The Expat Life: Conversations with people “back home”
I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of hearing the same boring statements from people we left behind to pursue a better life in a new country. When my friend Shardale and I were on Skype one afternoon (her in Macau and me in Kuwait), we were swopping stories about the things people ask us and realized- IT’S THE SAME ANNOYING QUESTIONS! So she has compiled some of the most frequently heard things that we expats have to deal with and here they are. Aren’t you tired of hearing:
You are so lucky/privileged/fortunate!
I am only this way because I have found the route to get here, which you can do also. Like most expats, I do not come from money; I found a way to give myself this opportunity.
When are you coming home?
I really have no set plans for this, home will always be home and if I see an opportunity for me to grow and have a life there I shall do that. I have nothing against being at home, but there must be a calling for it. I miss South Africa, my friends, and my family so much, but if I don’t find a place career wise that I am happy in, then I am only damaging my future to just go home for the sake of it.
When will you start your real life?
Because I don’t have a real life now? What does this even mean!?
When are you going to start being responsible?
How am I not being responsible? Because I go out exploring and socializing often? Even this I don’t understand. I still work hard, pay bills, save money and look after myself.
How can you move when you aren’t fluent in Korean/Arabic/Russian/Portuguese/Swahili etc.?
That is the beauty of traveling, navigating around a country foreign to your own and figuring out what is where. HOWEVER let us not take away the fact that English is a leading language in the world, and most countries do cater for tourists traveling around, ALSO remember we are here as English teachers to second language learners – this means there is a demand for their nation to learn English, allowing us to learn their language as we teach them ours.
I will also give a massive hug to everyone’s best friend Google. Google translate has saved me on many occasions. This is though what traveling is, finding ways to accomplish your task, whether it is shopping or moving around, either through sign language, pictures, a map or translate, nothing is impossible!
When do you plan on settling down and being stable?
I feel like there is a misconception that settling down and being stable can only be done in your home country. Being stable means having a job, paying your rent, putting food on the table, maintaining your life. Check all those boxes!
Settling down, do you mean marriage wise? Being in one place? Either way let me say that settling down doesn’t have be in a conventional sense of staying in one place. We have found methods of settling down in many countries and experiencing all types of cultures and ways of life! We are in a new world of living now where we have made our own rules on the sense of what settling is.
Even if people are married, why do they need to settle for anything? I have witnessed many traveling couples successfully maintain a life they are happy with. Panda and Fox are doing a great job at being a wonderful example of this. We have the ability to change what settling and stable means now to suit the adaptable lifestyles we have chosen to lead. Drag your old school ideas back to the cave they crawled out of please!
Don’t you feel like you are running away from life?
This can refer back to being responsible however when I was asked this, it was firstly meant that I am running away from a “normal” life of bills, 9 to 5 job, paying a bond and investing a future at home. It was then also meant as if I am running away from problems. Now I think we all know by now that we cannot run away from our problems. They follow us wherever we go. We bring them along with us and we still have to deal with them eventually. Nobody has the power to run away from this, unless they are in the witness protection program or are undercover ninjas.
You are so brave!
I don’t want to take away what is often said as a compliment but also as a disbelief at what I am doing, only because they could not imagine doing it themselves. We all have different ways leading our lives and this is what I have chosen for myself. It isn’t like a specific type of person does this, I have met a thousand types of personalities during my travels who have all chosen the expat life for many reasons. So do I call all of us brave? Or is it that we didn’t consider it to be negatively challenging but more a whole positive adventure of change into the unknown? If you go into a task seeing it as daunting, then naturally it will be hard from the get go. Everything is about your mindset and how you will approach things moving forward. I don’t feel brave; I feel like I have accomplished things for myself to have versatile opportunities that I cannot find in just one place.
Do you really think you can make a career out of this? Or “you can’t honestly do this long term!”
I feel like this question or statement insults all teachers out there who have a passion for their jobs but are looked at as if they settled on a job instead of going for top notch company positions and titles.
On one hand as an expat I see plenty of travellers who become teachers just for a gap year, to save money to keep traveling, to study more etc. Maybe this is what others see and assume we are all this way.
Let me correct this. There are many of us who love being teachers, who are in this for years, settling in other countries, investing time and effort into our kids, the company, working up the ladder and making wholesome lives out of it. It gives us the greatest joy to see our students grow in their language skills and knowledge. I have friends and colleagues who have become managers, started their own schools, are in their 40s and older, gotten married, had kids – basically made a career and life out of a position that was loved. This is not just for some wanderlust thrill that will leave us without a career when and IF we come back home.
Why don’t you just teach in your home country?
Why should I? Are children in other countries less deserving of my teaching and a chance for diverse education?
Life is a choice, a series of decisions we make every single day that creates a storyline of memories and moments. Expats don’t leave the “real world” to go on some fantasy vacation away from daily difficulties. Being an expat only means you’ve selected a different place to live your reality. I am an Expat English Teacher to second language learners. I have lived and worked in South Africa, South Korea, Vietnam and am currently in Macau as well as Hong Kong occasionally. It thrills me to discover new places, meet new people and most importantly eat good food (including making it!). I am known to be loud, weird, and over the top crazy. Oh I laugh way too much but that’s part of the charm. Follow me on my Instagram @shasha77 and my new blog:
Shardale and I have known each other for 10 years from the time we first met on a rainy day at university and she kindly shared her umbrella with me. We reunited once when we spent a year teaching in South Korea at the same time but other than that, have been chasing after each other as we traipse around different countries. It was funny to note that her and I, despite different life experiences, choices and countries, have to deal with the same statements and questions. As an expat, what are some the statements you frequently have to hear from people? Do let us know in the comments below!