I was inspired by Maria over at Iwasanexpatwife (who is a true expert of all things expat) to write a personal list of the best and worst parts about being an expat.
1. You learn something new everyday.
I know this is an old saying but when you start a new life abroad it becomes true. In the first few weeks it’s a bit of information overload when every sense is bombarded with new things. The learning curve it at it steepest as you learn huge life altering lessons like how to drive on the other side of the road or where the best schools are. After a while they become smaller and less significant like discovering some new restaurant or finding a little pharmacy that stocks your favourite shampoo but the learning is constant. My husband and I would often start our conversation when he comes home from work with “you won’t believe what I discovered today…”
2. You find out who you really are
I’m brave! Who knew? Certainly not me but moving overseas is a sure way to find out about your character. It was more of a surprise to me than anyone that I didn’t have a complete panic on the way to the airport or lose my marbles during the emigration process. I have discovered that I can actually handle an awful lot of stress and more importantly get through it relatively unscathed. In our first 18 months in Canada I have discovered all kinds of character traits that I had never acknowledged. I wouldn’t go as far to say I didn’t know they were there but I just hadn’t taken the time to really think about who I was.
3. You can change everything and reinvent yourself
We you first arrive in a new country no one has any preconceptions of who you are and what you are like, no one there will be expecting you to be the same old person you always were so you have the freedom to be exactly who you want. I have learned that I being the reliable ‘yes’ person was draining me, I had a tendency to do anything for anyone even if it meant I didn’t have time to do what I really wanted or needed to do, not anymore. I can say no if something doesn’t suit me and I don’t want to do it. You can change everything about yourself, what you do for a living and how you live. You have the perfect opportunity to start afresh, put aside what doesn’t serve you and move on. Forget bad experiences and fear and embrace a fresh start and a new way of life.
4. You learn what’s really important in life.
Any contact I have with my family and friends back in England is so precious now, a simple email, skype call or Facebook message means so much more than it did two years ago. The last 18 months has taught me to really value the relationships that I used to take for granted.
I have learnt how important time is: we have a family dinner together every night now because we’re not inundated with work or commuting for hours. I am more aware of what is happening in the life of our boys more than ever before.
Exploring the city with family
5. You have a whole new part of the world to explore
It starts with learning your immediate area, where the shops are, where the school is and then your horizons broaden into the nearest city and what it has to offer. Next you begin to explore further afield as you discover new places to drive to on a sunny day or for a weekend break and eventually you are exploring neighbouring countries and new holiday destinations. Every trip is a brand new exciting experience and if you’re lucky enough to get visitors you get to explore these places with family and friends too.
Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta
So there you have it, my top 5 things about expat life. Coming up next the five worst things…get the Kleenex ready!