Perhaps my last post was not exactly overflowing with positivity. Dealing with Internet companies is never fun, and trying to sort it out had me frustrated for weeks.
Except by the end it wasn’t just about the Internet anymore. It was Norway’s fault we didn’t have Internet, if Norwegians weren’t so spoiled and lazy we wouldn’t have had any problems, and clearly we were being targeted because Norwegians hate foreigners.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m pretty sure at least some version of those thoughts crossed my mind last month. Just a few weeks living here and I had already become a bitter expat, oh no!
Ever since high school I’ve dreamed of moving abroad, but I was never sure where I actually wanted to call home. But when I decided to move to Norway my closest friends rolled their eyes, because of course I belong here. I love Norway! And it’s true, but that’s one of the reasons I had always been a little wary of actually living here.
You see, I didn’t want to ruin my love for Norway. Because that always seems to be what happens when I move to another country. It happened in Germany, again in Japan, and again in Thailand.
While I adored my year in Germany and some of my favorite people in the world are German, I still can’t help sighing loudly when I encounter Germans on my travels, whispering to Dan that, ugh, they are so German (as if that’s a bad thing?!). And after two difficult, but in many ways enchanting years in Japan, I struggle to come up with positive things to say about the country. And while I only had wonderful experiences living in Thailand, something about life as an expat there left me feeling icky.
It makes no sense, because as expats we willing choose to leave our home countries and live somewhere else, yet I can’t count the number of times I’ve hung out with other Americans abroad and ranted about our new home. Instead of simply accepting and appreciating a new way of life, I found myself endlessly comparing my new home to the my old one, usually exaggerating how much better or worse it was, depending on my mood.
^^The most angsty photo I could find
It’s a dangerous habit. Traveling and living abroad is a wonderful way to discover new ways of life and destroy prejudices and stereotypes, but it can also offer a tempting opportunity for comparison and judgment. It’s easier to simply appreciate the differences while visiting a place temporarily, but when you’re living there and those differences have a direct effect on your life, sometimes it’s hard not to start getting judgmental – the U.S. has better produce, Germany has better bread, Japan has better customer service, Norwegians are nicer, and so on.
I know it’s an unhealthy practice and hugely unhelpful when trying to settle down in a new country, so I want to stop. I try to refrain from complaining to Dan about “how they do it in Norway” and truly appreciate all the lovely things Norway has to offer (without hating on my old life back in the U.S.).
I don’t want to forget why I moved here, or lose sight of how lucky I am to have this opportunity. That’s why this morning I went back to the post I wrote explaining why I chose to move to Norway, to remind myself of a few things I had already started to forget.
Have you ever moved to a new country? I would love to hear your advice!
Katrina the Two Week Traveler says
I think it’s normal. Once the initial magic of your new home wears off and you have to deal with the hassles of trying to get things done in a new country with different languages and customs it becomes frustrating and you start comparing it to home because at least you know how to do things at home and why don’t they just do it the same way everywhere!
I agree it seems to be a normal progression for most expats!
It totally is and I agree with you. It happens to me in every country I attempt to stay longer in. I find that once I try to settle down, my travel bug kicks in, I start missing other countries and see everything in a bad light for one to two months. The third month, I meet a lot of new people and things start to change and then a month before I leave again, I suddenly cram all my exploring in and start to see the beauty of where I am and finally ‘get’ the lifestyle. And then the whole thing repeats when I land somewhere new. It’s all part of the culture shock life cycle, I guess.^^
Ahh I know that cycle well!
I haven’t been an expat for a long time yet, but I totally understand the incapacity of stop comparing countries. For what I have learned until now, I believe that when we move abroad we tend to imagine how our new life will be, and how better it might become, or at least that’s what happens to me. But when you start to actually live your normal life, the routine in that new country, it opens our eyes to reality. No, no country is perfect no matter what, you can’t stop comparing because they all have their pros and cons. We have to accept it and remember why we chose to move abroad, with that on mind, it doesn’t matter the differences. We were searching for something, we are finding it, and it is amazing just the way it is.
Yes, I moved to Germany five years ago and then I moved to Canada 3 years ago.
