t travel every weekend

I know I know … it can be hard with all the places that you want to see! And that could have been me if I had had more money to travel all the time last fall. But I’m glad that I didn’t. As much as I love weekends where I get on an airplane and fly off to London, Lisbon or Prague, I really love weekends where I stay in Granada. I sleep in, meet my friends for tapas and go out dancing. The weekends where I stay are the weekends where I feel more connected to where I live. Connecting to your city helps you to feel a sense of belonging, which simply makes you feel like less of a foreigner. I’m staying in Granada this weekend and already I’m looking forward to every minute of it.

Also the other big reason against traveling every weekend is for your health. You will simply get exhausted and/or sick if you’re gone all the time. And no one wants that. At the end of the day, the expat experience is just as much about traveling as it is about becoming a part of your new community.

self-care living overseas

In Granada … and happy!

4. Make fellow expat friends

Popular to contrary belief, I think full-immersion can be bad. Now don’t get me wrong … I’m the girl who only looked at flats with Spanish roommates and is always actively hanging out with Spaniards. I’m in Spain to learn from the people and practice the language, after all.

However I’ve also made a handful of fellow expat friends and it’s just nice. In the fall, I had connected with several girls who were also teaching English in my city. I had also connected with some expat friends living in the region. They were coming to Granada one weekend and so I made a Whatsapp group for all of us so we could stay better connected. After the trip ended, we continued chatting amongst ourselves within the group. We chat about funny things that happen in our days, we chat about things we find odd and in general, we are there to support each other.

self-care living overseas

Fellow expat friends are the best. Your friends back home will not fully understand your experience here because they are not living it. Your friends from the culture you’re in also won’t understand because to them, this is all normal. That’s why fellow expat friends are perfect. I recommend finding 3-6 solid expat friends either where you’re living or who live closeby.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

self-care living overseas

5. Strike the right balance with friends from home

This one can be tricky. First, there likely is a time difference to consider when trying to keep in touch. At the end of the day, you’ll likely stay in touch with some friends better than others. Try to carve out a weekly time where you catch up with them. I also find that I regularly text some of my closest friends. And if one of us sends a message when the other is sleeping, then we just respond when we are awake next.

At the same time, if you spend too much time talking to friends and family from back home, you will not assimilate to the culture. So striking that balance is key.

6. Make friends in your community

This one is also very important. As much as I’ve loved making my expat friends, I’ve almost loved making Spanish friends more. I really enjoy weekends where I stay in Granada because I can catch up with them. We go get tapas or go out for drinks. It also helps you become a part of your community.

self-care living overseas

If these seems daunting, there are several ways I suggest to do this:

  • Language exchange! If you’re still learning and becoming comfortable with the language, this is a great option. In Granada lots of people my age want to practice their English. So I’ve actually met a lot of people through this language exchange Facebook group. There are also weekly intercambios that happen at bars all over town. You can find people to meet up with and practice. This is how I befriended two girls near my age.
  • Sports! I’m not super athletic, but this is great for those of you who are! My old Spanish tutor Daniel with CoffeeShop Spanish is how I came to live in Spain. When he was living here, he joined a soccer team with other guys near his age and made all of his Spanish friends that way.
  • Get involved and get out! How do we make friends back home? Honestly, it’s not too different overseas. Get involved in your community and find things that interest you. You will for sure meet people.

self-care living overseas

 

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A letter to the best mom ever

best mom ever

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone in Spain and happy future Mother’s Day to those of you in the USA. This will always be a day that I’m fond of. Those of you who know me personally may be wondering why I just said that as the truth is, my mom passed away almost a year and a half ago. True, this could be a day where I cry, and feel all the feelings of anger and frustration. And some people who have lost their mother may be in that place, and that place is 100% okay. We all handle the death of someone close to us in different ways because we are all different people. That’s what makes the world beautiful.

However today I thought I would use my little space on the internet to write a letter to my mom. Even though she is not on earth, I want to take this time to really appreciate her and say thanks. That is what I would do if she was still alive, after all.

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4 things that supercharged my Spanish

things that supercharged my Spanish

I speak a second language and I love just about every second of it. For those who may be new to the blog, I am an American living in Spain. Before moving to Spain, I spent a year working a bilingual job at a non-profit organization in my city. However if we’re being honest, I didn’t really pick up Spanish until just a few years ago. While I most certainly do not speak the language perfectly, I spend a lot of my life in Spain speaking Spanish. I love it.

