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Is being an ex-pat only suitable for certain personality types?

(14 Posts)
farflungfanny Fri 24-Jul-15 09:18:56

Just replied to another post and it got me thinking that maybe I'm just not the ex-pat type shockconfusedhmm
Over 25 years after first leaving 'home' I am now realizing this!!!. Not a slow learner at allgrin

I have come across lots of ex-pats who just seem to slot right in, doing everything and anything to find their place in the cog of that particular posting/ life. Thriving on all the newness, the challenges, brushing themselves off when things go awry and continuing down the ex-pat path.
I, on the other hand struggle on a daily basis. I put on my 'face'. My coping really well and loving every minute of being in this topsy-turvy, never really feeling comfortable world 'face'
I am quite a private person, don't particularly do 'social media' I am very particular who I consider a friend. I 'know' lots of people, but on a 'my children play with your children' kind of friendships.
I think as I age and the children don't need me as much I realize that I just can't be arsed trying any more.

Some people thrive in this environment, constant newness, challenges and change. I did, but don't anymore. It feels as though my mask is slipping and knowing I will be in this bubble for at least another 5/6/7 years doesn't make me want to jump for joy.

Are there ex-pat personality types?
Are you the:
challenge loving, no obstacle too big, fitter-in-er type?
I can do this for a limited amount of time, enjoy it but will always return 'home type?*
Keep hoping the next move will be the place I feel I belong type?
Really enjoyed it for a while but the novelty has worn off type? (Me)
Thought this would be a great adventure, but actually hate it type?

I am sure there are a million other types out there but thought it would be interesting to hear what others think.

MyFriendsCallMeOh Fri 24-Jul-15 13:02:33

Yes, I totally agree with you. If you google, there are lots of articles and blog posts about traits of expats. Anyone can be an expat but to enjoy it, I do think you need certain attributes. I do find that your personality can change with your age, experience and therefore expat experience too. I used to love having friends that I saw regularly, good, close friends. Now after 10 moves in 20 years, my dh is my very best friend (and I'm quite happy with that). I do have good friends in this country and other countries but none that I want to see every day. I am more introverted, I enjoy quiet and my own company and I am happy. Like you, I can't be arsed to get out there and make friends as I have in the past, I have my little circle of friends, a couple of hobbies, work (from home so no colleagues!), kids school and an expat group I meet for coffee, I don't need to get out there and seek out new people as I have in the past.

I love change, I love starting a new job in each location, I even enjoy moving house and country, exploring and making new traditions. I love rising to a challenge, dh heading to a new office and me having to work through a list of schools, houses, cars, utilities, where to find doctors, how to pass driving tests etc. Makes me sound geeky.... I wonder if keeping busy has been a way of coping with a new country at first.....

I do find that expats who are able to see a new location as home tend to enjoy the experience more. I have had friends who call the UK home while living abroad and they seem to struggle a bit more. I had one friend who saw her 2 years in Asia as a shopping trip to furnish her UK home, returning every 6 weeks. She missed out a lot and naturally didn't settle. This is my home, I'm not in a bubble, I'm connected to this country and I'm here for duration anyway.

Can I ask which country you are in op? Do you think that the spark that made you move overseas all that time ago has gone? You say that your children dont need you so much now ... that can create a bit of a vacuum even in the UK, what can you do for yourself to help fill that?

farflungfanny Sat 25-Jul-15 14:46:15

I have know this life, and have friends like you who relocate every 2/3/5 years through theirs or their spouses company. Knowing they have liaison staff to help with the mundane in their new country like utility companies, accommodation,car leasing, international schools etc is a godsend and I know most of them wouldn't/couldn't do it otherwise.
When you live this life, only being in a country for a few years, it is (IMO) kind of a bubble existence, on the periphery, looking in. Take the good, leave the bad, and move on....
It is a fantastic opportunity and I would highly recommend it. If you are childless or your children are young.
I know too many families who have regretted moving around during their children's education years (mainly teens) but there are also those who don't seem to fazed.
Our decision to stay in one country for the kids is purely based on our family dynamics
Being cut loose so to speak in a foreign country to fed for yourself becomes a little less exciting after a while....

eaiand2 Sat 25-Jul-15 14:52:01

I would definitely agree that for me it's age that has changed things the most. Out of university I moved abroad and had an amazing time, lived in Asia for a couple years, then the UK, and I'm now in France. But now all I can think about is going home again. I miss my family more than anything and I get jealous of my siblings being close and their children growing up seeing each other so often. I 'slot in' well in my expat life, I even married a Brit (I'm canadian, btw), and love the lifestyle... But having children has made me miss 'home.'

eaiand2 Sat 25-Jul-15 14:54:39

I should add that while I say 'home' in my previous post I mean where I'm from and where my family is, not that I haven't made the UK my home. Husband, dog, career, friends, bought a house, etc., I've definitely settled in, but it doesn't stop the homesickness every now and then

Nolim Sat 25-Jul-15 15:06:21

I am an introverted (very private prrson, few friends, little social media) and i have been an expat in 2 countries for over a decade. It has been a positive experience overall. My dc were born "abroad" (not in my home country) and they will probably grow up here.

farflungfanny Sat 25-Jul-15 15:07:47

I think for me it's the putting down roots. It didn't bother me before I had children, now I think of home a lot. Like you eaiand2 I have been gone a loooong time.
I have childhood memories of places, family and friends from a country I can still connect with though even though I have been gone a long time. My roots are there, my family history is there.
I know my children are putting down roots here, this is where their memories will stem from. I have no connection to this place though and I feel kind of detached in a way, that I'm not truly part of it. It makes me feel quite sad sometimes.

