Expat Life - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Expat life is vastly different from visiting somewhere as a tourist. Tourists enjoy the best of places but rarely experience the difficulties that expats face. Daily life, encountering and rising to the challenges, as well as enjoying the highlights of life overseas can be very rewarding, but it can take time.

The Good

And now for something completely different
Expats live in a different country from their country of origin. As such, those choosing to live as expats are often seeking something different. It may be different weather, a different language, or different food. It may be simply for the challenge of being outside their comfort zone. Whatever the reason, expats embrace change.

The Bahamas is very different from home in Europe

Learning about another part of the world
One of the largest changes to daily life is often caused when there is a difference of culture. Cultural difference can be enormous and sometimes challenging. However, I enjoy discovering and learning about the small cultural changes from place to place. When I lived in Turkey I quickly became used to the generosity of the people. Wherever you go, you are offered at least a drink. Should you call at someone’s house while they are eating you are offered some and they are very insistent. Growing up in the UK however, I would feel embarrassed if I interrupted someone’s meal. Funny the difference, isn’t it? 

Dinnertime in Turkey

Discovering new Brands and Products
It is not just cultural experiences that differ, but every new country brings new ‘stuff’. I love exploring local shops and supermarkets whenever I arrive somewhere new and trying to work out what is actually in the packets on the shelves before me. Everywhere I have been I have always fallen in love with something new. In France I love the salt with herbs mixed in. In Barbados it was Cadbury rum n raisin chocolate bars. In Turkey I became addicted to cherry juice. In Australia I have fallen for Milo, hard.

My Australian discovery - Milo. Hands off!

The Bad

Being sick in a foreign land
Being ill is never fun, especially, if like me, you get grumpy and would rather the world just left you alone to recover. Try being sick in another country where you don’t have all the over the counter remedies that you know and understand. I remember it being especially frightening in Turkey, where until I had learnt enough Turkish to understand it for myself, I simply had to trust people that whatever medicine I had been given in the pharmacy, was what I thought I had asked for.

Is this Turkish back street not the obvious place to look for a second hand fridge?

Confusing Labelling of similar products
Everyone has a few favourite recipes that they proudly make from time to time, or perhaps live off! But when you are somewhere other than where the recipe was devised, you cannot necessarily find all the exact ingredients. Take my recent attempt to make Chocolate Mousse, for example. I needed ‘thickened cream’ and bought something labelled ‘thickened cream’ in the Australian supermarket, only to find it to be the runniest and least whippable cream I have ever encountered. Whipping cream for over an hour, by hand with a fork? Very dull indeed.

Assuming your local geography is up to scratch, catching a bus in Barbados is pretty straight forward

Time Differences
Being an expat invariably means spending time apart from your family and friends. These days, with the development of new technologies such as Skype, this is nowhere near as difficult as previously. However, the time differences cannot be escaped. When I lived in the Bahamas by the time I got home from work and wanted to talk to a mate, Europe was asleep. Nowadays, living in Australia, I find that I have to be a night owl if I want to talk ‘live’ to friends, as Europe is still sleeping at lunchtime and most people are still at work when I am going to bed.

The Ugly
Not everyone chooses to live their life as an expat, but I do. Personally I love living overseas and getting to know and understand different cultures. The day I wake up unhappy with my life I will change it. I will not whinge about it. I love to embrace the different experiences of expat life and I don’t enjoy seeing expats resisting local norms and trying to make their new home like their old home with little or no sensitivity to local beliefs and culture. A classic example I have observed was some British people living in a tiny village in Turkey demanding that the volume of the call to prayer sounding from the mosque be turned down. I found that very embarrassing and felt tempted to ask them if perhaps Turkey was not the right country for them?

Village Mosque in Turkey

Expat life comes with many challenges but also brings a wealth of experiences that you couldn’t get any other way. I find it really interesting and rewarding. How about you?

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