Well hello there! Are you interested in the life of an expat? Or thinking about becoming one? Or just generally interested in the expatlife? Read on and get inspired!
Important to know, this is not a guide to being an expat. I know that every experience is different so it is difficult to write a general guidebook. What I can do, is tell you about my experiences and – hopefully – we can share our experiences and make sure that, when people are considering to become an expat, they know what they are getting themselves into.
Everybody is always highly positive about becoming an expat, and there’s no doubt that it has a lot of advantages. Such as; getting to know different cultures, languages, career development, personal development, and many more. But after reading a lot of articles that encourages people to work abroad, I wanted to give you a more realistic view. Before finding yourself working in a different country and thinking… Is this it?
First of all, it totally depends on what country you’re going to. I worked and lived in several countries and it is certainly something to think about before moving or accepting certain offers. Are you someone that can adapt very quickly? Then I would definitely recommend moving abroad, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. It develops your personality and gives you certain insights you otherwise wouldn’t have. I know change is hard and painful, but it is a necessity in life. Even for someone as impulsive as me, moving abroad was scary as hell. Being scared is normal but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
“The journey is just as important as the destiny.”
The second thing you have to ask yourself is; are you willing to leave your family behind. If you are a young millennial it might be easier to move. You need to figure out for yourself if you’re comfortable living and working in a different country and basically starting anew. You have to build up everything again. And what I learned from experience is that you have to find a balance between work (and studies), fun, and making new friends (outside of work)! To give you an example; when I lived in Santiago I only had a few friends, and those were mostly my colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time with them, but it has the disadvantage of blurring out the line between work and life.
It didn’t help that there was a 6 hour difference with Belgium, which meant no facetime calls with the family in the evening. This puts a lot of pressure on you and that is exactly the thing which makes it so hard. Harder than it has to be.
It might sound easy, but this balance is crucial. In the beginning you are in what I like to call, “the honeymoon phase”. Everything is amazing and lovely, you are exploring your new home and you discover all kinds of new things! After a few months of exploring you get in the crucial phase, this is what makes or breaks your experience. Will you stay in that country and fully adapt or do you keep struggling and leave? That is why for me, it became very important to get out of my comfort zone again, even after spending several months in the country.
I think that it’s always better to find a group of friends from your home country as well, although you want to get to know other people and cultures, from time to time you just need someone to understand certain culture shocks or things that you might miss. In my case, a good beer and some fries (sorry not sorry)!!
If there’s one thing I want you to remember is that it is hard, but totally worth it. Never be afraid to jump into the unknown, because you are not alone. There’s a bunch of us crazies working abroad!