I felt the same for only one week when I moved to Germany, just simply because it was my first time living my hometown and family. But then after moving to Canada, while still I was in love with Germany, I became mad! it took me two years to completely accept the fact and said the same ” how lucky I am to have this opportunity”. Now I see how much this country has to offer in terms of nature, culture, friends, and food.
So everyday I remind myself, how lucky I am to have this opportunity despite the fact I do not know where i will settle.
Btw, lilyhammer is a great show, thanks for writing about it.
I think it’s definitely important to remember how lucky we are to have these opportunities (and also important to watch Lilyhammer – so glad you like it!)
hahahhaha i remember these days! norway frustrated the hell out of me just for lack of convenience (im not a patient person). what helped me was hanging out with people i didnt compare my new home to my old home with. a lot of times, this was norwegian people. my conversations were about makeup, travel, tv, etc… which was the same as my conversations w/ american friends. if i hung out with people i would not have normally hung out with stateside, our conversations were about weather and comparing the new to the old. i removed myself from every facebook group (most americans, brits and aussies in norway resented the place but were there to be w/ their spouse and kids). i just had to learn to hang out with those i would have been friends w/ anywhere, not just in a ‘foreign’ land i now called home.
while i dont ever wanna move back to norway, i cherish my time there. it is a great country filled with nice people. but i also surrounded myself with positive people, so that is why i look back on it and smile! just find your tribe there and all will be amazing! im quite introverted but have zero issue making friends and had a great group of people that made my time amazing! some norwegians, some aussies, some americans, etc. it was a great mix! if all else fails, ill come visit <3
It’s funny – besides Dan I only have one other non-Norwegian friend here and even with her I’ve been super careful not to get into too many expat/complaining conversations. It’s hard when I’m still in the initial stage of struggling to figure things out, but it seems like once I’m more settled and happier it will be easier to be more positive. It definitely helps that most people here seem so genuinely nice – though it was annoying when I wanted to yell at the Internet people on the phone and they were all total sweethearts, haha.
Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki says
This is something I still struggle with! I have to make sure not to compare countries, and on those bad days I have a list that I remind myself of the things I love about Iceland.
Those lists definitely help 🙂
I’ve stopped playing “the comparison game” about a year after I moved to France. There are things that I adore and there were (are) things that make me want to scream still. But I don’t. I just learned to accept that things here are done differently. And no matter what’s my attitude towards that – they will always be done this way.
Ranting, moaning, comparing – it’s just a waste of time. You can either accept it or move on (if you have the luxury of choosing another home base). I’ve been in search of “the perfect place to live” for so long….till I realized it just doesn’t exist. I mean that kind of a perfect, unicorn candyland with marshmallow skies where you like absolutely everything.
It’s all about your attitude. You can make that perfect place anywhere if you wish to 🙂
You’re so right – complaining is a total waste of time and won’t change anything! I think traveling a lot and seeing how different places are sort of made me feel like that unicorn candyland might exist, but of course it can’t really – no place is going to be perfect.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
I definitely think this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation: As travelers, people always talk about wanting to really get to know a place and have local experiences, but the reality is that no place is perfect and the longer you stay in one spot, the more the little (and sometimes big) issues become apparent and become harder to ignore. When you’re traveling, if a place begins to grate, you can always move on to somewhere new. Not so as an expat! After a while, the shiny new fun aspect of your adopted homeland begins to wear off, and we begin to fixate on all the things that drive us crazy as they move into the forefront. With time, I think we just accept them as part of the status quo and make our peace with them (or move on to the perpetually greener pastures of somewhere else…).
So true! Transitioning from being a nomad and always leaving a place before things start to get too real to actually living somewhere and sticking out through the bad is a tough one, but worth it in the end 🙂
Yes! I love this. I always end up comparing too, which makes it worse. I catch myself saying “In the US, XYZ would never happen”, “In the US, we do THAT like THIS”. Which is insane, because I chose NOT to live there!!
Maybe its one of those opportunities to learn to appreciate what you have, when you have it.
I left Thailand feeling icky too, moved to Brazil… and realized how much I actually love Thailand and can’t wait to move back in a year! Sometimes I think distance is needed to really appreciate something.
That’s so interesting! I came back to Thailand several times as well, usually thinking I was over it and then realizing I loved it whenever I returned. It’s a funny love-hate relationship I’ve had with it!
