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What I’ve Realized Having Lived in an English Speaking Country for 14 Years

Here’s how to improve your spoken English when reading this article: read it out loud, then read out loud the collocations highlighted in red 10 times each to memorize them, then look away from the monitor and try and say 3 sample sentences for each of those collocations! For best results record your speech so that you can go back, spot any mistakes you might have made, and then do some more spoken English practice by correcting yourself!

Advice for expats living in English speaking countries

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me talking about living in Ireland which, as you may already know, is an English speaking country.

In hindsight, I can say that it’s been one hell of a transformation – I’ve gone from a foreigner who’s barely capable of speaking conversational English to an English fluency mentor who’s teaching other foreign English speakers.

  • I’ve experienced all the ups and downs one can encounter while living in an English speaking country.
  • I’ve been told I’m a useless English speaker.
  • I’ve been in all sorts of embarrassing situations – starting from not being able to order a meal in McDonald’s and ending with screwing up job interviews because of my inability to provide a coherent answer.

But the great thing is that now, with all that experience under my belt, I can tell my students with the utmost certainty what kind of an attitude they need to adopt in order to survive and thrive as English speakers living in an English speaking country.

It feels so great being in a position to help out others, and frankly speaking, I don’t regret anything that’s happened to me while I was a struggling English speaker.

I like to think that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and I just HAD to endure all the hardship and suffering to emerge a fluent English speaker equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to help others who find themselves in the same boat.

But now, let me tell you what I’ve realized over the 14 year long stay in Ireland; as you can imagine, I know a thing or two about life in an English speaking country!

It’s OK Not to Feel JUST LIKE Home All the Time

No matter how long you’ve been living in the English speaking country, there are times when you get a little bit homesick and you catch yourself wondering about your extended family members you left back home, the good old days you had with your friends and sometimes the thought might creep up on you that you’re not really feeling like home in this country…

Obviously, if you’re in a situation where your parents, brothers, sisters and cousins have moved abroad as well, you may not ever get homesick, but for the vast majority of us, expats, this feeling of longing for people we’ve left behind is the reality.

Sometimes you may be even get the impression that you don’t really belong to any country. You’ve been away from your home country for so long that when visiting, you may feel that you no longer belong there.

And coming back to your country of residence, you get the same feeling which may eventually result in you feeling kind of stuck between the two worlds while not really belonging 100% to any of them.

But guess what?

It’s normal. It’s absolutely normal to feel that way at times, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way because that’s the way our human brain works.

Most of us will always yearn for something that we DON’T HAVE at this particular moment in time.

You’re currently residing in an English speaking country? It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that your mind sometimes wonders and you feel your home country calling you back.

You’re currently living in your native country? Well, you probably then experience similar yearning to go abroad and achieve your dreams in an English speaking country such as the US, Canada, UK or Australia.

The bottom line is – accept those feelings, experience them and then get on with your daily life and focus on your goals.

Just Accept That There’s ALWAYS Someone Who Speaks English Better Than You

You’ll avoid A LOT of frustration in your life if you just accept the fact that there’s always someone better than you when it comes to spoken English.

Let’s say for arguments’ sake, you work in an office environment and you notice that this Chinese guy speaks really fluent English which is actually better than yours.

So you’ve got one of the two options.

Option #1 – feel like a total loser thus bringing yourself down and as a result becoming less productive at work and risking jeopardizing your future dreams.

Option #2 – ignore all those intrusive thoughts and focus entirely on your OWN English, how much you’ve achieved with it so far, and how much there’s still to achieve.

See, you always have the CHOICE.

You can quite literally choose to feel miserable OR choose ecstatic.

Sure enough, in real life it’s always somewhere in the middle, but I’m just using these two extremes to illustrate how your perspective can make or break your existence in an English speaking environment.

In my current job, for example, there’s a Romanian engineer whose English is better than mine. I’m not saying that my English fluency is poor or anything like that, I’m merely making an objective comparison and drawing the logical conclusion based on all the conversations I’ve observed.

So, am I feeling like a loser? Which option am I going for – to risk my future dreams or to keep achieving more?

Well, as you can imagine, I go with the latter one – simply because I know that I will never be the best English speaker out there and there’s always someone who’s going to be better than me. At the same time though, I focus on my achievements and keep telling myself that my English is really good and I don’t really need to compare it to anyone else’s!

Which brings us to the next point

…Everything Is a Matter of Perspective!

You arrived in the UK and you feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that you have to invest before you can settle in and start enjoying a normal lifestyle?

Guess what – thousands of people have it way worse! Just think of all those illegal immigrants having their passports seized and having become modern day slaves – in comparison your struggles to get the accommodation sorted out and a bank account opened are indeed just first world problems.

Feeling stuck in your job where you’re required to perform tedious, manual tasks and you can clearly see that you could be doing something better?

Well – how about doing something about it and taking action?