Pupsiecola Sun 26-Jul-15 10:35:40

MyFriends I can relate to your post. We only lived abroad once, a couple of years ago, but much of what you describe about embracing change and the associated challenges really appeals to me.. We went under our own steam so much to sort out myself. I'm missing that. I wish we had embarked on this kind of lifestyle many years ago. It sounds like such an interesting life. I think we are quite nomadic, and certainly putting thousands of miles between us and our families is no hardship. I think we'd have been ideal candidates; we just never explored it before. We have moved around the UK a reasonable amount and would hate to live in the same town or village our whole lives.

I know you have spent many years in some places and are in your current location for the foreseeable. How do you cope once you have all your ducks in a row?!

KeyserSophie Mon 27-Jul-15 06:17:42

I think there's a difference between the expat who moves every 2-3 years, and the expat who does much longer stints but still intends to return to country of origin (i.e. not someone who's effectively emigrated). With the former, I think it does suit extroverts better and people with low blood pressure who dont get wound up about slow wifi, school waiting lists etc. The latter can suit a much broader range of personalities, providing of course that you like the country in question and I suppose if you didnt, you wouldnt stay that long.

We've been in HK 6 years now. I suspect (famous last words) that we will stay here until we return to the UKin 3-5 yrs time. I feel very lucky in that I have the best of both worlds- in some ways, the structure of our life is similar to what it would be in the UK. We both work, the children are in nursery/ schools that I'm happy with, the bills come, it rains, the bus is late etc. At the same time we benefit from much lower childcare costs, lower taxes, a very short commute, beaches and trails on our doorstep etc. We've been lucky in that although people have come and gone, we have several friends who have been here as long as us, and who will probably outstay us. At the same time, I've made new friends at each life stage I've experienced here- being f(unemployed) when I first arrived, when I had my first DC, when I started work, through trail running and Crossfit. I think I would find it really hard to start again now.

I guess I would say I like living here, but I'm not sure I would like a more transient expat life, especially not with kids- too much admin.

MyFriendsCallMeOh Tue 28-Jul-15 01:29:03

Hi pupsie, how's life with you? I know you were keen of head to the USA after Singapore and the UK..... Is this still part of your plan? How's it all going?

I think it was easier for me because I moved overseas myself and independently before I met dh, then kept moving . Our shortest assignment was 6 weeks, longest was 5 years. I've always worked, found that was the fastest and easiest way of integrating and settling. Our 6 week assignment was the only one I didn't work (was supposed to be longer but dhs company changed their minds on the day I was offered a job and sponsorship, it was Dubai, we weren't married so I needed to relocate independently) so I did a month course in web design instead.

I can't sit still basically! I work from home now for a company in the UK (consultancy work) and am content with my lot. I know what to expect from an assignment, what to look for and that it will generally suit me.

cruikshank Tue 28-Jul-15 01:40:42

I think all immigrants to different countries approach things differently - some really like immersing themselves in a different culture, some prefer to stay on the periphery. It's possible to do either, or a mix of both, so whatever personality type you are you can find your own niche, your own pattern. What I think differentiates Western immigrants is that they tend to be wealthy and therefore have different lifestyles from the majority of people in the countries they are in, so it's easy to fall into an ex-pat 'bubble' where you only ever speak English/go to English bars/have your children educated at English-speaking schools etc and that from what I have observed often contributes to a feeling that where they are is not 'home' - or indeed is not even a 'real' place at all, which is a massive disconnect day to day.

ToastedOrFresh Tue 28-Jul-15 02:04:57

I can do this for a limited amount of time, enjoy it but will always return 'home type?

That sums me up. I've been living overseas in the southern hemisphere since Feb 2011. I'm really only here to humour my husband who has relatives here. He knows this.

It's not so different from Britain IMO. So, whilst it's easy to fit in to society in general, I don't have any friends. Finding paid employment has been like pulling teeth for me. My husband is in full time permanent employment. That's how we get by.

It dawned on me the other day that when we leave, (hopefully next year) I won't have any friends to say goodbye to or a job to resign from. Result !

tomatodizzymum Tue 28-Jul-15 15:09:32

I think you have it pretty spot on. I don't really class myself as an ex-pat, just an immigrant, as I have moved permantly to DH's country. In the past I didn't move permantly and lived with DH in other countries, including cities in this country. I found that most people fitted into one of those categories, I was usually in the challenge loving, no obstacle too big, fitter-in-er type but I agree with cruikshank it's usually the result of feeling that where they are is not 'home'. Our home here is our home, our kids are at local schools, we are the only fluent/native English speakers in our town and England is not 'home' for all of us, we very much view the UK as a nice holiday destination with the added bonus of old friends and family. I didn't feel like that and I didn't feel I belonged in this country when I was living in a big city and hanging out with the ex-pat community.

AppleBarrel Wed 29-Jul-15 09:10:23

I am the second - can do this for a limited time and enjoy it but will then return home type. However the amount of time I am happy to stay has expanded as time has gone on. We have gone past the original "limit" and I am still happy to stay. But I am still very much viewing it as time limited - and in fact we have decided on a new date which I have said I want to leave before - it's still a few years away though.

The problem is DH is another type - the so I have managed to find the place I belong type.

I am happy here at the moment and don't want to go back yet, but I know I do want to go at some point. DH would be happy to stay indefinitely.

I know the longer we stay, the harder it will be to extricate the children from friendships and education.

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