The expat life

As I have learned during the past decade of my life the expat life is filled with hard choices. First of all, packing up and moving abroad is not a decision to be taken lightly. This is not for cowards, this is for the brave.

What is an expat?

The first thing is to understand what being an expat is. The actual word is expatriate but it is often shortened to expat. It makes reference to a person who is temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their native country.

Solkes © Solkes

There are many things to be considered before making such a big move. Some of them are: How will you earn money? Where will you live? Can you speak or easily learn the language and culture? What will you do with your personal belongings? Will you need a visa? What will happen if you become sick or injured?

Since moving to France I’m happier and healthier, but not much wealthier. The pace of life is definitely slower here, which helps to reduce stress. But taxes are high, and food is expensive. (left)

But those are the questions that come after arriving to you new destination. Living the expatriate life can be as exciting as it is challenging.

Solkes © Solkes

The first step is making the choice to leave the place you have called home. Leaving parents, siblings, friends and loved ones behind.

For many, living abroad is a big adventure that sometimes comes after years of researching, planning and dreaming of living elsewhere. For others it is a decision that they made out of the blue.

For me, the best aspect of the expat life is to see the entire world.

Whether it is because they are in search of something new or following their career path, living the expat life isn’t always glamorous and can be a lot of work.

Being an expat can be the most amazing experience in the world and one of the hardest. There are amazing and fantastic friends, getting lost while discovering new places, feeling home sick, learning new languages, etc.

Leaving home      

So, I left my home country in my early 20s. And I have the feeling that I left at the perfect moment.

I was ready to see other places, be truly connected with other cultures and to be “alone”. By alone I mean without the immediate protection of my parents, I wanted to fend for myself.

When I moved social media wasn’t a thing. So, contact was different. It actually meant an email or a phone call.

Shortly there after social media began to take the world by storm and the communication methods changed. And although they did I was still an ocean apart from everyone in my past.

I am an extreme talkative and communicative type of girl and during the first three months of my new life I never spoke to those who I studied with. I guess the culture shock was too much and I needed some time to process.

After moving abroad I hoped that I would be well-traveled. And if moving to Europe has given me anything, it has certainly been the ability to travel. I’ve lost track of how many cities and countries I’ve been to, and how many I plan to see within the next year.

The hard part

My friends have made living abroad more amazing than I ever could have imagined and I’ve formed bonds that I can only hope last a lifetime.

Solkes © Solkes

But, that (the friendships) is one of the hardest parts for me. I mean, international friends often leave. It’s not easy being the one left behind while all your friends move to new cities or back home.

Every time a friend from your life abroad leaves, you have to start the process of meeting people again.

Let’s be honest, making friends is awesome but it can be  emotionally exhausting to keep having to start friendships from scratch multiple times a year.

Another thing is that, today, I’m a very different person than I was before living abroad. Obviously, all the experiences and challenges I have had have shaped me. However, the “downside” of going through these changes while abroad is that they are difficult to explain to people who haven’t had the same experience.

Most expats attract other expects. Its like a club. The thing is that no one’s really sure of the rules of the club so you just make them up as you go.

A cultural experience

While I love being my own boss, Germany is no easy ride. Monthly advance tax payments and health insurance contributions make a big hole in earnings.

As I have come to realise, thanks to my experience and the experience of others, being out of ones country of origin, allows us to experience other cultures.

It teaches us to have an open mind. To try and see things for different points of view and even when we don not see things in the same manner or don’t agree with what is happening or being said, we are at leat capable of tolerating variety and thanks to that we are better people.

Solkes © Solkes

I want to break some things down. The non-glamorous aspect of expat life means being prepared to miss the ones you love, and don’t expect them to visit you all the time.

If you are a member of Rendezvous’s global tribe, “home” might be where your apartment, your work or your belongings — or even your family and friends — are. But it might also be a place where language and culture are confounding.

At the end of the day

At the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade the experience I’ve had living abroad for anything. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to make this choice and to be able to continue to choose this life.

Solkes © Solkes

And deep down, despite the thrills and invigorating challenges of an experience abroad, more often than not, we know it’s not a place we’ll stay forever.

This dislocation — psychic as well as geographic — comes with inevitable lonelinesses, small and large.

There are holidays with family missed, and life events (weddings, birthday parties, memorial services, births, amongst others) that happen without you.

lThe fact is that living far away from your friends and family can be tough and it can take longer than you originally think to feel settled in your new place.

I left under the excuse that I was going to get my masters degree. But deep inside I knew I wasn’t likely to go back. You have to be willing to start over. I understand and commend the desire for adventure and change, and the yearning to undertake a challenge and to widen your comfort zone. I applaud taking life by the reins and making it what you want it to be. That is what I did.

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