Cordon Bleu pastry chef, Frédéric Hoël, held up two handfuls of dough, one that you could have mistaken for a neatly folded (albeit miniature) sheet in a linen store… the other more closely resembled a half-deflated air mattress that someone tried to fold before it had fully emptied.
“This is good,” he proclaimed, holding the neat stack up high.
“This is bad,” hoisting up the messy pile. “It will not work.” He shook his head darkly.
We giggled nervously and looked around at one another… who among us 12 novices had created the failure dough? Who was the phenom?
Learning as an adult can be hard… and humbling.
My recent pastry-making class at the Cordon Bleu here in Paris was a good reminder that no beginner is ever good at anything. Becoming good at something requires pushing through the challenges of learning.
This is true in all things… including moving overseas.
In fact, learning to live overseas is more difficult than learning lots of other things because it’s actually learning many things at once.
You have to learn about residency options, tax consequences, health care and insurance availability… and then, once you arrive in your new home, you also likely have to learn a new language and how to get around…
You have to become familiar with a new culture and how to avoid all the potential faux pas…
Plus, learning later in life is… well, uncomfortable at least, if not more difficult. Suddenly, you’re a child all over again… feeling like you’re behind and trying to catch up.
With my move to France nearly three years ago, I adopted a new life motto:
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
So much of what we don’t like in life is simply discomfort. We become used to our routines, our friends, our home, our favorite foods, our way of life… and, once we do, we don’t like those things to change.
Hence the proverbial comfort zone.
In the fitness world, this is called “plateauing.” Do the same workout enough and your body no longer sees it as a workout. It’s no longer a challenge but an everyday activity. Your body ceases to benefit in the same ways.
To avoid this, a fitness trainer will tell you to change things up regularly. Which doesn’t feel good. You have to push your body to do something it doesn’t usually do, which feels awkward. Your joints can ache, your muscles can burn, breathing can be difficult… and none of that is very fun.
Keep it up, though, and, a week later, your body has adapted to the change.
You’ve become comfortable being uncomfortable.
Moving to Europe will certainly have you uncomfortable plenty of the time—but that’s the real point of your live-overseas fantasy, isn’t it? To no longer eat the same foods every day or take the same street home…
To meet new people and be challenged by a new way of life…
To stop living on autopilot.
Moving overseas, including to Europe, you are as literally as possible stepping out of your comfort zone.
So don’t fret that it takes time to adapt and integrate… to figure out in which part of town you want to live… which local delicacy to relish (and which, perhaps, to avoid)…
In the beginning, everything you do will feel uncomfortable.
You just have to keep at it… like me making disastrous croissants.
Editor, In Focus: Europe