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Are you really ready to be an expat? Am I ready to be one?

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Not meaning to stir some feathers, just a personal observation derived from my personal life and inspired by the very interesting mix of SAFFAS I have met so far.

‘Are you really ready to be an expat?’; is the question that’s been on my mind for the last few weeks and especially in the light of the upcoming elections which I know a lot of expats are watching with bated breath. I am on a lot of expat groups and I try and read as many as the posts that I can make time for and I have noticed that there is definitely more than one type of expat and I am writing this very much tongue in cheek so take it as such. I am after all an inhabitant of the same island and environment that you are and we all are living through most of the same processes and experiences all though we all have different reactions and expectations.

After being in Mauritius four months and counting I am still hesitant to call myself an expat. Unlike some other people on the island, we did not come here to escape the political situation although even having said that; I am extremely grateful for feeling safer living here than back at home. I do however often feel like it’s a bit of a play-play situation as it’s unlikely to be a permanent stop for our particular family due to the high investment costs and not being able to get citizenship which for us is a sure sign that we will move on at some point. Yes, I know it is a shocker but some of us are here on a budget and not because we have bucket loads of money. 🙂

Due to the fact that hubby does not really want to return to South Africa in the immediate future, we are in the process of exploring other options which made me think: ARE YOU READY TO BE AN EXPAT?

Are you ready to leave your country and all you love in the dust of the immigration process? To either never return or when you do to do so as an occasional tourist in your place of birth? To not hear your language spoken, around each and every corner, often laughing at the sayings you hear. I see expats here default to Afrikaans with a sigh of relief the moment they detect other SAFFAS in the vicinity. Are you ready for a country you don’t know, To not have the familiarity of knowing which roads you should take, not knowing where to find what you need, nor knowing where you should be at any given time when the GPS leaves you in the lurch? Are you ready to live on an island that is smaller than the average province back home? With no open spaces and people everywhere?

Are you ready to embrace a culture that is not yours? A religion that you might disagree with? A country that might not respect your point of view? Politics that you know nothing of? Shops that don’t stock what you want?

Are you really really ready to be an expat? Are you ready to forsake your biltong and boerewors and to leave your family behind? Are you willing to give up all you owned in South Africa, to sell up, throw out, give away and leave with nothing but the clothes in your suitcases and the money in your bank account?

Are you a ‘temporary’ expat with one foot in your country of birth and living a comfortable safe life in another while you wait out to see how the politics play out always keeping your options open? Or are you a ‘hardcore’, sell it all, greet your friends and family, knowing you won’t be returning soon, expat that moves to another country FULLY embracing their cultures and whatever they might offer?

Are you really ready to be an expat if you still fly in your favorite products from your home country and complain about what this one has on offer? Once again, no criticism meant, I saw the poll on our local group asking what people fly back in their suitcases coming back from SA and it made me think. What would I fly in if anything? Truth? I wouldn’t personally bother with food and products but that’s just me.

I would much rather fly in some of my personal belongings that I miss, stuff that is all in storage. We took a firm decision NOT to bring our furniture over and rather put it in storage so I do miss having my own stuff around but I am now also living in a new country and I am trying to embrace all that it has to offer, from food to clothing to housing and more.
I am after all in a country that caters to most of my physical needs and even though NOTHING here tastes the same as home, this is now my new home? NOt?

Are you ready to be an expat if you have the backup of leaving if your new country doesn’t ever satisfy your needs? Some have this option others don’t and I think that makes a huge difference in how you perceive and approach life in your host country wherever that might be.

Are you ready to be alone in a country where you have no friends or family? Because it’s hard, trust me. Getting to know new people from scratch. People who don’t know you, who don’t know your history, your story, your life. Because we are humans this is something of great importance to us. That people must know who we are and who we were in our old life.

Are you ready to be in a country where NOTHING is different but NOTHING is the same? You can watch television but in French. You can listen to the radio but in French. You can talk to the lady in the shop if you can speak French. You can buy food here, but it is not all that you are used to.

