Monday, September 26, 2011

What is your Bumper Sticker?

I have written a variety of articles on the softer side of being an expat, the highs and lows, missing home, leaving loved ones and parents behind, going on an expat assignment, but and this is a big but…..

I love being an expat, I love the knowledge that I am one of a small community of people that are expats, which seems to be growing enormously on a yearly basis.

We are the ones that smile knowingly at each other in the shopping centers, the ones that understand what it has taken to get to this point in time.  The struggle it has been to leave your loved ones behind, the decision to  extract yourself from a life you know all too well, one that you are comfortable with, the one that you put to one side for a couple of years as you embrace this new adventure.

It is a special secret club, you can go anywhere in the world and meet someone that has been an expat and have an immediate connection.  “You know.”

You know that you have had to learn to make new friends, to open yourself up to others, to hope that you don’t come across as being too different, to learn new cultures and be accepting of them, to just be you and embrace those that embrace you for being just that.

Your old friends have always just accepted you, clearly your friends back home have either been lifelong friends, people with similar interests or who are at the same stage of life as you are.   Being an expat you mix with people that are in most instances different to you, who are from all over the world, have a different home language and different customs. 

Coming from South Africa, even though we have been brought up with English as our first language, it is different from both US and British English. Try directing someone via circles and robots and your words quickly change to roundabouts and traffic lights. These are people that are similar to you, yet there are still differences. My favorite being bath plug and tub stopper.  Words are spelt differently and you have to figure out which spellings are the ones that are to be used for specific schools and or business you are dealing with.

Having these basic differences is what opens up a whole new exciting world, we often laughing ourselves silly at some misunderstanding that if taken lightly can be very amusing.  One of those instances was the use of the word “fetch”.  Someone was asked to fetch something and it was regarded as being a word you would only use for a dog.  This is not true, depending on which culture you come from and how you perceive the word.  We have decided to call our villa the Dog House and laugh hysterically whenever the “incident” is referred to by our friends.

Each day is regarded as an adventure where something new and exciting can happen.  The children have participated in Film Festival Workshops, gone to exclusive Music Academies,met famous Tennis Champs, seen the most amazing sporting events, travelled to exotic places that I would only have dreamed of at their age.  To encounter people, events, cultures, travels and societies that we would never have experienced if we had taken the easy and comfortable route.

I am an expat, and although it has taken a few years, love being one!  You can see the 
newbies, those “deer eyed”, frustrated and slightly befuddled peopled wondering the malls andyou want to embrace them and tell them that this life is actually pretty darn good!
We all have bumper stickers with “I love England” or “I love Japan” or “I love {Insert your preference}”, but my bumper sticker is now going to read 


What will yours say?

Denise is an Expat, Mom, Wife, writer and Marketing Manager at a website that provides cost of living index information and calculates what you need to earn in a different location to compensate for cost of living, hardship, and exchange rate differences. The complete cost of living rank for all 300 locations for all 13 baskets is available here.

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