Over a year ago, JetSettlers Magazine published my blog post on “What Expats Don’t Talk About” and recent events have compelled me to write a follow up, part 2.
Folks who have friends or family living abroad think we expats are on an extended holiday filled with delaying ‘real life’ and pipe hittin’ parties. Folks who are thinking of living and working/retiring abroad possibly think this way to, until they do the research or expat themselves.
Working abroad can have its challenges. Finding a job in your passport country can be exhausting and downright depressing, but just because you can ‘easily’ or ‘quickly’ land a job overseas doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good job. And often times, if you are trying to secure a job and a work permit/visa before arrival, you won’t know what kind of job you’re getting into until you get there.
Remember this. The same issues, dramas and snafus you deal with back home, you will most likely deal with in another part of the globe. Douche bag bosses, crazy coworkers, complaining customers, reside all over the world. Often times, the fact that you are immersed in a different culture and language adds another stressful element too. Welcome to the Jungle, bring bullshit cutting machete.
Living abroad can also be real deal breaker. Relationships change; couples break up or sometimes stay together because they feel more trapped/isolated than ever. Living away from family, friends and familiarity can create a scarcity or fear-based mentality that you don’t even know you are living under because you feel like you are just surviving. The good thing here is you really get to figure out what’s important and how you (and your partner) handle adverse situations.
Sorry. I just realized I must sound like a real pisser but expat life is just like life back home, but maybe a little more intense. And that’s not for everyone, and nor should it be.
For example, my friend who lived in China for about 4 years would tell me insane stories like how the locals would yell “fuck you” (in Chinese and English) to him and to other foreigners when they were just walking to the store or something. These instances were in small or hick towns said by boys in groups.
One expat left because he couldn’t handle the hostility on the streets. Who can blame him? Then my friend shared a story about he and his friend met a nice Chinese girl who had left Australia because the kids were so mean to her. It goes both ways, depends where you live and is a shocking part of travel which those ‘live your life to the fullest’ do-gooders won’t mention in their happy ‘I did it, so can you’ message.
But the recent headache that has really got me in a Houdini bind, is dealing with banking and student loan companies back home. So despite everyday life issues here in Thailand, I get the added benefit of trying to figure shit out overseas. Calling during office hours which means the middle of the night here, looking for toll-free international numbers, looking for faxes, waiting a day for email replies because of the time difference, sending things (no joke) snail mail because I had to resort to that to get paperwork acknowledged. Oh, it’s fun but the frightening thing is, when banks freeze or hold your money and then tell you to come by the branch to prove you are who you are.
I live overseas. I don’t live there. Give me my money. Please stop going through protocol and listen to me.
I’ve had 2 friends from 2 different countries deal with the scary realization that they couldn’t access their money because their banks were ‘protecting’ them from ??? So the next time you are put on hold or go through the mindless system that is customer service, give thanks that at least you are not overseas trying to get your money unlocked from basic banking transactions 101.
This is not to say, stay at home, don’t expat, don’t travel. This is just to say, sometimes the humor is lost when you just want stuff to work. Including your health! My friend almost died overseas from some horrible disease she got in Africa. And I now know a handful of friends who have had dengue fever in Thailand, and an even larger group of friends who have been mugged in Ecuador.
Whew. God, this is depressing. How do I turn this around? Ah. You live in America or Australia or Canada and you deal with life over there, right? It’s the same with me, we expats, live life over here in all its great and gut-wrenching glory. Our reasons are varied and the same, but it doesn’t make us less patriotic (sometimes even more so) and we aren’t delaying ‘real life’. We are living a real life.