Expat-what exactly is that? One of the most commonly asked questions when I enter a change of scene. Whether it be in my class, at a party, meeting a friend’s family… those words echo in my mind. Expat, short for expatriate, is a person who is residing in a country either temporarily or permanently, which is not their home country. This term is most commonly used for people who, because of their jobs, have moved away. This is precisely the reason I’ve had the opportunity to live in three different countries, each with it’s own unique lifestyle. Within these three countries I’ve moved a grand total of 12 times with only more to come. To some, the idea of living an Expat life seems thrilling and to others, unbearable. In reality, it’s a bit of both. While I would love to be able to say that moving around has always been a bowl of peaches and cream it certainly has its downsides. However, these ups and downs have made me who I am today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You move to a new country and are settling in. Hunger lingers so you leave your barren apartment in search of a restaurant. It’s not long before you realize you’ve forgotten where you are and how to get home. Attempting to ask people for directions isn’t working out so well because they don’t speak English. This is all part of the process of adapting. The adjustment can be intimidating, especially in a country in which you know very little of their customs. However, once you get the hang of it, the feeling is rewarding. In time you’ll learn where to go, what to ask and how to get there. It’s all a matter of time and patience.
Identity for expats is a funny thing. In one country we’re one thing and in the next, another. It’s hard to identify as being from one country when your morals and principles are a combination of every place you’ve ever lived. Not to mention the languages you pick up as well as the customs you acquire make you who you are. Every city in which you live or travel to, you take a piece of it with you and it leaves a mark.
Depending on where you move to, travelling is generally a big portion of your life. In my case, living in Paris, we spent long weekends and vacations exploring other parts of Europe. Being such a small continent, it made travelling easy and fun. Nothing quite like hopping on a train from Paris to England then taking a short plane ride to Belgium. Travelling is easily one of the best parts of being an expat. It heightens your sense of adventure and wonder and exposes you to various cultures/customs.
People tend to latch onto those who they feel most comfortable with. If you’re an American living in Japan, chances are you’ll seek out other Americans in order to feel more connected to home. It’s a normal thing to do living in a foreign country. However it’s important to do what you can to also make friends with those who belong to the culture. This will give you a better perspective on the country you’re living in.
Imagine craving a certain dish or food that you can only find 12,000 miles away. It happens. Alot. The worst is knowing you can’t satisfy the craving so you have to replace it with something that barely matches up. Food is usually a huge chunk of what makes people happy about their new home. For me, it was one of my earliest memories from Paris. Waking up from a nap and eating the delicious baguette my parents had bought from the boulangerie down the street. Every country has their specialty when it comes to food and very few other places can mimick it. The only thing we can do is wait until we’re back in that country again or spend a lengthy amount of time searching for restaurants that might make it, but it is never quite the same.
For the most part, when you’re an expat, you’re provided with a lot more opportunities than most people. One of which being companies, schools, etc. will usually give you a bigger budget in order to comfortably transition/ live in your new country. Some will pay for your children’s schooling, housing, insurance, etc. Some will do more and some will do less. Regardless, your lifestyle does change and chances are, you will be surrounded by people who live quite lavishly.
7. Saying Goodbye
One of the hardest things I had to learn how to do. Making a good, solid group of friends and then having to leave it all behind. There is nothing quite like the feeling of looking at somebody and knowing the chances of ever seeing them again are slim. Some are lucky, and have opportunities to visit and re-visit, while others never come back. It is a factor we all take into account when we are getting ready to leave and some of us rely on empty promises to make the goodbye easier.
Are you an expat? Share your story or any awesome memories in the comments below!
*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.