Change your perspective from someone who’s afraid to change things to someone who’s willing to change his or her life, and it’s not as difficult as you may think! Create a simple 3 step action plan and don’t give up till you’ve achieved your dream – create your resume, apply for better jobs and attend interviews. Repeat the last 2 steps till you achieve the goal. Simple as that!

Are you being discriminated against based on your ethnic background and you’re not feeling welcome in this country?

Change your perspective then from being a victim to being a winner by ignoring people who bring you down and focusing on those people who are nice and friendly.

Yes, a lot of these things are easier said than done, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that by changing your perspective you can make your life in an English speaking country a whole lot easier.

Speaking of focusing on people who cheer you up – it’s a point worth exploring in a bit more detail, and it’s not just limited to people…

Surround Yourself With The Right Things

Obviously you can’t always physically distance yourself from things that have a negative impact on your mood, performance and well-being, however, you can achieve almost the same effect by surrounding yourself with positive things.

Is there a particularly moody and rude colleague at work who just makes you wanna cringe whenever you look at that person? Well, how about instead of looking at them and allowing their negativity to affect you, you went to someone who’s always positive and had a quick chat with them?

Do you have a habit of checking your native news website 3 times a day and feeling a bit guilty about wasting your time on doing that? Then how about deleting that URL from your mobile browser and instead finding a great news website in English? After all – you won’t achieve English fluency unless you create a full immersion environment and surround yourself with English ONLY!

Do you always walk home from the bus stop through a run-down area with filthy shop fronts that make you feel like you’re living in a slum and so in turn it makes your life in the suburbs of Sydney less enjoyable? Then why don’t you choose a different route home – albeit a bit longer – where you can enjoy a nice view of the high street shop windows and enjoy the bustle of shoppers scurrying around?

See, the simple fact of the matter is that your entire life is made up of such small little things.

Surround yourself with the English language, positive people and avoid stressful environments – and your chances of enjoying your life in the English speaking country are gonna be greatly increased!

People Do Judge a Book by Its Cover

You will probably find it difficult to come to terms with this, but guess what – people WILL judge you based on your ethnicity, native background, your foreign English accent and a lot of other things.

That’s human nature and you just have to accept it simply because there’s not much you can do about it.

Typically it happens when you talk to a stranger on the street or in some sort of an establishment – people make assumptions based on the first impression they’re getting, and if at that particular moment in time you happen to be struggling to speak with confidence and clarity, you may get looked down upon, people may start patronize you and treat you in a condescending manner.

So why it’s so important to realize that you can’t possibly avoid people’s judgement?

Well, the reason behind it is simple enough – you can’t change people’s attitude, the only thing you can change is – YOUR ATTITUDE.

You can live for the next 10 years in New Zealand getting really pissed off every time locals ask you questions such as “So… do you miss your home country?” OR you can just accept it and answer the question in a matter-of-factly manner – “Well, not really, been living here for 6 years at this stage and I like it here!”

Yes, it’s not always easy to embrace it, and I can clearly remember myself getting wound up when a person would ask me a question like that because my immediate reaction would be – “Would they ask that question to a local person? Obviously they wouldn’t!”

Over the years I’ve realized, however, that there’s simply no point in it.

No point WHATSOEVER.

Just accept it, open up to people, and when they get to know you better, you’re bound to start having more meaningful conversations, believe me!

What You Put In Is What You Get Out

You come to a foreign country and obviously you expect to achieve something.

  • Make more money.
  • Gain better education.
  • Make a better future for yourself and your family.
  • Gain new experiences.

Whatever your situation, you obviously expect something from your new life in an English speaking country.

And here’s the thing – from what I’ve seen, a lot of expats, when they come over here to Ireland, just get too complacent. Life is more comfortable than back home, so you quite naturally tend to enjoy the better lifestyle and you stop striving for greatness.

Fair enough, not everyone is super motivated and results driven, and I’m not trying to say it’s a bad thing.

The point I’m trying to make is the following – don’t be complaining that your job sucks or that your English is bad if in reality you’ve done very little in those areas.

You gotta invest a lot of blood, sweat and tears for a real change to take place, so quite obviously your current societal status, financial situation and also English fluency is directly linked to how hard you’ve been working towards it.

None of what I just said is new. It’s all common-sense stuff. It’s sometimes worth, however, to look at the OBVIOUS and you may just realize that it’s EXACTLY what you needed to propel your life in an English speaking country to the next level!

Just like always – feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below,

To your success,

Robby

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thanks Arstan for the positive feedback, and yes, writing a book is something that I definitely wouldn’t rule out one day, I’ve been thinking about writing something based on my own life experiences. We’ll see! 😉

  • Arstan

    This article is pretty much informative. I keep noticing sometimes you cover different aspects of life, not only english studies. Truly marvelous, I wonder your creativity in terms of writing, there are so many various words and phrases. I guess you could write your own book someday having first hand experience in this area. Good luck!