The Life Of An Expatriate Is Not All Sweetness And Light

Sitting in your lounge and looking out on your windswept and rain soaked garden it is easy to imagine yourself living a new life in a new country, but just how does this picture in your mind’s eye compare to the reality once you have moved overseas? Well, this is not perhaps as simple a question to answer as you might imagine.

Probably the greatest problem is that there are such a large number of variables to think about and so many factors which are simply not known at the beginning. It is very easy, for example, to think that the fact that you do not speak the language is not important as, at least in the short term, you may well be able to get by in your mother tongue and can always pick up enough of the language in the longer term. But just how easy is it to learn a language and just how simple easy is it to pick up the particular language of your chosen country?

You might also be excited about the prospect of all that exotic food, but just how is a perhaps marked change in your diet going to affect your health? You might very well have eaten some wonderful high quality restaurant food on holiday trips but is this really the kind of food you will be eating day in and day out when you are cooking for yourself?

All of these problems are of course relatively minor when you compare them to adjusting mentally to living in what is not only a different country, but perhaps a very different culture. Those things which you have considered both curious and fascinating when on holiday might well present considerable problems when they are part and parcel of your everyday life.

The majority of countries with a sizeable expatriate community develop a strong support network, which usually includes an expat club which holds regular meetings, organizes outings and events, publishes its own newspaper and a great deal more. At first sight this might seem to be extremely comforting but it is worth considering why the expats in the country have found it necessary to create such an extensive support network. Indeed, when you examine the extent to which the lives of many expats revolve around the expat community you might find yourself asking why they chose to live abroad at all.

In reality a fair number of expats find that, once the novelty wears off, they regret having moved but have often burnt their bridges and now find themselves with no alternative except to remain where they are and to make the most of what is a far from an ideal situation.

Of course this is not true of all expats and, as an expat myself, I can assure you that there are also many of us who are more than happy with our decision to move abroad and would certainly not wish to turn back the clock. For many thousands of people every year the decision to move abroad turns out to be the best decision they have ever made and one which they assuredly do not regret. By is it possible to tell which group of expats you are likely to join before you take your decision?

Unfortunately, you can never be certain, although there are several things that you can do to increase your chances of your decision being one which you are glad you made.

One of the most important things that you can do is to test the water and that means effectively living in your country of choice for a fair period of time before cutting your ties with home. But the crucial word here is ‘living’.

It is no good merely visiting the country once or twice a year on holiday, staying in a hotel and dining out in restaurants. Ideally you need to spend at least a year in the country and to throw off any thoughts of being on holiday. You need to make a conscious effort to live as you would want to live in the long term, steering clear of tourist areas and activities and becoming part of the local community. Live just like a local, doing your own cooking and making the time to learn about the local history, culture and lifestyle, while at the same time making the effort to learn the language.

By steering clear of the expat community and integrating yourself into the local community from the very outset you will rapidly discover whether or not you would be making a wise choice to live abroad permanently.