Van (@snowintromso) says
Don’t worry, these thoughts crossed my mind so many times even after a year of living in Norway! You’ll realize at one point that the good outweighs the bad before Norway throws another challenge in your face and you start questioning everything again, haha! The vicious circle that is expat life 😉
Haha I guess that’s the reality of actually living somewhere instead of just passing through!
I think once you’ve lived in a place, the rose tinted spectacles fall off. In some ways, I think you get a truer perspective of the place, not as a tourist or person passing-thru but as you belong. I lived in Japan for a couple of years and little things were annoying but now I look back on it with nostalgia. I’m now living in London and things about British life bother me, but if/when I get back to the USA I’m sure I’ll look back on these years with fondness too.
It is funny how we’ll romanticize places in afterthought, or even just when things are going better for us. It’s a good reminder to try to appreciate places more while we’re actually there!
Andy - Window Seat Preferred says
Ha! I loved this – very true. 5 years ago, I moved to Malaysia from Ireland (“recession bedamned”) and boy was I more than ready to leave again when time was up! Where am I now?! Ehm…back in Malaysia, having decided that Germany and Ireland (lived in both places in between, Ireland being home) weren’t actually that great after all!
Haha wow, that’s a crazy story! It’s good that you finally found your place 🙂
Lisa @ Lisa Living Well says
I can completely relate to your post. When I lived in southern Switzerland 10 years ago, I didn’t realize that what I was going through was pretty typical. I lived in the Italian region and the bureaucracy, lack of organization, corrupt professors at my university, cigarette smoking, etc. drove me insane! I wish I could go back and time and just enjoy the opportunity I was given.I know you do and I did too, but it was hard for me to let go at times and not want to scream at the bureaucratic nightmares I went through. Best of luck!
P.S. I have some Norwegian blood and I’d love to visit someday. I am convinced I’d love Scandinavia and have been told I will.
It seems so simple in theory, but sometimes is is really hard to let go of the things driving you crazy! You should definitely come over and explore some of your Norwegian heritage though.
Its all in the attitude, we have lived in the Philippines for the last 3 and a half years and you soon come to realize the differences in cultures is what attracts you to travel and live in a foreign country. Comparing is an exercise in futility as it was liked that before you got here and it will be like that for a long time after you leave. I often mix with Expats who have not got their head around this and it drives them crazy and ruins their experience.
The secret to expat living is to have a very open mind, be patient and embrace every opportunity that presents itself.
I went home to Australia last Christmas and I felt like I was out of place, that’s when I realized I have most probably become an expat for life.
It is sad when you see other expats who have just dug themselves into a bitter rut, which is why I’m so determined to stay openminded and positive here!
Mary B says
I was terrible about this when I lived in Honduras for 2 years! The whole reason I wanted to move abroad was because every day is an adventure in a new place/culture – you have to figure out how to buy tomatoes at the market, and how to pay your electric bill – in a whole new language! But by the end I realized all I was doing was fuming about how inefficient it was that I had to go wait in line at the bank to pay my electric bill, or that the market ONLY had tomatoes. I was a very bitter expat, which is how I knew it was time for me to go home for awhile! As soon as I got home I remembered all the things I loved about living there (which makes me sad that I didn’t appreciate them as much as I should’ve when I was there).
I’m traveling again and trying to be more aware this time about my complaints and my patience level in a new place 🙂
Sometimes leaving for a bit and getting some perspective is all you need. I’m flying back to the U.S. for a week now, so I think I’ll be very happy when I return to Norway!
Ashlea @ A Globe Well Travelled says
Really interesting post, Silvia – I just moved to USA and can totally relate. On my previous visits I’ve always compared USA to ‘how things are back in Australia’ but this time (my 5th and more permanent visit!) I’m making a conscious effort not to do that. It’s hard, because I think it just comes naturally to us travellers to make comparisons between countries, but hopefully with a bit of time we’ll get used to our new situation. Looking forward to seeing an update on this from you down the track!
The Dutch countryside says
I think it is normal in the begging because you’re used to your own culture, but then you need to stop thinking about your own culture and explore the differences in, for example, Norway. They’re not strange, almost no one is, its just they have a completely different mindset, culture and people aren’t like in the states.
