I always view the Expat lifestyle as two-pronged. There are benefits and disadvantages. And, over the years that I lived this type of lifestyle, I have learned to accept that it is hard to have it all. That no matter what I do or which path I take – setbacks, sacrifices, and disappointments are to be expected.
I started the Expat lifestyle in 2009. And 2017, is the year that I am about to take it one step higher – acquiring citizenship through naturalization. It is probably because of this new “life changing event” that I feel somehow reflective of what I experienced over the years that I lived the Expat lifestyle.
And because I am feeling nostalgic and “mushy” on this subject, allow me to indulge you with the things I felt I gained and lost over my Expat years!
Gained: New friends!
I am lucky that whenever I relocate to a new country – there is always somebody I know already living there. And because I already have a “starting point” when it comes to meeting people, it truly makes it easier for me to gain new friends!
Of course, I also make an additional effort to make new connections. Whether it is joining colleagues for a meal, enrolling in community-sponsored events, or attending parties – I always try to accommodate. I don’t consider myself a “social butterfly” but I also believe that “no man is an island”. And because I left my closest (and trusted) friends back in my home country, it never hurts to build new relationships when I relocated to a new one!
Lost: Time with families and friends (somehow)
Despite gaining new connections in my Expat country – I still miss my connections with the people I grew up with. And I don’t think that relationships like that, especially with my family, can be replaced by anything else!
I can’t count the moments in my life where I hoped I was home or that I can buy the next plane ticket to fly back. Whether it is to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary, helping my Mom take care of our Grandmother (who took care of us when we were little), or to offer my condolences to a close friend since High School who’s family member died – these are just a few moments in my life that I wish I was physically present instead of sending my regards through a phone call or instant message.
Gained: New perspective in life
I can’t remember myself being so “open-minded” with a lot of things before I became an Expat. It could’ve been because I grew older but to me, becoming exposed to other cultures (individuals) contributed to my new way of thinking.
For one, I used to have a very “short vision” of what I see myself as. I never saw the potential in myself when it comes to career (or career change). Or, my only metric for “success” is the amount of money I have in the bank.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still aware that money (or any form of financial stability) is important to living a successful (happy) life. But I don’t feel so pressured to acquire so much as I used to. In fact, I value experiences a lot more. And I can only regard my experiences as an Expat for that.
Lost: Childhood memories
I may have gained a different perspective in life (that I actually like) but sometimes, I feel sad thinking that I left a huge chunk of “who I am” back in my home country. Countless times I see Facebook friends posting nostalgia-inducing pictures from my childhood and it makes me a bit sad knowing that those things are far from me.
I actually left a drawer filled with memorabilia from my teenage and early adult years at my parents’ house. Letters from schoolmates, small trinkets, and a ticket from the first concert ticket I paid for – these are just some items I left behind back at home. I remember I used to open the drawer to scan at its contents and just laugh at some of the cringe-worthy things I read!