When people choose to live abroad for an extended period, we call them expats. And there’s a reason why expats have so many forums and websites to their name: it’s a uniquely challenging thing to do, with upsides and downsides that existing expats are more than happy to guide you through. But if you’re still unsure about whether the expat life is for you, this article should help. Below, we’ll outline what you can expect – and what you should be careful of – when setting out to live the expat life.
You’ve heard of the culture shock before. You may have even experienced it yourself first-hand when you’ve stepped out of a plane to find a country very different from your own. But this feeling is intensified when you actually live in that new country. Some people find it very difficult to overcome; others embrace it fully. The key here is to be aware that you’re going to feel it: a sense of a longing for the creature comforts of home and an isolation from the place you now live. The best solution to that feeling is to dive in and try new things – not to isolate yourself in your new home.
The expat life isn’t one long vacation. It can feel like that sometimes, no doubt, but this is ultimately a place you’re going to live, work, and perform all your domestic duties just as you did in your home country. So, there will be banality too – and some stress. If you have kids, you’ll want to find them a top-class international school to study at. You’ll need to stay on top of your paperwork and healthcare. This can be dull and takes away from the more adventurous aspect of your expat life. So be prepared for this element to living abroad.
You’ll likely not live as an expat for long if you fail to make new friends. Meeting new people and forging new connections will ultimately make you feel like you belong and are accepted in your new home. Most expats try to make a mix of friends. Of course, they’ll have other expat friends to complain to if they’ve had a frustrating day in their new host country. But they’ll also have friends who were born in the city they’ve moved to, who show them the best restaurants, bars, and clubs to enjoy.
While there are certain elements to the expat life that can be daunting and troublesome, on the whole, it’s a very beneficial lifestyle choice – at least for a couple of years. It’ll expose you and your family to new ways of life. It’ll make you more cosmopolitan and International in your mindset. It’ll enhance your chance to travel, picking up new culinary methods, languages and friends. And it’ll enrich you as a person and a family, giving you precious, unique memories for the rest of your lives.
Expat living is a mixed bag – but on the whole, you’ll find that once you dive into this new life, it’s hard to turn back.