Choosing to up and leave the country you call home can be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. You actively decide to say farewell to family, friends and all you know for the chance to discover learn and experience a new world. Whilst some of my most enriching and exciting times have been experienced whilst an expat, there are moments that make you yearn for home. Once thing is for sure, being an expat is not always easy, but definitely worth it. Here are some highs and lows I’ve experienced as an expat…
1. The Journey
When you pack up your life to live on another continent or in a foreign, you are truly embarking on the ultimate adventure. You forsake your comforts, things you think you can’t live without and truly begin to learn what is truly invaluable in this life. This education comes at a price, but it’s truly eye-opening to experience other ways in which cultures, tribes and people live life. I’m sure there is seldom a time when an expat returns home un-enriched by their experience.
The viewpoint on Koh Nangyuan.
2. True Travel
I love travelling and seeing a new place for the first time-even if it’s for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months. Being an expat allows you to not only visit another city or place, but really see what’s behind the world’s view of it. Having lived in Thailand for nearly a year, we have really been able catch a glimpse of what’s truly behind the ‘Land of Smiles’, enjoy its beauty and witness its downfalls.
Living as semi-nomads or in different countries for a few months/years at a time really offers you the chance to lead a simple life. Sure there will always be bills, rent and responsibilities that crop up after the initial honeymoon phase is over. But you tend to accumulate less and place less importance on items and things, but save the memories, friendships and lessons. Each time you pack up for the next country, it will allow you to get rid of the old and start afresh again.
No hoarding allowed when your life must fit in a suitcase.Had to leave this little backpack & other favourites behind.
1. Living without your Family and Friends
Part and parcel of living abroad and constantly moving around, is that you are forced to leave family and friends behind. You’ll miss graduations, weddings, births, birthdays and all the other precious bits in between and it will be hard. Thank goodness for Facebook but often photos or Skyping doesn’t cut it and you yearn to be back having weekly get-togethers with your cousins and chatting to your parents. Some of my closest friends are scattered all around the globe meaning that there will always be good byes, heartbreak and inevitable trying to keep in touch over the web.
2. Being Misunderstood
Unless you have lived in a country for over a year or become fluent in the native tongue, there is always the chance that you will be misunderstood. As an expat, you have chosen to make this country your home, so it is your duty to learn how to interact and get to know locals. This is always easier said than done and there will be many a frustrating moment when all you want, is someone to help you and speak your language. This can really test your patience when you’re in a medical emergency, visiting the dentist, ordering something out of the ordinary or placing a complaint.
3. Always a foreigner
I always used to love the idea of being foreign, as it implied that I was unique, exotic and fascinating. Now that I have lived in Asia for about 3 years in total, it no longer conjures up the same allure for me. Depending on the country, it won’t matter how long you’ve lived there or what your residential status is, you will always be classified as a foreigner, an outsider, someone who doesn’t quite belong.
I know people who have been married to native Thai and Korean people for years but are still referred to as ‘farang’ or ‘wayguk’. Not German, South African, English, or American, but all under the same cloth of foreigner. And for this reason, it may never truly feel like home. Often you will not have the same rights at the citizens even if they are in the wrong. In Thailand especially, if you are in an accident or argument with a Thai local, it won’t matter who you are, what really happened or whose fault it was, if it’s your word against a Thai’s ( coupled with a bribe to the police) then you will always lose. Even though we live in Samui and earn in baht, we are still overcharged immensely and have to pay way more than locals for transport, food and services.
What are the highs and lows you’ve experienced as an expat?