Life on an Expat Compound – AKA Sesame Street

Just over a week ago, I arrived in a new country, ready to begin my first expat journey with my husband and our dog.

Since my arrival, my heart has continually been filled with thankfulness for:

  • Our safe travels and that our little family is together again
  • Friends and family in the states that were incredibly supportive through our transition
  • Virtual friends here that have offered advice and encouragement – they are indeed made of flesh and blood and so welcoming!
  • A beautiful new home and modern conveniences that will make the transition a little easier.

We will be living on an expat compound – which I have fondly renamed “Sesame Street.”

These are my First Impressions of Life on “Sesame Street”

  • It is a place filled with parents of great vision that are determined to give their children a global understanding of people, geography, culture and history.
  • It is a place filled with courageous families that continually adjust to life in different climates, with different customs, with different transportation systems, with different freedoms and different restrictions.
  • It is a place where everyone knows your name.
  • Where it’s normal to knock on your neighbors door and welcome them to the neighborhood.
  • Where doors are frequently left unlocked.
  • Where kids play in the streets, leave their bikes on the sidewalks, and play freely throughout the neighborhood.
  • It’s a place filled with people of all colors and from all nations.
  • And a place of instant camaraderie.

It is also a place where the ideal runs into the real:

  • Real humans.
  • Real cultural differences.
  • Real religious differences.
  • Real personality differences.
  • Real frustrations.
  • Real misunderstandings.
  • Real judgments.
  • Real hurts.

It’s a place where some people continue to try to make a difference for the greater good and some people sit on the sidelines and complain.

I am struck by the notion that as simple as “Sesame Street” is, if the struggles were magnified, they would accurately represent our world.  

Will you share some of the choices you are making today?

  • How can you seek first to understand?
  • How do you know you are learning and growing?
  • How can you model the behavior you would like to see in others?
  • How can you engage others to leave their comfort zones and get involved?

Image credit: The Nomadic Writer

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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9 thoughts on “Life on an Expat Compound – AKA Sesame Street

  1. Thanks for the update. It’s great to know a bit more about what’s going on. And it’s also interesting to see how people react in trying situations. Always challenges pull us together. Ease separates, trials unite. I can’t wait to hear more. Please keep us posted.


    • Thanks Mike! I am deeply committed to sharing the emotional journey that comes with change. …And so blessed to have the opportunity to experience life in another country!

  2. I agree with Mike – so good to know that your initial “easing in” period has been largely a good one. Can’t wait to hear how the journey continues . . . remember – even on PBS’ Sesame Street – there were struggles and joys, just like real life. I SO appreciate that you are sharing your amazing journey with us.

    • Lee – Agreed! So not what I expected! The first time I heard the word compound I pictured something like the Alamo – in the middle of the dessert with nothing around it, and something that looked as unattractive as the compound in Waco, TX! …And that is so NOT how it looks! (It is much more like a nice subdivision. So I’m feeling pretty spoiled right now!)

  3. Hi there my friend..well just as Mike and Jennifer said…its so very good to know that your transition (as usual for you!) has been filled with optimistic reverence to differences, fore-thought that only comes with a willingness to learn and to grow, and an enthusiastic and honest perspective that allows you to immediately see the “reflections” of the same personal struggles and joys we live through here in the US.I am “so” looking forward to your updates and personal thoughts as you get more and more involved in the culture, activities and environment there—so keep us posted!

    • Vera – Thank you for the encouragement! I corresponded with a fellow expat that is in Finland yesterday and shared that it appears that I will be living a pretty posh life here. (I actually feel a little silly for anticipating that this would be so tough!) He quickly reminded me that the “honeymoon” will wear off about the 3 month mark and that some of the things I find fascinating now may become sources of irritation then. …I’m not there yet, but I quickly agreed with him that typically the 3 – 6 month mark after any move is the toughest. (Typically that happens for me because the adventure is wearing off and I’m missing friends and familiar things, and usually not rooted in the new place enough to call new friends for coffee or shopping. And if I do that, I don’t feel good about sharing the struggle. I keep wondering if the 3 – 6 month mark will be easier here because of closer connections that have all been through it!?!?