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10 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Be an Expat

Article Summary:

Becoming an expat is more than packing up your belongings and hopping on a plane. It’s also about diving into a new culture, feeling separate from that culture, and learning how to adjust. Here are ten reasons why it might not be such a good idea to become an expat.

Photo Credit: Tropical Daily

Original Article Text From Macro Mama:

10 Reasons Why Being an Expat is a Bad Idea

When we decided to become expats, I knew there were others like us out there – I just had to find them. Once I started looking, I was amazed at just how many people have chosen an expatriate lifestyle. So many people tell me that they wish they could move to another country; I want to share the stories of those who have made the choice. I hope that these stories might encourage others to take the plunge. Today’s guest post is from Giselle of Kids Yoga Stories. She is a Canadian expat who has lived and worked in Guatemala and Australia.

I left Canada with a bag of clothes, a teaching degree, and rose-colored glasses. I then lived and worked Guatemala and Australia, each for five years, and now, I live and work in America.

About comparing your birthplace to the country where you live, someone once said to me, “The similarities are superficial, and differences are fundamental.” I couldn’t agree more.

What have I learned after more than fifteen years of being an expat? It’s a bad idea!

1. You have to deal with what will seem like strange behavior. In Guatemala, my roommate and I used to keep a calendar to record the regular “random acts of bizarreness” we experienced. My favorite one was a pair of pants hanging from the top branch of a tree in our backyard. We were dumbfounded over how they got there. Perhaps they’d been thrown from an airplane? People do the strangest things, but at least at home, you’re used to it.

2. You have to cope with different food. I still don’t understand how Aussies can eat beets and carrots in their sandwiches. You have to be open to the weird and wonderful tastes in other countries. But you’ll probably miss your favorite native dishes.

3. You have to leave your close friends and family. I’ve been lucky to have my parents visit me for a few weeks at a time wherever I go, but that’s pretty much it. Depending where you choose to live, people might visit. Or they might not.

4. You might not know the language, and you will have trouble communicating with the locals. When I arrived in Guatemala City, the only Spanish I knew was, “Where’s the bathroom?” You have to be patient and give yourself time to learn the language. And you can’t expect to be understood even if you speak the language.

5. You have to accept that even if the locals speak your native tongue, you still won’t understand them. I’ll never forget when my Aussie roommate gave me the shopping list, and I stood in the fruit and veggie section trying to decipher the meaning of capsicums, coriander, rocket, and rock-melon. The Aussie slang can get your head spinning, too! And then there are local dialects…

6. You have to deal with a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. It took months for my husband and I to sift through the piles of administration paperwork required to become American residents. Also, my seven-year struggle to obtain my Australian citizenship was quite a feat. The expat paperwork is not for the faint-hearted.

7. You have to get used to different customs, religious views, political beliefs, and cultural values. When I started dating a Guatemalan, I had to quickly learn the appropriate “courting” behaviors. And I’ll never forget my Aussie husband leaning in to kiss the cheek of my shocked American friend upon first their meeting. You have to be okay with people disagreeing with you or confronting you daily.

8. Your behavior may make you an outsider for the entire time you live in another country. Guatemalans thought that I was weird because I’m a vegetarian. Australians laughed at my habit of leaving my shoes at the front door. Americans think I’m “nice.” You may never properly fit in.

9. Your appearance and accent may always mark you as a foreigner. The Canadian pronunciation of “out” and “about” curses me whenever I go—and also provides comic relief to many. Get used to locals asking you where you are from. Every. Single. Day.

10. You have to drop many of your own traditions, holidays, and favorite rituals. In Australia, I missed dressing up for Halloween. In Guatemala, I missed having the family together for Thanksgiving. In the United States, I finally get to watch hockey, but of course, the stations rarely play my Canadian team. You may not have access to the things that bring you joy and comfort.

Truthfully, being an expat is not a good idea.

So you may ask me, would I recommend it?


I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll have to write another article titled something like “The 100 Reasons Why Being an Expat is a Great Idea.” But that’s for another day.

If you’re thinking about going, do it. You’ll never look back.

Link to Original Article:

From Macro Mama

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