Life is funny, isn’t it? I get to see the language-learning process in reverse for me living here in Spain. I work as an English teacher here, so I’m constantly helping Spaniards improve their English. Often times I know their struggle because I have been there. Other times I find myself thinking “you know this is what really helped me over this hurdle or that. You really should do X thing.” So I thought I would share my tips on the blog. These tips can be applied to all foreign languages. So here are 4 things that supercharged my Spanish.

1. I stopped saying that my Spanish was bad

I find Spanish people saying that their English is bad all the time. And I just kind of want to scream, quite frankly when they say this. We all know that positive thinking can do wonders. If you always think that you suck at speaking your foreign language, will you really improve? One day it dawned upon me that I frankly never had time to think that my Spanish was bad. I got hired to work a bilingual job and thus I had to communicate the best way that I could. Many people who called the organization spoke no English, so I was forced to only speak Spanish. What I noticed I started telling people was that I did not have perfect Spanish. And of course they would always reply with “well of course! It’s not your first language.”

So language-learners, replace “my French/Spanish/German/Arabic or whatever language you’re learning is bad” with “my Spanish is not perfect.” You’re not telling any lies as your of course it’s not perfect … you’re still learning. For me, it helped me to think more positively about my Spanish and speak with confidence.

2. Not. Everything. Translates.

When I first studied Spanish, I worked with Daniel from Coffeeshop Spanish. He had a dinner at his house and I remember a fellow student saying “if I could just translate my thoughts.” I responded with “honestly, that’s never going to be a reality so you might as well just accept that.” Maybe that was harsh, but I like the truth man.

In Spain, I find Spanish people all the time translating everything. I will tell them some phrase in English and they will ask me what that translates to in Spanish. And the truth is, not even all expressions translate. Idioms and expressions develop out of cultures … and cultures are different. So of course such and such phrase from German will not have a similar one in Spanish and so forth. Also sometimes one thing is a verb in one language and an expression in another. Perfect example is kick vs. dar una patada. In English, we just use the verb “to kick” when someone swings their leg in order to hurt another person. In Spanish, they use the expression “dar una patada” which literally translates to give a leg. It would just be strange to directly translate that to English.

When I speak Spanish, I try to jump into the Spanish world as much as I can and think in the language. I try to learn words or phrases within the language. And I do not try to translate every single statement back to English. I couldn’t hold a conversation if I did that.

3. I put myself in situations where Spanish is the only option

I realized that a big reason my Spanish improved rapidly is because I was continually forced to “find a way.” Working at Su Casa, I was forced to speak with people who only spoke Spanish on a daily basis. You learn quickly when there is simply no option.

So because this worked so well for me, I sought out a flat with Spanish people who all spoke little English. We all just always speak Spanish to each other all the time. I wanted to be forced to speak the language every day here in Spain, so I figured Spanish housemates (vs. other English teachers) was the best way to ensure that I would speak Spanish daily.

4. I stopped believing the b.s.

Apparently it’s harder to learn languages as an adult. However I never let that stop me from pushing hard. Also people also want to believe that some are just more wired for languages. I honestly think that’s a load a crap. Maybe there’s a slight truth to that, but the only reason I think I speak decent Spanish is because of how much I immerse myself in it. When Spanish people are amazed that I speak well for only having spent 6 months in their country. So I explain that I spent 40 hours a week for an entire year speaking Spanish. That really is the only difference.

I think that language-learning is hard and of course people get frustrated. And so these things can be nice excuses. However if you believe them, they will hinder your progress. And that is no good.

At the end of the day

I do not speak Spanish perfectly and there’s still so much I could learn. However it’s most important to me that I keep my mind positive. That positivity will help you make tremendous leaps and bounds.

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3 bridesmaid looks with Millybridal UK

The day that my best friend and I have talked about for years is just a few short months away. It’s absolutely crazy. Can you guess what it is? Yep, my best friend is getting married and I’m her Maid of Honor. I could not be more excited and happy for her. So today I’m showing off some bridesmaid looks from Millybridal UK, an online shop for bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses and other formal wear.

