Thursday, 11 September 2014

The highs and lows of expat life

Moving abroad is a huge change, and with this change will come ups and downs. Yes – moving abroad is likely to be one of the most enriching experiences you will ever have, but it can be difficult too, and as an expat you must be prepared for the bad times, as well as the good.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Being treated like a foreigner
Initially, the idea of being a foreigner can seem quite fun – you feel exotic, different, and people are interested in you…but after a while the novelty can wear off. It can become tiresome when people assume you don’t know what you are doing, charge you the tourist prices, and ask you to pronounce words for them (and then laugh when you do). But…as you get more and more settled in your new home – prove to yourself that you are no longer a tourist by knowing the shortcuts through the city, being able to cook the local dishes, and embracing locals as old friends. If you think of yourself as a local, soon other people will too.

Missing friends and feeling
Leaving family and friends behind is always going to be part and parcel of moving abroad – but this doesn’t make it any easier. You have to come to terms with the fact that you will not be there for some birthdays, graduations and weddings and that life back home will have to go on without you. When you are having a bad day all you will want is to see a familiar face, and even in some of your best moments you might find yourself saddened by the fact that your loved ones are not there to share in the experience. But in these moments, find other ways to connect with them. Take photos or write a blog about your experiences for those at home to read. And remember, distance really isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be. Your family and friends are only a flight away, and nowadays you can hear their voices and see their faces at the push of a button.

 “No comprendo…”
If you move to a country where they speak a different language, and you are not fluent, then you can feel quite isolated. You will find it difficult to have genuine conversations and feel close to anyone if your vocabulary is limited to asking for the bill, and there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to communicate even the simplest things. But  when you make mistakes try to see the funny side, and use your frustration as positive motivation to learn more of the local language.

It’s worth it!
Any expat should expect to have some bad days, and this is totally normal, but settling in takes time. Soon the highs (the travel! the people! the memories!) will far outweigh the lows. Think of expat life as having a spring clean of your wardrobe – it has to get worse for it to get better. Yes, expat life can be chaotic, disorganised and difficult, but the more you commit to it and the more time goes on, the better it gets!

What have been your highs and lows of expat life? Let us know – by commenting below or tweeting @expatexplorer!

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