When you think of an expat life, what comes to mind?
Adventure? Exoticism? Continuous weekend trips or getaways?
Well, in reality, living as an expat, and the reasons behind why people do, is far more nuanced merely the pull of travel.
Sure, travel is HUGE part of it.
And the availability of adventure is a core reason l chose to become an expat.
But it was never the only one. Or even the primary one.
Curious what l mean?
Well you’ll have to read on into
Intro: why do people become expats?
Now l will be real here for a minute…
I personally, cant fathom that question. Namely l think: ‘ how could you not want to be an expat?’
Sure, this won’t be foe everyone.
But ever since l was young, l wanted to live abroad, wanted to experience different cultures, and explore new places.
You can also do so sustainably, as l outline in this post.
For me, life is about getting out of your comfort zone.
And expat life is THE ideal way to do just that, in real-time.
1. You recognise how little you know
One of the biggest draws to become an expat is how quickly you realise you still have so much to learn.
I, as some of my frequent readers know, have travelled a lot, and so been able to develop a broad appreciation for different destinations.
However, as soon as l moved abroad, it made me realise l still no very little.
That, I hadn’t even scratched the surface of places l thought l knew. That l had already visited previously.
Sure, it can be a cultural shock.
But isn’t that the WHOLE point?
You learn how people live their daily lives in different regions of world. How they catch the bus, how they interact with one another, how they dress and so on.
Things that one takes for granted, will likely differ completely in another country.
And so, this is the largest test that faces many people who consider living or working abroad, and determines how long, if at all they choose to live the expat life.
Acclimatizing and embracing the new customs can be challenging, can be the most complex.
But they’re also precisely the reason why you go in the first place.
So, embrace them, learn of them and commit to expat living.
2. You continually learn in the expat life
Not only does one learn how little they actually no before becoming an expat…
But you also continually learn as you live abroad!
As soon as you as move to a foreign country, you’ll likely be learning a new language. Something that has been proven to rewire your brain and increase your learning base.
Learning a new subject or language forces you to become adaptable.
And this broadens you as a person as you become adept with newer experiences.
Sure, utilising a language or having to adjust to new environments when taking up a new job which operates differently overseas will be tough.
But again, that is precisely the point of moving abroad.
One is purposely seeking new experiences, to increase their self-development, all of which will undoubtedly happen with expat living.
Me for one, have been able an expat allowed the Spanish l learnt in the classroom shift from being intermediate to being advanced as l could apply in in everyday life.
And although l haven’t purposefully tried to learn Italian, the amount of time l have spent in Italy has meant l have learned so much about the language, so when l do, it will be much easier.
3. Meeting people from all walks of life
Now this really is one of MY BEST reasons for expat living.
Being able to meet people of all backgrounds, learn their perspectives, hear their stories and more is such an appealing reason to become an expat.
Not only will you meet people likely to become friends for life.
But you also can meet people completely spontaneous in unique experiences, you simply wouldn’t able to do so if you just stayed at home.
And that’s not even including expat themselves.
People who have and do go through experiences you will, can be valuable and inspiring groups who enrich your expat living experiences.
Even if its as simple as not being able to get a specific food at the supermarket.
4. You can start again
On another deeper note, pursuing an expat life can sometimes be the best option for those seeking to a new life.
For some, their lives can be so challenging, so redefining, that moving to a new location is best.
Indeed, moving for the right reasons is crucial.
And understandably that will vary between people.
When considering expat living, no matter what, even having and pursuing the option can be very valuable for people who feel the need to redirect themselves.
Expat life allows one to rediscover themselves in new ways.
Rekindling old friendships or relationships, regaining old skills or developing new ones and applying qualifications are all possibilities which appear when moving abroad.
Moving abroad can be the difference fulfilling one’s potential versus getting stuck in destructive cycles.
I for one, were in challenging situations, which over time came to feel would be resolved if l had the opportunity to grow independently.
Indeed, expat living allows for you to grow.
And, speaking from my personal experiences, l cant underline enough, what moving abroad allowed me to remember about myself
Or what l wanted from life.
So, if there are times you may be stuck in a rut, perhaps living an expat life would be worth considering.
Learn expat life from expat communities
Now, it doesn’t matter where you’ll becoming an expat, you’ll still need friends right?
Unless you consider your best friends Ben & Jerry’s and Netflix…
And that would kinda of defeat the purpose of moving abroad entirely.
No, but jokes aside, almost any experience, including expat life will be better with friends. Having people to show you around, develop connections and properly immerse yourself in your new location.
Therefore, for anywhere you intend to move to, you should learn about local expat communities.
And why does it matter?
Because of the variation between expat communities in different places or countries.
Indeed, in some places expat communities will be very active. Plenty of meet-ups, open events, gatherings, group activities, you name it.
Conversely, other places may have barely any communities in place – be that online or physically.
