How being an expat changes you

Since my Thanksgiving post, I've been thinking about how exactly being an expat can change a person.  I think its different for everyone but this is how I've changed and what I've learned from living abroad:

- Politics start to matter a lot more particularly how the US treats the rest of the world.....(I became more liberal)
- You gain a wider 'world view' and see the bigger picture of how we're all connected
- You learn flexibility and the meaning of personal strength because of dealing with new and interesting situations.  You grow up rather quickly because of it. 
- You definitely own a passport which is different than a large % of Americans and it opens opportunities for travel.  Travel pushes your boundaries in countless ways.  Pushing boundaries changes you.
- You suddenly have potential for dual citizenship which opens up even more doors.
- You gain an appreciation for the freedoms (cheap shopping and customer service) that America has
-  Your culinary skills get an expanded repertoire with new dishes that you never knew existed
- You gain an appreciation for proper world news that always seems to be broadcast differently  outside the US (hello CNN and BBC)
- You become expert at Skype, Facebook and finding deals for flights and international phone plans
- Being away from your comfort zone and stripping your entire life away, you find out what your core values are.  You realize what's important and the friends and family that truly love you.
- You meet people that you wouldn't normally meet.  I wouldn't have ever had a chance to meet people like Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes and countless others.  You see a side of them that doesn't get publicized in the press and you learn to appreciate them as artists and not treat them as objects. 
- Opportunities to see cultural events, museums and art that you would never see inside the US.  The Arts are a completely different type of world education.
- You become instantly connected to fellow expats who know what its like to live abroad, the challenges...and the joy. 

I could probably list more but these are just a few thoughts that came to mind.  I'd love to hear from any expats out there and how your life has changed from living abroad.



Kat Sloma said...

Yes, yes and yes to your list! I've been living in Italy for a year and a half and agree with everything on your list. One of the most life changing experiences. Ever. Difficult and wonderful at the same time. I am a completely different person because of this experience.

ML Awanohara said...

Thanks, Christine, for that list of things an expat might be thankful for... I know you said "changes you," but I personally am thankful for change of the kind you describe (and it's Thanksgiving season, so I'm in that mode ...).

My own expat (or I should say, rexpat) life ended some years ago. I lived in England and then Japan, both small islands, an experience I write about on my blog, Seen the Elephant. I also write my experience of repatriating to the United States--perhaps the most difficult challenge of all!

Because there is now a good deal of distance between me and these experiences, I have created fictional characters, Eddie Expat and Ramona Repat, that sum up not only my own story but those I've heard from others over the years.

Thus reading your fresh, lived account of what you're getting from your adventures has been a pleasure. I look forward to reading more!

justine said...

I am married to an australian so was an expat in sydney for a long time until I took out duel citizenship and then we were expats in Hong Kong so i know exactly how you feel and what you say is so true, I am now back in my home country and miss the exciting life that expat brings.

Surviving Sweden said...

Really great list - For me the biggest thing I feel like I have gained is an insight into how it is to feel like an outsider in a society. It really opened my eyes to stop and take a different look at people who see themselves as outsiders in my own.

I am grateful for it!

Spinster said...

Been in England for almost 6 months (gonna be here for at least 3 years) and boy, has it been one hell of a ride. But this is something never to be regretted.