Monday, August 21, 2017 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Things I Hate About Being an Expat

There is so much to hate about being an expat. I mean, come on. Why do we even do this? We could be back in our home countries watching Netflix, and instead we’re foreigners having to explore exotic places. I miss Bath and Body Works, dude. It smells like sea air here because we leave the windows open all the time. What happened to my cucumber melon scented house in Phoenix? That’s long gone. Here’s a list of what I really hate about being an expat.

 

1    New Languages

I live in an English-speaking country, but Dutch is also an official language and a ton of people speak French and Spanish. Where I come from, almost everyone speaks English. I never had to learn Spanish, so I never did. Now that I live here, I know a lot of Spanish-speaking people and I’ve had the chance to speak Spanish often. I ended up being practically forced to learn Spanish. Bilingualism is cool, I guess. But it’s so much less convenient to have to speak a new language instead of comfortably relying on my mother tongue for my whole life.
 
New Languages
2    Diversity

Sure, we had diversity where I came from. But it was nothing like the diversity here! It was easy to hang with people who are just like me and it actually took effort to meet people with different backgrounds. Here, they’re just everywhere. So many people from so many places! I’ve learned how to see life from so many different perspectives. It’s a lot easier on the brain to stick in a one-dimensional rut and never have your viewpoint challenged. Critical thinking skills and cultural appreciation are a required way of life here—it’s exhausting.
 
Diversity
3    Travel

Don’t even get me started on travel. It seems like I’m always dragging myself up an airplane ramp. Last summer, I was in four countries in a month’s time. I spend so much time packing and unpacking—I could be on Facebook or playing cards, but there I am watching the islands pass by beneath the wings of my plane. With so much time traveling from one place to another, I just don’t get enough time to be alone at home.
 
Travel
4    Unfamiliar Food

I really like ketchup on burgers, ketchup on potatoes, ketchup on eggs, and ketchup in a spoon. Nobody seems to know about ketchup here. Local barbeque is made with all sorts of spices I never heard of, and fresh French pastries aren’t the same as my usual morning bowl of corn flakes. I have to try all kinds of new foods all the time, and it’s totally unpredictable. My local and expat friends are always introducing me to new stuff—and it usually doesn’t involve ketchup.
 
Unfamiliar Food
5    New Views

I had this really cool tree right outside my window in my home country. Sometimes there was a bird in it, and it blocked the view of the busy street right outside. Now I have this ocean view with iguanas and stuff, but it’s not familiar like that tree. Also, my desert mountains are gone and in their place are green hills covered with mango trees. There’s nothing wrong with hills and I like mangoes as much as the next person, but those desert mountains were just fine. Who needs to see new things when you have something nice right in front of you?
 
New Views
6    Personal Growth

I’m fine just the way I am. I don’t need to go out of my comfort zone or become a better person. After all, I’m pretty cool. There’s nothing wrong with a little complacency, right? I don’t have the luxury of complacency here. I have to figure out how to drive in a new place, I have to deal with a different culture on their terms, and I have to learn how to take care of myself in a new way. I’ve changed so much since I got here, and it surprises me. I never thought I’d be a surfer or feel comfortable picking up a hitchhiker who doesn’t speak my language, but here I am doing that kind of thing all the time.
 
Personal Growth
7    Power Outages

Ugh, the power outages here are just death. Sometimes the whole country just goes out all at once. Then there’s nothing to do but go look at the stars. I never once saw the Milky Way in my old home—there were too many streetlights. Now I have to see those little pinpricks of light every night, especially on nights when the power goes out. When that happens, there’s nothing to do but go stargaze and tell each other the Greek myths that play out in the sky.
 
Power Outages

 

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, this is sarcastic humor! There are certainly hard things about moving overseas and starting your life completely over, but when you step back and take a look at it, the expat life is awesome. In a way, it’s like one long vacation, minus the room service and plus having to work a job. Living as an expat is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life.

If you love to travel, put expat living on your bucket list. The dream to learn a new language suddenly becomes possible. The opportunities to meet new kinds of people are endless. The chance to travel and entirely new part of the world is heavenly. The food is better than you can imagine, the views are simply fantastic, and even the bad stuff, like the power outages, can be a totally new adventure. The best part of it all is that I’m becoming a better person with a bigger comfort zone!

To be honest, I absolutely love living as an expat. I do miss home, but a new life in a new place is pretty cool. If you’re up for trying new things, learning a ton, and having your perspective challenged, then maybe expat life is for you, too!
 

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