I have been an expat since I can remember, but I'll share more about my journey as an expat from the beginning. When I was only a few months old, my parents decided to change our destiny and move far far away from our home country, China. The destination was on the other side of the world, literally - Buenos Aires, Argentina. In fact, I always tell people I have lived in Argentina since my first birthday, because we actually we arrived one day before my first birthday. All my birthdays from that day on were in Buenos Aires until 3 years ago when I met the love of my life and moved to Europe.
This was the first time I moved from one country/continent to another; and not to sound naive or cheesy, but the reason I moved and left my life, friends, family and everything I knew behind was: Love.
Journey of Life
People say life is a journey - an amazing, surprising and exciting journey as an expat. We all have a starting point, have an idea where we want to go in life and what our final destination is; but in the journey of life, things change. And the different situations and people change our journey in incredible ways - in ways you could never imagine. That’s how my expat and love story was.
I met this German traveller who was exploring the world, running away from ordinary life. We fell in love and knew that some point one of us would have to give up his or her home in order to be together. We decided that Germany, Seeheim-Jugenheim more specifically, would be our home.
After almost two years of being an expat, I’ve learned a few things that I'd like to share with you:
Bureaucracy is a Pain in the A&% but Necessary
Yeah, nobody likes paper work, going to public entities, visas, etc. BUT make sure you have all your papers in order, whether it's for your studies, job or even medical assistance. Having all your legal and transportation papers in order are necessary for you to stay in your new country. And if you have questions or need help, always reach out to the migration office, because they know the rules best.
The First Year is Ambiguous
For many expats, the first year is the most difficult one. Many people don't know what to expect when moving abroad. For others like me, the second year is harder. The first year you are a “newbie.” Everything is new and fresh, you have this "falling in love" feeling while getting to know your new home. I felt personally that I was a tourist all the time during the first months in Germany. Once you have a routine and already know that it's not a vacation but your new home, it can be harsh. That’s when you start to miss your old home.
Technology Helps, A LOT
When I think about my parents moving from China to Argentina in the late 80s, I cannot imagine how hard it was for them. At that time, the only way of communication was by letters (it took 1 month to arrive) or by telephone calls (really really expensive ones). Nowadays, technology makes it a lot easier. I talk to my family on a daily basis and see them by video call. My family and friends can see how my day-to-day life is via social media. During my last trip to Buenos Aires, my friend told me, "its like you were always here!," and that made me feel good! I want to be present and I want to have them present in my life even while faraway.
There will be a Few (or a lot) of Throw-in-the-Towel Moments
You'll experience moments that make being an expat even harder: birthdays, mothers day, Christmas, New Year's Eve. When you feel like being with your loved ones but are far away and can only be present via phone, you'll have to remind yourself why you chose to move abroad. Allow the reason behind your decision to strengthen you during those moments.
Get Out and Meet People
Making your own group of friends and having a close circle of people in your new country is essential. Social life is important everywhere and moreso if you are an expat. As an expat, I’ve learned that friends are my family; Christmas, birthdays even moving from one flat to another, they will be the ones next to you helping.
Being an expat is an everyday learning exercise. One day I was learning some vocabulary in German and I told my husband I felt like a child- learning to speak a new language, trying new food, learning new people and culture and it definitely feels like that, like a newborn. I’m learning everyday and I still don’t know how this journey will continue. But if you are at that moment of indecision whether to move or not, I totally recommend you try it.
Enjoy your journey as an expat!