The dark side of expat life. What happens when we live abroad?

Moving to another place is cool. It opens a whole new world, but like all good things it has a darker side. Thoughts and tips to survive in a new place.

The dark side of expat life. What happens when we live abroad?

It fascinates me how people used to sail to different lands in old times, no matter what the motive was, those trips were full of uncertainties and risks. Thanks to those sailors we have better maps and navigation software in current time. And so once upon a time, I sailed to the west.

I moved from India to Czechia in 2018 and something made me reflect upon the side effects of moving abroad that not all people talk about.

If you have been living abroad, I am sure you would be able to correlate to a few points I would be making. If you have not yet moved abroad and planning to do so in the near future, I hope this post will give you a new perspective.

While you have seen your friends who have moved abroad sharing their pics with exotic places and monuments you have always dreamed of visiting. However, there is always a distant lifestyle also as another side of a coin, which never makes it to FB or Instagram.

Living overseas is different from backpacking or traveling. You are dealing with different people, companies, co-workers, friends, and whatnot (food, weather, laws). You make the conscious call on which bridges to build or which bridges to burn; decide that you are not obliged to burn out your own to light up someone else’s fire.

After the initial excitement, I started asking the questions.
“Is this the life that I am looking for?”
“Am I OK living abroad?”
“Is the standard of life improved?”

These are the types of questions that many people have been asking themselves but unable to find the right answers. I am one of them! There are a few points one should consider before jumping to the conclusion.

Integration, the feeling of being an outsider.

You are a stranger to everyone you meet. They know very little about you and vice versa. You are a part of the minority now. You would see how stereotypes are the result of limited knowledge and the majority of your time you would be correcting them instead of reflecting on and being who you are as an individual.

Depending on where you come from and where you have moved people can be either cold and distant or too nosy or sometimes racist. You need to grow a thick skin if you want to survive in a foreign country. However, with time, this would change. Once you abide by the law and culture of the land, it would be a bit easier to understand the people around you.

It is not always that you are not welcomed in their culture, few people will try to make your day by helping you and even adjusting themselves as per your needs and wants. Few people will also share tips and tricks about their city.

The cultural dilemma, what is right or wrong?

You will experience some sort of culture shock when you moved to a new country. No matter how flexible and adaptive you are, you will still need time to adjust to the new customs.

If you move from a conservative culture to a liberal one, it would bring forth the dilemma of what is right and what is wrong? The conservative culture promotes the feeling of belonging to where you come from while the liberal culture promotes individuality.

This contrast will make you question many things in the beginning. For example, if you come from a conservative culture, you would be glad to see the gender equality and a less judgmental society, while you would question if allowing smoking and drinking in public places is a good idea for public health.

At some point, you fight an internal battle where you become fiercely protective about your old culture but at the same time open up to a new world and it results in an extremely thin line which you keep crossing back and forth from being bittersweet to happily accept your new reality.

Crisis, who am I?

You will be oblivious to how you are changing while you integrate into the new culture until you head back home. People around you point out to you how much moving abroad has changed you. You feel that you have changed enough to not to fit into your old culture, while you have not changed enough to belong to the new culture.

Loneliness and lost moments, the feeling of being left out.

You are no more there. The family that you grew up with, the friends you lit up your first cigarette with, and the people who saw you growing up. All you have now is a life where it is easy to afford things but no known people to share. It will take time until you finally settle into the new place and make friends.

Until then the loneliness will take you apart, one emotion at a time. You belatedly realized that life back home has gone on without you. You had missed many birthdays, marriages, anniversaries back home. Sad but true.

Your loved ones will be devastated and you will never know about it.

No matter how you sugar coat it, moving abroad is always a selfish choice. It is only about your dreams, your goals, and your life. You are not making anyone happy but yourself. If you have a wonderful family, they will do their best to keep their fears hidden from you.

Your parents would be constantly wondering if you are doing well and if you had your food properly today. While you are on an adventure of a lifetime, your parents are growing old and worrying if you are happy.

What to do?

I am not against going and settling abroad, if there are open opportunities then one should pursue it like I did and there is no second thought about it. It could be one of the best decisions in life.

However I want to show that there is another side of the coin, what we see on social media is the brighter side and people do not shows the darker side but be prepared to face it. Be fit and act cool, make new friends because life is so rich!