So You Wanna Be An Expat (…maybe)
So, your husband (or wife) just walked through the door and laid this incredible (and crazy) opportunity on the kitchen table over your meatloaf and mashed potatoes. First, you think “Wow! How cool would it be to live in (insert your city of choice here)!” All of these ideas of grandeur start streaming through your head…you’ll get to travel, learn a new language, live life in a new culture, consume lots of bread, cheese, and wine…blah, blah, blah.
For my husband and I, the idea of living oversees was always something we had been interested in. He had always travelled quite a bit oversees for work, and I had always been interested in the idea. I just didn’t think it was ever really going to happen. I remember our first real discussions of an opportunity to move to Europe…My husband and I were in Las Vegas having dinner. I don’t know how it came up, but we both decided that it would be super cool, and that if the opportunity presented itself – we’d go, no doubt about it. Flying home from our trip, I was seated next to a woman who happened to be an expat living in Germany for her husband’s job. She was on a home leave trip to visit her family. In my head I thought…”Huh. What a coincidence.”
I think if you are really offered this kind of opportunity, you and your family really need to do some soul searching before accepting an offer. You’ve got to be fully invested in the idea. This is something that you can’t half ass. And if you try to, you’ll be miserable. You’ve got to have an open mind, and you’ve got to dive in whole hearted…for your spouse’s sake, your kid’s sake, and most of all…for your sake. I’m not going to lie…living in a foreign country is a tough pill to swallow. You’ll feel like everything is an uphill battle…from getting your residency visa in order to move, to going to the grocery store to find Tylenol (which is not sold at the grocery store, which is not called Tylenol, nor is it called acetaminophen).
I think you’ve also got to remember that most expat assignments are temporary, unless you’re like a diplomat or something. It’s probably not going to be forever. And, if one opportunity leads you to another (as it did in my case)…well, then you’ll know what to expect a little more, now won’t you? You’re probably not going to love your house (because it’s not “yours”), or your neighborhood (because your BFF doesn’t live next door anymore), or your child’s school (because Billy has a crush on his 2nd grade teacher), or whatever “thing” you’ll just have an excuse not to like. But, if you remember that it’s a temporary situation, I think it will make the sting hurt a little less.
Okay, so let’s face it…you’re either in or out. Being scared to death to do something so out of your realm of “normal” isn’t abnormal, nor is it something to be embarrassed about. I’m scared every day. I never know what kind of experience I am going to get into. But, isn’t that’s part of the excitement too? I guess I’m always complaining that I’m not challenged enough…that I don’t “use” my brain like I used to because I’m reading “Hippos Go Berserk” for the 25th consecutive time, instead of business cases or spreadsheets. But, in fact I am using my brain…mapping out my family’s path each day, dealing with the daily “issues” (as little as they might be), and trying to find happiness in there somewhere. So, if you’re up for the challenge — Join me, it’s a crazy world!