The 2 truest facts about expat life no one is talking about

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

GOOD(1) Nothing worth doing is ever easy and I remind myself of that every time things get a little hairy around here. And while I more or less have a handle on things now, that wasn’t always the case. Life as an expat is one that will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced and will challenge you, make you laugh and cry and even have you questioning things you believe in from time to time. Everyone knows that moving abroad isn’t a cake walk on the easiest of days.

But what are two facts about expat life that no one is talking about? Let me take the liberty of telling you.

Read on!

Nestled in between moments of feeling on top of things, speaking French fabulously and feeling like you’ve got the whole expat life thing down, you’ll have moments where you just want to go run and hide. And that’s the truth. So here’s fact #1.

You make a fool out of yourself every day. All the time. To varying extents. And that’s totally OK.

The frequency and severity of your foolery probably lessens over time, but you’ll still have little moments where you mess up.

Foot in mouth. That stays there. Even if your new country speaks the same language, there are nuances that outsiders might never get. And if it’s totally foreign to you, well let the daily faux pas begin. From language errors to cultural missteps, you’ll mess up. Just accept it. Some of mine in recent memory? Well, this post on major mess-ups in French. And maybe that time I tried to hug my father-in-law (no you just do bisous, don’t hug a French person). Oh, and the mistake of engaging in conversation that’s too familiar with acquaintances (I thought asking about someone’s vacation with follow up questions was normal and polite). And the list goes on…

Some people take themselves really seriously and only like to share the positive moments that paint them in the best of lights. But that’s definitely not me. So if you’re an expat, let’s get one thing straight — you make a fool out of yourself. I just like to talk about it. 😉

You-deserve-an-award

And that brings me to my second extremely true fact about expat life.

If you’re making a fool out of yourself and you’re still here, it means:

You have some major guts.

You’ve got balls. So, congrats. To leave what’s comfortable, what you’ve known for your whole life, and embark on a completely new path (albeit temporary for some) requires conviction. Bravery. Being one with your decisions. And generally someone who kicks major ass at life. Bravo! Remind yourself of this. And do it often.

Congrats to you!

Oh, and please don’t be modest and say that your school or job arranged everything or this or that. Or you already speak the language so it’s easier for you. Or that you’re going with a partner. Shut up. Regardless of how you got there or how long you’re staying, it takes courage to take the first step and JUST DO IT. So congrats on making a change in your life that 99% (don’t quote me on that stat) of those around you will never be able to make.

Let me be the one to tell you that your decision to just leave everything you once knew to embark on this expat experience is probably the best decision you’ve ever made (even if it doesn’t always feel that way).

You’re completely allowed to have good days and bad days. You’re allowed to get frustrated and to cry. You’re allowed to feel homesick and to be lonely. But you also are allowed to rejoice in the little things that are commonplace to everyone else. You’re allowed to be blown away by the new culture, its people, the language and the little victories of daily life. Life as an expat is a big ball of every emotion packaged into one little overflowing box — that sometimes opens up at all the wrong times. Or all at once.

But sometimes you’re totally at peace with life abroad and the new normal you’ve created for yourself. And then those days start happening more and more. And that, my fellow expats, is something to be proud of.

Can you relate?

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Comments (12)

  • Christine Snyder

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    I really do believe that it takes guts to take on a whole new country and culture, and probably language for most. I also think it probably takes a fair amount of intelligence to make it in your new country, since adaptability is what you’ll need, and that goes with smarts. Many people have trouble leaving their own hometown or city, so I also believe that this is not something most folks can easily do. Congrats to you, Diane, on making it work!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you Christine. Appreciate the kind words!

      Reply

  • stella

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    I totally agrees with you! And thank you for saying it!
    Even though I live in Belgium and it’s not a far away country coming from France and that they speak the same language (or half the country does) It’s not always easy! Making friend, keerping in thouch withs the one I have in France, get a job, learn dutch… Not always fun! But when I see my wonderful fiancé, I know it worth every bad day!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Totally agree with you, Stella. That seeing your significant other, or dog or even coming home to a great meal makes it all worth it.