It’s true, and sort of funny that I’m writing this as an “expat” because since my mother is Norwegian the culture is actually incredibly familiar to me, so I shouldn’t be struggling, haha.
I can totally relate!
Glad I’m not just being crazy 🙂
Preach sister! It’s so hard not to constantly compaire and get angry and frustrated at the new way things work. I’ve had some rather intense feedback about how bitter and angry I am at my expat life….but I really don’t feel that way! We all just get stuck on the bad and want to share that which makes things look a bit one-sided. I understand completely.
It’s seriously hard to keep from being bitter sometimes!
I haven’t ever lived abroad, but I totally understand how these kinds of feelings can appear. I’m one of those people who really builds things up in my head, and a lot of times the excitement I have before something happens leads to a bit of a let-down once the novelty fades. But on the bright side, it seems like you do live in a pretty great place and have a lot to love about your new home! I’m particularly envious of point number two on your list…American politics, unfortunately, do not bring me the same joy…especially living in Texas. I’ll just leave it at that haha.
Haha yeah, I’m so glad not to be in the U.S. for the election next year because… I just can’t, haha. Norway is pretty awesome, which is a reason I’m trying extra hard not to fall into that old expat trap – though really it should be easier, especially considering I’m not even technically an expat.
I’ve been living in Australia nearly 10 years now (originally from the States.)
When I first moved here, it was with my Australian partner, and our entire social circle was Australian. I didn’t know many other expats.
I think that spending almost all my time with other locals really helped. I think your focus follows what you talk about most and hanging out with locals meant the conversation was more ‘normal’ and less expat focused.
These days I’m living in a new city (Brisbane), with my English fiancee, and strangely most of my friends here are Italian. I DEFINITELY notice how different the conversations are when there is a group of expats. (It’s funny because I’ve been here so long – and love it here – so I’m usually the defensive Aussie in the group!)
So my best advice would be to try and expand your social circle to include as many locals as possible and to focus conversation on normal topics – your hobbies, sports, whatever – instead of talking about the expat experience. And don’t beat yourself up for complaining a bit! 🙂
It’s funny – besides my boyfriend I only have one expat friend, and even with her I’m really wary off having any “expat” conversations. I think it will definitely be easier to adjust to life here than, say, Thailand where most of my friends were other foreigners. Especially since technically I’m Norwegian anyway, ha.
I think you’re completely normal. Excessive complaining isn’t good though, but I think the fact that you recognize this about yourself is a good thing. When I was an expat I hated when everyone was so negative about everything all the time. These people wouldn’t even bother to learn the language or communicate with locals, much less be friends with them. They wanted to live in their little “American bubble.” And THAT’S what I had the most issues with. Then why even live overseas? I find the same true of some of my friends from overseas who now live in the US and “hate” everything about the US…
It’s good to find balance and realize when the good outweighs the bad.
I’ve lived in 5 countries now. The UK (where I’m from), Korea (twice!), Venezuela, China and now the USA. Some have been easier than others. I’m actually finding it weird being in the US right now. Even though I love living in California there are some things that are really annoying me. I think it’s worse because I didn’t expect that- I expected differences and annoyances in Asia because it’s Asia- it’s so different to the UK. But I think because I did not expect anything to be different in the US (even tough I had been here a bunch of times before and even worked for a summer) the minor differences seem magnified. Stupid things like banking systems being a bit different, not being able to walk everywhere, other people not taking all their vacation days (I mean why???) and not have a washing machine in our rented apartment (I have never not had a washing machine in a rented apartment, even as a student agh!) drive me nuts haha! And they are such small things it’s so silly and kind of selfish- like half the world doesn’t have a washing machine or bank account- but I expected more from the USA haha! But then I do some paddle boarding, go to the beach etc and I remember that it’s awesome living here! So I guess my advice is- we just have to get through the annoyances (hard though!) and enjoy all the other amazing things in our new homes.
I’ve lived in Spain for 7 years now, and everywhere I’ve lived here has been like a different country within Spain. Some I’ve liked better than others. I would love the chance to travel to Norway, and I hope you continue seeing the good things. There’s good and bad about every place. Enjoy your new adventure there!