I, for example, have been interested in humanitarian work as part of my career aspirations. And this may involve moving to Africa to gain proper fieldwork experience.
Unfortunately, this also means the likelihood of there existing a strong expat community is very low.
Heck, its not likely there would be many expats period.
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The point is that is it worth learning about what social networks and options are open to you, regardless of where you move to.
Apply for job or Work Away Programs
If you truly aim to start living that expat life, you will need to work won’t you?
If not, then that is just a really extended holiday!
And while that is certainly appealing, its not what being an expat is about. Nor will it be a very financially viable option if one tries to keep it up for ages.
So, acquiring work through special work abroad programs can be solid options.
Because of the way they allow you retain some level of structure WHILE keeping that freedom and excitement of living abroad.:
- Being employed means you have certain rights or representative legally if things get difficult and you have in-country support
- It means you earn additional income to fund getaways to nearby destinations and serves as a way to meet new people as potential friends
Most commonly, teaching or becoming an au pair are easy, simple ways to gain exposure to moving abroad, albeit for varying durations of time.
Now, personally, l was always attracted by the idea of working abroad.
Indeed, l did so by working a summer as a scuba diving assistant and ABSOLUTELY loving it. But this did require specialist skills and qualifications of which l had to train for over time.
Therefore, if that desire for the expat life is particularly strong, trying look at opportunities you already hold a comparative advantage over.
Puzzled for any?
Well, you speak English, right? You’re physically active right?
Well, there is your ticket abroad. Places all over the world, like Australia, Eastern or Southern Europe, Southern Asia will all eagerly invite expats for jobs which help to improve English or support local economies.
So, get searching!
Seek expat life advice from others
Perhaps obvious, but what way is better to become an expat than asking those who have already done it?
Especially those who have or still live in the place you’re considering moving to.
Not only will you learn the ropes of the area – undeniably the BEST way to learn about anywhere or anything, it might initiate the beginning of a social network.
Think about it:
- By seeking out expats from expat communities, not only will you gain valuable first-hand advice, you will likely make a friend who can connect you with others.
That way you kill two birds with one stone!
Plus, taking advice from others will benefit you with your experiences.
People who know the areas well will be help you avoid all the unnecessary complications of moving abroad and allow you to get stuck into the heritage, the culture and overall ambiance of a town or destination far quicker than if you tried to do it all alone.
You’ll likely save money too since they help you to avoid scammy or extortionate things.
Seeking out and heeding advice is never a bad idea period.
And this certainly goes for expat living.
Do your research
Most fundamentally, and frankly sums up ALL the other points is, do your research.
Be that your own, or heeding advice from friends, family and other expats.
You will never not benefit from learning and gaining knowledge into where it is you want to move, why you want to move, or how you plan to do so.
Sure, travelling regularly to new places will be a blast.
But that itself, is not enough to justify becoming an expat.
Indeed, expat life is MUCH different to being a tourist or even a nomad.
You’re moving abroad, usually alone, for an unspecified, but ironically, usually very specific reason making it a proper life commitment.
You need a clear strategy. A clear goal in mind.
For me, when l was planning to move and live abroad, it was because it was something l had ALWAYS intended to do.
As some of my frequent readers will know, I have grown up among quite a nomadic, transient family and that ingrained in me early on, a desire to live in other parts of the world, because well why not!
Life is too short to spend it all in one place.
And so, l knew early on l wanted to live abroad, which over time became clearer as l decided studying abroad would be an ideal way to do so.
Again, for me, living abroad cam about easier since l also love international relations, geography and other subjects which effectively force you to live abroad.
(You can’t an expert in international relations if you never live internationally…)
And that is without considering:
- What type of visa you will need – bureaucracy may blow, but so will being deported.
- Considering accommodation and personal expenses – these will vary a lot especially when taking new jobs.
- Looking at what form of insurance or banking will be necessary – sadly expat or not there somethings we have to deal with anywhere.
Its as simple as drawing up a list.
Relevant to where you plan to move to, how you plan to finance yourself while there, how much it will cost and other details respective to that specific destination.
But trust me that expat life is SO worth it!
Takeaways – be prepared and enjoy the expat life
See? The idea of living abroad needn’t be scary.
The moral of this post is to be prepared.
To do your research, reach out to existing expats, build connections, and ensure you have a solid, long-term direction.
- Its easy to start, but how do you plan to finish?
By that l mean, the enthusiasm and excitement of living abroad will make it easy to get started. But how do you then keep that up once you’re there?
Once you settle into a routine.
Need a reason to go? Read these motivational quotes.
That’s why having a plan, and being informed, are so crucially.
Expat life and expat living are some of the best decisions, most defining choices people can ever make!
I am SO GLAD l did and wouldn’t ever swap it for anything!
The experiences l have had, the people l have met, the memories l have and am continually building, its all so indescribable.
So, get out there and experience the expat life for yourself.
Have you been considering expat living? Got your sights on moving abroad?
Leave me a comment below.