Like all expat bloggers, I frequently return to variations on the navel-gazing question of ‘what have I learned from this posting’ and ‘what is the meaning of (expat) life? It’s almost an occupational hazard but no less interesting for it…if you’re an expat.
If you’re not, it’s very boring perhaps even vainglorious. Look away now.
Those of us who are expat bloggers strive to report and reflect on what we encounter in the realm outside our comfort zone.
To document and vent and seek advice when things are bad. To rejoice when things are fun and going well and the possibilities seem boundless.
It goes without saying that experiencing different cultural norms, learning languages, trying new foods and making new friends are cited as the best things about expat life. And with good reason. They are the very bedrock of expat existence: The Broadening Of The Mind.
Reading a travel briefing for those preparing to visit our offices in the US brought it back very clearly this week. I understood why my company explained it was not necessary to call those above you in the hierarchy ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ (India) or to use the first name of colleagues without honorifics (Indonesia), why some colleagues would need to be warned that upon receiving a gift Westerners would open it immediately (China) precisely because I’ve experienced these things from the other side…and all without getting the memo.
So, here are 5 things I love about my expat life:
1. The sense of starting over: I’m not yet at the point when I am tired of picking up and starting again. Since I was tiny I’ve been simultaneously drawn to the ‘new’ while being equally terrified of it. New beginnings are still fresh for Mr B & I. I don’t believe complete reinvention is possible (although there are plenty of expats that try). Each posting seems to bring a different element of your personality to the fore and to reveal something new. I believe that what you find is a reflection of something in the character of your host-country and above all the people you encounter. So, in India, it was self-confidence. In Indonesia, tenacity. In China, sociability. In Belgium, I’m experiencing a healthy sense of laissez-faire.
2. Distance from family: I’m going to call it. I enjoy this. Mr B cites this as his top reason to be an expat. I can’t imagine being one of those people who lives two streets away from their parents all their lives. As time passes and when things go wrong, this reverses to being the worst aspect of expat life but for the moment…
3. Gaining perspective: When the internet goes down I am frustrated with the length of time it takes Belgacom to rectify the situation and the lousy customer service that is the norm here in Belgium. After living in developing countries I’m accustomed to dealing with incompetent administrations but then I think back to those still living behind the Great Firewall of China or those in India who are not even literate…and I get over myself.
4. Travel: hands-down the best bit, especially once you’ve got beyond the ‘must sees’. Getting to explore cities and regions in-depth using tips from the expat community and local colleagues alike is wonderful.
5. Feeling special: Knowing that you are part of some mythical global elite….or is that just me?
Amanda at Life with a Double Buggy writes extremely well about the challenge of raising sensitive kids as an expat mum in the Netherlands and has set this link-up. If you haven’t had a chance, pop on over and add your own top 5 loves.