Our next piece in Enchanted Serendipity’s Expat Series has been written by Jessica from ‘Jessica With Jetlag‘ Blog.
I left the UK in September 2014 to begin my expat life away from my family and friends, and the lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to.
My reasons for doing this were aplenty.
Firstly, I have commitment issues: the thought of settling down in one job and one place, or signing my life away in a contract absolutely terrifies me. Additionally, I went through a break-up that partly stemmed from the fact that my boyfriend at the time had zero desire to travel, and that was a deal breaker for me. Finally, I wasn’t ready to be an adult, having spent 18 years in education!
So, I looked online and applied for the first international job that suited my studies. It was a field studies instructor role in the United Arab Emirates, and I got it! Two weeks later I was bawling my eyes out on the runway at Heathrow, knowing that my life would never be the same again.
The Positives Of Expat Living In The UAE
I moved to the UAE to live in a rural area with mountains as my backdrop and the ocean and desert as my garden. I knew nothing about the country before I left; I just went for the job. I think that this meant I was inevitably going to have an amazing time, as I had no expectations.
In the UAE I was exposed to a culture that many people in the world fear, mainly due to ignorance (not necessarily a fault of their own). Let me be the first to tell you that the Arabic people are some of the kindest that I have met, and are never far away when you need help with a car stuck in a sand dune; or help towing a kayak from the beach. The best experience of this was a delivery of food and drink that an Emirati lady gave to me and my boyfriend after she saw us waiting to be collected following a two day trek – she didn’t even speak English.
The work that I did in the UAE with children from around the globe; and the friends that I went on to make when I moved to Thailand eight months later showed me a colourful variety of cultural norms and standards, and I think that this education is the best thing that the expat life has given me. Cultural awareness is absolutely necessary when you are travelling from country to country, and it can’t be gained from studying books in the safety of your bedroom. I now know how to talk to people from different worlds without offending them; knowing that any preconceptions that we are fed by the media mean nothing.
Additionally, this lifestyle and exposure to cultural diversity has given me friends all over the world – which is awesome as I have a place to stay in their home countries, giving me the chance to continue the expat lifestyle.
The Hard Part Of An Expat Life
This part is not always easy though: being an expat usually means that you are based in one place, tied down by work, not moving around like the conventional traveler.
Many of the people that you meet will have a schedule that gives them more freedom than you. You might not always be able to do the fun (and often expensive) activities that they are doing, and eventually they will leave. The goodbyes are always heartbreaking, and you can feel quite alone and isolated having to return back to life pre- their time.
The more often that I have this feeling, the more I start to question my decision to pursue the expat life rather than take the ‘easy route’ and move home to England, to return to my friends. However, this fear is also mixed with the sad knowledge that my friends back home have moved on since I was living life with them – they are all doing fantastically well in their careers. Realistically, I know that moving home, if it ever happens, will be incredibly hard, and I will always be lagging behind my peers.
Where To From Here?
My next stop is actually going back to the UK, to spend some quality time with my family before flying off again to do my working holiday visa in Australia. It’s going to be strange walking those old familiar streets, now that I see the world through different eyes, but I am looking forward to exploring what is on my doorstep!
In short, the expat life has taught me a lot about myself, and the kind of person that I am: a pessimist.
This is not to say that being an expat is a negative experience, but it is definitely a learning curve and not for the faint-hearted! You have to be strong, and have a strong support network around you, because it will not be easy.
One of the most important values that I have to work on as an expat is feeling grateful. In reality, I am so glad that I am not in the UK working in an office environment. I have nature at my fingertips, I have the sunshine, I have fresh air, I have access to incredible fruits and foods, and these are things that so many people that I know cannot experience unless they book time off work months in advance.
I have learned to be culturally sensitive, to be worldly, to be aware of global issues.
If I could go back and change one thing, I would tell myself that I have made the right choice leaving to calm the nerves that have taken over me so many times; and I would tell myself not to rely so heavily on finding a job before I go to a country. Many opportunities present themselves to you once you are there in person!
I have learned that expats are not lucky, we have worked to get to where we are today. If you are thinking about taking that step into the expat life, then I urge you to try it!
Your life and outlook will never be the same again.
If you enjoyed this, check out Sarah’s piece on living abroad in Thailand. It is also wonderful!