Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The bright side of the expat life

Basel, 6 weeks to go!

Two days ago I was at a great birthday party of a lovely friend of mine. It was a casino themed evening with black tie dress code and because we would play a mistery role game we have to dress accordingly to our character. I will not bore you with the details but it was so much fun - just for the record, I played a French jewellery designer and got proposed by an English Lord. You get the picture! I had never played such a game before and it was a really entertaining way to get know all the new faces around. I've always found it really interesting to meet people from all over the world and that's one of the perks of being an expat, you're usually surrounded by more people from many different backgrounds and nationalities than you normally would if you stuck to your homeplace and your known and trusted circle of friends.

After giving some thought to this and other beautiful facts of the expat life I decided to share with you what, in my humble opinion, makes the expat life so enjoyable. Some of my dear readers are expats as well, so I'm sure that you'll agree on most of this and probably could add some extra points - after all, each person is unique and we all value things in a different way. And for all of you still living in your home country, well, this is an ever-changing world and should you ever be given the opportunity to spend some time abroad, then you can already read about some of the advantages of moving abroad.

Being an expat opens your mind: you're suddenly surrounded by so many unfamiliar sights, everything is new and you have to somehow adapt to all the newness that this still strange country is constantly throwing at you. The good thing about this is that you'll learn a LOT! You'll meet many new people with different mindsets, you'll be confronted with customs and food which might look totally weird at first, you might even have to learn a foreign language. It can be a tiring and at some stages depressing process, but it'll teach more than any formal education ever could. It won't necessary make you a better person but you'll probably be more curious and understanding about the world we live in.

Being an expat broadens your horizons: back at home, we all take many things for granted. Time goes by in the same fashion, day after day, you know when and where to catch up with your family and friends and life usually becomes a comfortable routine to stick to. However, when you move abroad nothing is predictable anymore - at least while you're still adapting. Life is suddenly a very exciting adventure with many new things to do and places to explore and as a result you'll be more eager to get out of your comfort zone and give a try at things you might have never considered before. Like hiking and peanut butter, guilty for that!

Being an expat makes you more aware of your own culture: talking about taking things for granted, it is also the case that too many times we don't know or appreciate our own culture enough. Too often we understimate the traditions and special features which make our culture unique. But when you're facing many cultural differences on a daily basis, whether subtle or not, and start learning about the culture of your host country your eyes suddenly open. You'll see your own culture in a new light and become aware of the rich cultural heritage you carry with you. You'll probably cherish your culture more from then on and you'll want to share it with the world.

Being an expat improves your career chances: if you're abroad because of work, then this is clear - you wouldn't have moved if that wasn't a better position. But no matter what reason takes you abroad, you can always make it work your way. In this globalizing world experience abroad, flexibility and tenacity are highly regarded by employers and as an expat (or former expat) you already bring those traits with you. It may also be the case that you might be more willing to relocate or travel frequently, which are also constant aspects of the 21st century career world. Besides, you might have the chance to learn some new skills or a foreign language, never pass on those opportunities, as they'll enhance your cv and make it outstand from the rest. When I did my study exchange in Belgium I learnt Dutch just for fun without realizing that it might be useful in the future. Little did I know that I would end up in the Netherlands and knowing Dutch would be key to land a job in many a Dutch company.

Being an expat makes you a citizen of the world: you realize that nationalities do not define people. Everyone is different and nowadays most countries are a cultural melting pot with people from many different countries and regions building a future together. You also notice how beautiful this planet Earth is, how diverse nature can be and how many architectural and natural wonders can be found spread around the globe - and back at home, as well. You learn that, no matter where you are, there is always kindness and beauty to be found and that tomorrow might be there but it is today that you must enjoy.

When it comes to me I can tell you that I enjoy life more since I live the expat life. I find joy in simple moments I neglected before, I appreaciate natural wonders in a way I never did, I travel more and meet many interesting people and I get to experience more enriching moments than before. I've also learn to let go of material things, which can be a burden when moving frequently, and I focus on the things that really matter in life: family, friends and happiness - even though I love shopping for clothes way too much! However, not all things look rosy down the expat lane. There will be low moments too but the good moments usually outnumber the bad ones. I'll be back to the odds of the expat life in a future post; for now I will only add that the expat life is, most of the time, a good life.

I hope that you enjoy this post and find it somehow useful if you are ever to draw such a difficult decision as choosing to move abroad or not. Let me know what your favourite part of being abroad is.

Have a lovely day!


  1. ah! pensé que nos ibas a enseñar fotos de la fiesta; me he quedado con las ganas. Yo nunca he jugado a esto que dices pero seguro que es muy divertido. Bsinss, Irene:)

    1. Ohh, pues no saqué ni una sola foto. De hecho creo que hasta dejé la cámara en casa jejeje
      La próxima vez será :)

  2. I extremely love this post. It's one of those, I'd love to read again and again, savoring every word while I drink a cup of coffee or tea. That was a fun dress up party, very very creative and interesting! I have grown so much since I moved to another country, living alone that first year, it was the toughest moment yet the most memorable one how I got acquainted with the word - Independence, total freedom that started in little things like learning how to cook, do the laundry and be on my own, making decisions and the roughest one was managing how to take care of ourselves when we're sick. Eventually we meet friends that soon will become the closest to family, knowing that our real family is miles and miles away. Have a nice day to you Irene XX

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed this post, Arni!
      I agree with you about independence and everything you have to learn to survive. And being alone can be a disadvantage as well. I've been really lucky until now 'cos everytime I've had a problem in my appartment my boyfriend was here visiting me - and we've had two leakeages and an almost burning microwave. I don't know if I would have coped alone hehe

  3. what a fabulous party Irene! it sounds AMAZING! so exquisite! it truly sounds like something the rich & famous would do. glad you enjoyed yourself and thanks for telling us. this post is so good. i've been contemplating about looking for a job internationally. i'm very open to it. sometimes it just takes that 1st step. still undecided. i've always been open to new things, cultures and people. being an expat really expands your knowledge on things. this was beautifully written.

    1. We are not rich and famous but we enjoyed it a lot :)
      I had no idea that you were considering an international career. All I can say is that if you want it go for it, otherwise you might end up wondering 'what if ...' for a long time. Having said that, it is a very personal decision that only you can take, as you know yourself and your circumstances better than anyone else. And I'm happy you enjoyed this post!

  4. Vaya juego mas chulo, me encantaria ver las fotos Irene!
    Y respecto al vivir en el extranjero te diré que es la mejor experiencia q cualquier persona puede tener en la vida, esa y viajar.
    Yo viví fuera de España un año, y volvería hacerlo sin duda si tuviera una buena oportunidad...aprendes un montón te haces independiente y valoras todo mucho más, estoy con Arni volvería a leer este post en un momento de ha encantado.
    Besote guapa, espero q hayas acabado bien los examenes

    1. jejeje pues como ya comenté arriba a Pilar, no tengo fotos, ni una sola! :(
      Me alegro de que te haya encantado el post y de que te identifiques con él. La verdad que se me pasó mencionar lo de la independencia pero me alegro de que lo nombreis y aporteis vuestras opiniones. Dónde estuviste en tu año fuera de España?


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