Seven Unexpected Benefits Of Being An Expat

I have often been reluctant to speak about the benefits of the expat life because they seem so obvious.  Benefits of being an expat

Discovering a new culture, speaking another language, experiencing the wonder of iconic places brings you one step closer to embracing the reality and complexity of our world. A priceless gift toward living a full life.

Living abroad evokes the breeze of adventure, the sound of mystery, the myth (and the reality sometimes!) of a luxury life.

Beside those perks, here are some hidden benefits of living abroad

1. Getting to know your unique way of grieving

Every change brings with it some gains but inevitably some losses. Changing country is no exception.

Whether you long for the rain (in Dubai), a crusty baguette (pretty much everywhere outside of France) or sharing a meal with your friends, you’ll notice this heart twinge or – when it’s more serious – an acute feeling of sadness, guilt or anger.

When you move abroad, you experience different types of loss: definitive loss (like the loss of your car if you had to sell it) and ambiguous loss (like the loss of attending a family reunion). This is what I call expat grief because those losses aren’t linked to the death of a loved one.

Each loss – as small as it may be – needs to be grieved. This is the healthy process to avoid more complex reactions, sometimes decades after the loss. Both adults and children have to mourn their losses even if children don’t seem to be so much affected.

Each person grieves differently. So getting to know sooner rather than later how you process loss in a healthy way is extremely useful. You can then apply what you’ve learned about yourself to other life situations.

2. Stimulating your brain agility

Need to figure out how much costs this T-shirt? The price tag is in a different currency. You have to make a quick mental conversion.

Need to phone your parents or your brother back home? You have to make a quick appraisal of the time difference.

Need to go out? You have to switch language to address people in the street.

Need to drive on the other side of the road? You have to be extra-focused because your brain can’t be on auto pilot.

Think about your children coming back from school after a full day of lessons in a foreign language. The mere effort to answer your question ‘How was your day?’ will trigger a headache!

You have to be much more active and alert than if you hadn’t changed environment.

Does this mean it helps you prevent an early onset of dementia? We’d love to believe it!

3. Having more expat friends!

You’ve decided to live abroad and you want to experience as much as possible the local culture, language and people.
You refrain from joining expat clubs or organisations from your own nationality because you want to blend in. But interestingly, the people you connect deepest with, are somehow people who are not from here.

Whether they’re from another region or state, coming from the countryside or from another city, or downright foreigners, you’re drawn to those people who also have an experience of being uprooted.

Breaking into another culture at the deepest levels, understanding its sense of humour, being able to grasp the innuendos, puns and wordplay takes years, even decades. If it’s at all possible.

So even if you have no idea about the beliefs, language or customs of another expat who’s living in your host country, you may relate much more to this person because you are both far away from your family, struggling with the local language, meeting the same restrictions to find work and lacking network.

Chances are, you’ll end up having more ‘foreign’ friends.

4. Becoming more aware of what you, your home country, your culture are about

In leaving your home country, you not only get to see other ways of doing things but you also discover how others perceive your country and your culture.

Both sources of information enable you to extract yourself and take some distance from your country of origin. In taking a few steps back, a new picture of your home country and of your relationships (with your family, your friends back there) starts to emerge.

It’s like looking at yourself in a mirror. When you’re immersed in your home country, you have your nose glued to the glass. When you move abroad, you take a few steps back and you can see the bigger picture.

5. Shaping up a UNIQUE family culture – A Third Culture

Your expatriation story is unique. The countries you will be living in, the length of your stay, the way you’ll have experienced the local conditions, the relationships you make, the traditions you give up or decide to adopt: this set of circumstances will make you shape a unique family culture.

It’ll be different from the culture of your home country. It’ll be different from the culture(s) of your host country(ies) too. It’ll be a unique third culture. Isn’t it amazing?

6. Freeing yourself from expectations in your own society

If you’ve never changed surroundings since your childhood then people know where you went to school, the occupation of your parents, the social class you belong to. There are implicit and explicit expectations about the kind of studies you’re going to follow, the partner you’ll choose, the job you’ll take.

When you change country, nobody knows who you are, where you come from or what your family heritage is. Norms and customs are different. School systems can hardly be compared.

Let’s take a simple example : your parents’ expectations about your children’s academic performance.

Had you remained in the same country and – even more – in the same town as your parents, your children would have regular contacts with their grandparents and get frequent questions.

‘How well did you do at your maths test last week?’

Your dad would figure out quickly whether it was a success or not. And chances are, his judgement – positive or negative – would be quick to follow. ‘I thought you could do better. When I was young, we used to …’

And then turning to you: ‘Did you hear that the Jones put all their grandchildren in private schools? They really care about their education.’

You’d have felt the blow of a thinly veiled reproach. The Jones are close friends with your parents. They see each other frequently. Grandchildren are for sure a topic of conversation. Comparisons are made, judgements are expressed. You know that your parents would suffer from your choices that they consider reflecting on them and their ability to pass down their values, hence the pressure that is put on you and the grandchildren.

But this is now off the table: you’re living abroad!

Who knows how the school system works over there? The distance makes it difficult for anyone to relate, grandparents and friends included.

7. Opportunity to be born several times in your lifetime

Moving abroad means that you’ll get a new name.

Why?

Because nobody will be able to pronounce it exactly like at home. The tonal accent will be displaced or missing, the sounds will be distorted, the spelling will be changed.

Moreover, you’ll change surroundings and living conditions: climate, house, language.
This is typically what happens during the natural birthing process.

Living abroad is like being born anew!

When this change happens in adulthood, you have the unique opportunity to consciously experience it and to remember it.

Who ever thought they’d go through such a drastic new beginning?

Now over to you: what’s the hidden benefit you treasure in your expat adventure?

 

Credit music Free Music Archive credit pictures Depositphotos

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