In an attempt to enlighten friends and family about what being an expat is really like, here are 3 bs facts about expat life that friends and family think are true, and what you can say to counter their misconceptions.
BS Fact # 1: Expats lead a globe trotting, carefree life with no stress or major concerns.
While it may be true that many expats travel a lot, unless you’re a retiree with a padded bank account, the latter is blatantly false.
Enlightened fact # 1:
Much of expat travel is business related. Pleasure travel is a definite benefit of the expat lifestyle, but it has nothing to do with day-to day-life.
Daily life can frequently be stressful, especially if you are living in a developing country. Learning to navigate a new culture, geographic location and customs, often while not knowing the language, can test even the most seasoned expat.
Let friends and family know about the “being on your toes” phenomenon, often without letting your guard down, especially at the beginning of living in a new host country.
BS Fact # 2: Expats have servants to do everything. You never have to lift a finger.
Enlightened fact # 2”
Again, the first part is true if (and only if) you’re living in a developing nation. And if you have children, you still have to support them in school and any other activities they’re interested in.
And if you do live in a developing country and have domestic staff, you’re still responsible for training and overseeing them. This can often be as much or more work than doing it yourself.
Many western expats find it challenging to have someone in their home all the time that is not a member of their family. It can feel intrusive, and at times like an invasion of privacy.
Let friends and family know that navigating a foreign country, especially at first, can be demanding and involve an inordinate amount of time and patience. If you had to do it all yourself, you’d likely never get anything else accomplished.
BS Fact # 3: Your life is so exciting as an expat that you can’t be bothered staying connected to friends at home.
Enlightened fact # 3:
This is a tricky one and involves knowing your audience and using a bit of tact. Expats often tell me that they want to stay connected to friends and family at home, but it seems that others pull back from them.
Compassionately assure folks at home that a.) they matter to you and you want to continue to connect with them, b.) you’re still the person you always were, and c.) you’re genuinely interested in them and their lives at home.
Many friends and relatives of expats have reported feeling their lives will seem boring and uninteresting in comparison to the exciting life they imagine expats are having.
If in fact, you feel less interested in the lives of those at home than you used to be, you may want to re-evaluate those relationships, perhaps shifting the emphasis to those aspects that are most important to you both, like perhaps, your children.
It’s important to remember to stay connected to your truth, and to feel compassion for both yourself and the person you’re interacting with. Compassionately countering the bs with the truth is one way to do this.