10 Things No One Tells You About Expat Life
1. You will find that home becomes a fuzzy concept rather than a place. Pieces of your heart are left in worlds along the way. You find places that resonate so strongly that they become part of you, yet home is no longer a place.
2. You will be standing in a store and a song from your home country will come on. (If you’re from the U.S. the chances of this happening are pretty high). The pang of homesicknesses will hit you so hard it will feel like emotional whiplash.
3. You will question what you believe about things a thousand times. Your mind will change and change back again until you settle into something like, “No place is perfect”. “Every country has good and bad”.
4. You’ll probably eat less. If you move to Europe especially. In Albania there are cafes every few steps. I’m not exaggerating. They don’t serve food, though-people sit enjoying espresso and water for hours, but snacking isn’t a big part of the culture here, so I find myself just drinking more throughout the day and waiting for the next meal to eat again. Food isn’t splashed in your face, like in the U.S. There are no drive-throughs, or commercials…. It’s just easier not to think about food so much here. But then you eat delicious, healthy, real food when it’s mealtime.
5. You will be so grateful for the tiniest act of kindness. The time the store clerk or waiter didn’t act rude or annoyed that you didn’t understand something, but was kind enough to help you. Or the time the moms at the birthday party brought you a drink too, and spoke English so you didn’t feel so awkward and left out. Those little things are everything and the kindness will mean so much to you that you could cry.
6. You will question how kind you’ve been to immigrants in your home country. You will see that even if you were kind, you surely could have done more, been more inclusive, more helpful. You’ll never, ever forget this lesson.
7. You’ll wish you’d tried harder to learn some of the language before you came.
8. Some days you’ll feel like life is a vacation and endlessly want to explore. Others you’ll feel lonely and mentally exhausted from having to try so hard to do basic things in a culture that’s not your own.
9. You’ll accept things about yourself that maybe you didn’t like before. Your likes, dislikes, feelings about things. You’ll realize maybe they aren’t based on where you’re from or where you live so much. Partly, yes, but…maybe they’re just. YOU. And you like what you like. And that’s okay.
10. You’ll become braver. Partly because you have to. (That comfort bubble you lived in before is no more. It’s been popped and you are left without its ephemeral illusion of safety) But you’ll also become braver because you choose to again and again.