If you’re not an expat, you should be. At least for a while.
When I was a teenager, I planned to be an expat. A translator living in France to be exact. Then my great expat plan took a back seat, maybe even got shelved, whilst I worked out a career and all that grown up stuff. Then, as is often the case, expat life just kind of happened whilst I was making plans for my non-expat future.
Though it was never part of the original plan to wind up in the Netherlands, that’s where the turn in the road led, and I followed it. I’m glad I did. Aside from my beautiful family, I gained a whole new life.
Expat life changes things. It changes you. Whether you plan it or not, whether your stay overseas is a temporary move, or one meant for a lifetime, being an expat is enriching. It’s life changing. And that’s why I think everyone should do it, at least once in their life.
If you’re still not convinced, here are five reasons why.
You Meet Amazing People
When you move to a new country you, by default, meet new people, people different from the ones in your social circle back home. You meet people who speak a different language, who are from a different culture, who have a different background.
Friendships grow with people from all walks of life, people who make your expat life colorful and enriching. Without even trying you learn about other countries, other cultures, other attitudes and traditions.
Of course, let’s be real, you’ll also meet arseholes; unfortunately they live abroad too – but thankfully they are in the minority. Avoid them and you’ll do just fine.
You Immerse Yourself in New Cultures
When you move abroad you try new foods, you take part in new traditions and learn new customs. You are party to new ideas, new ways of doing things. You listen to new music. You see different political and economic systems in practice. You celebrate new holidays. You see the arts and heritage of a country first hand.
If you are lucky you even learn a new language.
You learn about a country’s past, and you learn what traits a nation treasures, what ignites a nation’s pride. You notice the details, things you don’t read about in school books, or learn about in travel books.
If you open your eyes, you’ll see a little piece of the world through someone else’s eyes.
You Fall in Love with Your Birth Country
|When you become an expat,
you see your birth country in a new light
What is that saying? Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Well it’s true. Nothing gets you looking at your birth country with rose coloured spectacles quicker than leaving it. I never really understood what it was that made me British until I left Britain, and then it all became incredibly evident. It turns out, you can take a Brit out of Britain but you’ll never take the Brit out of the girl.
You start to appreciate all those things that make up your national identity, and realise that your home country culture, customs and traditions really have moulded you.
You notice the things that are dear to you from your own culture (for example, I never realised how attached to Bonfire night celebrations I was until I left England and 5th November just became a regular day) and which customs seem ridiculous and disposable.
When you become an expat, you fall in love with your birth country, including all those funny little quirks and odd habits that you never get a second thought to when you were living there.
You Realise Just How Much it’s People, Not Things, That Really Matter
Living overseas, even temporarily, forces you to re-evaluate everything; to look at what you actually need and what you want in life. It’s a clean slate, a chance to start anew and dump the baggage you no longer need to carry with you – both physical and mental baggage.
You start assessing what you miss from your ‘old’ life, what you actually need to move forward and what it is in life that really makes you happy.
You focus a little less on the material and more on the emotional aspect of life. You focus on the truly important things in life. You appreciate the true worth of those friends and family that were on your doorstep before you moved, and you sincerely value the worth of new friendships.
Relationships matter more than material goods when you have to start over. You realise it’s people, not things, that really make the difference in life.
You Meet the Better Part of Yourself
When you leave everything familiar behind and set your feet down on new territory, you soon learn what you are capable of.
You uproot your life and replant it in, what seems at first, a hostile environment. You do everything to make sure it thrives. Because you must.
You learn to think differently, to think outside the box. The rules you once knew have been discarded and it takes time to learn the new rules – so you’ll improvise. Maybe you’ll get creative with your career, or amaze yourself with how determined you can be, or how passionate you feel about realising a goal.
You notice both huge and subtle differences and learn to be more open and flexible, because you have little choice. You become more accepting of change, because you have to be. You go through an unconscious self-improvement course and come out the other side stronger, more aware of yourself and your capabilities.
As an expat, you’ll get to know yourself a little better, and you’ll meet the better, more courageous part of yourself.
Over to you:Why else should you become an expat? What has been the biggest advantage of your expat life? Do you think everyone is cut out for expat life?