Before, I never really thought of myself of becoming an Expat. To travel and visit other places, Ok. But working and living abroad is a different story. An Expat is someone who lives in another country that is not your home country. Either for work or educational purposes, your life continues, it’s just that it is in another place. So basically, It is a big change. For someone who have never experienced leaving their own country, this idea seems appealing. Most of the time, others would regard you well because they find it different from ordinary. Little did they know that life abroad as an Expat could pose hurdles in your life, that you should overcome in order to become successful.
Being an Expat for the last 8 years of my life gives me enough reason to share my experience. Aside from the fact that this is my own side of story in internet then let me do so. So why being an Expat is hard? Here’s my thoughts ;
I don’t understand the Language
Ever been in a situation where you felt like your brain bleeds because you don’t know & haven’t got a clue of what that word means ? Or have you been asked to sign a document that has no translation?
Language barrier is far by the most difficult thing to overcome in the life of an Expat. Arabic language is not a typical language spoken so it’s difficult if you don’t know a single word. It could be a daunting experience to go into a supermarket or just being out and about if almost everything is written in Arabic. The worst part could be when you talk to a local who doesn’t speak English! At work it could also make you feel like an idiot . Imagine if all paperworks are in Arabic? I remember my earlier days working here that I could not explain what i wanted to say . Though my Bosses and colleagues knows English, it doesn’t mean that they really get what I meant . It always makes you feel an outsider once you cannot communicate effectively. If you wanted to become at ease in your move, it is always good to learn their language . You can try to learn an online course to let yourself familiarize with the language. It is for your own sanity. Google translate cannot always save your day.
It can be lonely.
Moving to another country means you leave your family and friends back home. Sure you can patch things up through the ever presence of internet & social meadia ,but its just not the same. Day to day life of an Expat could become a routinary and functional .You go to work & go home to rest . Depending on your lifestyle , you could face a slag in your social activities and you might find it difficult to engage in the things that you do before especially if your new country has limited resources for it. If you move to middle east that has restrictions on so many things, then you might end up lonely and bored. Making new friends could be difficult because of language barrier and difference in opinions.
Now that I have a child of my own i begin to appreciate more the fact that my own family being together in our Expat Life. I imagine the hardship and emotional struggle of separation of many Expats being away from their Spouses & children just because of the need to work overseas. I tell you, It can really be lonely.
The culture is different , so as the Rules .
In the middle east,you change the way you dress in modest way for respect of their culture. The working environment is different so as the government, Healthcare, Transportation and the overall social norms. Being in a sponsored residency makes you feel like you owe them your freedom. You cannot make immediate decisions for yourself without consulting your Sponsor first since they are in a legal way responsible for your stay. Most especially if it concerns your work or your residency status. No matter what you do, you will be regarded as a foreigner, an Expat. These are just some of the basic things that could be surprise to you when you moved. Although there are some things that you don’t understand why it is happening, or why things are not the same as you expected, you cannot do so much with it because it has been decided already even before you moved there and there’s not much you can do about it because, as i mentioned above, You are just an Expat. They make the Rules and you need to obey.Kuwait for example is a country who has no program for proper integration of Expats. You need to do the survival for yourself.
Your Life sort of Stand still
Moving to another country may signal personal growth for others . On the other hand, it could be preceived that your life sort of stand still. Your life is moving sideways but never moving forward. Yes, maybe you are earning much but growing as a person is another thing. Being able to adapt to your new surroundings is personal. It varies from person to person. Homesickness is real. It may come suddenly from the time you least expect it in some degree or another. Your lifestyle had major changes and this greatly affect the way you see things back home. Example, if you leave your family behind in your home country just like most of the OFW’s in Middle East, your life without them become monotonous. There is always the thought that you are missing something from the life that you left behind. Your relationship could suffer much if you don’t work hard on it. Now depending on the purpose of your move, then you can have back up plans. Most of Expats bring their family with them after settling in, others who cannot afford the cost of it just simply give in to the norms of being away from their loved ones.
Sometimes Fellow Expats sucks!
When you moved to another country, its very likely that you will be meeting fellow Expats,maybe in the same boat as you. They came from different parts, sometimes same as your country of origin. They are the ones who complains about everything and bitches out about the new country’s customs and its culture, the food, weather etc. , everyday.! This is from a personal experience and although i hate to say this, i just find it so annoying to see fellow Expats behaving like this. It makes me wonder why they come here in the first place. I mean, it is their own choice to be here. The worst part could be that its your own fellowmen who will pull you down. In Philippines,it is known as Crab Mentality. Sad to say that some Expats bring them along with them. You need to develop a tough skin in order to survive when you are surrounded with people like this, or better , remove those from your circle.
These are just few of the many things I have faced as an Expat . Many times i thought of giving up and i feel lost thinking if I’ve made a complete mistake of moving here. There come a point in time that i need to re assess my goals and reasoning why i have made this choice. On the other side, it have made me appreciate my home country even more and the things i have left behind . Being an Expat has a price, but its up to you to make it through the journey. I have made the decision to embrace the culture of this new country which has become my second home . I got married & had my first child here . I felt alone many times, i have missed being surrounded by old friends. All of these have made me realized that its your choices that define your destiny.
What about you, what is the biggest struggle you’ve faced as an Expat?
Thank you for stopping by and If you like this post then you might be interested to check out my post about Kuwait : from an Expat point of View for more up close & personal experience of my Expat Life in Kuwait.
Wishing you the best in your life as an Expat wherever you are.