Expat Life; What does it mean to be an expat?

According to Oxford Dictionaries the definition of expatriate in English is: “A person who lives outside their native country”. There are many reasons for leaving your native country: career opportunities, desire to travel, dreams of a better life, to follow your spouse, and many more.

Officially I am considered to fall under the “to follow a spouse or partner” category, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I do think that if I would not have know Ruben, there would have been a big chance that I would have lived abroad. But let’s not get sidetracked…

But what does it mean to me to be an expat? It means a lot of things… It means to be strong, as it’s hard to go out and meet new people, find a new job and figure out how to get around in a totally new city or even a different country. Besides that there is the language barrier that you have to get over, and then I have not even talked about the culture shock that you will face. Especially when you’re moving from a 1st world to a 3rd world country. When we moved from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City for instance; I was amazed how people could get around on their motorbikes, even with babies that were only a couple of days old. I thought this was so wrong, which good parent would allow their new born to be out and about on a motorbike, with the big danger of falling and the obvious bad air, not wearing a motorbike helmet and all. After I while it came to my senses that this was the only way to get around for many people. A car is expensive, and don’t even start talking about a taxi…

Beside the things you face in your new country, there are also the changes in your home country. Life doesn’t stand still just because you have left the country.
I remember feeling so stupid the first time I needed to use the new public transport card in Holland. I had the card, but I had no clue how to use it. So when I got into the bus in Amsterdam I got a scolding from the bus driver for being so stupid that I did not know how this system worked. And that it was very inconvenient that I wanted to pay with cash. As a Dutch person I should have known better… I almost wanted to shout at him saying that I had not lived in Holland for the past years, and thought the system was so stupid with the weirdest activation system (only possible at a train station, but how do you get there… by public transport with a card you can’t use) and top up points in the strangest places. Why didn’t they just copy the system from Singapore, which was so easy to use?! But obviously I kept my mouth shut and listened to his complains.

Obviously there are not only bad experiences of being an expat {if else who would ever be one?!}. In the past years I have been able to visit many new countries, such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and more. I have made many new friends, and was even so lucky to experience many weddings in the countries where we lived, with the highlight of a wedding in India, which was amazing. We have gotten to know many people around the world, and whenever we travel somewhere there is usually one or two people we can visit, and off course get the best tips of what to do and where to go. I would not have wanted to miss all of these experiences.

So moving abroad is not something for everyone, but it’s very rewarding as well and I am very happy to call myself an expat! How about you? Are you an expat? What does it mean to you being an expat? And if you’re not an expat, would you be able to be one?


4 thoughts on “Expat Life; What does it mean to be an expat?

  1. For me being an expat means constantly being a state of in-between. I don’t feel like I belong to my home country anymore; and I don’t really belong in Thailand either. This can be a lonely place to be, but there are other expat who feels the same way and you can find company. The expat perspective keeps you on your toes and more aware of culture – both your home country’s culture and that of the places you’ve lived in! 🙂

  2. When I first moved to another country I didn’t consider myself an expat because the move was only meant to be temporary – there’s something more permanent about the term ‘expat’ and it just makes me think of retiree’s… 2 years on and I most certainly am an expat myself, and my home country is becoming the foreign place to me now!

    • I have the same feeling when I’m back home that it starts to become the foreign place… I really need to adjust my mindset and think long and hard before I do specific things! lol

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