      Reply

  • Madeleine

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    I can’t begin to imagine all the mistakes I would make if I lived in France. My worst moment when visiting was accidentally asking for the bathtub instead of the toilets at a cafe. But we had a fun laugh about it.

    Something about visiting got the French in my blood and I can’t seem to shake it. I’d love to be an expat 🙂 I just have to figure out how to live there legally and take my three pets along too. I get uneasy whenever I think of taking my cats on a plane. I know people do it all the time though.

    So, how did your parents take it when you moved away? Or is that too familiar a question ; ) ?

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi, my parents have always been very supportive of my endeavors and raised me to think for myself, pursue what I want and be independent. So I’m sure they were sad in a sense that I would be so far but happy at the same time that 1) I found someone to share my life with and 2) they have a place to visit! They lead their own lives with work (although my dad recently retired) and aren’t the worrying type so I’d like to think they’re fine w/this. I talk to my parents just about every day (wake them up with a 6am phone call on most days) and it doesn’t really feel like I’m that far. I know some families have kids in other states and it’s just as hard as having them all the way across the Atlantic or farther. Technology comes in handy. And Tom and I were back in the US twice this summer (more visits than some families who are all in the US and even the same state) and my parents are coming for Christmas. So we make it work!

      Reply

  • Madeleine

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    Your parents sound wonderful! What you say about being in another country or another state is true. You see your parents more than my parents see my sister who lives in another state.

    My mother would in no way be as calm and cool as your parents if I moved to another country. You’re very fortunate that your parents wanted you to be independent, and I think they are rewarded since you seem to have such a great relationship with them — talking each day. Wow. I don’t do that 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      In all honesty, they probably wish I called less. I call for gossip on the family, gossip on the neighbors, anything to feel connected. I always give my dad a shopping list for my “next box” and I am really spoiled that way. But hey, whatever it takes to feel comfortable, right? Hahah. I think they secretly like my calls.

      Reply

  • Terry

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    Good points Diane. And thankfully here in France, it doesn’t seem as though the French get very upset when we make faupaux. Of course, they don’t ever seem to get really upset very often anyway. Plus, most of my French friends are generally very encouraging — that we try to fit in. I think that is the one quality that drives the opinion of the French on all expats/immigrants — the desire to learn, understand, live and accept life in France, rather than to try to set up enclaves separate and apart from the French community.

    Reply

  • Abhinav

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    I am moving to nice after 4-5 months to study from India. It’s a 3 year course and I plan to work there after that. I am 22 and I have never been outside my country let alone to a place where people speak a language not known to me. Our culture, lifestyle and daily life is completely different so obviously, I am nervous and sometimes panic. Currently I have no idea if any other Indian is going there as well and yes, I am scared.

    After reading this post and especially where you said ‘Regardless of how you got there or how long you’re staying, it takes courage to take the first step and JUST DO IT. So congrats on making a change in your life that 99% (don’t quote me on that stat) of those around you will never be able to make’, the first thing I did was subscribe to your newsletter and then realize that YES, I CAN DO THIS! I honestly can’t thank you enough!

    Keep up the good work and have a wonderful life! 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Abhinav, thanks so much for your kind comment. You’re going to love France, but I absolutely understand being nervous. If it’s your first time traveling, you’ll have a bunch of new experiences but I think overall they’ll be good ones. Just try to keep an open mind and take full advantage of any services your school provides to offer assistance, meetup groups, social events. The other thing you have going for you is that you speak English, so already that’s a way to connect with other international students especially if they (and maybe you) don’t speak much French yet.
      The fact that you were curious enough about France (and brave enough to want to travel and try something new) shows that you’re already open to other cultures and ways of life, so just enjoy the whole experience. You’ll love it!

      Reply

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