Thursday, 21 May 2015

First time VS. Serial expats – Pros and Cons

The chances are that you’ve come across lots of different types of expat – some of whom will be living abroad for the first time, and others who are serial expats who’ve had multiple postings.

Whichever category you fit into, the number of stamps that you’ve got in your passport is always a great talking point – particularly when it comes to exchanging stories about how you came to be where you currently are. Whether you’re a serial expat or a first timer, there’s plenty to be gained from the experience either way. Here are a few of the pros and cons and how to navigate them – wherever you are in your expat journey!

A common feeling amongst people who are stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time is anxiety, and this is certainly to be expected if you’re moving abroad for the first time. The inexperienced expat may be anxious about something as trivial as enjoying the food or more serious worries such as finding suitable accommodation, but the feeling is normal no matter what your concern is. Doing your research and sussing out any existing contacts will always be reassuring – so get swotting and explore your network to see if anyone can give you some insight before you get there.

Another emotion common amongst first time expats is homesickness. One might wonder how one will manage without their creature comforts, and some may even go as far as plotting how they’ll pack everything and everyone from home in their suitcase. As tangible as they may seem the feelings of anxiety and homesickness are often short-lived.  There are lots of different things you can do to help these fears melt away – but one of the best is to distract yourself by exploring your new surroundings. Benefit from your curiosity; be in awe of your new home and enjoy the novelty of being somewhere new, instead of worrying about packing your old life in your suitcase.

Image source: Flickr / Rob Faulkner

On the flip side, being a serial expat comes with a lot of different advantages. These global citizens may be seasoned travelers, professional packers and even know all of the apps to keep connected to friends and loved ones at home. But whilst previous experience causes this type of expat to be quicker to settle in and to adjust to their new surroundings, they might have become desensitized to the opportunities available to them.

After a few goes at expat life, although everywhere is different, it’s likely that some things might start to feel commonplace or routine - so there’s something to be said for shaking things up. That is why it is important to always continue stepping outside of your comfort zone, and also exploring every location you are posted to; find something new to do that you haven’t previously as an expat, and try to incorporate this into your day-to-day life.

Another brilliant benefit for the serial expat is that you’ll be more adaptable and good at finding change easy to cope with – even if it doesn’t always feel that way!

Are you a first time expat or a serial expat? Let us know your experiences in the comments below or by tweeting @expatexplorer

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