Nothing worth doing is ever easy and I remind myself of that every time things get a little hairy around here. And while I more or less have a handle on things now, that wasn’t always the case. Life as an expat is one that will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced and will challenge you, make you laugh and cry and even have you questioning things you believe in from time to time. Everyone knows that moving abroad isn’t a cake walk on the easiest of days.
But what are two facts about expat life that no one is talking about? Let me take the liberty of telling you.
Nestled in between moments of feeling on top of things, speaking French fabulously and feeling like you’ve got the whole expat life thing down, you’ll have moments where you just want to go run and hide. And that’s the truth. So here’s fact #1.
You make a fool out of yourself every day. All the time. To varying extents. And that’s totally OK.
The frequency and severity of your foolery probably lessens over time, but you’ll still have little moments where you mess up.
Foot in mouth. That stays there. Even if your new country speaks the same language, there are nuances that outsiders might never get. And if it’s totally foreign to you, well let the daily faux pas begin. From language errors to cultural missteps, you’ll mess up. Just accept it. Some of mine in recent memory? Well, this post on major mess-ups in French. And maybe that time I tried to hug my father-in-law (no you just do bisous, don’t hug a French person). Oh, and the mistake of engaging in conversation that’s too familiar with acquaintances (I thought asking about someone’s vacation with follow up questions was normal and polite). And the list goes on…
Some people take themselves really seriously and only like to share the positive moments that paint them in the best of lights. But that’s definitely not me. So if you’re an expat, let’s get one thing straight — you make a fool out of yourself. I just like to talk about it. 😉
And that brings me to my second extremely true fact about expat life.
If you’re making a fool out of yourself and you’re still here, it means:
You have some major guts.
You’ve got balls. So, congrats. To leave what’s comfortable, what you’ve known for your whole life, and embark on a completely new path (albeit temporary for some) requires conviction. Bravery. Being one with your decisions. And generally someone who kicks major ass at life. Bravo! Remind yourself of this. And do it often.
Oh, and please don’t be modest and say that your school or job arranged everything or this or that. Or you already speak the language so it’s easier for you. Or that you’re going with a partner. Shut up. Regardless of how you got there or how long you’re staying, it takes courage to take the first step and JUST DO IT. So congrats on making a change in your life that 99% (don’t quote me on that stat) of those around you will never be able to make.
Let me be the one to tell you that your decision to just leave everything you once knew to embark on this expat experience is probably the best decision you’ve ever made (even if it doesn’t always feel that way).
You’re completely allowed to have good days and bad days. You’re allowed to get frustrated and to cry. You’re allowed to feel homesick and to be lonely. But you also are allowed to rejoice in the little things that are commonplace to everyone else. You’re allowed to be blown away by the new culture, its people, the language and the little victories of daily life. Life as an expat is a big ball of every emotion packaged into one little overflowing box — that sometimes opens up at all the wrong times. Or all at once.
But sometimes you’re totally at peace with life abroad and the new normal you’ve created for yourself. And then those days start happening more and more. And that, my fellow expats, is something to be proud of.