Think You’re Cut Out To Be An Expat? Let’s See!

Most of us at some point dream of having an expat life. Who wouldn’t? Expats seem to live these glamorous lives filled with travel, adventure, and exotic locales. And while there are many upsides to being an expat, there are, of course, the downsides. Making the decision to move overseas for an extended period of time can be tough, but the experiences you’ll have will more than make up for it. Want to know if you have what it takes to be a world wanderer? Read on to get a glimpse at what it takes and find out if you’ve got the gumption to take that big leap.

Photo via Flickr

Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, unless you’re working an extremely flexible job that pays you tons of money, moving to the other side will mean literally distancing yourself from the people you know and love. You’ll probably only be able to make it home once or twice a year and you’ll miss out on some of the big events going on in your friend’s and family’s lives. This is the harsh reality.

While you will make new friends overseas and, no doubt, build your own family over there – whether you get married and have kids or your family is your friends – being far away from your parents, siblings, cousins, and what have you can be tough to handle sometimes. There will be times where you’ll wish you had them closer by. There will be times where you’ll wish you’d never moved at all. Being an expat takes commitment and sometimes it can be hard. The question I generally find me asking myself (usually when I’m home for a visit) is: would I be happier if I’d stayed? The answer is always no. Yes, life abroad can be tough, but I’m so much happier having done it than not!

Photo via Flickr

Do fools really jump in?

Being an expat involves a fair amount of making a fool of yourself, at least at first. I don’t care if you move to Canada or someplace completely different like Taiwan, you’re bound to run into cultural differences and put your foot in your mouth more than a few times. You can’t embarrass easily if you want to be a successful expat. You can’t be afraid to ask for help, or get directions from a complete stranger, or practise your limited language skills.

Mistakes will invariably be a part of your life abroad and you can’t be afraid of making them or you’ll never find a way to assimilate into your new country of residence. SO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. Go ahead, butcher the language, at least you’re speaking it! Make a fool of yourself at the post office trying to open a bank account. Order soup when you really meant to ask for coffee.  Be brave (and just a wee bit foolish).

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Is friendship really a rare gem?

One of the biggest pains of moving anywhere new is that you have to make a completely new set of friends and people to socialise with. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of just working and then heading home to watch TV or surf the web, but usually when your weekends start looming near you’ll probably realise the importance of having a social group. Luckily for you, the internet has something for everyone these days and is one of the best ways of making new friends. If you’re trying to learn the local language, you might consider finding a language exchange partner, or you can join a club, or even hang out with other expats from your country!

Be careful of falling into the habit of only socialising with people from work, you’ll want to have a wider friend group than that to fall back on. Granted, it takes a bit more work to make new friends as an expat, but you’ll meet some genuinely cool people from all over the world – many of whom can sympathise with the plight of being an alien far from home!

Photo via Flickr

Does blood really run thicker than water?

Okay, so you’ve made that big move abroad and you’re loving life as an expat. Then you go back for your yearly visit and you invariably hear this question: When are you coming home? This may be painful for you to hear, but there will be plenty of people along the way who will question your choices. I’ve found that it’s usually my aunts and uncles who wonder why exactly I want to spend my life overseas. Sure, foreign countries are nice to visit for a week or two, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

For some it’s hard to fathom a life outside the familiar and the idea of wilfully torturing yourself by living in a country where they don’t speak your native language, and eat weird food, and have strange traditions seems sadistic. You have to be prepared to deal with these questions. Don’t worry though, there will be the people who support you wholeheartedly (in my case my mom and siblings) and will cheer you on every step of the way. Just remember who’s really in your corner when you’re struggling to make someone understand why you love the expat life.

What are some of the things you’ve learned as an expat living overseas?