Sometimes being an expat is just downright suck-y. Most of the time living in another country is all excitement, new friends, new places and busy, crazy weekends exploring; however there are those other times when things are a little less rosy.
1.When Your Friends Back Home Don’t Get It
London makes you very, very poor, and this becomes even more obvious when you talk with friends from home. I was speaking with my housemate about this (an expat of 4 years, also from Australia) and she brought up the fact that it quickly becomes painfully obvious after moving that her friends back home Just. Didn’t. Get. It. Didn’t get the whole living on the other side of the world thing, didn’t get what she did everyday and didn’t get why she decided to move.
She said that it became most evident when she got off the phone with a best friend from back home who’s biggest problem was that her mum forgot to do her washing (at 25!?) while she was stressing that she didn’t have a job, didn’t have any friends in her city, was looking for a place to live and had about £300 to her name. Living overseas really puts things into perspective when your friends back home are living an entirely different life from you.
This is mainly an issue for those of us not lucky enough to have a passport of the country we are visiting. For the lucky ones that have an English Grandfather, or Croatian Mother or Irish Father (or all of the above!) they will never know the struggles the rest of us face. As someone who has been turned down for jobs that I would be perfect for – just because I was on a working visa (even though that is classified as discrimination, I was told by the recruitment agent not the employer to get past that loophole!) being on a visa can sometimes be less than desirable.
I have found that being on a working visa is a blessing and a curse. It lets you flirt with your new city and fall in love with it, only to know that your time will come to an end. The realisation comes flooding in that no matter how many roots you have put down and how much it feels like home, it is extremely difficult to stay beyond your ‘leave’ date. Mean UK, mean.
3. All those ‘Aussie’ Jokes
Yes, the occasional ‘convict’ related joke is mildly humorous. Even talk of how ‘all your animals will kill you’ might give me a little chuckle. And even the ‘CRIKEY, G’DAY YOU FLAMIN’ GALAH’ I sometimes get from the chef at work might make me crack a smile, however there is a limit to the country-specific jokes an expat can harness. After nearly a year overseas, I think I’ve had enough of the jokes at my countries expense, to last at least the next year.
4. Constant Questions and Bigger Choices
Everyone has choices, but expats have some pretty big ones to make. First it starts with which country? which city? where in the city will you live? what job will you get? Then it quickly moves on to pressing issues such as ‘should I buy that plane ticket or central heating? Or ‘do I pay rent or buy food this week?’ (only slightly joking on that last one). This last week I have been thinking more about my next year abroad and one big question has been stuck in my mind – do I stay in London or do I move to another city within the UK as this is likely my only chance EVER to do this (see point 2). Choices, choices…
5. Missing Milestones
Of course, a huge downside to being an expat is of course missing the big milestones of friends and family back home. I have missed birthdays, Christmas with my family, a funeral and will be missing a wedding, all in a year. All the big moments that you would normally be there for you are a 24 hr plane ride (and $2000) away. Less than ideal.
What did I miss? Do you live away from your family, city or country and have found something else that’s a not so rosy about being an expat?