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4 tips to plan ahead for vacation

Ibiza in off season

As I sit here and begin this blog post, I have about a million things going on in my head. I leave to teach my private lessons in an hour … I still need to look up exactly what I want to and need to see in Lisbon this weekend … I should probably post a photo to my Instagram. Now is a good time as my American followers are likely all waking up and starting their days while my European followers are going about their days. More eyes to see … oh and have I done laundry? … oh and my room is a mess.

I think we all know this feeling well. We have a lot to do and then we’re going on vacation. This coming weekend is what they call a “puente” here in Spain. Puente literally translates to bridge in English. However in this context, it means having several days off of work or school usually in regards to a holiday. This puente means I have next Monday and Tuesday off work. So I decided to take a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. Since Lisbon involves a bit more travel time, I figured a four-day weekend would be best.

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A reflection on 5 months and linkup

reflection on 5 months

Hi everyone! Today I’m very excited to be co-hosting the Thursday Fashion Files with Carrie from Curly Crafty Mom and Jill from Doused in Pink. I have been following their blogs for at least a year now and have linked up with them countless times. As I have transitioned from just blogging about to fashion to blogging fashion and travel, the times I can link up are less frequent. But I, of course, am always excited to when I can!

So for this post, I thought I’d do a little reflection on how I’m doing. I thought it would be fun to mix some photos in from the different shoots and outfits I’ve worn over the past five months.

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3 ways to celebrate Galentines day far away

celebrate Galentines day far away

Long-distance relationships suck at times. You spend lots of time on the phone or Skype. You send lots of messages back and forth. And you absolutely cannot wait until you’re together again. And no, I’m not talking about a long-distance romantic relationship. In fact, I’ve never been in a long-distance romantic relationship, so I may not even have the right picture of what that looks like (sorry is it’s totally wrong!). No, I’m talking about your best female friends. Living life abroad for me means that my best friends live many miles away from me. With Galentine’s Day approaching on February 13th, I know I’ll be thinking of all kinds of ways that I can show them how awesome they are and how glad I am that they are a part of my life! It just gets a little trickier with an ocean in between. So I’ve rounded up five different ways to send them some Galentine’s Day love.

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My year in dresses part 2

wore in Portland

Earlier last week, I had recapped my year in dresses. As many of you already know, I wear a lot of dresses. In fact, that’s what inspired the name of my blog. I think that as we end one year and begin another, it’s good to do a little reflecting. Even if we think our year was not the best, we usually have made progress. Reflecting can help us see that. I know I for one made lots of leaps with the blog.

Reflecting also allows us to see where we are and where we want to go. I know that for me, this is the year that I give the blog my all. I’m going full force with it. So to those of you who are new, welcome! I hope you stick around because I have lots of great ideas for the year to come. And those loyal readers out there, thank you for all your support. You all are amazing.

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A year in dresses part 1 and StyleWe Giveaway

year in dresses

It has been quite a year in dresses for me. As I think back to last year at this time, so much was different. My mother was about to go into hospice after a six-month stay in the hospital after having a brain aneurysm. I was nearing the end of Dressember, a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking. While I was 3-months in, I was such a baby blogger.

Now one year later, I think it’s fitting that this post includes a giveaway. In this year since, I’ve seen a growth in traffic and engagement on both the blog and my social media platforms. I’ve worked with some brands and small businesses, and continue to have people reaching out for collaboration. I feel like I’m in my solid sophomore year of blogging and there is nowhere to go but up. And it could not have been possible without you all. So thank you for reading, liking and commenting. It always brings me joy!

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Closet space in the US and Europe

There’s no doubt that many things are different between the US and Europe. In addition to different languages (except for a few countries of course), different food and different customs, the spaces are quite different. Things are just bigger in the US. In Europe the buildings are older and there’s just less space in general. Plus I’ve noticed that people in Spain like to live near each other more. You see that everyone not only lives right in the cities, but also they choose to live in the center of towns and villages too. That, however, is a topic for another blog post.

I recently came across a company called MakeSpace and it prompted me to think about about my dream closet. After all, I really do love my closet space that I lucked into here in Spain. Is it my dream space? No. But we will get into that later. Also for those who are not aware, MakeSpace is a self-storage service that moves your unwanted stuff and stores it for you. They have several self-storage locations throughout the United States.

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