4 Tips for building a sense of belonging wherever you land

Does your sense of belonging feel more like a PUZZLE than a PLACE? 

Those of us who are building new lives in a country away from home know what I’m talking about.  

It’s the awareness that “home” isn’t just about cities, communities or continents, but it’s also an intricate mosaic of memories, connections and a sense of belonging. 

And as you seek to build a new life after your latest global move, do you have the sinking feeling parts of your life’s puzzle, as it relates to people, places and things, are either missing or need to be repositioned?

I can relate. During my most recent trip to Berlin this summer, all these awareness bubbled to the surface.

Missing pieces

Today, I am an intercultural architect, certified intercultural trainer/coach with a degree in international relations and over 19 years of global reinvention experience.  

But when I first started making my international moves, I felt like some of the pieces of my life’s  puzzle were outdated and others were somehow missing. 

My search for these “missing pieces” inspired my first leap abroad.

And I landed in Berlin as a high school exchange student.

For those of us who have embraced this international lifestyle, whether by choice or by circumstance, building a thriving life abroad requires A LOT of assembly. 

And since our definition of thriving is just as individual as our fingerprints, there are no templates. 

There’s no CUT and PASTE.

ONE size does not fit all.

So the task of discovering and integrating all the pieces of YOUR authentic life’s puzzle feels DAUNTING?

I’ve been there

As my husband and I strolled through the streets, enjoying the exhibits, shops, cafès and soaking in the energy of this pulsating global city, I was reminded that Berlin, one of the many cities I now call “home”,  was once foreign and challenging terrain for my 17-year old younger self.

During those first few months, away from everything that was familiar on the other side of the Great Pond, my identity, as I knew it, began to change in all sorts of ways!

The initial language and intercultural barriers caused me a lot of stress and strain. I was learning German, but still couldn’t communicate on the same level as in English, which left me feeling frustrated, misunderstood and isolated. 

Social situations with my classmates, as well as adapting to everyday life with my host family were difficult to navigate in the beginning. 

Even seemingly trivial things like eating habits and dietary preferences really started to get to me.  I started putting on weight, which impacted my relationship to my body and ultimately to myself.

To top it all off, I felt I was losing touch with my friends back in the States. This was before email and social media.  There were NO phone calls and NO letters.

I was out of sight.

I was out of mind.

And I was SHOCKED. 

But then something SHIFTED. And by the end of my first year abroad, it felt like I could really establish myself on the other side of the Atlantic and thrive.

Thankfully, the same strategies and resources that enabled this shift are available to each of us as we assemble the components to build our lives away from home.

Here are my 4 tips to support you in building a sense of belonging wherever YOU land:

1. Get Clear

Figure out what your thriving lifestyle looks and feels like in all 7 key areas of your life.  I like to describe these 7 areas as “the architecture of the soul” that builds and sustains us in the areas of: 

  • spirituality/self-mastery 
  • personal development/accountability 
  • relationships/partnerships/networks 
  • work/business/ career/calling 
  • hobbies/creativity/adventure/travel/play 
  • wealth/finances/abundance in all forms
  • health/fitness/nutrition/well-being

2. Get a resilience practice

With all the turbulence of reinventing ourselves away from home, having a resilience practice can significantly reduce the risk of falling into situational depression. And separating resilience into the four dimensions of:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • mental 
  • spiritual  

can support you in proactively responding according to your healthiest preferences and definitions of thriving, instead of reacting to the inevitable twists and turns of global life.

3. Get connected to what brings you joy

This will lead you to exciting opportunities and attract people who share and complement your interests, hobbies and experiences.

4. Get support

Building a new life away from home is exciting. It’s a phase of life where there are many new things to experience and learn. It can also be an anxious and difficult time, with many vulnerable moments. Having an experienced and compassionate mentor to guide you can make a world of a difference.  😉

There you have it, my 4 tips to building a sustainable sense of belonging that have supported me in thriving in Berlin, Washington DC, New York, Madrid and Cologne.

So even if the task of aligning and assembling all the pieces of your authentic global life’s puzzle feels DAUNTING, it’s also DOABLE.

Monère Renoir Wanner

Monère helps global citizens navigate the difficulties of establishing a new life abroad and create thriving international lifestyles.

Add comment