Credit: Maya The Explorer
When I tell most people I’m an expat, I get all sorts of strange looks. From people who aren’t quite sure what an expat is to those who think I’m on permanent vacation or retired. But in reality, expat life looks very different from even how I envisioned it.
You create your family
When I first moved overseas, I was completely alone. I didn’t know anyone where I was moving and had to start all over. But it was much easier than I anticipated. Everyone at my new job was so welcoming as they were in either the exact same situation as me, or had been just a few years ago. I quickly found that my friends became like family. I didn’t have to worry about where to spend Thanksgiving, where to watch the game or who to celebrate my birthday with. Everyone was so kind and inviting. I also learned that if I wasn’t getting invited then I needed to plan something and invite others. I’ve been blessed to attend weddings, celebrate the arrivals of babies and housewarmings or even workout with a group of people that have become like extended family. I also met my fiance while living as an expat. So while many can’t bear the idea of moving somewhere alone, for me it’s been a way to create and add to my family.
You are not the only Black person
While there may not be many other Black expats, we are out there and numbers are growing everyday. One of my biggest worries when moving abroad was where to get my hair done. Luckily, I’ve never had a problem finding someone. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find clubs with old school hip-hop nights or even better, supportive communities of black people who are also expats.
You live actually very normal, structured lives
Judging from my Instagram page you would think I’m on a permanent vacation. But I actually have the most structured schedule imaginable. I’m at the gym by 6 a.m., at work until 5 or 6 p.m., in bed by 9 p.m. and Netflix and chill most weekends. I’m in a city with a fantastic gastronomy scene and bars galore if I want to take advantage of them, but the city literally becomes home and you can sink into a comfortable schedule. Of course I take pretty adventurous and sometimes extravagant vacations three months out of the year and for long weekends, but that is actually the exception. The routine, though, is beautiful. You get to know a city as only a resident could. The timings of the city, it’s rhythm, the way it flows; it’s something you can only learn from really calling a place home.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
Believe it or not, I see my family more as an expat than I did living on the other side of the country. Everyone in my immediate family has been to visit me, and some extended family and friends have come as well. I also value my time with my family way more. I’ve learned that I have to take advantage of the time I have with them and try to make it as meaningful as possible. I’ve also been able to share my love for travel with them and have been able to have some awesome travel experiences with my family. I’ve exposed them to places like Myanmar, Bali, Thailand and Panama in addition to my expat homes of Singapore and the Philippines.
You are in better living conditions than your home country
I honestly didn’t know what to expect for my living conditions when I first moved abroad. I mean, I was moving to a 3rd world country after all. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my new digs were not only nice, they were better than where I lived when in the United States. I am also able to splurge way more often should I choose to. Brunch, massages, mani pedis, gold class movies, a maid. I didn’t even know what prosecco was until I moved abroad. Seriously. Nor did I go to brunch for literally half the day or have someone to help me out around the house. Even now when some people ask me where I live or what I do, they assume that I’m in some sort of hardship post or working for almost nothing. And while that is certainly admirable, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid well for what you love to do either.
It completely changes your thinking
When I first moved abroad, I somewhat thought I’d try it for a couple of years and get it out of my system then move back home. Well for many there is no going back. Not because you can’t but because for many, you won’t want to. Your thinking and the way you see the world may start to change. I’ve always been an avid traveler, but living overseas shows you how much more of the world there is to see and know. It’s humbling. It has also changed my thinking on things like poverty. I grew up poor in the United States. And while it certainly wasn’t easy, it’s a walk in the park compared to some places. It’s made me grateful for what I have. I have come to feel grateful for even something as simple as an American passport, or the ability to move freely and see the world.
For anyone out there interested in becoming an expat, I highly recommend it. If you love to travel and explore new cultures, there is no better experience. It may look different depending on where you move, or your line of work, but it’s the best way to really get to know a place and its people.
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