Are you ready to be an expat in a country where the house you live in most likely is a furnished rental with NOTHING belonging to you? Where buying a car is such a mission that you’d rather rent at a higher price. Are you ready to walk in the shops not knowing the products that you buy and not understanding the language printed on the sides? Are you ready to be the foreigner and not the local because this is their country and not yours?

Are you ready for trying to make new friends and possible meltdowns and personality clashes in the process? Are you ready to not see your family for a really long time? Are you ready to embrace your new country as your new home and not just a temporary playground for fun?

Are you ready to be an expat where your host country makes the rules and you have to comply? Are you ready to be an expat when you have to validate your being there, you have to convince them that they need you more than you need them?

I have no choice but to be a ‘hardcore’ expat due to hubby’s reluctance to return to SA. He should have been born a nomad as he loves new adventures as do I but having been the mom that had to care for the kids whilst he was earning our keep, it’s only now that I will be following in pursuit of new ventures. We have no home to return to in SA. What we didn’t sell we put in storage and we are definitely planning on moving on to a country where we will (hopefully) get citizenship so for us at the moment there is no turning back. It is both an amazingly, disconcertingly, rudderless feeling scaring the crap out of me at times but on the other hand, it is also a feeling of extreme freedom, one of NOTHING holding you back. What about you?

Are you an expat for life or just a temporary one? Are you here to stay or are you just on time-out until you can return? There is NO judgment here, just me being curious and interested as a people watcher and an overthinker. I will always be a South African which is something no one can ever take away and I don’t know what life holds for me or you but I wish us all the best of luck on this journey that is both horrid and wonderful at times.

If you had bothered to take the time to read this blog please take a few minutes to respond either on the FB post or on here below the blog. It would be much appreciated.

Karolien

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7 thoughts on “Are you really ready to be an expat? Am I ready to be one?”

  1. Michelle Haller says:

    Spot on Karolien! Well said. It’s so hard to put into words exactly what you have done so eloquently.

    1. Karolien says:

      Thank you Michelle. One often hesitates out of fear of stepping on some toes but that’s what blogging is supposed to be about. Not to offend as much but to open avenues of discussion and help others who still needs to go through the process. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Regards. Karolien ❤️

  2. Jenny Jay says:

    Nice article, very thought-provoking. We plan to move to Mauritius within the next year and will be asking ourselves similar questions. I am the same as you where hubby wants it more than me. Luckily I speak French, so that bit is easy. Look forward to reading more of your blogs!

    1. Karolien says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you enjoy the future blogs as much. Good luck with your decisions and move. It’s not easy to do so at the best of times. Regards, Karolien ❤️

  3. Deborah says:

    Hi Karolien. Nice article… having lived here foreva… 28 years… I have gone throughmany of the pointers you have made…like the foreign language, lack of or unused to commodities, culture shock etc… everyone goes through this no matter where u move away to and your heartstrings will always be with your home country for whateva reason. Thing is, you need to embrace all these changes with a sense of humour and try to learn the foreign language u will be subjected to as soon as u can because if you don’t you will certainly get frustrated and depressed. For those who will not be able to work here as on partners permit, try to make friends as quickly as possible. Go online and look for different groups or interests out there established on the island. A lot has changed and improved here even in the last 8 to 10 years with regards to malls medical and educational facilities and services. One thing I was fortunate to have was marrying into a mauritian family. This forced me to look outside my own comfort zone and make friends with locals and foreigners at same time. See it soooo often that people get caught up in little groups and don’t venture out to learn the languages or wide diverse cultures we have here. Anyway for my pennies worth be yourself and be humble.

  4. Armand Rougier Lagane says:

    Hi karolien,
    The question of am I ready to be an expat for life,
    No, one will never be, for your roots lies in your country of birth, there will always be mixed feelings, being away from your home land will always tugged at your heart, being in a foreign country, one will try to make do of things in general, but part of the heart remains in your motherland, I have been there,done that, settled in my new country for years, but always longing to visit my country of birth, with all its special ways.
    I understand the feeling.
    Not an easy one to learn to adapt and live in it.
    Kind regards.
    Armand.A

  5. Jan says:

    Karolien, very well written. Well done

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