What makes us want to be Expats?

One of the blogs I’ve been following since we found out we are relocating to Pretoria is the excellent Joburg Expat – a blog written by an American who lived in Johannesburg for several years and has provided me with plenty of sterling advice about South Africa. It helps that her children are similar ages to mine, and that much of what she blogs about revolves around family life and finding things to do with the kiddies. I would advice anyone moving abroad to find a similar blog – if possible – and follow it for good advice. I just wish I had done the same before moving to St Lucia.

Anyway, one of the questions on the blog’s accompanying Facebook page this morning has been what makes us want to become expats? Sine, who writes the blog, posts her own answer as:

“I often wonder what comes first, as it’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing, isn’t it: Do we get excited by the prospect of new places precisely because we’ve gone through the process so many times before and know how enriching it can be, or are some of us by nature more inclined to give new things a try and are raring at the bit for something new after we’ve gotten too used to the old? I tend to think it’s more of the former – I have always been more of a reluctant traveler. But I think my nature of finding the best wherever I am and THEN getting excited about it, helps. I don’t think you have to be an adventurer by nature to be adventurous. I think you just have to be equipped with an open mind and some patience…”

But me, I’m not so sure. I have been an expat since the day I was born, so I don’t know anything else. Well, of course I have also been a repat – somone living back in their own country after moving home from overseas. But every time I’ve returned, it hasn’t been long until we start planning the next move. Personally, I think I become an expat (again) because I have itchy feet. Because I find it hard to stay in one place for long. Because there’s a big world out there and I don’t want to miss it.

There may be other reasons – are you a relectant expat, is it your partner’s work that’s taking you away from home rather than your own wishes or needs? Is it for economic reasons? Or have you always wanted to live in another country and finally have your chance?

Whatever the reason, the reality isn’t always as straightforward as the initial decision. I may have itchy feet and want to move on every few years, but at the same time I long for stability and a place to always call home. Others may feel anger and frustration at being relocated thanks to their partner’s career choices – but then start to enjoy their new lives. And others still may feel the opposite happen: what started out as a dream adventure turns out to be just a different way of living the same life. Let’s face it, the day-to-day problems of raising a family, maintaining a relationship or finding a work/life balance don’t go away just because you’re living in another country.

So what made you decide to become an expat? Or didn’t you decide – do you feel you had no real choice in the matter? And if so, has that affected the way you’ve lived your expat life? Or do you feel that sometimes life just has a way of taking it’s own turns and you’re along for the ride. For me personally that’s certainly how I’m feeling at the moment and I’m looking forward to what’s round the next bend in this particular expat journey. But at the same time, I’m just hoping it doesn’t include a derailment!

Seychelles Mama

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14 thoughts on “What makes us want to be Expats?

  1. Fab post (would never guess you were new to blogging!)
    I think one of the most wonderful thing about an expat community is all the different motivations for being an expat!!
    For us it was definitely a lifestyle we were chasing! We were lucky enough that my husband found a job in a place we were so happy to be in!
    Having been an expat as a child I was desperate to not live in the UK any more, I also wanted to have a family somewhere we can be outside a lot (we definitely have that here!)
    Totally get the itchy feet but at the same time wanting a place to feel like home feeling!!!
    Thanks so much for linking to #myexpatfamily hope to see you again next month 🙂

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  2. Thanks Seychellesmama – I can totally relate to that feeling of not wanting to live in the UK anymore. That was my original motivation for joining the Foreign Office way back when (I quit after having my first daughter). However as I get older I see the good old UK in a kinder light and now feel that generally there is no better place to call home. As long as I get the odd overseas adventure as well 😉 Looking forward to being part of #myexpatfamily.

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  3. Thanks so much for the kind mention! After reading your post and the comments, I couldn’t help but think: Maybe it matters where we come from, too. I can’t really comment on it since I’ve never lived in the UK, but can’t help but think the weather may have something to do with it. I came from Germany originally (though am now a US citizen) and it was the bad weather and unfriendly people that made ME want to leave. But all the other moves since then have been job related. I always thought (and still think) of the US as my new home and didn’t think something else would come along that I might like even better, but I have to say South Africa (yes, of all places) has sorely tempted us. My husband talks of retiring there. I think what makes us into serial expats is perhaps also that honeymoon feeling you get when in a new place. You don’t look at things with jaded eyes but with curious eyes like a kid, with an open mind, forgiving of the imperfections and just plain interested to soak it all up. At home, it’s hard to do, you always carry that “baggage” with you of preconceptions you have about your own people.

    By the way, so glad you pointed me to your blog!

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  4. Thank you – glad you got to see the post and comment on it. You’re probably on to something there with the weather – certainly as I look out of the window at our miserable grey day, the thought of moving to South Africa feels ever more enticing. However, I also know I will miss my kitchen window view like crazy once I am there…..

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  5. Really interesting post – there are so many drivers and motivations and it is so interesting to read other people’s experiences. I became an expat to be with my husband – so it just felt really normal to do.
    Glad I found your blog!

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    • Thanks – glad I found your blog too, you got me with healthier oatmeal raisin spiced cookies! I suspect movig to be with the person or people we love is probably one of the most common reasons people become expats. That and going in search of oatmeal raisin spice cookies (oh crumbs my stomach is rumbling now…)

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  6. What a fabulous post. Like you I am a perpetual expat, I don’t know any other life and even when I had an extended stay in one country (UK) I was an immigrant rather than a re-pat. Most of my moves have been for career, either mine or a relatives.

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    • Thanks! I read your post this morning and really feel what you are going through. Perhaps one day we’ll both feel settled – it’s interesting because in my own family (me and three brothers) we all did different things, with some of us continually moving and others totally staying put.

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  7. You know I’m just like you…though I’ve been stuck in one place longer than I care to think about now. Having said that, France is great, I totally love everything about my life here but I HAVE ITCHY FEET and would leave tomorrow if we knew we’d be financially OK somewhere else (NEVER felt like that – as in worrying about money – 20 years ago!!!) I’m super jealous of your move to SA! Still not used to seeing you on these blog linkups!

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  8. Interesting question and one I’ve answered many times since moving to France! For us our eldest was about to start school so moving before he did was a big factor for us. We felt trapped in the lives we were living in a house that was too small for us and my partner working during the week and not getting to see the kids much (familiar story for many.) We longed for a simpler, quieter life, where our 2 boys would have more access to a life outdoors. Funny thing is we’re doing so much more (socially and work wise) in a little French village than we ever did in the big city London life. But it’s all more rewarding and beneficial to us as a family.

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    • Hi Becky – thank you for your comment, Your story sounds just like a friend of mine who moved to a small village in France a few years ago. Not sure if they were hoping for a quiet life but I don’t think they got it – their lives seem to be very busy these days! Plus, their daughters are growing up
      bilingual, which is such an asset these days.

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  9. I love traveling but the thought of relocating made me feel physically sick!! We moved for my husbands career as we knew it would benefit us in the long term and give us more options for the future.We’re in Alabama and now we’re here im so glad we’re doing it! It’s an amazing experience!

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