THINGS I'VE LEARNED AS AN EXPAT
so at 25, I've now lived in 5 countries on 3 continents and it's taught (and is still teaching me) quite a lot about the world, other cultures and my damn self.
- •Traveling alone is a must.You get to do what you want, and nothing else. You always meet people. You are forced to hang out with yourself and embrace those potentially uncomfortable moments until they go away and you're like, I'm fucking cool sippin on my coconut in Thailand by my cool-ass self.
- •Living alone (at least once) is a mustI lived alone in Seoul and I actually hated it (no obligatory hang-out buddy, no one to cook for etc), but it was so formative. Forced me to be productive and social, and consciously seek out and nurture healthy interests. Also you have no one to blame for dirty dishes so ya learn quick to not be a slob. Plus, you can always jam way too many people into your tiny studio and live the dream.
- •Don't be a friend-prude.Make friends with people who are different from your familiar crowd. Make friends with people who are older, younger, from a different culture, different socioeconomic background, different whatever. Talk to strangers in an open, non-dismissive way. Show genuine interest in your fellow man. If someone is honest and kind, be their friend and be grateful for them.
- •Do as the locals do.Oldie but a goodie. Getting into a routine is so essential to your sense of equilibrium. Touristy stuff is fine, but you never feel like you actually live somewhere until you find your local groove. Find your grocery store. Your cafe. Your gym. Get a bank account. A library card. Be a person!
- •Work.Being a tourist is fun, but you only scratch the surface. If you really want to know what it means to live as an expat, working and living is the only way to go. You have a purpose, a role, and can meet people. Also, duh, you're a human and you need dat cash flow BC student loans know where you are no matter whattt
- •Some stereotypes are true. But also, who cares?!In all honesty, you'll probably meet some stereotypes masquerading as humans. Maybe you are one yourself (hi, I'm a loud American, nice to meet you). But you need to quickly get the fuck over it BC it will not serve you to judge or generalize. It's simply something to observe and let go of.
- •Move your body.It's easy to get overworked, overwhelmed and overstimulated (I'm looking at you, Korea) and you're left wanting to spend spare moments curled up in a ball binging on familiar Netflix shows. Resist. Find exercise you enjoy and let those endorphins flow. I found yoga classes kept me grounded in Seoul, and hiking opened up a whole natural passion in me in Norway. It's a positive form of control you can have in a life that may feel alien or overwhelming at times.
- •Eat everything with wreckless abandon.I can solemnly swear I have followed this rule to a T. Do it do it. You don't have to be a "foodie", or dangerously preoccupied with food (coughmecough) to appreciate this one. A good meal can heal the soul. I personally treasure the memories of several unbelievable meals with great friends in magical places all over the world and I intend to have as many more of these as my lifetime will allow. Oh, and don't be squeamish. Yes, that's sheep's head 😵
- •Participate in bizzare festivities.Whether it's a cabbage relay race, a mud festival, or a national holiday, take part! You'll never regret it and will likely have a blast.
- •Honor your own culture without apology.At times it can be hard to be yourself. Being an expat, wherever you are, means adapting and accepting another way of life, and that can often mean that out of necessity, or convenience, you let your own traditions slide. If there is something that holds meaning for you, however, I think it's worth hanging on to. I've managed to celebrate thanksgiving in South Korea and Norway and share my favoriteeee holiday with my non-American friends. So incredibly worth it!
- •Speaking a foreign language is actually exhausting.I have not been the model expat when it comes to learning the local language, although I've come a long way. One thing that has held me back (besides being spoiled by English speakers) has been how a day of work feels exponentially more physically tiring when you have to work doubly hard to understand and respond in a language that isn't native. This caught me off guard, but once you acknowledge and plan for this, you're in better shape. Try fail try try try
- •You're a dummy and everyone knows itOr at least it will feel like this. Sometimes a lot. I've had so many moments where I have had ZERO idea what was going on. Shit feeling sometimes, but you get over it. It's incredibly humbling, forces you to depend on others in spite of you being a total know-it-all-i-got-this-independent-lady (just me?) And be grateful in moments when you're saved by the kindness and generosity of friends and even strangers. Pass it on. Learn to laugh and forgive yourself. These moments will become fewer.
- •Sometimes you'll need to vent, but keep it classy.My boyfriend and I grimly joke about a certain population we've dubbed the "bitter expats". Living away from your home can be alienating, and people are not always welcoming. This can wear down on a person. So, I say, don't let it. If someone bumps you on the bus and mutters "utlander" (foreigner) or thinks it's okay to pet your blonde hair, by all means bitch a little. But get it out of your system and don't let it color your whole experience. Focus on the good. And if there isn't any, move 😕
- •Take responsibility for your own happiness.Happiness is a choice. Create it, live in it, spread it. Many people move abroad seeking something. The fact is, as incredible of an adventure expat life can be, it will not fulfill you as a human being. The novelty will wear off. You'll still have bills to pay, a degree of monotony, irritations, relationship woes. Don't treat travel as an escape, but rather an opportunity to go deeper into yourself and find that which really feeds your soul. A true expat is never not home in themselves.
- •You just might fall in love.And it may be the best, craziest, most inconvenient love ever. And it may even start with a tinder date...THAT'S RiGhT!!! And you may move around the world with him/her. Remember what I said about creating your happiness? 😘