Why would you, or anyone, choose to live in a country that is not their own? This is a key question to ask in expat planning.
There are many reasons. Often the choice to leave one’s home country is motivated by a sense of adventure, a desire to experience something new and different, or, more and more these days, an assignment from an employer.
But leaving a familiar world, one populated by family, friends, and history, not to mention Costco, Amazon Prime, and central heating, to be a stranger in a strange land where the language is different, the food is unfamiliar, and the internet is unreliable, seems like a strange choice.
Do you know why you are considering becoming an expat?
As an expat myself, I can tell you there are advantages.
- Living abroad has its challenges and challenges can build resilience and character.
- Living abroad can – and will – open your mind.
- Immersion in another culture changes one’s point of view. New insights are good.
There are also other, more practical reasons, for relocating.
A comfortable life may be more affordable.
If this is your motivation, do your research. Find a way to do an exploratory visit. When it comes to promises of a great life for very little money, trust but verify.
Each day can be a new adventure.
Finding someone to repair your washing machine in a foreign country can be a challenge. Just explaining the problem in a language that is not your own takes planning and preparation, or a facilitator.
Here in Ecuador, almost every day I hear people ask: where can I find a dog groomer, an ophthalmologist who speaks English, replacement filters for my pool filter. It doesn’t take long to start missing Amazon Prime.
Moving once can create the freedom to do it again, and again, and again.
The first step is the hardest. Once you’ve sold your lawnmower and reduce your most valuable possession to two suitcases, you are free to go where ever, whenever you want. Expats are usually temporary residents. Curiosity, restlessness, an unexpected opportunity can move them on a whim.
A world of strangers is a chance to reinvent yourself.
What is your story? What do people in your home country know and think about you? What if you could start all over and tell a different, your own, version of your story? Moving to a different country will not make you a different person unless you choose to do the work, but, when everyone is a stranger, your past is yours to keep.
So, why not?
There are many more reason to stay home then there are to leave. If any of the following ring true, perhaps you should stay where you are.
You don’t have a sense of adventure and you don’t like change.
I had an uncle who hated his first and only trip to Europe because he couldn’t find a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving
Your spouse doesn’t have a sense of adventure and doesn’t like change.
Given my uncle’s inflexibility, my aunt decided she was better off staying home
You have the future of your children think about.
This is a personal question. A worldly education has its value as does a traditional education. You decide what is best for the young people in your life.
You don’t like to experiment with food.
Mayonnaise is a slightly different condiment in every country I’ve been in, and that is just the start of the unfamiliar tastes and flavors you will have to accept.
You won’t learn a new language.
If you don’t speak the language, you will never understand the culture and, if you don’t learn about the culture, what is the point?
The choice to become an expat, or a more permanent immigrant, is a serious and complicated one. People make the move at different times and for different reasons. What are yours?