Hmm, I’m trying to think whether I’ve experienced this or not! I’ve certainly whinged about the way things are done in the countries I’ve lived in (namely Thailand and Colombia) but I don’t recall so much comparing life in one country to life in another. I just grew frustrated with certain things (like in Thailand how farang English teachers never so much as had a say in what color the damn balloons were when planning events). I can’t say living in either place made me stop loving them, it just made me want to…never live there again hahaha.
Hahaha yeah I’m trying to avoid that feeling in Norway, though I guess it really just comes down to whether the country is really a good fit for me or not (luckily I think it is!).
Victoria@ The British Berliner says
It is a normal phenomenon I’m afraid and we all whinge and whine every now and then, but I guess we secretly love where we, as expats, decide to live. After all, we do have a choice and we choose NOT to return to our home countries LOL!
p.s. I’ve lived in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and now I live in Germany. I still rather like it LOL!
So true! I have definitely decided not to return to my home country lol.
Just came across your blog! I thought I’d add my two cents from being someone who currently lives in her home country (Canada), but used to be an expat and will probably be one again in the future.
The office I work in is FULL of expats who all love comparing wherever they’re from to where they are now. And there aren’t many locals around so it doesn’t matter much, but I have to say that as a local I can’t help but feel defensive of where I’m from and, unfortunately, find that I actually like the people less because they do it… Didn’t they move to a new country to experience new things?! It seems like everything is a competition for what place is better at *insert random thing here*.
It just makes me realize that whenever I leave the country again, I don’t want to be that person; I would never want anyone to be offended or think less of me because of my complaining. I’m sure I’ve done it in the past, but hope to make a bigger effort in the future!
(P.S. my boyfriend is an expat and rarely make comparisons or generalizations about where he’s from or where we live, so I know it is possible! haha)
That’s nice to hear that you’re boyfriend has avoided the bitterness! I’m feeling optimistic about my situation in Norway too – I haven’t compared too much, though it is easier since Norway was sort of my half-home already!
Mirøslav Hristøff says
You post is coming right on time. I haven’t lived in other countries but I have lived in five different cities and towns in my country and every time I moved to a new place I was doing the same thing too. Comparing and judging. And a few weeks ago I realized the same thing you write about in your post. I can’t do it anymore. Doesn’t make sense for me. Now I can appreciate the real positives of the place where I’m living. And my life became a little bit more easy without judging and comparing.
It really is so much easier when I tell myself to stop comparing places – now I feel like I can just enjoy life in Norway.
Sunny London says
What a refreshing post! In that, I mean it’s refreshing to see that I’m not the only one who feels like this on occasion. I’ve lived as an American expat in London for several years and am married to a Londoner. More and more I find myself identifying things in America that I miss and appreciate. While I love living in London, there are some aspects that are just tough. Having a strong group of American blogger friends helps, and I frequently arrange meetups with them. I also write often about the expat experience on my blog. Glad I discovered yours!
It is so comforting having the blogging community for support/reassurance about expat life! And I’m happy to get to add your blog to that 🙂
I can absolutely relate to your feelings, Silvia! I’m from Germany, but spent the past 10 years in the US. The first 5 in San Diego and the past 5 in San Antonio. My love for the US radically declined after moving to Texas and I’ve been hatching a plan to leave pretty much since day 5 of being here. It made sense to stay for many reasons, but now we (husband and I) accomplished our goals and next spring we are moving to Munich. I’m so excited to go home, be close to family and surrounded by nature that takes my breath away. I’m also looking forward to getting away from all this wasteful consumerism and the pull-your-hair-out politics. But I’m also a bit anxious to return home. So many things have changed in the past 10 years and I think I might always be the one, that doesn’t quite fit in. It’s yet to be seen, if that is a good thing or not 😕
It’s funny, when I wrote this I wasn’t sure if I should publish it because people might not relate, but it looks like so many people do! It sounds like an exciting move you have ahead of you. My parents did the opposite move – after 7 years in Tübingen they moved to Texas (my mom’s first time in the U.S.) and really hated it!
I´m from Malaysia but have been living in Peru for almost 9 years. The first couple of years was hard and I would compare and complain, but only via some occasional blog posts or Skyping with my sister back home. Reason being, there´re less than 30 fellow expats in all of Peru. My folks have asked me to go back but I´m actually quite disconnected from my old friends, unfortunately. There is a “reverse culture shock” for expats going back to their country of origin and I´m not sure that I´d be ready to deal with that. Anyhow, there are positive things and some things that still irk me about being here, but right now I prefer staying.
