Today I have Amy sharing a wonderful post on expat life. I love reading her blog The Tide That Left because she is always full of practical advice, like this post, and takes on so many different adventures that would leave me quivering in my boots!
1. Nothing stays the same – This is probably my favourite life lesson in that it applies to everything, not just expattery (that might not be a word, but it should be). Do you remember that guy you never thought you’d get over? Or that friend you were going to grow old with? How about that year you wanted to train to be a nurse? All those things that you were so sure of have come and gone, and it turned out not to be such a bad thing. Being an expat has made that even more clear to me. Nothing stays the same – even if you stay where you are, your friends come and go. Or you might get assigned to a new position, in a new country or city, and before you know it, your life is completely different. This is especially good when you’re not happy with something. As hard as it might feel at the time, there is absolute truth in the saying ‘This too shall pass’.
2. Flexibility is key – This is related to the above lesson. A lot of people ask me how I cope with so many moves, but the truth is I’ve learned to adapt and now it feels pretty easy. At first each move felt massive, but now I realise I sometimes barely get excited by it. Learning to be flexible, to expect the unexpected, makes this journey a lot easier.
3. There is not one way to do things – I never knew quite how British I was until I left the UK and spent so much time with people who aren’t British. I’m very proud of what makes me British (for the most part), but one of the biggest lessons (and perhaps hardest) was understanding that just because we ‘do this at home’ doesn’t mean it is the best way. In addition to that, I’ve had to get to grips with the fact that even if ‘my’ way does appear to be better, it isn’t the ONLY way to do things. Sometimes you just need to let others lead the way.
4. Patience, patience, patience – I might not be the best with this one. Sometimes I get very frustrated with expat related issues (see above and not having things done MY way). It can be tough trying to work through communication problems, getting to grips with processes I consider to be bureaucratic, or learning to work with people who have a more laid back approach than I do. When I remember to be patient, life is a whole lot easier.
5. Live small – I used to be the girl with ALL the shoes and ALL the handbags. I loved shopping for new clothes, and I loved buying books and bits and pieces. In almost every country we move from I end up leaving behind some of my much loved belongings and it isn’t easy. Most of all though, it’s taught me about waste. Waste of money and waste of goods; neither of which are acceptable, especially when we live in countries with so much poverty. I travel with two suitcases as a maximum now. It’s not always easy, but for the most part I prefer it that way and I hope that when we finally settle somewhere we’ll be much more careful about collecting material possession.
Bonus lesson (whoot, because everyone loves a bonus!) There’s no place like home – I’ve been to some amazing places, and met some wonderful people. I love life as an expat, and I’m not ready to give it up, but it has taught me how important home is, especially our loved ones. We’re very lucky!
What lessons have you learned from expat life or life abroad? Is there anything here you find/found hard to deal with?