In 2016 my husband and decided to become expats. Expat, the slang for expatriate, is a person temporarily or permanently residing in another country other than their native country (thanks Wikipedia). We packed up our home in sunny Perth, Western Australia and flew our dogs plus shipped all of our belongings to the unknown York, England.
We had been to England many times and I have family here, but we had never been to Yorkshire. We took the word of a friend of friend (plus one online article) to decide the opportunity that had been presented to us was worth taking a punt on. We are 4 years down the road now, so here is my perspective on the pros and cons of being an expat.
EVERYTHING IS NEW
- Pros – This can be incredibly exciting. New home, new car, new pubs, new cafes … you get the drift. We were so excited just to go for our first grocery shop at the Tesco Superstore – sad, I know! And despite being heavily pregnant when I arrived, we were out all of the time discovering everything our new town had to offer. Whilst we were both working, we felt as though we were on one long holiday being an expat.
- Cons – On the flip side, this can also be very daunting as a first time expat. Where does one buy new sheets, or insurance and which yoghurt do I buy. It can be very overwhelming in the beginning. But slowly you will discover the shops and brands and restaurants that you like and within no time everything will feel so familiar that you forget it was all so new to you.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE NOT AROUND THE CORNER
- Pros – When you don’t have a network to rely on, you are forced to establish a new one. Building new relationships and friendships can be stressful, but it is also a great way to strengthen your character. I have made many beautiful friends during my time being an expat and I have actually loved the experience of getting to know new people. We have also been very fortunate that all of our immediate family members and many friends have been to visit us. It means we have had solid chunks of time with these people and created new memories together in different and exciting places.
- Cons – There are some days where you will feel homesick. You wish you could just call your girlfriends for a drink or drop the baby with the parentals, and unfortunately that is not possible. You will survive, but in my experience it involves establishing a network of help which comes at a cost. I now have a dog walker, cleaner, dog sitter, baby sitter etc. so that we can still do the things we want to do whilst we are here, and maintain some of my sanity.
ESTABLISH A NEW HOME
- Pros – Packing up your home for relocation is the perfect excuse to declutter and get rid of all of the useless sh!t you have been hoarding. It’s also a good opportunity to live somewhere new. We had fallen into the trap of only wanting to live in our first home for 2-3 years … 9 years later I packed it up – whoops! I have also really enjoyed making our new space our home as we slowly collect things from our experience of being an expat.
- Cons – A new home can be time consuming, costly and stressful. Its bad enough moving house normally, let alone doing it to a foreign country. The process itself is not difficult, it can just be painful and frustrating. You also need to do things like find a new doctor and dentist, such as https://www.123dental.com.au/, and perhaps make arrangements for your children to attend school or nursery. Give it a few months and you will get there!
- Pros – I feel as though one must have a bit of resilience to survive being an expat. Many issues, small and large, will arise and you have to learn to take it in your stride without letting it effect you too much. If you can make it through all of the challenges then it will provide you strength for dealing with future problems in both your professional and personal lives. It will definitely help you learn not to sweat the small stuff.
- Cons – If you don’t deal well with stress or problem solving then you may find the relocation and settling in to your new life as an expat quite a negative experience. However, you will never know if you don’t try!
REMINDER OF WHAT IS IMPORTANT
- Pros – You become accustomed to a certain way of life and once you are there, it scary to think about changing things up. Life can become comfortable and stagnant and you might start obsessing over the smallest things that don’t matter. So moving away and shaking things up helps to remind you what is really important in life and that you don’t need a tonne of material items or everything to be a certain way to be happy. We survived with a just a few suitcases of our things for months and we were totally fine. The thought of doing that previously had terrified me. The experiences we have had over the past few years far outweigh the fact that I had to make toast in a frying pan and tea from a saucepan for a few months.
- Cons – Is there ever really a downside to remembering what is important? Probably not! You may likely miss all the aspects of your life back home at some point during your adventures abroad, but the reality is that it will be there whenever you want to return. Sure you may miss a few parties or not be in the know of all the new restaurants etc., but everything will mostly likely be fundamentally the same when you return home (unless you are away for several decades). So get out there, challenge yourself and see what the world has to offer!
So what do you think, do you fancy the being an expat or is it not for you? Share your pros and cons of being an expat with me below, or tell me where you dream of living. And if you want any advice from me about being an expat, it would be – just do it! Shell x