10 THINGS ONLY EXPATS WILL UNDERSTAND
There are some things that only expats will understand and chatting amongst your fellow expats, you might laugh about (or commiserate over) a few of these!
- That absolute feeling of joy when you find one of your favourite items from your home country in the local store! Especially foodstuffs such as a much-loved brand of cereal or those cookies you crave on a Tuesday night while watching TV. Who would have thought something so simple could be such a treat! As an expat, you know how to savour and appreciate these little discoveries!
- You have a collection art, curios and furniture from all over the world! Your house resembles a mini museum with an assortment of interesting pieces, each one with a fascinating story behind it. When you have guests round to your home, you end up spending a few minutes sharing about the time you haggled for that colourful rug in Morocco or when you bought that oil painting in Italy or the fact you had your coffee table custom-made in India.
- Your kids are multi-cultural, multi-lingual and well-travelled. They are mini global nomads, resilient and worldly beyond their years! They know the national dish of Cambodia and the colours of the South African flag. They have friends from all over the world and have been exposed to countless different cultures and traditions.
- The more time you spend abroad, living outside of the country where you were born, the more you might consider yourself a global citizen. You’re not defined by your passport, your place of birth or where you lived and grew up most of your life. You might find that when you go back on summer vacation or at Christmas time that you feel completely out of place in the country that was once your home. This is entirely normal and very much part of the expat experience. You might even feel that your old friends have lead very much the same lives all this time, whereas you have lived so many different lives in that same space of time. You might not be able to relate to some of them anymore and visa versa – and that’s okay. You have simply been on a different journey to them so identifying with and relating to one another’s realities can be difficult sometimes.
- Sometimes it can get lonely. Specifically in the beginning when you are still new to a country and you don’t yet know anyone or have your social circle in place. This is especially true if there is a language barrier involved – not being able to communicate effectively with others, even if only to make casual chit-chat with the local shop assistant. Until you have found your tribe, it can be very isolating as a newly relocated expat abroad. This is even more true for introverts or those who take a bit longer than others to make new friends.
- The fact that being an expat is not a bed of roses all the time. All too often, outsiders looking in, sometimes even our own friends and family back home, may not know of the sacrifices and choices made behind the scenes in order to live the exciting and varied life of an expat. While we may be viewed as privileged, (and indeed we are for the most part), there is also the fact that we have given up certain things in order to gain from the perks and benefits of being an expat. Bottom line: It’s not always as easy and breezy as it looks on social media, expats can have bad days too!
- Your diet and food tastes get majorly switched up depending on the local cuisine, as well as the availability and cost of certain foodstuffs. You might find that you actually love spicy food thanks to the prevalence of chilli and spices in local dishes. Or maybe you’ve stopped eating red meat for now as the quality and cost is not worth it in your opinion. If your favourite vegetable is unbelievably hard to come by, you might find that you decide to substitute it with something else. Maybe you have become really fond of the local food and find yourself craving it when you’re traveling!
- You become somewhat of an ambassador for your new home country. You proudly partake in some of its customs, celebrate its independence day and relish in its cuisine.
- Your idea of home is wherever you lay your head at night. As long as your family is around you, you are at home. You can make any place feel like home and you’ve become accustomed to living in the present moment, wherever that is right now.
- You’ve become somewhat of an expert at moving house, packing up (usually at very short notice), unpacking, de-cluttering and consolidating. Moving is never easy, especially if you’re moving to a country half way across the world, but the good news is that it does seem to get easier – or maybe it’s not that it gets easier but rather you just get better and better at it!