The art of being an expat

“Art: skill or ability to do something” R.A.E.

As our bio says, we aren’t a traveling couple (although we would love to). We are a couple who lives with a few lugage with all the important things. We relocate frecuently: in the last four years we’ve lived in four different countries and cultures. It’s not much. We hope there are many more to come.Como dice nuestra presentación, nosotros no somos una pareja de viajeros (aunque nos encantaría). Somos una pareja que vive con maletas cargadas de todo lo importante. Cambiamos de residencia con frecuencia: en los últimos cuatro años hemos vivido en cuatro países y culturas diferentes. No es mucho. Esperamos que sean muchos más.

Many long-term travelers’ blogs tell you the pros and cons of the chosen life. We don’t call them that, just learnings, and this is a small list of what we’ve learnt along these years.

Your new life. You change places, everything is new: culture, languague, people, your home… But as the months go by (and this period shortens every time as you repeat the process) you find yourself in your routine as any other local. As you arrive you turn your automatic button of “looking for a job” (when one of the two doesn’t have a job), you discover that your certificates have many different functions in different countries and you have to learn them fast. If you don’t find a job that suits your knowledge you will find more hidden skills, and that is satisfaction.

The universal and local language. You learn that communication is mostly being interested. You learn the basic greetings to get by (at least at the beginning), but there is nothing that can’t be solved with a smile or a nice gesture. That is universal, but not always is the only thing you need. In which case you would learn a bit, very broken, language that in many cases you would not use again.

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A gastronomic experience. Our recommendation is always “try the local food”. Although this is something you must do, doesn’t mean that you want to repeat, may be because there is not much alternative, because you simply don’t like it or because of your budget. However, it is possible that you find something surprising and then you look for the recipe (as authentic as possible) and you will add it for ever into your daily menu. The best about this is that every time you serve that special dish you would be reminded of many memories and experiences and you would tell those stories again.


All kind of friends. The exhaltation of friendship would be a recurrent topic, even more if you find yourself with another fellow countrymen. But in time everything sets and it will determine which type of friends you’ve been. This is not a negative thing, on the contrary, it releases the preasure. There are friends for life, temporary friends, and then mates. The most important thing is that you don’t get overwhelmed by the differences, just enjoy each of them. Time will determine things, just learn to remember them with the same feeling you had when you met them.


The miracle of new technology. Many circumstances have be favour by technology and furthermore thanks to the internet. From family and friends relationships to be able to organize your next trip or to get presents for those memorable dates. Depending on your destination, you would stop giving much importance to the web, you won’t miss it all the time, but when you get some connection you would do your best to get up to speed with your friends.

It’s impossible to get to everything. Even new technologies can’t give you everything. It is not the warmth of a hug, it is not the face of a new niece or nephew, it’s not sharing your favorite dish at home, it is not going out with your friends to the beach/for a beer… And how much you miss that! In the end, that is the only thing that can make you question this type of life. But you also learn and every time you go back, you get the most of your time, you get the most of your people telling them everything and waiting for them to tell you everything (and it never seems enough).

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Your belongings. Although you try to make your home as homey as possible and to reflect yourself, the reality is that you reduce and reduce your belongings. You create a hierarchy of essentials and stick to it. We don’t mind leaving things behind and we always make sure that everything left behind has a second chance.

Not everything is to adapt. Adapting is not always easy. It is important to cope with your new place but let’s be real: not every corner of the world was meant for you. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you how wonderful it is the place you are living now, if you are not happy then there is no point. The best is to be aware of it, wrap your head around it and set a date to leave that place.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Following the thought above, your lack of adaptive skills will learn your inborn resources (they might take time to surface) or you will learn how others cope with the situation. Whatever it is, once you have released the cause of your pain (and without anyone trying to convince you of how wrong you are) you will learn the real motives of your unrest and you will avoid them for life.

Uncertainty is the only certain thing. When what takes you a different place are short-term contracts, you learn to enjoy uncertainty. Everything becomes an adventure and not knowing where you would be in four months would be a plus to guide you into discovering new corners of that city you are in at the moment.

It is not easy and it is not for everyone. This is not a magical recipe but our own learnings. Now is your turn, what have you learned?

 

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3 comments

  1. […] We’ve lived (together or just one of us) in England, Angola, Denmark, Malawi and Turkey, and we’ve learned to love this way of living. Our trips are always DIY, and since we stay in a country for a while we either explore the country […]

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