Being an expat can be addictive. The excitement of living somewhere exotic, the adrenalin rush when you venture out alone for the first time, all help make the bungalow and white picket fence back home seem a little boring. There is no excitement in knowing everything. Life back home can be a little too predictable. Here are ten things you learn as an Expat:
1. How to make friends
The Expat Community is usually a very friendly bunch of people, all having a similar experience to you. They share similar interests, love exploring and especially love sharing the knowledge they've gained about your new city with you. Your fellow Expats will tell you about great restaurants that serve real food, where you can buy Marmite or some other favourite food from home, places you really need to see, etc. You get my drift. Your fellow Expats are a useful resource and within a very short while (like immediately) you will become a friend and be absorbed into the Expat Community. Back home you might live next door to someone for ten years and never say a word to them. But as an Expat, everybody who you can communicate with becomes a friend. Many of the friends you make as an Expat will become lifelong friends that you keep in touch with over the years, even when you move off to a different exotic location.
2. How to adapt
Adapt or Die is what comes to mind. You might have to change what you eat, what you wear, and bite your tongue about what you believe. Knocking the country that has taken you in temporarily is not a good move. You can knock it after you've left. Look on everything as an adventure and go with the flow. Having lived in many different countries as an Expat, I find that I can adapt very quickly. Remember that you are earning good money in your adopted country which is why you are there in the first place. You are earning far more than the average local. Try not to flaunt it.
3. How to keep in touch
As an Expat keeping in touch with everybody becomes of prime importance. All these people, even if they have moved on to other countries or gone back home, become your support network. Facebook in this regard is brilliant.
4. How to get around
You soon learn how to get from A to B. Google Maps on my phone is a Godsend. Whether it is on foot, by Metro, bus or taxi you will find a way to get around and explore. And this skill will help you survive when you visit other countries on holidays.
5. How to plan great holidays
At any gathering of Expats it won't be long before the subject of holidays comes up. Have you been to...? Expats know how to plan great holidays. Exploring your host country is only for weekends, longer holidays are for exploring other countries. And when people share what was great and what not to go and see, you assimilate all that info to create your own great holiday. Living back home you can't afford holidays that.
6. How to cope on your own
Expat living brings out your survival instincts. If you can't do something by yourself there is no Daddy or Mommy to step in, you have to use your words and ask if you need help. There will always be someone there who will help you when you ask. You might also have to become a creative thinker and work out solutions to problems by yourself. I've got through with Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. On rare occasions I might have had to go as far as having a Plan Z.
7. How much your family back home means to you
Absence makes your heart grow fonder. There are no truer words than that old adage. When you are away from your family you realise how much you love them and miss them. You treasure Skype conversations.
8. How to take risks
Living as an Expat is all about taking risks, leaving your comfort zone and trying new things. You mght be required to try strange foods, take new forms of transport, find your way home when you are hopelessly lost.
9. How to communicate with signs and grunts
Not everybody in the world can speak English. No matter how eloquent a speaker you might be, to a local it might sound like gibberish. But no matter, before you start picking up useful words and phrases in the local vernacular, you will quickly learn hand signals and gestures accompanied by grunts and sometimes even charades to demonstrate what you want and need.
10. How to live a great life
Expat life is great if you set it as a goal to make the most of the experience. Don't fight against things you don't understand or what seems cock-eyed to you. Go with the flow. Think of everything you do as a memory you are creating.
Cindy Vine currently lives and works in Kyiv, Ukraine. This is the 11th country she has lived and worked in. Her children view themselves as global citizens. Cindy Vine is the author of Not telling, Defective and CU@8, all available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the Apple iStore.