I liked reading your blog, only stumbled upon it today via Pinterest. 🙂
I definitely know the feeling of reverse culture shock – it can be so disconcerting after you’ve been struggling with culture shock from abroad! I’m glad you found my blog and are enjoying it 🙂
That’s an interesting point of view! I’ve lived in England, Turkey and now Australia and I don’t think I ever that bitter expat syndrome you describe. I actually have it the other way against my home country…! When I describe people being “so French” is often in not such a positive way 😉
I’d often compare, point differences, but not complain too hard. Luckily, I’ve always been happy in my 3 adoptive countries 🙂
It sounds like you are very lucky to have found such good homes in your adoptive countries!
Two Small Potatoes says
I am SO terrible about this! We moved from the US to Switzerland 2 years ago. After about 6 months, we finally had things “figured out” and fell pretty much in love with life there: friends we made, the French language, and the outdoors. Oh My GOSH, the Alps! Yeah, I know, you live in Norway sooo… I know you’re probably not impressed. Haha! But after less than a year, my husband lost his job totally unexpectedly. Sob! We uprooted again and moved across the border to Germany (they’ll take anybody, even Americans – woot!). After 9 months, I’m not feelin’ it. I can’t seem to stop feeling like the culture just doesn’t jive with us, ya know? The crazy thing is I just want to travel ALL the time to EVERYwhere. In fact, maybe we’d like living in Norway… 😛 ~Carrie
Ughh right? It’s sort of ridiculous always wanting to move, but maybe you feel this way for a reason? Like, maybe you have to move to Norway! Haha
I’m from Czech Republic and so far I’ve only lived few years in England as an expat but somehow I can’t imagine this happening to me. I always come back here after few months being at home, and I still love pretty much everything about it, except the things that I never liked – like that the health care here is nowhere close to that in CR or that whenever dealing with something official, I have to make phonecalls and can’t use e-mails. I hate making calls in another language, I hate it even in my own.
So I am a very happy expat, very happy with my choice of country 8) Some of our reasons are the same, btw, like politics or beauty of the nature.
Norway is definitely tempting to me to try for a short while but I don’t know if I ever will. I am terrified of going to a country with such a different language where I’ll be totally dependent on my English. I don’t eat fish but the rough cold beauty of it as well as other similar countries is something I’ve always loved in pictures and I love like “Viking” music and stuff. Wish I had a friend over there so that I could come for few weeks to stay with someone who knows it already 😀 I’m too chicken to go by myself. But who knows, maybe one day. If you’re open to it, opportunities will come.
That’s such a good attitude! And it’s interesting how your expat experience has been different to mine. I also really hate making phone calls though – and I never answer the phone when an unknown number calls me, which is probably really bad haha.
Just sounds like regular American bitchiness.
I’m several years late to this blog, but I’ll be the voice of dissension among the comments. First, I don’t think that it is good to always complain and I agree that making the most of an experience should be high on the list. This is, however, the case, no matter where you are in life, even in your home country.
That said, I think that it is very unfair to assume that everyone who is complaining is doing it for relatively minor reasons, such as shops not being open.
One thing I dislike about these discussions is that it leaves very little room for different circumstances and places the burden all on the individual — it’s just “stop complaining! enjoy! appreciate the opportunity!” Of course one should take this advice, but we must remember that we are experiencing life events as we do at home + the difficulties of being out of our elements.
A relative died? Not only are your grieving, but you are far away from your family.
Need to work? Not only are you submitting applications and hoping for an interview, but all must be done in a new
employment system and sometimes in a non-native language (Yikes!).
Have a child, dealing with bullying at school? Not only are you fighting with school administration, but they may have
poor opinions of you given that you are “not one of them”.
My experience is that locals will rarely sympathize, unless they’ve done it themselves or have a unique experience. More on this later.*
My point is that a person’s negative experiences abroad can’t all be linked to their wants for a shop to be open, to be around other expats or their resistance to learn a language (let’s not forget that languages can take YEARS to learn and for those of you who have never lived in a country where the majority language is not your mother-tongue, this will be difficult for you understand.)
