Sun, sea and white sand. Maids, nannies and cooks. Exotic and luxurious living. Do any of these words evoke an image of expat life for you? Then I have news for you. Here are ten things that expat life is absolutely not.
1. A holiday
Taking a vacation for a couple of weeks in a country or city is not the same as actually living there indefinitely. Not even close.
2. An Escape From Reality
Expat life is real life. Your real life.
3. A Relocation to Paradise
No matter how wonderful a location looks on paper (or in a travel brochure) you, as an expat, have to carve a life out for yourself there. You don’t just walk into paradise and take up residence there – that only happens in movies, and even then it rarely ends well.
4. An Easy Option
Expats often hear ‘oh lucky you’ as they traipse off to what seems like an exotic location. However, the move is never easy. Culture shock always rears its head, it takes time to find your feet and loneliness will likely be your best friend for a little while when you first relocate. Expat life is not the easy option. Ever.
5. The Best Way to Start Again
Expat life is one way to start start over, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. You’re carrying the same personal baggage with you whichever country you call home. Your demons will likely follow you when you move. True, a move may distract you for a while but dealing with your problems and then relocating to a new country is probably a better prescription for moving forward in life.
6. A Sure Fire Way to Find Happiness
You are still you, no matter where you live. A new place might give you the opportunity to look for the things you want in life that you currently don’t have (like a challenge) but moving to a new country isn’t a recipe for instant happiness.
Ever stood in a never ending queue in an immigration control office waiting to get a stamp on a document that may or may not end up with you being granted a resident’s or work permit? It’s not pretty. Waiting for a faceless stranger somewhere in the higher realms of a country’s bureaucracy chain to make a decision about your career is anything but fun. Things may seem glamourous on the outside (read Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life
to see what I mean) but real life carries on where ever you make a home for yourself.
8. One Long Adventure
Once you have to earn a living, navigate your way around a foreign health system, sort out the documentation that makes your stay in a country legal, talk to the local tax office, understand a new school system and go searching for meat that actually looks familiar in the local marketplace the sense of living an adventure has well and truly worn off.
9. A Get Rich Quick Scheme
It may seem that expats are rolling in money, wallpapering their house with bank notes and filling their pension schemes with the promise of a care free life once they hit their 60’s. But if you are moving overseas to get rich quickly you may want to rethink your reasons for moving. Expat assignments may be well paid, but often they come at a cost. It’s a rare expat that repatriates a happy millionaire.
10. A Waste of Time
As an expat you learn a new language, a different way of living; you bathe yourself in a new culture. You learn heaps about yourself as you navigate unexpected hurdles and unimaginable experiences abroad, all without your trusted support network to lean on. You change irreversibly because of your life lived abroad. Expat life is never a waste of time.