So, first of all, I got to admit I was born in East Germany and as soon as the wall fell, I moved to near Geneva and then spent my University in England. I travelled the world and then got a job in Germany, in Munich. I feel that I have lived my whole life abroad therefore consider myself an expat in Germany (and everywhere on the world anyway). Technically, I am an expat because the country of my birth does not exist anymore (and if you are seeing it a bit broader I am a re-pat). I have lived my whole life as an expat and I love it.
I will show you now the best advantages of being an expatriate and give you tips how to get the best out of YOUR expatriate experience.
That is one of the best things by far about living the life as an expat. You never get bored of a place and you always see new people. I could not imagine for the life of me to stay in one place all my life, or even inside one country. Yes, I would know all the things that are required to live in that place and I would have friends (possibly) and know where to get food, taxes etc... But wouldn't that be boring after a time? I think so; yes.
You get to live in a new country and get to sort out living in that country. Yes, it is one of the hardest things you can do, but it is ultimately rewarding to have finally mastered the new country.
And that is without taking into account the surrounding country side and the daytrips you can do from your new place. You have the whole country-side to explore and new stuff to see. AMAZING! Other people go and pay thousands for holidays in a foreign country and you get to enjoy it every day!
And then just think of the new culture. You get to experience a new culture, and not just a little bit like you do when on holidays but you get to experience it every day. You broaden your horizon!
Another big part of life as an expatriate is the chance to meet loads of new people. When you arrive at your new place and you have settled in then you will feel like you want to do something during your weekends and that you want to meet new people. That is normal and part of building up your social circle. And that is the problem.
As an outsider (to the local society), you will always have problems getting to know locals. There is something easy you can do though for meeting a new social circle. As explored in annother blog post, I would strongly advise to give up at first the thought of integrating yourself with the locals (please read "Why it is so hard to find friends as an expat and what to do against it!" in order to know more about it) and focus more on expats. Just join the local expatriate community, making sure that you are actually meeting up regulary with people from that community. I personally have had the best of experience possible with the network of International Friends, which enables the meeting up of expatriates in your city. You can download the app here:
Yes, for some people that may seem actually like a downside of living as an expatriates, but think about it... The language is an integral part of the culture you are trying to explore. So, if you want to explore the culture of your new homecountry and get the most of your time as an expatriate, then learn the language. It is hard work and will take up a lot of your free time but you will see how much friendlier the people will be if you make an effort of learning the new language.
Also think about what it does to your job perspective. You will be able to get more and better jobs if you speak the local languages. The journal The Economist has even calculated the return on investment that learning a new language brings to you over your lifetime. It is a staggering 67.000 $ on average, with German having the highest return on investment of 128. 000 $! So not only have you got the possibility to get the appreciation of the local but also an actual monetary return!
And then there is another thing we need to think about. Our children... We should give them all the possibilies possible to allow them to have a better life than us and one of these ways is to allow them to grow up in another country OR that we teach them the languages that we have learned abroad.
That is a pretty obvious one but something that should not be ignored about starting out as a new expat. You get to start in a new job, away from the restrictions of your old job and most likely away from the restrictions of the laws of your old country.
For example, if you are used to work in Marketing then you will have to get used to a completely new market, if you work in pharmaceuticals, you will have to get used to a new set of laws that govern what you do etc...
That advantage is a big one for a lot of people, however I personally do not find it that big. I am guessing because I have lived all my life abroad, I do not find the life of an expatriate difficult at all.
Since expatriates are by FAR the minority when compared to locals, a lot of employers see it as beneficial to have lived outside of the country of residence (ie to be an expat/having lived outside of your home country). Therefore, having lived as an expat increases your value to employers.
I can give you a direct example of this behaviour. I met an indian guy once who had studied in Japan (he had explained to me what happened that he studied there but it was long and convoluted and I will not replicate it here). He got to know the living and the working conditions inside Japans. Most importantly, he also learned how to deal with people from Japan (They are notoriously difficult for Westerners to deal with, as they have a very strong sense of . It served him absolute wonders in his job as project coordinator, where he was always working on studies with Japanese Sponsors, simply because it was easy for him to manage them.
Due to the fact that you are not stuck in the different routines anymore (see above points), you long to see more and explore more and be more active. Not only does that improve your health but it also improves your brain as it will constantly get new and changing inputs. A good way to satisfy this need to do stuff is to get a social circle and explore the country side with them, have new experiences, learn new languages etc...
International Friends is THE place where expatriates are meeting up to do fun activities so make sure you join them! You can either download the app above, or join the website. I would councel to download the app since you miss out on a lot of connecting with other expatriates if you do not do it.
As already explored beforehand, it brings a lot if you speak different languages. And there is no better time for learning a new language than to learn it when you are a kid. Children learn the languages in absolutely no time. Furthermore, there have been studies
Also I can hear now that there will be people arguing about it overtaxing children etc... Be sure though, it does not. Studies have shown that the children do not loose the ability to speak their primary language but rather gain the ability to speak a second language.
Especially in Western culture, we see a rise (again) of populism and rascism. In my view, it is a stupid and childish way of thinking, but then I have been in "foreign" cultures all my life and have lived in foreign countries. Normally those who have been in intense contact with other cultures (like living abroad), develop an unparalleled understanding of other cultures. And, with understanding comes acceptance. So, the best way to prevent your child from growing up into a rascist and/or nationalist is to raise him in a different country from his nationality.
In most cases, employers will offer you by themselves a higher salary than you could have in your home country in order to get you to come the new country. So not only have you got all the benefits of living abroad, the loss of routine etc... but you also get paid more in your new job!
As an expatriate, life can be very hard, especially at the start. However, with a couple of tricks you can make the best out of it and really profit from being an expatriate. The main advantages are that you get to see new things and experience a new culture, you get to learn a new language and you increase your value for your (future) employer. Furthermore, you get the benefit of improving your health and in generally becoming more active as you get out of your daily routines.
Another important point is that you can give your children the best in life by raising them bilingual (or even trilingual). It improves their development, their cognitive capabilities and (obviously) their ability to speak languages. It also allows them to develop a more tolerant mindset, plus will give them all of the advantages that you are enjoying as well.
Life as an expat is hard, but there are ways to enjoy it immensely.
Do you agree with me? Or do you see any other advantages of the life as an expat? Please write your suggestions in the comment field below!