Just please try to think about why people are complaining and not necessarily just brush them off as a negative expat (or immigrant) and tell them to leave (some seriously cannot leave). Remember:
Some expats are working or going to school and trying to deal with bureaucratic nightmares.
Some expats have children and are trying to navigate a new country’s school system.
Some expats are retired and/or rich, and can spend their days at the beach.
Some expats are present in a country, only because their spouse is and not because they love the country.
Some expats suffer from mental illnesses and finding resources to help them may be very difficult.
Some expats are members of an ethnic, religious (and obviously national or sexual) minority and are not welcomed, discriminated against by the locals and the government.
In the end, it’s best to keep our complains in check and seek out positivity and help when we can. But at the same time, we must realize that some experiences are just HARD and no amount of living by the sea, positive thinking or eating pastries is going to make up for that.
* I also want to mention that I was an expat and now am an immigrant from the USA. One thing that bothers me about citizens of pretty much every country I’ve lived and traveled (including my own) in is that citizens often fail to see the richness that foreigners can bring to their country. I get the whole “it’s our country! assimilate!” — it’s true. However, assimilation should not be 100% on the foreigners, even if it’s mostly our job. Locals in general (and the government as a whole)
should work to be more welcoming — sharing their culture with us, rather than shunning us. This will make for a easier
transition, better experiences and also spread their culture globally. What I’m saying is, locals have a part
in this too. There is only soo much an expat or an immigrant can do alone.
Elizabeth Morrill says
I loved how honest this was, and I could totally relate. I’ve lived in five countries, and the grass is ALWAYS greener. As great as this lifestyle can be, living long-term anywhere eventually just becomes…life. And we can’t be 100% blissful about our adventures abroad, 100% of the time. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for the opportunity. I love living here in Guatemala, but the driving and the quality of the roads are so terrible that it seriously hampers our ability to get around. There are no sidewalks, so we’re limited in where we can go with a stroller. That doesn’t make me spoiled, that makes me a mom with two little kids who is tired of lugging a 30-lb toddler for miles every day. And expats are absolutely targeted whenever things go awry — so often we’re brushed off or judged when it’s honestly just a case of a) having a bad day; b) not understanding what’s going on due to language/culture; or c) being human. Being an expat doesn’t make us a saint. Thank you for this!
Nina | Lemons and Luggage says
Wow, I just came across this and absolutely love, love, love it. I thought I was alone. I thought I was weird for disliking pretty much everything about Greece after 5.5 years of living here. Seems like these things happen to people.
I think that there is always a risk that when you move to another country (willingly or not) that you either exaggerate the good or the bad aspects of that new country. I like your approach and that you don’t want to continue to complain, but I think that sometimes it’s necessary to leave. At least that’s how I feel about Greece right now. Because if I had to write a list about what I like about Greece there would only be the weather, and that can’t be enough.
At the same time, I struggle with the idea of moving back to Germany because I know I wasn’t happy there, and what makes me think I would be now?
Anyway, I know this post is four years old, but it really spoke to me. 🙂
I am currently living in my country of citizenship but have also lived as an expat in 3 other countries.
This blog very much explains why I love travelling. I can hop from flower to flower without facing anything “real”.
But, now I have to ask you why people refer to what weighs on us and drags us down as real? Travel experiences are very real. We are not imagining them!
As regards where we live, now back in Ireland for the last few years sometimes people ask me if it would not be better for me if I stayed in Germany. I tell them when it comes to burocracy, infra structure and some other things then Germany is not a good as you would think and Ireland is not as bad. What works is heaven and what doesn’t is hell in either country.
Being an expat will always give you an exotic identity but you will also have it harder than nationals when it comes to burocracy, language, how much people accept you(xanophobia does exist) and a few more…
I very much relate to this. We lived in Zambia and loved it. Then a couple years in, we had a negative experience and our frustration with that one part of our life started to seep into everything. Pretty soon I hated everything about living there. Now that we have been back in Canada for a few years, I miss our life in Zambia. I wish I hadn’t allowed my negative thoughts to rule my life and perception of Zambia. We are getting the itch to move abroad again and we are trying to prepare better so that we can take the bad with the good and not make judgements or decisions based on difficult things.