The expats I speak to give me invaluable insights into getting to grips with living in a new country. This week I thought I’d ask some of them about the best things about moving abroad. What gives them the most pleasure, fulfillment, excitement and happiness? I have collated the results of my informal straw poll into the top ten best things about expat life. Here they are.
1. Exploring a new culture
It’s one thing going on holiday. But a long term stay in a new country gives expats the chance to live the dream, experiencing the culture first hand on an everyday basis. The people I spoke to have a wonderful time finding out about the history and culture of their new countries to a level of detail they would never have attempted without moving there.
2. Appreciating your family
There’s nothing like distance for getting things in perspective. Many of the expats I spoke to find they appreciate their families and friends much more having moved abroad. Although they miss their loved ones, home visits and relatives coming over for holidays mean more than they ever did ‘back home’.
3. New landscapes of all kinds
A new-found fascination with the beauty of the natural world was a common theme, with expats making the most of exotic, strange, weird and wonderful landscapes, especially when off the beaten tourist track. The same goes for flora and fauna, geology, geography, politics and the social landscape. Food for the brain!
4. Learning a new language
For most of us learning a new language as an adult is a real challenge. But when you are totally immersed in it day in, day out, it’s much easier to grasp the intricacies. Many of the people I spoke to found learning a new language one of the most pleasurably challenging things about moving to a new country.
By all accounts the food side of life delivers a lot of enjoyment. Exotic and exciting local and national dishes can take some getting used to but once your palate becomes familiar with new flavours and textures and mealtime habits a new country’s cuisine can provide endless gratification. Learning to cook local dishes is popular, as is entertaining new-found friends over tasty home-cooked dinners.
6. Meeting fascinating new people
Living abroad comes with all sorts of opportunities to meet people you would have never otherwise have the opportunity to encounter. The way we are brought up dictates the way we feel about the world, see it and interact with it and the people I spoke to appreciated the mind-broadening aspects of expat work and social life.
7. Making it on your own
Moving to a new country is a huge challenge in all sorts of ways. It can be an emotional rollercoaster ride for some, thrilling for others. Either way, my expat contacts felt proud that they had made the move, overcome obstacles, survived setbacks, leapt over hurdles, learned a great deal about themselves in the process and achieved something genuinely worthwhile and positive for their families.
8. Boosting your career
As well as a wonderful life experience, expat careers give your employability a serious boost. As a general rule expat salaries are generous. Living abroad improves self-confidence, self-assurance, flexibility and creative problem solving – simply negotiating everyday life in a strange culture means you need to keep your wits about you and think outside the box much more frequently than at home. You experience different ways of working and broaden your outlook considerably. You develop a ‘can do’ attitude. And it looks good on your CV. Plenty of the expats I asked said their working future looked brighter as a result of moving to a new country.
9. A unique experience for children
Families face a particularly big decision. What about the children? The people I spoke to were delighted to find their children acclimatising in no time, picking up the language equally quickly and making friends as fast as they would back home. Children tend to be remarkably flexible and adaptable, and of course they also benefit from most of our other nine best things about being an expat. Life-enhancing for youngsters? It appears so.
It’s surprising how many expats choose a new country based on the weather, especially those originating from often-chilly northern Europe. For some, sunshine makes life in general feel much better. Others prefer a reliable climate to unreliable weather patterns. While the weather isn’t always a prime mover, it certainly makes a difference!
Enjoy our detailed expat country guides
Would you like to know more about expat living? Why not download our free eBook, The New Expat, which covers the medical side of expat living, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and plenty more to make your expat life easier. We also produce specific Country Guides each month, from A to Z, packed with detailed information to help you make the most of your new life.
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What do you love most about being an expat? Let’s start a conversation. Feel free to leave a comment below, connect with us on Twitter: @now_health or on the Now Health Facebook page so we can share them with our readers.
Image source: CNaene